Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Totally New D-Experience In A While

Over the past few days my blood sugar has been reacting pretty weirdly.  Since Sunday I have frequently had blood sugars in the 300s but have had symptoms of lows, not highs.  I received my new order of Dexcom sensors yesterday so should be able to zero in on any basal rate adjustments; but my big worry is that my body is not processing insulin as quickly as it should be around lunch time.  Since my diagnosis I have struggled with my blood sugars between 2pm and 5pm.  Historically my blood sugars have spiked about an hour and 1/2 after lunch, causing me to perform a correction bolus.  That correction normally leads to a nasty low sometime between 4:30 pm and 6 pm - this only happens during the work week, not on the weekends. 

Originally I had thought that the correction was necessary so began letting the blood sugar come down naturally, much to my dismay I was still encountering lows.  In fact it has seemed that no matter the meal (salad, sandwich, or whatever) and regardless the level of meal time bolus my blood sugar will still raise north of 250 and come crashing down sometime later.  I've been trying to figure out this pattern for nearly 4 years but still haven't had any success.

Yesterday I attended a conference for work in San Francisco and decided to go swimming after it.  Much like many other days my blood sugar was almost 300 around 3:30 pm but I felt like I was trending very low.  I reduced my basal rate and by 4:25 pm was walking to the pool.  After about a mile walk my blood sugar was 89 even though I hadn't given a bolus correction and had eaten a 35 gram nutrition bar while I started my walk.  I downed a Gatorade and hopped into the pool - probably not the best idea.

I swam well enough but then experienced severe leg cramps after 45ish minutes of swimming (about 1500 meters) and decided that was enough for the day and hopped out of the pool.  In the shower I had near debilitating leg cramps and came close to falling to a heap on the floor. After some time at my locker the cramps loosened and I was able to make it to the subway feeling pretty "weird".  I tested my blood sugar and was at 65 so I just reduced my basal rate in an attempt to naturally bring my blood sugars back up.

As I commuted home I began to feel even more weird and eventually felt my heart racing a bit.  I checked my blood sugar again and was at 31 - yikes!  I downed a clif bar as quickly as I could, made it to my apartment and held onto my bed until the world stopped spinning.  My blood sugar climbed to 109 by the time I had dinner and I felt much more like myself again.  Then this morning even though I had been waking up with a blood sugar of 220ish (its been off in the morning for whatever reason) I woke up with a bs of 77.  So either a ton of insulin decided to hang out in my butt cheek instead of going through my system or there was a complete 180 of environmental factors.  Hoping not to experience anything like those cramps or a racing heart anytime in the near future though - that was a new one that I'd rather not repeat.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Finished A Crit!!!!

What a weekend in San Francisco!  Having spent my entire life battling the bitter cold of the Northeast, 70 degree temperatures on a January weekend is like a trip to the tropics.  On Friday I had a conference call with a peer in Nebraska and couldn't help but smile when he said it was 5 degrees there as I looked out my window to beautiful rays of sunshine.  When the fog is gone from San Francisco and the Bay Area warms up this place is pretty close to perfect.  Sadly I had to choose not to join the Insulindependence crew in Carlsbad for the half/ full marathon.  In between training I worked all weekend as we have a high profile at a few up coming conferences and are working on all the stuff related to that - life at a start up, never dull.  But, CONGRATULATIONS! to Peter for putting on such an incredible weekend in Carlsbad - from the Facebook posts it sounds like it was Insulindepenence's biggest and best weekend yet.  The organization continues to grow and I'm continually to be proud to be even a small part of helping the growth of the organization.  Way to go all who volunteered, and raced.

Training is back in full effect and last week I hit close to 10 hours of workouts.  I signed up for the Napa Valley Half Iron on the last weekend of April and need to get ready for what I hope to be an awesome triathlon season.  This year I'm starting off my early season training doing things a bit differently and incorporating a ton more variety.  A big part of  my success this season will be trusting my body both from a blood sugar and endurance perspective to know I can push through the pain barrier to get faster.

To spice things up I headed to Fairfax on Saturday and hit up the Pine Mountain trails.  The drive was rewarded with 8 miles of glorious running and I felt fantastic.  The Pine Mountain trails offer some kick a** hills to test yourself on and some of the most amazing views anywhere.  I held back on the first 5 miles and then began to open it up on the last 8; my last mile, a pretty steep downhill, was run in under 7 minutes - was just a perfect run.  After the run we decided to hit up Sonoma where I joined the Medlock Ames wine club.  I'm not telling you about the vineyard as an Oenophile but rather as someone who really believes in sustainability.  I was sold on the vineyards use of sheep as lawn mowers, nature preserve built into their lands and overall organic and eco-friendly way of farming.  It's pretty neat to be able to support a local business that believes in the same methods of capitalism that you do so I was happy to support them anyway I could - plus the tasting room has an after hours speakeasy so I was sold!

Now onto the early bird # 3 on Sunday.  I woke Sunday pretty anxious to get down to Fremont, the focus of the day's clinic was on sprinting.  If you take one look at me its pretty apparent what my body is meant for - short, intense efforts; in the words of Bill Parcels, "it's what you lift all dem weights for."  Much to my chgrin the sprinting clinic was focused on rpms at 43 x 17 instead of rpms at 54 x 11 (the different ratios for bike gears).  During a sprint I can get my rpms up to 100 to 110 in my 54 x 11 gear on a flat for a short duration, using smaller gearing had me spinning like a lunatic to get up to speed.

The clinic was organized by Dan Smith of Sportvello, a legend in the Norcal cycling community and one of the best cycling coaches around.  He had an awesome approach and enthusiasm to coaching a large group and while I wish I had the opportunity to get clocked in my biggest gears I still learned a ton about sprinting positioning, dynamics and effort.  After an hour of tremendous coaching it was time to race, I couldn't wait.

After last week's crash fest the race organizers decided to split the field down the middle so that each race group had a mix of aggressive and passive riders.  Last week we were split into riders who had raced more than 5 races and those who had raced less than 5 races.  The big crash was with the newbies, not surprising since we're all trying to figure out what taking leadership during a crit really means.  This way the more experienced riders could control the flow of the race and the new guys could feel what an experienced race was like.

My goal for the race was to stay with the pack, finish but also push myself as hard as I could and be in the sprint at the end.  At the start I felt fantastic, my blood sugar was a stable 215 and I was hanging right in the middle of the paceline - probably rider 20 of 48.  Through the first few laps I held my position and was not feeling like I had to sprint all that often to catch the group after a turn.  My cornering was much improved but I still need a ton of work on it - losing those triathlete habits isn't easy!

Once we hit lap 5 I decided to test myself, left the paceline around the sweeping 4th turn and jumped to the front.  Another rider clad in white and blue joined me and we led for the majority of the 5th lap.  Sadly I haven't figured out how to maintain my position in the paceline, a larger group of riders was on our wheel and swallowed us up, since I don't know how to merge back into the line I had to float back to the end of that group and lost the solid position I was in.  I made another move with 2 laps to go and was up near the front again but got crowded out coming around a turn, I knew if I wanted to have a chance at the sprint I'd have to really crush it on the last lap.  After turn 1 I started to move up the pack working like a dog - I was out of the paceline so couldn't draft any of the riders.  I made it through turn 2 safely, moved to the inside and hammered to try and beat the pack to turn 3 (rookie move).  I was about 5 riders too slow and had to slam my brakes because I took turn 3 way too tight, like a new rider to crits or like a triathlete (take your pick) and at that point was 100 yards off the front riders and wouldn't be able to contest the sprint. 

I however, DID FINISH!  In the first crit I lost the pack when trying to learn how to corner with the mentors and last week my mechanical issues from the crash didn't allow me to finish.  This week I finished and was in near position to contest the sprint so couldn't be happier. I did make a bone head move at the end but am learning a ton about handling each time I go to the clinic.  Here are the quick items I learned:
  • I have the engine to chase down the pack even without drafting but need to learn how to draft to maintain position at the front of the pack
  • Don't be an idiot - if I 100% know I can't get to the front I need to stay on the outside of a turn
  • If courses were straight I'd be pretty good at this (that's my positive spin on holy crap I am awful at cornering)
At the end of the race I finished up with the mentors and one of them pulled alongside me and asked "are you a weight lifter," I laughed and said "no, I'm a triathlete," with a smile, then explained to him that I was a football player turned triathlete and now trying to learn how to be a cyclist.  He gave me some great positive words on my sprinting ability - can't wait to get out there again.  Also, I found out about a track clinic on Saturday mornings; I'll be hitting those up starting early February.

ps - if any riders who live in the San Francisco area stumble upon this blog and want to commute down to the crit or grab a ride sometime, or know of any teams looking to develop riders please post a comment, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crits, Crashes & More

The rainy season has finally ended here in San Francisco and the weather is unbelievable.  Sorry Mom, enjoy the 9" of snow in the backyard as I'm running in shorts and a t-shirt in beautiful 60 degree temperatures.  With the weather making it far more welcoming to exercise outside at this time of year I'm able to log some incredible base miles for the up comming tri season.  It also makes attending the Early Bird Crit series that much more easy.

Sunday was the 2nd EBC clinic/ race but the tone was much different than the first.  The second I arrived I saw a racer from the under 25 crew who was bandaged like a Vietnam War vet.  The young rider apparently had his front wheel clipped going around a turn, causing him to tumble face first onto the pavement, he was pretty banged up but hopefully only had cosmetic damage.  The women's race had 4 crashes which sent a couple riders to the hospital and right before the men 30+ cat 5 race one of the instructors fell over (we've all done it, but not fun to see before a race!)

This week's clinic was on cornering.  Apparently you're supposed to exit and enter wide so you don't get caught in the corners with other riders, can use the apex of the turn to your advantage and get more of a draft.  In week 1 my cornering skills were atrocious and I basically had to do a speed interval after each turn to even come close to the pack.  This week, I was able to stay right in the thick of things and maintain contact with the pack the entire time.

With 4 laps to go I was really happy with my position, I was right in the front of the middle of the pack, felt fresh and began moving up the field slowly.  My goal for this crit was to work on maintaining contact with the pack, corner well and then have enough left in the tank on the final lap to give the sprint a go.  All seemed to be working as I had hoped until we exited turn 2 of the 4th lap. 

After turn 2 the pack began to bunch a bit and one rider along the narrower straight away came off his line and locked handle bars with a rider to his right.  Both riders tensed up, lost control of their bikes and went down hard; all in about 10 riders hit the deck, I was maybe 8 riders behind the crash and was lucky enough to see what was going on, squeezed my brakes and wrenched my handle bars.  Thankfully I was able to stop just before slamming into one of the riders who had hit the pavement.

In all my years of playing football I had never seen such a scene.  Wheels were broken, bikes were smashed and riders were down on the pavement or laying in the grass in obvious pain.  The entire field was neutralized after this and I realized that I was riding on a bike whose handle bars were perpendicular to the front wheel.  Apparently I had wrenched my handle bars so hard to make my bike stop that I turned the stem sideways.

The great thing about crits is that it forces you to focus on form, concentration and riding well.  It's just a matter of time before a crash happens but this one was pretty bad.  Thankfully I was able to escape without going down and my heart felt get wells go out to the riders who weren't so fortunate.  More to come on blood sugar analysis, signing up for the Napa Valley Vintage Triathlon and other tid-bits from the West Coast.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Getting Back To Form Is Painful!

During my transition to life in California and getting acclimated to a new job that slams me with hours of work my workouts have been inconsistent at best.  While I totally love what I'm doing I long for the days when I could hit the Charlottesville roads for hours on end and still have time to fit in everything I needed to.  I've stayed in "ok" shape but fell out of "race shape" and am trying to get ready for the pending tri and cycling season.  For the past couple weeks I've been incredibly consistent in my workouts, upped the intensity and focused on what I need to get better at - speed stamina not strength stamina.

My god is this painful!  The crit on Sunday, day off on Monday, lift and 2,000 meter swim on Tuesday and 4 miles last night including a 4 x 400 on the track is not easy for this old man!  At the same time I'm also trying to cut my weight down to 175 so am forced to be really vigilant about my blood sugars.  In the past I was so worried about a sugar crash I think I had a tendency to over eat.  This year instead of filling 100s of fuel belts for a 6 mile run I'm trying to start my runs as my blood sugar is climbing.  Thus far it seems to work and I've been able to greatly cut my calorie intake.  We'll see what happens as I continue to up the duration of my workouts but its a pattern I'd like to continue.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My First Crit!

Yesterday I raced in the Early Bird Criterium series hosted by Velo Promo and Golden Chain Cyclists and OH MY GOD WAS IT FUN!!!!  The series is totally welcoming; Velo and Golden Chain have a clinic for each gender and category in the hour or so before the given race.  Yesterday's clinic was on pace lines (my first time ever in one) and just general information about a crit.  Unlike the first time I showed up to a triathlon where I felt like a babe in the woods, people at the crit made it super easy to figure out where to go and what to do - instructions were loud and clear and the mentors were flat out awesome.

After driving around Fremont, CA for about 15 minutes to find an ATM I finally made my way to Dumbarton Circle to check in, pay my $20 race and license fee and figure out what the heck was going on.  The first thing that I noticed was there were no racks for bikes, no transition areas and no compression socks; it was already a different world from the one I was used to!  I found a tree to toss my bag next to and then joined the group of close to 100 riders to listen to the pre-clinic instructions.

We then broke into small packs of about 15 to 20 riders each for some pace line practice.  The day before the clinic/ race I had put my road bike back together, normally I'm on my tri bike all the time which gets some inquisitive looks on the climbs of Marin.  However, in pace lines a tri bike is  recipe for disaster; you have much less control over the direction of the bike because of its aggressive geometry and your hands are always a movement away from the brakes or the gears.  For pace lines a road bike is pretty much necessary.  So rather than riding my trusty steed, El Bastardo, I was on my far less glamorous Haley - the red and gold clad frame with the cheapest components money can buy!  Nashbar groupo anyone?

I learned a ton in the 45 minute clinic; apparently I had a tendency to let the gap widen too much when I was about to take over the front of the pace line and then accelerate the pace a bit too much which causes an accordion effect.  The surges and slows of a pace line were really hard for me to get comfortable with.  I'm so used to riding at my own cadence and pace for miles upon miles that working in unison with so many different riders was totally foreign to me.  Also, going through turns without grasping for oh sh*t brakes was a novelty for me.  But in the end I improved on each lap of the clinic, learned to coast to the back of the pace line and learned how to maintain the pace when I got to the front.  All in all not bad for a dude in mountain bike shoes and pedals (purchased for my ambitions of doing cross)

The clinic was over and it was time to race!  I checked my blood sugar and was a bit high at 285 but figured that would be fine for the 40 minute all out effort.  Crits are done on a short course (not sure if the distance is universal).   This course is a 2.2 km flat road with 4 90 degree turns and one turn that kind of banks around.  At the starting line we were broke up into 2 race groups, Cat 5 races can't have more than 50 people in them for safety.  I was in the front line of the 2nd group, based solely on the position of where I was standing, this race was just to learn how to do it and for fun.

The gun went off and so did I!  In typical Ed fashion I figured I could ride at the front and use my power to stay at the lead of the race.  I was in front for the first 2 corners and nearly had a heart attack.  Soon I was swallowed up by a group of 5 riders working in a pace line that had no problem blowing by me.  I'm not sure if I was at the lead of that pace line around the first 2 turns or if they just caught me b/c of my gold awful cornering ability.  Had I been more aware of how to race I would have sucked onto one of those 5 riders wheels and kept the pace with them.  As it was, I was still working solo like a triathlete, not like a cyclist.

I would catch the pack on the straights, work my way back up to the front and then get spit out on the corners.  This pattern lasted for the first 80% of the race (I guess about 18 laps, I think we did 20ish laps in all).  The mentors would see me trying to maintain contact with the pack and would often give me a wheel to hang onto as I sprinted back to the pack.  I'd kind of make contact and then fall back out of the pack since I didn't understand how close I should be to maintain the draft.  I'd often feel like the pack would slow so then I'd try and go to the side of it to move to the front but then would get shot out of the back end around the next turn.

Eventually a mentor saw my obvious monkey on crack skills for racing crits and then helped me to learn how to go into the turns low and exit high, and how to maintain a powerful position to keep speed after the turns exit.  After working on that with him for a turn or two I had totally lost contact with the pack.  Without the ability to get into my big ring (did I mention I had put my bike together less than 24 hours before the race?) there was no way I was going to catch the peleton which was averaging close to 30 mph.  A fellow rider who had lost touch with the pack offered to draft with me so we could do some work to catch up.  But I felt like I was pulling him alot more than he was pulling me and eventually he couldn't hang my wheel.  With about a lap to go the race director told me to go back to the start; which I guess means my first crit learning experience was a DNF, no biggie this was all for the lessons and god I learned alot.

Some things I learned:
  • Stay with the pack, don't try and move up until the last few laps, and for the love of god don't go out too hard
  • Have a bike that can get into the big ring and road shoes and pedals probably would help
  • No matter how fast you can sprint or how powerful you are, you can't keep it up for 40 straight minutes unless you're on the tour
  • Crits aren't tris!
Needlesstosay, last night I hit up Sports Basement in San Francisco to pick up some road shoes and pedals.  I can't freaking wait for next Sunday's clinic and race; I love triathlon and all the sport has to offer but I honestly can't remember the last time I had as much fun as I did yesterday.  One of my goals for 2011 is to do as many different types of races as possible, Eric and I both thought that I might really take a liking to some of the power oriented cycling events and if yesterday is any indication that assumption is totally right.  Yesterday was a freaking blast!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Stories of Bike Commuting

One of the best things about living in San Francisco is the critical mass of people who ride their bikes into work.  Public transportation out on the left coast can be a nightmare so I built up a single speed to ride into work.  Each day I'm blessed with the opportunity to ride my bike 6 miles into work and 6 miles home; so even if I don't have a chance to get in a workout due to my crazy start-up work schedule I at least get in some exercise.

However, every once in a while you encounter a driver who views cyclists much the same way the Orkin man views roaches.  Or you may run into two homeless people having a sword fight in the middle of an intersection.  Both of those are pretty easy to deal with just by paying attention.  What I find to be the most comical is the avengers of public peace (or crankiness).

Today while riding in I came to an intersection in front of SF's capital building.  This is one of the less busy intersections downtown.  I came to a red light, stopped and waited for the traffic to clear.  Once the traffic cleared and there were no cars coming for at least 2 blocks I got up on my pedals and rode across the street.  That's when I had this exchange with a woman who must still be nursing a New Year's hangover:

Woman who hates the world:  "aren't you supposed to obey the traffic laws!?!?!?" said in the same tone and voice as the wicked witch of the west
Me: "Are you serious?" said in the same tone as one would after getting punched in the face for ordering a happy meal (as in surprised)
Woman who is angry at society:  "It was a red light you f*cking asshole!!!!!!!" said in a demonic tone that might have been followed by tounges
Me:  "Happy New Year To You Too!" said in my happiest and most chipper tone

Nice way to ring in the New Year.  And yes "technically," she was right but this is also the city where people refuse to cross the street when it says don't walk even if there are no cars coming for 5 miles; yet an 18 year old can get a medical 420 card as easily as he can get a pepsi.  It never gets boring out here, that's for sure.