Sunday, June 20, 2010

"You picked a tough road to hoe!"

A broken leg can't keep the Hill Junkie down. Handicapped with crutches for six weeks now, I was looking for creative ways to elevate my heartrate.  I'm not sure how many more weeks I have to go on crutches. I did gain this morbid curiosity of whether Pack Monadnock was "crutchable." I figured I better give it a try while I was still on crutches.

Many readers are familiar with this climb. It gains over 800ft in just 1.3 miles. It averages 12% grade, but there are a couple sections of 20% or more. Saturday morning was fabulously beautiful. I just had to do something active outside, not having done any outdoor activity in six weeks. The plan was Cathy would drop me off at the base and drive to the summit. She would then hike down to meet me coming up.

I put my prospects at 50/50 of being able to crutch all the way up. Even though my forearms and shoulders are considerably stronger now than six weeks ago, something as simple as going up two flights of stairs will make me suffer and slow down before hitting the top. The best challenges are one's whose outcome is completely unknown. Just like science experiments. You don't learn anything from an experiment if the outcome is certain.

It was noticeably cooler at Pack than at my house. Nice breeze too. Being a very hot day, I needed all the help I could get. I charged into the climb, at first thinking this ain't going to be too bad. Like a Cat 4 time-trialer, I soon realized I went out too hard. 200ft into the 800ft climb, I pretty much thought there was no friggin way I was going to make it all the way up. First my forearms gave out, then because I started hanging on the tops of my crutches, my shoulders crapped out. I had to stop a few times for a few seconds to let my arms/shoulders recover. I did wrap cotton hand towels around the armpit pads on my crutches. I would have shredded my skin otherwise. I also dropped the crutches an inch, since I would be planting them on the up slope in front of me. I think the crutches were "dialed."

I plodded along and was surprised to meet Cathy at the half-way point, 400ft up. She must have ran down fast. She started taking pictures and gave me encouragement. She also made it very clear dropping me off at the bottom that I would be in big trouble if she had to come rescue me. She is scared to death of driving down steep, curvy mountains.

Only a couple cars came by on my climb. Nobody was out that day. A few hikers came down. One guy said "Man, you picked a tough road to hoe!" Another hiker commented "I haven't seen that before!"

Finally I reached the dreaded last 0.2mi. This averages over 20% grade. I've seen strong riders with regular road gearing peter out and stop on this section. I paused briefly before attacking it. I at least wanted to "clean" this section. It wasn't as bad as I thought. Cathy didn't make much ground on me with two good legs and was breathing just as hard as I was.

Cresting the top, I was surprised to see only one car in the parking lot, ours. I expected this masochistic endeavor to challenge me aerobically, not muscularly, but just the opposite was the case. My arms and shoulders were the weak link. This certainly was a whole body workout, minus my left leg. My right leg received a punishing workout, having to kick hard each step. I very nearly got a blister on the ball of my foot. Kevin Buckley should consider adding crutching up steep slopes to his list of crazy exercises. Nothing in my body escaped unscathed. Two hours later I was pretty wrecked.

Amazingly, my body weight has been holding sub-160 lbs, even though my calorie intact has gone up quite a bit over the last couple weeks. The more bizarre thing is my body fat. Typically, I hover around 9-10%. This is in the morning when I'm partially dehydrated, which drives up the BF measurement. My BF over the last few weeks has been steady at 4.2-4.6%.  I've been weighing myself lately in the evening after showering. I'm fully hydrated and full of food. This may drive the BF down, but it should also drive the weight way up. Not sure what I weigh in the mornings. I know that measuring BF after showering can lower the number a little, but I wonder if the titanium hardware in my left ankle is somehow skewing the bioimpedance measurement.

I have learned a few things things about my diet over the past weeks. If I can apply what I've learned to next season, I could see myself racing at 5-10 pounds less than I historically have. True, I have extensive muscle atrophy in my left leg, but in the last month, I have put on noticeable muscle mass where I have never had it - my upper body. I'm really curious to see how this plays out once I get back in cycling shape.

Pack profile, heartrate, speed and grade.


Glen F said...

Wow, that's a good workout! How long did it take, 2 hours? Must have been a great feeling to be outside.

Hill Junkie said...

Glen - guess I forgot to say how long it took. I was going to plot vs time but switched to distance instead to plot true profile. It took me 36 minutes. I estimated 30-40 minutes before heading out. Chance I may try it again next weekend to see if I can break 30 minutes.

Kevin Sliech said...

That's so intense; what a champ!

Mookie said...

Doug, you're looking jacked! Your indomitable spirit is inspiring.

I'll have to hit Monadnock when I'm up in NH for a couple of weeks in July and most definitely Kearsarge.

I'm willing to bet Ti hardware is throwing off impedance values on BF.

plum said...

Jansen you're a riot!

Mr. P said...

That was an entertaining story. It will interesting to see if you can beat the 30 minute barrier.


Jonny Bold said...

I have one word for you Dougie.....STUD!

What a spitit you posess. You'll be better than ever when you return. I have no doubt in my mind.


Buck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Buck said...

wonder if you can get Champion Systems to fashion you a cycling jersey with chamois pads in the armpits so you can do away with the towels wrapped around the tops of the crutches. All this upper body and core work you're doing will have you ready to hit my gym for some kettlebells this Winter. You'll love it!

rick is! said...

finally a race report to read. keep em coming.

Nick said...

Insane..truly. Or is it inspiring, I'm not sure.
Not sure I would have the balls to go up a hill with a break like you have, but I know I would be going nuts just like you.

You'll be back soon and I'm sure just as strong.

Isn't it "Tough Row to Hoe", as in farming?

Hill Junkie said...

Yep, the hiker used a clever twist of "tough row to hoe." You hear it a lot in the Midwest, where I'm originally from. I should've asked if he was from the Midwest.

the original big ring said...

you the Man, man

nice work

DaveP said...

This is inspiring, especially since his "handicap" is permanent: