Monday, September 20, 2010

Training - Altitude in CO

So... I'm at an altitude (about 7000 feet) that's a thousand feet higher than the top of Palomar (6000-ish feet), at least the top that I ride to on my annual Palomar rides. And there are mountains all around. Meaning up above here. It's crazy.

Today... I felt a bit draggy. I spent way too much time awake yesterday, staying up until 2 AM home time, midnight local time, after being up at 5:30 in the morning and traveling all day.

And, to be honest, I wasn't feeling great. Last night I walked around with a hoodie, a t-shirt underneath, socks, and jeans. Even today, in about 80 degree, sunny temps, I had jeans, t-shirt, and a jacket on.

I felt a little queasy too - maybe I didn't eat enough (the gap between 6:30 AM and 5 PM might have been a bit long) or something didn't agree with me.

I want to feel better though. I'm here for just another half day then we'll head to the much lower Las Vegas.

A ride seemed to be in order. I mean, that's one of the default things to do when it's nice out and I don't feel... well, not sick necessarily, but just not great. I figure a ride may help clear out the traveling cobwebs. It'll also flush out my system, let me sweat stuff out through my pores. All sorts of subjective, mythical kind of stuff that has no basis in scientific proof. It's more like the stuff that makes myths, like, you know, thunder caused by clouds kissing.

But before we could ride, I wanted to make sure the bike was okay. I had to reassemble it from the flight. And, because I haven't swapped the tape in a while, I figured I'd do it at the same time.

I'd bought some "carbon fiber" tape on a lark, and now seemed as good a time to try it as another.

Tape, new.

The tape did come in an unexpected form - a gloopy gel substance covered the back of the tape. Apparently it's a substitute for that hard-to-remove double sided tape that's somewhat ubiquitous on bar tape.

Since I hate the double sided tape I'm interested in how things work out with the goop.

Tape, with the goopy side exposed at the top.
The Bontrager bar plugs are nice, my current favorites.

The tape went on okay (tip: don't let the goopy stuff get onto stuff like a rug, cats, or a dusty garage floor), and I felt a lot of angst leave my body as I looked at the freshly taped bars. I suppose if I were that eccentric Howard Hughes, I'd have been replacing tape compulsively, not washing my hands (at least that's what the movie showed him doing).

Pristine Tsunami, before the ride.
New tape on, SRM missing, otherwise pretty much complete.

We gathered up our stuff, me in my new "skinny" kit - size M jersey, size S shorts. I can't believe I raced the whole year in size L jerseys and size M shorts.

We headed out towards Vail, another town at some ridiculous altitude (about 8000 feet, give or take). It's also really nice, with beautiful houses and such all over the place. I have to admit that the panoramic views were such that I almost hit a rock the size of softball on the way there, but all went well.

At some point I realized there were a LOT of grasshoppers around. Not green though, kind of a motley brown. I couldn't think of what I thought they were, the bugs that ate all the crops in Laura Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie (yeah, I read all 14 books or whatever). So I asked the local expert.

"What are these bugs? The hopping kind? They're like grasshoppers but in a Biblical sense. They're all over the place."
"You mean locusts?"
"Yeah, locusts. Aren't these locusts?"
"Just grasshoppers."

With a decent tailwind, I couldn't really tell that we were climbing at all. I hoped that we were, because if we weren't, it'd be a long ride back.

My legs turned over easily, the 175s really my crank length of choice. I realized this the other night, at home, when I rode them for the first time in a couple months. My legs like the longer pedal stroke, the longer muscle contractions. The 170s just didn't seem right.

And, as a bonus, my SRM is registering real numbers once again. But that's another post, for another time.

A few little pokes at the pace, a few surges, and we got to Vail. We had to get around a street market thing. And some Massachusetts-dealer (!?) plated Mini also kept asking Kevin for directions. I mean, I'm from where he is, so I just practiced my trackstand and stuff.

Kevin, on his first ride of the year (!) had his traditional first ride of the year flat. Totally unexpected - it's not like he slammed into a hole or rode over glass, we were "JRA", just riding along. Heck, I even jumped just like Dave Stohler in Breaking Away, although it was Kevin's tire that went. I found the hole but no matter how carefully we searched the tire and the rim, we couldn't find the offending whatever.

New tube, pumped up, and we headed back.

Of course they were working on some road, covered in sand, small rocks, all soaking wet with water.

Yeah, pristine bike, right.

Muddy water everywhere. I tried to stay on the gravel stuff - at least those weren't in puddles. But my bike was filthy within seconds.

And within another few seconds, I realized it wouldn't do any good to keep going slow. So I punched it and pretended, however briefly, that I was bridging to a solo break in Paris Roubaix.

50 meters later we hit dry pavement. So much for that bit of inspirational riding.

Inside I hoped I'd get away with just a quick spray down. A clean bike that gets dirty cleans easily. A dirty bike takes some effort.

Proactive stuff works sometimes.

On the way back we headed directly into the wind, and, thankfully, hit a lot of downhills. I felt good, good enough to make an effort up the last hill. I started "moderate" and then started really going hard. It's a steep one, maybe 10-12%, and I set off in the big ring. I got into the "I'm still going hard and I can do this for a while" mode, which is usually a sign for me to ease up.

Since I wasn't driving to the line for a race, I eased.

And then I realized what "at altitude" means.

It means that when you breathe in, nothing really happens.

I crawled to the top of the climb, gasping for air. I rarely push myself to extreme efforts, but this time, I didn't realize what would happen until it was too late.

Within a minute I could taste the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. And, still, I couldn't inhale enough oxygen.

Finally my body caught up, erasing its oxygen debt.

Yikes. Talk about deficit spending.

Once back, I surveyed the damage to the formerly pristine bike.

Shiny up top, muddy down low.



All that from about 200 meters of muddy rocky watery road. Luckily a bit of water from a hose took care of most of the mostly cosmetic mud. A few swipes of a rag and the bike will be pristine once again.

When we got back, I told Kevin that I felt a lot better now, after the ride. He in turn told me he was surprised that I hadn't exhibited any signs of altitude sickness.

"Altitude sickness?"

I thought altitude sickness was what you get when you try and climb Mt Everest, like nose-bleeds and such. I thought of my queasiness. The fact that I only slept a few hours last night. And my general malaise. I figured it was all because of the long day.

"Yeah, altitude sickness. Most people get some symptoms, like nausea, headaches, can't sleep, some other things."


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