Monday, February 04, 2013

Super Sunday

Beat joked about my first foray into athletic doping, but I was unconvinced. A low-dose prescription of oral Prednisone that was still battling the rash that had spread across my body? No, all it did was reverse the zombificition my body had descended into during the week, and allowed me to sleep more than 45 minutes at a time. I was feeling normal again, that's all. Saturday's slow run after a week of low activity let me breathe easy again, and I hoped I'd continue to improve enough to embark on the solo mountain bike ride while Beat organized his Iditarod gear on Superbowl Sunday. Since it had only been two days since I was unwilling to get out of bed due to the discomfort and pain of simply moving, I kept my expectations low.

I managed a 9 a.m. start but felt sluggish for the first two hours, trying to wake up reluctant leg muscles while my head swirled in a thick mental fog. Beat and I went to a dinner party the evening before, and stayed up well past midnight eating lots of dessert, which resulted in a mild sugar hangover. At one point I decided I was just going to ride to the top of Black Mountain and descend Steven's Creek Canyon, because a 25-mile ride was still a decent comeback from how downtrodden I have been feeling for much of the past two weeks. But then I reminded myself that it was Super Bowl Sunday, providing a rare opportunity to enjoy largely deserted roads and trails on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon.

I made it my mission to ride as much (legal) dirt and trail as I could. I looped around the trails above Steven's Creek and veered over to Long Ridge to contour the hillsides on the other side of Skyline. It's all steep climbing and descending without a break, but I noticed that as soon as my head fog finally cleared, I felt great. Not necessarily stronger than normal, but incredibly enthusiastic. Suddenly it didn't make sense to do anything but ride my bike all day long. So I turned west and descended into the expansive forests of Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

This place is located less than thirty miles from the traffic-clogged Silicon Valley, a small spine of mountains dividing a narrow peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. And yet it's an wonderful wildland — rugged, densely forested, and largely free of development and motorized use. Given its proximity to the Bay area, it's also surprisingly uncrowded. I love Big Basin Redwoods, and every time I visit, I wonder why I don't spend more time exploring the extensive system of trails (where, sadly, mountain bikes are restricted. But there are plenty of opportunities for long trail runs.)

The routes where bikes are allowed are all extremely strenuous — a ripple of fall-line fire roads with 20-plus-percent grades. Even I could probably run these trails faster than I can ride them, given the number of 14- and 22-minute miles my Garmin was ticking off. But I was having so much fun, locking up my brakes through a rear-wheel gravel slide or cranking up a hill until my quads gave out, that I didn't care about my pace, the accumulating hours, or growing lateness of the afternoon.

Prudence was nagging at me to turn around when I discovered the McCreary Ridge trail, a sandy shoot that plunged down the spine of a narrow ridge, with big views on all sides. It cut so aggressively down the mountain that several sections were too steep for me to ride downhill, and I knew pushing my bike back up this trail was going to be a real grunt, but I was intrigued nonetheless. There are few activities I love more than exploring by bike.

I hoped to make it all the way to the coast, but evening was encroaching. I promised myself a 3:15 p.m. turnaround and stuck to it, even though the dense redwood forest of the lower elevations beckoned me forward.

Despite my sickness last week, and a reduction in cycling miles as I've tried to amp up training for running, I felt relatively little fatigue during this ten-hour, steep and strenuous ride. Fatigue started to catch up with me in the final hours because I didn't eat much during the day, but I was a bit baffled. Where did all of this energy come from? Is it really all contained in a 20 mg dose of Prednisone? I know the drug is a steroid, but it was still battling some serious inflammation (given my rash and swelling has not yet entirely cleared up.) I don't feel manic when I'm not biking, and have been sleeping just fine (worlds away from last week's insomnia.) But Beat has been teasing me for acting more "feisty" than usual. I admit I'm a little wary of this drug, but more than anything I do not want that debilitating rash to come back, ever, so I'll finish up my seven-day dose as prescribed and chat with my doc about the side effects.

And I also believe there's a good chance that my Super Sunday owes less to the side effects of Prednisone than the renewed joy of being alive, healthy again, and moving through a beautiful world under my own power. The sun set an hour before I made it home, and I was grateful for the nearly deserted streets. 49ers fans must be plentiful here. I wonder if their team won? (Just kidding. I know who won.) I turned on my headlight and descended toward a sparkling sea of city lights, swallowing a rush of cold air through a grin I couldn't contain. It was such a great day, doping or not.

Final stats: 74.2 miles, 11,273 feet of climbing, 9:54 total time, average speed 7.5 mph. Map and more stats are here for anyone interested in the route. 


  1. I love coming here and reading up on all of the fantastic things you're doing. What a cool ride and gorgeous place.

  2. It is only doping if you're not using it for a medical reason. My asthma inhaler lets me run when my symptoms are out of control and I don't really give it much more thought.

    But if prednisone allows you to ride that long, maybe I need some :)

  3. I don't know what's more beautiful the landscape pictures or you. Simply beautiful all the way around.

  4. I missed that you had a rash? Awful. Your pictures make me long for a summer trail run...

  5. Looking at those pictures I am kicking myself that I didn't make time to check out Big Basin Park when I was there last year. We had to just drive straight past.
    Huge ride too. I would be ravenously hungry after 74mi !

  6. Holy CATS, your rides have a habit of turning into real death-rides (in a fun way of course). Every time I get to thinking I need to hook up and ride with you one day (when I'm up in the area) I read about something like this and'd kill me! NICE RIDE! (I'd have had to kill something and eat it raw around mile 50).

    I didn't know you could tie in to Big Basin Redwoods from Long Ridge/Saratoga Gap area...I'll have to check that connection out next time. I'm still trying to figure out how you got from El Corte Madera to Purisima Creek Redwoods (it was a year or more ago, I recall you mentioned it..maybe even it was when you were new up there). You inspire me, that's for sure! Hope your rash goes bye-bye for ever...that must be horrible!

  7. Thank you, all. It is nice to feel healthy again, and no worries, I won't be engaging in any competitive events while I'm treating my rash. Anyway, I went for a run today that confirmed I definitely have not turned into Superwoman.

    Matt — the only legal route is pavement, Highway 9 to Highway 236 until you reach China Grade fireroad. There is a dirt connection on the Skyline to the Sea Trail, but it's not open to bikes. Every other potential route I've explored brought up dead ends.

    I'd like to petition the state to open Skyline to the Sea to bikes, but it would never go anywhere. There's no compelling reason to keep it closed — it's not crowded. Every time I run there, I see maybe one other hiker and on weekends, perhaps a few people on horses. It would make such a great bike trail, and would open up a world of dirt connections all the way to Santa Cruz that could keep bikers forever off the dreaded Highway 9. Alas, this region has a tight clamp on bike restrictions.

    And Skeggs to Purisima involves a ~2-mile ride on Skyline Ridge (between the two closest exit points of both parks.) You can also cross Tunitas Creek Road and some point and climb up into Skeggs on a small side road whose name I'm forgetting. No big secret routes in my rides, just a bit of necessary pavement. :)

  8. Hey Jill, Do you think maybe you feel so good riding because you were forced into some real rest for a change? Maybe?

  9. "fiesty"...heh ? Prednisone will reduce kidney damage due to stress from disease and will stimulate stem cells to aid in recovery. Reading your blog you need more focused recovery plan, I'm not suggesting steroids though. Maybe a dark isolation float chamber.
    Don't know what will help Beat during the Iditarod, maybe you could hop a ride in a bushplane and drop hot chicken soup to him.

  10. Check out my old post on the Prednisone Dose pack. Powerful stuff...but it works!

  11. Prednisone is a glucocorticoid. Not an anabolic steroid. Yet I think it is banned in sports by wada. It may increase your blood glucose which is not a very desirable effect in endurance events where you'd rather not have spikes in blood glucose. I freely admit I entered races while on prednisone course for allergic inflammation yet never felt any positive effect. Even anabolic a only work in long term use not as something you take to increase performance for one day or one race. You are safe with prednisone.

  12. And it does not stimulate any cells. Suppresses immune cells, again, bad for recovery.

  13. Jill, forgot to mention yesterday...almost 2 years ago I had a bad case of poison ivy and was prescribed the prednisone pills (which knocked the rash down quickly btw). However, I did a road ride w/ friends the day after I started treatment, and whether it was mental or not, it felt like I had lead injected into my legs.

    I was so far off the back that I might as well have stoped and taken a nap.

    @Steve, I checked out your Prednisone post, I certainly had a different reaction than you did. I couldn't have whupped Pee Wee Herman riding a tricycle for those couple days during my treatment.

  14. I am just amazed you could sleep at all on Prednisone. The one time I took it, I was awake for like 3 days straight. I wasn't even remotely tired. It was freaky.
    Great pics as always!

  15. Thursday is my last day on Prednisone. Grateful for that, but as these days go by I'm more convinced that I'm not experiencing the more extreme side effects of this drug. After Sunday my perceived energy levels returned to normal, sleep is normal, athletic performance seems normal. I think martyuma is right ... a week of rest and sheer happiness about not feeling sick anymore works much more effectively than any drug.

  16. I had a shot of Predisone years ago for alleries, and I think the Doctor told me some of the side effects are a boost of confidence and well being. Or maybe I read that? I did feel those effects.

    The Santa Cruz mnts and Big basin are great! Love all that sandstone with the Pines and the Chaparral.

  17. Wow know you've made the BIG TIME when your blog comments are getting spammed!

    That should be illegal.


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