Friday, May 11, 2012

And on and on

I will say this: It really is difficult to take recovery down time when it's summer, beautiful outside, and the people you spend time with are all out looking for fun. I finished the Stagecoach 400, took a couple of days completely off, and ventured back into easy running for a few days after that. But despite my first truly bad case of saddle sores and lingering tiredness, I've already slipped back toward possibly bad if enjoyable habits. I know I need to make changes in order to stop this cycle of fatigue. If only I could push my willpower in that direction.
 
My friend Keith is visiting from Banff for a spring road bike vacation that he's been planning for months. I can't blame Keith for the bike binging, as this has always been the plan. It's been so fun to have him here, but we've been putting in some solid miles. Right off the plane we did a hard climb up Monte Bello Road even though it was 92 degrees outside and there's still snow on the ground where he lives. He rocked it of course and is excited about all the warm weather, blue skies, smooth pavement and quintessential California cultural experiences like being passed on a mountain road by a parade of supercars. That kind of enthusiasm is hard not to get wrapped up in, and it's been great. But, yeah ... I'm still not feeling super awesome or even 100-percent healthy right now.

 The saddle sores are my most immediate concern. I'd actually appreciate some input from people with experience in this regard, and I'm trying to think of how I can word this without being too off-putting and graphic. So there are blister-like chaffing sores that have been slow-healing and seem to be irritated, possibly infected. I also have a fair amount of lingering swelling and significant soreness in the, ahem, lady parts. I've never experienced anything like this — even after Tour Divide. I often joke with my friends that I have an "iron butt" and honestly thought I was immune to saddle sores. I think it may be a combination of bad chamois choice, less-than-ideal hygiene (although I did take regular alcohol-based wet-wipe "baths" during the race), and more heat than I'm accustomed to. But, man. Ouch. The pain has been bad enough that I haven't been sleeping well at night, still, which also doesn't help with recovery. I tried plenty of lubing for my rides with Keith, as well as applications of a couple of over-the-counter medications for different kinds of infections. I've seen some improvement, but not as much as I expected after a week. Yesterday for a six-hour ride I decided to forgo the chamois and just wear airy running shorts because I've become convinced that chamois are nothing more than bacteria traps and it would be better for me to wick sweat rather than sit on it for six hours. This actually seemed to help. I already have a regular physical scheduled on May 21 so I will have a chance to see my doctor about this. But any suggestions, especially from women, that might offer me some relief before then would be greatly appreciated.

But, beyond the pall of sometimes excruciating undercarriage pain that makes me never want to ride a bike ever again (I joke, kind of), riding with Keith has been fun. We've done a bunch of climby rides because, around here, all the good road rides involve a ton of climbing. On Wednesday we rode Skyline Drive, 52 miles and 4,600 feet of climbing along the wooded spine of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was fun to share the road with supercars, whose drivers were all courteous and gave us tons of space as they drove the speed limit past us.
 
Thursday was Bike to Work Day, and Google had a big festival with booths and prizes to encourage all of its employees to participate. There also seemed to be a competition of sorts among the employees to see who could complete the most awesome ride on their way to work. A few of Beat's co-workers also saw an opportunity to ride their bikes as long as possible before finally going into work, and planned a "long way" loop to the ocean and back — 77 miles and more than 7,000 feet of climbing. Of course Keith and I wanted in on the fun.

I wasn't the only non-Google employee to show up, but I was the only woman. I rolled up for the 6:15 a.m. start wearing my short running shorts and fat platform pedals attached to Beat's hand-built carbon Calfee. The reason for the platform pedals was because after my and Keith's four-hour ride, my road shoes started pinching and my frostbite-foot toes were sore. With all of my undercarriage issues, I really didn't need the added grief of toe pain, so I threw on the platforms right before the ride. I almost wished I left my headlamp attached to my helmet for a trifecta of dorkiness, but really the running shorts and platform pedals made me dorky enough, not to mention I was the only girl. I don't think any of these guys took me seriously from the get-go, but I held on to the finish.

The pace was friendly but not slacker. We did the ride in six hours in order to make it to "work" by noon. The route was spectacular, really. I would have never imagined myself enjoying road riding the way I do here in California, but this populated place is threaded with nearly traffic-free ribbons of pavement up steep slopes, beside sweeping vistas, and through thick Redwood Forests dripping with greenery. For locals: Our loop route was Page Mill, Alpine, Stage Road, Highway 1, Tunitas Creek, King Mountain, and valley bike routes to Google and home.

Today I talked Keith into a real day off — we're going to the beach and that's about it. After Keith's bike vacation I'm going to have to reassess, again, just how serious I'm going to be about my training this summer — because I'm not sure exactly what I need to combat this fatigue issue. I don't think it's as simple as taking a week off, but something like that will probably be the first step, after the Ohlone 50K next Saturday. But yeah, if I don't get my health back on track, UTMB is going to a lot more absurd than just the pipe dream that it is right now. I have to be realistic, even if I'm having fun.