Thursday, June 11, 2009

Teaching An Old Dog New Paddles

Today I swam for the first time since April 21. Back then I had to stop because my shoulders were really sore and they were not getting any better. The pain got to be too much and I actually made myself go see a doctor (not an everyday occurrence for me, let me tell you). I went straight to a sports medicine clinic and saw a doctor who, himself, has competed in triathlons (including an Ironman). After an exam it was off to physical therapy for several weeks, then back to the doc, which leads us to me in the pool today.

The physical therapy, while I think it helped in some ways, in other ways it did not. I did get my range of motion back but my shoulders were getting sore from the strain of the therapy and I did not think all of the exercises were helping. After chatting with the doc we decided the lay off the PT, do a few of the exercises at home, and get back in the water with a modified stroke.

What was hurting my shoulders the most was the recovery part of the stroke, where your hand moves out of the water and back up to the front. How odd is it that the thing that caused me pain was the one part of the stroke doing the least amount of work? Basically, the angle my hand was at, together with lifting my arm straight out and to the back was messing things up. I had to avoid that.

Today's swim was all about focusing on technique so I would do just one lap at a time. I started out with form that I had in mind and adjusted it with each lap until I thought I was really onto something. It's not like any freestyle I've ever seen but it's getting me through pain-free, so I will stick with it and see how it goes. What I did was borrow the whole rotation thing from Total Immersion so my shoulder wouldn't be at such a severe angle during the recovery. Also, when I start the recovery I flick my wrist so as my arm is coming up, my palm is not perpendicular to the water's surface but parallel to it. Next, I flex at the elbow so just my forearm is moving (this is where it gets weird), and once that's about at ninety degrees to my upper arm I finally flex at the shoulder and finish the recovery. My hand enters the water not right in front of my head, like I had been doing, but more to the outside. I'm sure it looks a bit odd but, as I mentioned, it seems to be working. It's all designed to not do the things that cause my shoulders pain. If that means it looks odd, I can live with that.

The other bright spot is that I did about 1000 yards and was not the least bit tired, which means my lungs haven't completely left me. My swim will be fine when I start up the triathlons again in two months.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Ride of a(n Almost) Century

Eight gels, three bananas, an orange, 6:25 in the saddle, and almost two water bottles later, I finished my first (almost) century ride this past Sunday.

The weather had been weird up until ride day. I had checked the forecast, though, and a good day of 70 degress was predicted for the whole route so I was going to need normal gear--no layers.

First up, after the 7am start, was two loops through Griffith Park. It turns out that this included one pretty good hill, which also meant there was one pretty good descent. Since it was right after the start, though, I didn't appreciate the hills as a warm-up. On the bright side, the second loop was easier than the first.

Then it was off to the L.A. River...on a bike path...with hundreds of other riders. Worse, the century riders met up with the 70-mile riders at about the same time: just before entering the L.A. River bike path. That part could have been better organized.

Rode along the river for a few miles, then it was time to hit the city streets. Not as smooth as the bike path but not as rough as some of the places I ride on weekends. Couple that with the stoplights and I was right at home (though I'm sure a lot of people were not). We passed by Union Station, the Twin Towers, and a bunch of industrial property before re-joining the L.A. River for the rest of the trip down to Long Beach. This was nice because as we got closer to the ocean, the breeze got cooler. It also got stronger so there was a slight headwind but it felt good. I do not recall dripping sweat at all (though I was definitely sweating).

Something that amuses me is "skills" that I pick up on my weekly rides that are not really something I think about as cycling skills but turn out to come in really handy. For my first triathlon it was riding in cold weather. For this century ride it was the bunny hop. Now, granted, I don't get much air but I do get enough to go over wicked potholes and other obstacles on the road. I hopped several times during the ride.

Got to the (almost) halfway point for a rest stop. It was the halfway point for the 70-milers but the century riders would actually go past this stop and loop back to the rest stop before heading back. I did not stop at that rest stop again and just kept going.

Back on the bike path and the very slight incline on the way back was overcome by the tailwind, which surprised me. Things were going well until about mile 62 (I do not think it is a coincidence that my longest ride until that point was 60 miles). My feet had been getting numb but now that was becoming painful. Plus my left foot was getting a somewhat sharp pain in it. I knew a rest stop was coming up shortly and I kept looking for it but, finally, I could not wait any longer and pulled over onto one of the many benches (with bike racks!) dotting the bike path. I sat down, took off my shoes, and rested my tootsies. Sure, I was now being passed by people I had passed earlier but I needed to finish the ride. After some amount of time spent sitting, walking, and rubbing I got back on the bike and my feet were fine for the rest of the ride.

After a bit more riding I was starting to get pretty sore in the saddle so I was very much looking forward to a particular rest stop in a small park. Park means grass. I parked my bike, took off my shoes and helmet, and relaxed under a tree. Ah, that's the stuff. I was feeling like I could take a good nap, which I definitely did not want to do so after a nice rest, it was back on the path.

Got off the path and back in the industrial area. Then a funny thing happened around mile 81: I got my second wind. My legs felt fine and I was pedaling pretty well. I did find, though, that if I thought about being tired I suddenly felt tired so I had to not think about it and just pedal.

While my legs were fine I was getting really sore in the saddle. I stopped at the last rest stop, only five miles, or so, from the finish just so I could give my butt a rest. Then back on for the home stretch. It was at this point that I noticed that my Garmin was saying one thing about mileage and the route map was saying another. It looked like I forgot to turn it back on after one of the rest stops. Sigh.

Getting through those last miles was quite an exercise in determination because I just wanted off that bike. Finally, I got off the path, went over the last, small overpass (which I could do out of the saddle with ease--yay out of the saddle-training) and then I was done. The booths we could wander through were kind of a joke, the "special" jersey turned out to be one for the organization that put on the ride and not for the ride itself. Whatever. I grabbed something to eat (I was not as hungry or thirsty as I thought I would be) and then made my way home.

Nutrition went well. I happened to wake up at 3am on ride morning so I took that opportunity to have a bowl of cereal. On the ride I had gels every 45 minutes, just like in training. At one point I tried taking a gel every 30 minutes but that did not work out so well. It was too much and my stomach had just a slight bit of irritation. I took water with the gels and once or twice extra but I was so well-hydrated and the day so mild that, much to my surprise, I did not even go through my two water bottles. I took two bananas with me and I ate one more at the rest stops, along with an orange or two.

I was disappointed that I goofed up with the Garmin but then a read a post today where somebody else said that they recorded the century as being short, too. In fact, the same amount of short that I recorded (92.5 miles). During the ride I toyed with the idea of riding extra just so the Garmin would show 100 miles but I so wanted off my bike towards the end that that idea was thrown right out the window. That and I thought the problem was with me and that I really was doing 100 miles. On the bright side, I know what resources I need to do a century, in terms of time and nutrition, and that I can do it. Triathlons will be starting up again in two months so I will have to wait until November to do another one. I wonder if it gets easier.