Monday, February 18, 2008

California - Aftermath

My California training camp seemed to have taken a lot more out of me than I expected. I arrived home thinking I was in pretty good shape, somewhat awake, somewhat alert. This despite not sleeping for more than a couple hours in the prior 26, and then, later, not sleeping any more for the next 8 or 10 hours.

Because of this, the intense and long day I had before I left, and probably the accumulated fatigue from the prior 9 or 10 days of riding, I spent the rest of the week in a semi-delirious haze. I couldn't even check my bike until Sunday (or was it Saturday?) afternoon.

But now, with my head more in sync with the rest of the world, I can look back at this last week with a bit more clarity.

That last ride in California, the one to the peak of Palomar, was quite a day. I found the guy's name who I saw on Palomar, descending with Chris Horner. Remi McManus. Even a domestic pro like himself was impressed with the ProTour sightings, enough so that he took a picture of his ride companions. So my ProTour sighting report has to be revised. Horner was the "cycling journalist" with Gerolsteiner so I actually saw him twice.

Since he passed me in 2007 wearing his Predictor-Lotto colors, he seems to be a theme on my California training camps.

Another irritant in my attempt to recover from the long trip has been my skin. In particular the sun poisoning I managed to get in the last three days of riding has made me mighty uncomfortable. The start was the no-sun-block 7 hours in the sun of Palms Springs (what was I thinking?). But it didn't really get me, although I was a bit red afterwards.

It was the Palomar ride (with sun block) that did me in. I felt queasy about 5 hours into the ride, a familiar feeling during my 2008 training camp. I felt this queasiness on all my longer rides but I simply brushed it off as something due to the length of the ride. I now know why - it's the onset of the sun poisoning.

The rash-like bumps all over the exposed parts of my arms and legs tell the story. I guess the long rides (I used a weak sunblock on most days I rode) eventually exposed me to enough UV rays that my body became pretty unhappy after 4 or 5 hours in the sun.

Although I'd like to say that it might be psychosomatic, I have experienced the same symptoms previously, and in a much more controlled environment. Many years ago, in a quest to get rid of my very distinct tan lines, I went to a local tanning salon. This was during the dead of winter so I had very little sun exposure otherwise. The first or second session in the salon got me overexposed (they looked at my somewhat tan arms and face and assumed I was tan everywhere). I left the salon feeling a bit odd, like my body wanted to rebel in some way. Before I got home (a mile away) I felt queasy, and the following morning I'd have the peculiar bumps just like the ones that are now fading from my arms and legs. I cut back on the session lengths (going half the "recommended" length, even when I really had a tan) and after a month a year for two years, I stopped going completely.

Today my arms and legs are only mildly itchy and my skin feels like I have permanent goose bumps, not hundreds of tiny mosquito bites.

As mentioned before, I finally got around to assembling my bike. Normally I do it the day I get back so that, first, I can ride it, and second, so I can check its condition.

Truth be told, I was a bit worried about the latter. With my initial flight canceled due to mechanicals (after they loaded the plane), the next flight delayed due to weather, and a final switch to a redeye flight, I figured my bike has been loaded and unloaded a few times. And I'm sure the baggage handlers weren't happy about loading and unloading the same bags. So, in my imagination, this is what I pictured.

"Hustle, hustle, 442's got to be ready in 5 minutes."
"Okay, okay, just tell the idiot with this huge bag that next time he better use smaller bags. I'm gonna throw my back out trying to move this thing."

Then 30 minutes later...

"Okay boys, we gotta unload these bags from 442 and moved to 628."
"Fer crying out loud, it's that frickin' biggest bag again. And it has a frickin' 'fragile' sticker on it."
"Look, just get the bags off the plane."

And then they drag the bike bag on the ground and toss it as hard as they can into the baggage trailer.

Then a few hours later...

"Boys, I hate to do this to you but I need some bags off of 628. They're going on 541."
"Crap, look, it's that stupid frickin' big bag again."

Thump, drag, thump.

So anyway, I sort of dreaded opening this thing up. I figured I'd find shards of carbon and little crumpled pieces of aluminum, all tied together with some stainless steel cables and kevlar tire bead cords.

Instead, I found a perfectly packed bike. All the pieces were there. My hurried packing job had been enough, the baggage handlers more civil than my imagination.

So, today, for the first time in almost a week, I'll ride my bike.

Now, ironically, it's 10 degrees WARMER in Connecticut than in California right now. Heck, I may ride outside. Luckily it's raining and overcast. This means I can skip the sun block.

Imagine that.


Matthew Brandon said...

I used to do a week long bike trip/school trip in high school that went to south florida in january and let me tell ya i came home looking like a lobster.

Impartation said...

Good to hear your bicycle made the trip in good condition. What box/bag are you using? Polaris (PBK) ??

Aki said...

Yeah, me too lol.

Bike bag is an old Bike Nashbar copy of a BikePro, padded soft bag. I updated the caster wheels so two of them steer (before none of them did). Also got bigger wheels with bearings, anchored in wood that I put inside the hard plastic insert that the old casters used as a mount.

I use wheel covers inside, grey packing/moving padding type stuff, and put in bags of drink mix, clothing, my helmet, etc to fill the gaps.

Murat Altinbasak said...

All that riding and no overuse injuries? I did 6 days in San Diego last Feb and came home with a sore knee..
That allergic reaction you have to the sun.. I get the same exact thing, especially when I'm in Turkey where it can get pretty hot on the south coast. Sometimes I wonder if it's partly due to the poor air quality, the diesel fumes.. Starts out on my shins and forearms and spreads from there. Tiny red bumps that can be itchy if you don't refrain from touching too much. It goes away in a week or so. Annoying as hell.

Aki said...

I'm extremely paranoid about any type of "use injury". I decided when I was a kid that taking a day or five off was much better than limping around for a month or three, which is what happened when I ignored some knee tweaks when I first started racing.

Plus I guess my position is pretty dialed in (shoes etc), leaning towards a preservation fit rather than some extreme fit. I tend not to have problems as long as I don't change things too much.

Finally my body is pretty resilient, even in its old age :)

When I feel any type of twinge, I back off pretty aggressively and focus on pedaling conservatively, i.e. no odd motions, standing more (since that seems to alleviate a lot of potential knee things), etc.

I was most worried about my "saddle" but a few long sessions on the trainer (3-5 hours) took care of the necessary "callousing" and a week after I did them I was good for whatever time my legs offered me. My knees were next on my list, but I never had a problem. I'm always paranoid about tendons so I try and keep warmer vs colder and I am extremely protective of my core temperature (I believe this helps supply a steady stream of heat to the extremities). Other odd muscle tightness popped up (side of hip, glutes), stuff I don't remember experiencing ever. But gentle warm ups and doing a lot of self-checks indicated that they were fine.

My legs are still a bit bumpy and itchy. Terrible. My arms are a bit better although the skin is still a bit rough.