Saturday, July 10, 2010

Feeling more alive every day

On my partially off-Friday, I did my longest ride in nearly nine weeks. I scooted up to Campton on the fringe of the White Mountains. There are a number of dirt road climbs accessible from there that I've become quite fond of. One is Tripoli Rd (aka Thornton Gap), which from I-93, gains over 1600ft, mostly on gravel. Then there's Campton Mtn, on which a maze of paved and dirt roads meander upwards to gain around 1300ft at heinously steep grades at times. The whole loop runs 35 miles and is mostly be in cell phone range. This is still important, as I'd rather not hobble in my cast for any distance should I have a serious mechanical.

Thornton Gap and Campton Mtn. Top 5mi of Thornton and
much of Campton climbs are gravel.

Having resumed lunch riding this week, I was feeling slightly wrecked from two hour-plus "hammer rides" on Wed/Thur. I quote "hammer ride," as my actual output is still pretty pathetic. But I can at least breath hard for an hour and come back with a mild endorphin buzz.

It hasn't rained appreciably in NH in a long time. Couple this with a week of 90+ weather, you have some pretty dry, loose, dusty roads. Tripoli Rd was the loosest I've seen it. I was very glad to be on a mountain bike with 2.25" knobby tires. A road bike would have been doable, but a miserable experience. It took me nearly 45 minutes to reach Thornton Gap, much longer than I anticipated. It was pretty warm and muggy too. I was soaked upon reaching the top. The good thing was there were no deer flies here. At my house, you can't go out to the mail box without picking up a cloud of 50 of these biting bastards.

I bombed down the other side of Thornton Gap to Waterville Valley. It is paved, sort-of, if you call non-stop frost heaves and patch work paved. I unlocked the suspension for this and was able to carry considerably more speed than on a road bike. A lot more than on skate skies too, as this is the side Waterville Valley grooms in the winter.

Top of Tripoli Rd. I can't run in boot, so I had to leave bike close to
camera, then not ride too fast and ride out of scene. Attempting to
track stand here waiting for shutter to go. My left leg is almost as skinny
as my arm.

Heading down Rt 49 back to Campton was into the wind, as it almost always is. I was felling pretty cooked already, and I wasn't out even two hours yet. I used to be able to come out here on a hardtail or cross bike and ride four hours before feeling cooked. I seriously debated bailing on the Campton climb but took a left on Chickenboro road last minute anyway.

This climb truly sucked. I barely made it with my fat tires. I don't think anybody could clean it with a road bike given the condition it was in. Grades approaching 20%, non-stop washboard bumps, and as loose as gravel gets. At one point, my speed dropped to 2.8mph and I was nearly breaking my thumb pushing for another gear. Then a work truck would come by and I'd gag dust for five minutes.  I didn't bonk, but I definitely reached glycogen depletion on this climb.  There are minor breaks in the steepness as a network of roads are used to reached the highest point, but essentially it was all steep. I emptied my Camelbak by the time I hit the high point. The ride from here back to the car was almost all downhill. I finished with 35 miles in 2.6hrs riding time.

Bob's Lookout.
My favority view from Waterville Valley's XC ski trail system.

Last year, a ride like this would not have been worth writing about. I realize now more than ever that I feel the most alive when I am riding. Even if I never see the podium again in a bike race, just being able to enjoy rides like this is reward enough.  It will be interesting to see how my fitness comes back in the coming months.

I'm hoping Dr. Heaps clears me for clipped in riding when I see him on Monday. I've reached the point where the cast is a pretty big limiter right now. I haven't been able to work on lower leg strength much at all so far and still walk in the cast for the most part. I still have very poor range of motion in my talus. I have about 12 degrees dorsiflexion motion. 20 degrees is considered minimum useful in order to walk normally. What is troubling is this hasn't changed a whole lot in three weeks of physical therapy.  My therapist tells me that is not unusual for still being in the boot. I need to spend more time out of it, but Dr. Heaps didn't want me doing any weight bearing out of the boot yet, other than what I do at PT. With this limited range of motion, I cannot walk without a severe limp or go down stairs at all without double stepping each step. I will need huge improvement in dorsiflexion if I am ever to skate ski again.

The freakiness of my accident is becoming less freaky as I meet more people with similar stories. Saturday morning at the Nashua River Rail Trail trailhead, I met another cyclist who destroyed his lower leg far worse than mine. How? While getting into his car, he slipped on a pizza sized patch of ice he didn't see. I broke tib/fib at the bottom and only fib at the top. He broke both at top and bottom and needed 15" pin down tib that they had to put in through his knee joint. It seems slipping on ice is one of the most common ways people bust their ankles in these parts.

I should finish the week out with over 10 hours of aerobic activity, mostly cycling outside. This is approaching normal volume for me this time of year. I haven't done anything close to VOmax intervals on the bike yet. No point while still in a cast, and I don't think my ankle or the rest of my body is ready for that yet anyway. I need at least another week of base work before turning up the intensity a notch.


PyZahl said...

Hey, I am very sorry -- just read about your miss hap and all your great and brave attempts to get out at any chance!

Feel better! Every workout is great -- increased circulation and nutrition for the bones and tissue to heal are doing wonders -- even most doc's are scared by the (very manageable) risks!

Be sure, you will be back if not even better and quicker than you think! I broke bones 2x in the past in a different way -- in 2004 I snapped my right radius while sledding and going strait on ice and over a wooden plank, did not even noticed crawling out of deep powder and doing 3 more runs in some 1000ft vertical sledding trail... ( -- until not been able to turn the key to open my room's door and some more not yet experience pain setting in... Still have 8 bolts and a Ti place on it and do not even notice or think about it. I missed and skipped snow boarding this winter season -- but went for safe snow shoe hiking and running -- what really made me feeling so much better every day I went out.


2nd time in 2009 -- I got hit by a speeding car as I was leading last November our road bike group back to the parking lot/finish on the about 2nd but last turn... -- knocked of the driver side mirror of a car with my left hand on the handlebar, luckily just missed a frontal collision (can not even image what may had happened then). I was slow at this turn, but the car was fast. Fractured my wrist badly. 2 carpals and the distal radius fractures. I have to say this was a lot of nasty burning pain for weeks, even after surgery with 5 pins -- sticking out of my hand and luckily are all out now. Trainer sessions with elevated wrist support worked out OK.

And now -- I am into my first racing season ever and feel great!

Bones are healing about perfect and even scar less! The remaining soft tissue issues are taking so much more time. Got PT (pain therapy?? It works!) and was back on the bike in January -- enhanced PT for my wrist! 1st it was about impossible to very painful to shift into the big ring with this hand -- lost about all the strength to do this motion, but now it's all normal again :-)

Take care and return stronger!

Soups said...

Hi Doug I am glad to see you are out riding. Your blog entry brought back memories of the Pemi Valley road race back in the 90s. We used to climb up Tripoli road and that descent was always scary in the pack with lots of shadows from the trees hiding all the frost heaves and pot holes! Glad to see you are recovering!

Anonymous said...

If Dr. Heaps tells you to stay in the boot another week, are you just going to ignore him?

Jonny Bold said...

Great stuff Dougie. Keep it going strong.

Hill Junkie said...

Soups - My ski partner Brett Rutledge did the Pemi race way back. I know what you mean about not seeing the rough stuff in the patchy shadows. Couldn't imagine bombing down that in a road race. It is smooooooth on skis though!

Anonymous - I pondered that very question. My therapist mentioned that some doctors are more conservative than others. I'm not sure if she was suggesting Dr. Heaps was being conservative or not. He understands my athletic desires, and I'll certainly express my interest in getting back to normal cycling right away when I see him Monday. I know my ankle is still not strong enough to handle a sudden plant without some support, but I can pedal out of the saddle with clipless pedals on the spin bike now. If I had to stay in boot another week, riding with no protection would still be too risky I think.