Wednesday, 26 March 2014

hell is other people

Well for the first time in a few months I'm airborne as a result of planned travel rather than a rolled cyclocross tyre or n ill advised attempt to "shred the gnar" on my road bike. I haven't blogged for a long time, I've been riding lots, racing a little, teaching a lot, desperately chasing money for another year of non profit work and wasting lots of time Googling potential facial hair configurations. Oh and I seem to have become deeply involved with a PhD thesis. I've also being writing about bikes elsewhere (. ).That's part of why I haven't written anything, another part is that, in all honesty I'm growing increasingly frustrated with cyclists, not cycling, just cyclists. I love riding my bike and I don't think I ever won't but the people I love riding my bike with seem to represent but a small sliver of those who don spandex and go out to do battle on the asphalt, trails and (all to often) pavements (that's sidewalks for those of you ho only speak American).

Let me expkain my quandary, I know lots of cyclists who are fast, my issue isn't one of elitism, in fact it's the opposite. So many of the guys who are fast, not really fast mind but quite fast, are also so wrapped up in their diets, power meters and intervals that they seem to suck the joy out of what is, for ll of us, a distraction from real life. When I'm riding my bike, I'm happy, I like to talk, to laugh, to have fun n to have coffee. Sometimes I like to smash myself but not to win a bike race on the internet, or a sprint to a town sign, or even to win some much coveted UCI points. I like to ride hard because nothing makes me happier than how I know i'll feel after I've totally exhausted myself. It's all internal, it's about me, how I feel and why I enjoy. Increasingly I'm eeing guys out on rides who seem to be there to project some image of themselves which is neither factual nor particularly attractive.

This all rather came to a head last week in a couple of incidents. A group of my friends from Canada were in town for a week and I met them for the weekly Wednesday world champs (if you don't stalk me on strata you won't have seen my "Wednesday focused" training regime) . it's a fast ride and for the most part safe. There are a couple of very narrow gates and tunnels where, if so inclined, one can punch out a big effort from the front and make it very, very hard to get back on if you're at the back. Approaching one such section this week I took my north of the border buddies up to the front to avoid giving a bad impression. Sadly the zoo behind us proceeded to churn like piranhas around a pepperoni as I slowed down to negotiate the gate safely. One ting led to another and someone fell off their bicycle. After clearing the danger zone I stopped, next to me Janelle Holcombe of "better a bikes than all the boys" fame also stopped. Meanwhile roughly 100 middle aged men on expensive bicycles charged forth like the Mongol hordes ignoring their fallen brethren (or perhaps relishing the infinitesimal improvement in their non existent chances of winning THE sprint). Having assessed that everyone was OK we proceeded to ride back on, at a not unrepeatable 49kph average. Unsurprisingly we passed several of the riders who had neither the compassion to stop nor the capacity to sit on a wheel in the group.

On the return leg of the group ride, rather than slowing down for the sandy latch where the crash had occurred, the same weekday warriors launched (what I imagine they perceived to be) ferocious 300w efforts in order to emerge in front of the carnage of their own creation. Just as I had with the initial crash I held my tongue, I am happy to sit up and let the group ride off when they run red lights or act dangerously, I'm confident that I can catch them, I'm confident I don't want to. Following our miraculous survival of the tunnel of terror and fatigued from their soul crushing efforts, theusualsuspects returned to the safety of the group where one can happily turn ones compact chaining and, provided that One's helmet, wheels and frame are all sufficiently "aero" (see overpriced), remain undropped. Once we reach a hilly section these upgraded components count a little less and sadly the upgraded cake buying potential of many of the riders is fr from beneficial. But fern not, they are experts in the use of the wrong side of the road and the gutter in order to toke their mediocrity to the very front of the group (or to very near the front, lest they trigger their wind allergies) from where they cn leave cavernous gaps but rest assured tht the draft of the rest of us coming round them will be sufficient to grovel back to glorious retelling of their heroics to their long suffering families.

Witnessing one suchexploit, and enraged at the individual in question's lack of concern for the wellbeing of others or the reputation of cyclists in general I may have asked, nicely, if the gentleman would mind not splitting two wheels. His response "no, I like it here" didn't help and I asked him if his preferred location was in between two riders or off the back as the latter was where he seemed to spend mist of hus time but he neverlooked very happy in eithersetting. He responded by dribbling on his top tube a little bit and waving his bike wildly from side to side, seemingly he engaged the 11th gear on his super record groupset, the one labeled reverse. I sat behind him for a while, asking if he liked it more 5 yards off the wheel, after a while his failure to respond and now quite unnerving trail of dribble led me to seek conversation on the other side of the 100 yard gap he had created and so off I pedaled.

After the ride was over I turned around to check on my friends who had been dropped, doubtless still feeling the crash as they're strong riders. On encountering our protagonist I asked him if he was any clearer on his preferred position in the group having tried "in the way" and "off the back". At which point he proceeded to try to engage me in pugilist combat. Given that he lackedin the ability to pedal, steer or even enjoy his bicycle he was pretty easy to avoid but he continued to shout at me. I tried o explain that I didn't wan to hurt him, but that I would be very happy if he would kindly dope running red lights, chopping wheels, pushing people out of his way nd riding on the wrong side of he road. He responded that these were his choices and should I wish to "settle I" i should get off my bicycle. I pointed out hat this would settle nothing and hat he would sill be back next week and sill be dangerous. We all look bad when he makes these choices on our behalf and as a result we all have a right to ask him to reconsider. If he refuses to play by the rules of the game, we have a right not to let him ply with us any more.

I'm sure this gentleman is not the only one of his ilk, I see them every time I ride, people who have forgottenthat riding a bike is about having fun, and should be safe and enjoyable. Anything we can do to increase the safety and enjoyment of the sport, we should. If we continue to ride like hooligans anddisregard other cyclists and road user's wellbeing we cannot expect anyone to respects or our sport. If we really believe it's worth hurting someone, either by hitting them or by riding in such a way as to endanger them or by leaving them by the roadside then we really, really need to look at our priorities.

At the end of the day were all just weirdos in our underwear, nothing we do on our bikes is really of great importance. With the exception of what we do with non profit and cycling for health our riding and racing is really only important to us. We cycle for fun (even though may of us seem to find it herd to have fun whilst cycling).

Oh well, I'm off to DC to remind myself that, whilst middle aged people might want nothing more than group ride glory there are still young people who wntto change the world and make it better for others.


Monday, 17 March 2014

a bit more 'betes

This week witnessed my annual diabetes meltdown, about once a year  at this time I seem to screw something up and it sets a giant diabetes snowball of rubbishness rolling to it’s inevitable conclusion by the side of a road somewhere with a can of pop, a chocolate bar, shaky hands and the overhwleming desire to weep like a baby.
I always like to work on my diabetes, to calculate what I did wrong and where and why and how I can learn from it. I thought it might be informative to walk through my process of failure analysis, to go from a hotel in Washington to the side of a Wilderness campground in East county san diego.
The fun began last Sunday, I flew to Washington DC on Friday night for a weekend of AYUDA meetings, it was a great chance to catch up with friends, meet our new volunteers and sit around, be tempted by a seemingly constant supply of food and move very little (apart from the inevitable merengue session which seems to occur every time the Dominicans are about) . Obviously lotsa food, less activity more insulin. By Sunday  I was running about 200% of the basal I had been using for a 30 hour training week.
On returning home on Monday I felt great, I rode 150k and only needed to eat a muffin 2 hours in and had no highs no lows, it was a little ewindow into the world of those of you who have a functioning pancreas. And it was nice. On Tuesday I did a group rid ein the morning, taught all day, was inundated with students in my break and didn’t eat, I stayed good all day and didn’t have any hypos. I had gradually begun reducing my basal that morning as my activity and metabolism were ramping back up. Tuesday night I dropped my basal along the same lines, now down to about 140% my heavy training basal. I think this would’ve been fine if I had eaten well on Tuesday but I didn’t.  At some point on Tuesday night I must have gone low,  and, not wanting to wake up high before the group ride I ate some dextrose and went back to sleep. I didn’t want to wake up high because I like to take very little insulin before a ride, I leave at 6:15 to make it to the ride and I don’t want to get up any earlier to wait on insulin action.
On Wednesday morning the lack of “bounce” from my breakfast (an English muffin and a Korean pancake, so multi culti) should’ve been a clue. I rode up to the start of the ride with some mates, good pace but not splitting it. I had to hit it a bit harder to make it to the toilet in time to make it to “climbing weight” before the ride. I felt a bit low and ate half a twix, once the ride got going I was pretty clearly pretty low, riding with fellow type one diabetic rick benson was fun and we enjoyed exchanging quips as we rotated in the paceline, perhaps so much I forgot to eat/ drink enough. 25 miles into the ride (and about 0 miles into my training for the day) I had a gel,  we turned around and for some reason the group started to drill it. At one point I looked down to see I was riding at 55kph on the front, for the first time in my life I actually went crosseyed, like really crosseyed, from pedaling hard.  Hlafway back I went pretty damn low and couldn’t seem to rectify the situation with my drink mix. I sat up at the end of the hard section of the ride and ate a powerbar, I kept up tempo pace ot meet a friend, grabbed a muffin and the other half of my twix and a protein bar and a cocnut water on the two hour ride home. I still felt pretty cracked when I got back, I tried to eat lots but my stomach was less than happy about the amount of crap gurgling around in it. I could barely stomach a small hamburger for dinner (Wednesday id my hamburger/ burrito day) even though I’d put in 170k My sugars were all over the place, I dropped my basal right back to the low dose but clearly by not fully correcting the low the night before and eating insufficiently on Tuesday my glycogen was drained.  With such a low basal and low stores my blood sugar would shoot up and then drop down as soon as I bloused, diabetes was not my friend.
Thursday was a pretty easy day, 90 min spin to work and them meetings and teaching 11-9. I was pretty stressed with some issues pertaining to my pupils’ pastoral care which I won’t go into and again, basically ate carrot sticks and the beer and pizza my supervisor bought for the meeting.  Same as Wednesday night I was super up and down. I got home at 9:45 and didn’t want to worry about the possible implications of a nighttime hypo so I ate some salad and went to sleep.
Friday seemed to be the day when everything evened out, a nice spin ride around the bay and no lows, 3 decent meals and even a sneaky beer. Saturday rolled around, I had been going to race but finances won’t stretch to a  hour solo drive right now. I had planned a group ride but my mojo for riding with 4th cats in aero helmets is so low, I didn’t want to go and say something nasty when really, by going on the ride I should expect people to ride unsafely etc as they do so every week. I elected to ride 5 hours on the mtb with a friend in celebration of his impending 40th.
Setting off on my merry way I carried (for those of you who care about such things) two mini twix bars, two homemade sweet potato cranberry vegan muffins (vegan before 6pm , it’s good for you AND the planet), a bag of almonds, some carb chews, a protein bar and a powerbar. For the first two hours I carried all that stuff about and ate none of it (I was preoccupied with bouncing about off rocks, smiling and saying things like “gnarly doood” so that they wouldn’t be able to tell I was a roadie.  The nest two hours were nothing short of miserable, my glycogen was totally drained again, I was shaky, my reactions were slow, I fell off, I felt like crying, I ate everything and briefly spiked my blod sugar sky high before my muscles soaked it all up and my brain remained shrouded . We made a navigation error and I just couldn’t face a 2 mile 20% climb to get back on course, my buddies kindly agreed to roll the easy way home. We missed some sweet singletrack (dooood) but quite honestly, I had stopped having fun 90 minutes before.
I was riding with guys I’d known for years and guys I had just met and it always upsets me to let my diabetes slow me down in front of either group. It was all I could do to hold bake the tears, not because ei was frustrated but I just get an inexplicable urge to cry when I am that low for that long. Sitting by the car, sweating, shaking, gulping soda and pounding fistfuls of pretzels I didn’t look much like an experienced cyclist or diabetic. But humility is good.
That night I forced down som e ice cream, again I had no appetite but I knew the sugars and fats would keep me alive, I ramped up my basal and made a smoothie to put by my bed for the inevitable “waking up low” moment.  I woke up on Sunday and drove to a race in La, even a couple of pieces of toast and a bowl of cereal before a 3pm race felt awful in my exhausted stomach. I resorted to industrial quantities of caffeine and honey to get into race mode. Even that resulted in some of the most painful stomach aches of my life in the race. I actually may have vomited on some cat 3 bloke who we were lapping (in my defence, if ou dress as Robocop, ride a +35 stem and get dropped like a hot rock, you would make anyone feel sick) Made a couple of half arsed attacks and moved up well at the end, right in prime position for the inevitable mass get down. I made it out ok but seeing my friends Rashaan and Justin bleeding and broken was a pretty pants end to my day.
I managed a 41/2 hour ride today, felt a little better and ate plenty, training on my own on the road is easier, I can stop I can control intensity I can eat when and where and what I want. I didn’t want to share this as a pity party but as a window into what it’s like to ride bikes, have diabetes and try and do the two to the best of your ability.

Oh well, I’m in the airport loung now and the beer and pretzels are flowin’!

Monday, 10 March 2014

on 'betes, back pain and being grateful

 it's only March but I already Feel as if I'm in the groove of racing and training. Albeit for most of the season thus far I've been battling for the ultimate prize with little success and distinguished myself more or less uniquely by being the only bike with a beard in the pro race each weekend. Whilst this seems to have something of a cache with those who like to rehydrate after their races with a barley pop it doesn't really bring the fulfillment I look for in tight clothing on a Sunday afternoon.

A couple of factors have reply been getting in between me and fast pedaling this year. One would be that my pancreas doesn't work and apparently, at times, neither does my insulin. The other would be that my ability to feel anything below the waist on my entire left hand side seems to be something of lottery. Both f these can be somewhat frustrating to put it mildly. Oh and there was also one race when some cowboys managed to integrate themselves into the bunch right as we were sprinting.

The back thing can be fairy simply explained, someone drove a car into me and broke it. Apparently i'd been chasing the dream with a displaced SI joint for several months before someone noticed it at PT and kindly popped my bones back into their happy place. Since then I've been at the core exercises and stretching like a good boy and so far so good, I can even stand on JUST my left leg, which would have left me in a heap on the floor a month ago. I can also race without bathing my lumbar spine in embro and filling my stomach with ibuprofen. So that's nice.

The 'betes thing is harder to explain (and let's face it the cowboy deal is pretty damn impossible). For some reason I'm getting much bigger fluctuations in races and training then I'm used to. I'll start where I want to, say 150 and in the first hour of the race i'll go between 60 and 300, if i don't eat I go hop, I get dizzy, shaky and my legs feel like rubber. If I try to correct that hypo I go flying up and feel twitchy, wired, parched and sore. My legs feel like battery acid is flowing nested of blood. Finding a way to balance nutrition, stress and insulin in between those two places is proving a challenge.

I'm hoping that the to issues aren't unrelated. In an effort to get to the bottom of whats going on I'm trying to isolate variable. The issue is that often these things happen in races, races where nobody crest wait while I check my sugars and where I can't take a mulligan if it turns out that the raisins I ate a hour ago should've been peanuts because I'm 300. Training rides are different, I can try thing and test theories: The spasms in my back could be causing stress, stress causes highs. That said I've had problems even on rides where my legs both work. So there's something else at play. The next in my process of elimination is glycogen, the body's storage carbohydrate reserves in the muscles. I've just spent the weekend at an AYUDA training program in DC restocking the reserves with a healthy supply of carbohydrate thanks to more time in meetings and less time in the mountains.

On ting I've always struggled a bit with is post ride insulin. I know I want to benefit from he glycogen resynthesis which occurs right after training but, given that I'm depleted after a ride, a large bolus is potentially pretty hazardous, especially if I'm doing aching other than just sitting about for the next 2-3 hours. You see with my body's glycogen stores low, if I take too much insulin my body lacks the reserves to "bail me out" of. Low blood sugar but if I don't take enough insulin I tend to go really high, perhaps due to the post ride stress hormone release. That's not good for health or recovery.

Diabetes is a constant moving and changing target, it's interesting, intriguing and sometimes annoying. It is also why I am who I am, it's why I do hat I do, it's why I've met most of the people most dear to me in my life, traveled all over the world and why I get the chance to teach people and the privilege to learn from them. At the end of the day, I wouldn't trade my faulty pancreas for. Good one and a different life, so I have to ale the ups with the downs. I wanted to share bit of that process, in case anyone else goes through the same. It's the "inside baseball"part of the 'betes game and it might not be as glam as some of the other stuff I get to do but hopefully for one or two people this represented window into my world with diabetes and gave them an appreciation which they can ue to better relate to their own diabetes or people they know living with the condition. So until next time, stay sweet!