Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Probably Rhabdomyolysis--Cochise Finale

There are six posts below this one, all created on Monday, October 15th, detailing the Cochise Classic Experience. If, however, you want a quick summary, well, here it is.

After only 27 miles, 2 hours and 15 minutes, and a 2,000 foot climb we sat on top the mountain considering options. I felt terrible so we turned around, went back to the motel, crawled back in bed at 5:30 a.m.and slept for three hours and then returned to Tucson.

It was a sign of growth in wisdom and self-care to choose to abort the effort in light of all the investment in getting that far. But it was easy for me to foresee the huge medical hole I would need to climb out of had I gone forward.

The way I've put it together is Rhabdomyolysis secondary to the crush-type injury two weeks ago (L leg), compartment syndrome secondary to the climbing effort, cumulative exertional overload; and renal struggles.

Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle fibers resulting in the release of muscle fiber contents into the circulation. Some of these are toxic to the kidney and frequently result in kidney damage. Some relevant possible causes:

Myoglobin is an oxygen-binding protein pigment found in the skeletal muscle. When the skeletal muscle is damaged, the myoglobin is released into the bloodstream. It is filtered out of the bloodstream by the kidneys. Myoglobin may block the structures of the kidney, causing damage such as acute tubular necrosis or kidney failure.

Myoglobin breaks down into potentially toxic compounds, which will also cause kidney failure. Necrotic (dead tissue) skeletal muscle may cause massive fluid shifts from the bloodstream into the muscle, reducing the relative fluid volume of the body, and leading to shock and reduced blood flow to the kidneys.

Monday, October 15, 2007

This Much I Know Is True

Training and planning could not have been more perfectly fastidious, redundancy intended: more than 10,000 miles on the bike from January 1, 2007 to Cochise; in the neighborhood of 25 hundred-mile rides half of which were greater than 120 miles including two 150's, a 175, a 185 and a 200, as well as multiple back2backs. I tapered respectfully the last 4-6 weeks prior to the Cochise.

I did have The Big BAM on Old Grand (see post by same name) two weeks before Cochise. While not much to look at on the continuum of nasties, the tendons and ligaments attaching to the heads of the Tibia and Fibia were badly avulsed/strained/sprained, and the belly of the Peroneus (front, lateral calf muscle) would swell with exertion, and continued to do so up to the time of the Cochise.

I shipped boxes of supplies to Daniel's in Tucson--extra wheels, tools, tubes, Hammer fuel, Hammer supplements, plenty of Hammer Gel, Clif Bars. My lighting system was perfecto, thanks to Lon and Larry; couldn't want for anything more for comfortable, safe, night riding.

I learned tons from riding with PAC Tour the last couple of years and crewing for RAAM earlier this summer--what was needed in the support vehicle and what I needed from my crew. I loaded the rented Dodge Caravan with an ice chest loaded with perishable rider and crew food as well as loaded five other milk crates: one with 1st aid, one with tools, one with extra clothes, one with cleaning supplies and paper products, like TP, and one with non-perishable rider and crew food.

I couldn't want for a more willing and dedicated crew: Bryan and Daniel--both are cyclists, doing the commuting thing now, but Bryan rode competitively as a teen going to Junior Nationals twice. He also did some serious snow boarding when he was an undergrad at CU-Bolder and even more serious surf-boarding when he lived in Santa Cruz. He knows a lot about putting it all out there on the line, trusting that your skills and experience are sufficient to respond to what the elements and the quirks of your body and spirit throw at you hoping, praying that all of those come together on that given day for a safe, "in the zone" performance of a life-time.

Bryan arrived on time from Eugene; we left on-time for Douglas arriving in plenty of time to leisurely settle into the Motel 6, Douglas's finest. I took the bike for a little test ride to the 1909 vintage Douglas YMCA, the registration headquarters for the 350 riders, only 32 of whom will be riding the 252 mile Challenge Ride. The Y will also be the site of the 6:30 Friday night spaghetti dinner that will precede the final instructions for the 157 and 252 mile riders.

Bryan, Daniel and I took a walk to the start/finish which was just 4 blocks from the Y and I got some cash from the ATM in the event that they needed supplies in the desert from retailers unprepared to deal in plastic.

We were back at the hotel by 8:00; in bed by 8:30 hoping for some sleep before the 1:00 a.m. wake-up call.


The final instructions from the Cochise organizers did not induce pastel-colored butterflies of Ambien sleep. In fact, when I laid my head on the Motel 6 pillow at 8:30 p.m. hoping for 4 1/2hours of sleep before the wake-up alarm bells blared, my heart was pounding with such ferocious anxiety quarters bounced off my belly.

What made the difference? I was not intimidated by the distance in the least. I had good lights. I had even climbed and descended the 2,000 foot Mule Pass from Douglas to Bisbee (reaching an altitude of just over 6,000'), albeit in the light of day, when I rode Cochise's 157 in 2004 and at PAC Desert Camp in 2007.

But descending in the dark reaching speeds of 45-50 with a shimmy in the steering column at those speeds, still nursing my wounded left leg, kidneys, adrenal, and gut from The Big BAM on September 30th left me with a shimmy in my Motel 6 cocoon.

Shortly after reaching the bottom of Mule Pass I'd pick up I-10 at Benson for 100 miles. We were told at the ride meeting that the shoulder was full of large chunks of truck retreads, crunchy pavement all overgrown with grass and weeds. That's what you can see. What you can't see are the little surgical steel fine pieces of wire that spit off the truck retreads and reek havoc with bike tires yielding predictable flats.

Crew are allowed to leap-frog the rider until I-10 (crew catches up with rider, pulls off the road, waits till rider disappears + five minutes and then rides up to rider again, repeating the process again and again). Once on I-10, crew is not allowed to follow or leap-frog the rider until after getting off I-10. Crew can wait for the rider at the bottom of the exit; the rider can exit, check in with crew and then return to I-10. Crew advances to the next exit. Cell phone reception is sketchy from I-10 to Douglas--lack of towers. If the rider were not to arrive when expected, crew would back-track on I-10 and go find the rider. That was our plan.

The plan, too, was that crew could not begin to follow riders until 30 minutes after the riders were released from the start. Bryan and Daniel would "sleep in" till 2:00 preparing to leave from the hotel at 2:30 and to catch me somewhere about 45 minutes into my ride. This can work.

27 Miles

The 32 cyclists were escorted through the three turns out of town. I'm sure all 17,000 Douglasonians were sound asleep as we snaked through 10th Street to Pan American (the Mexican border is less than a mile south of our start), and then on to Route 80 West. The escort was way more ceremonial than safety-necessary.

I was probably half-way back in the pack so had a most glorious view. Oh, how I wish I had a digital capture. Imagine, if you can, a string of tiny, red, blinking tail lights serpentining through the twists of the night road, climbing, climbing to summit Mule Pass. Each rider had two or three tail lights so the the red twinkles were doubled to tripled. Above, above a sea of stars and planets sparkled in their wonder.

The temperature was cool, but not cold. I didn't even need long fingered gloves! I was actually relaxed and enjoying the serenity of the night and the pleasure of the ride. About 2:30 I began to watch the approaching rear headlights wondering which would be my crew. Rider numbers were affixed boldly on the back and passenger side of the rear window of the crew vehicle for easy identification. I was rider number 7. At 2:45 my crew caught up with me for the first time. We exchanged pleasantries; they held back; I rode ahead, just as planned. And so we advanced up Mule Pass. At about mile 17 I drank my first bottle. Feeling fine. A little further up the road a rider had a flat just as my crew was passing so they were able to provide headlights for the rider to repair his flat and protect him with their vehicle from approaching bike and car traffic.

About 6 miles from the summit I caught #22, Linda. It was fun to have company in the dark. The road was brighter, barking dogs were less scary, and spirits were lighter. I have to concentrate on severe climbs, too low a gear makes the bike too wobbly, a little higher gear and my quads catch fire. I called out to Linda, "How far to the summit?" No answer. "Linda, are you back there?" No answer. Cast a quick glance in my rear view mirror. Linda was no where to be seen. I had summarily overtaken Linda on the climb. Hmm. I was breathing hard, feeling the altitude for real. No way for us mid west flatlanders to altitude train.

Finally reached the summit, 27 miles into the ride, where there is a parking lot. About 10 crew vehicles were awaiting their riders. Bryan steadied the bike as I got off. I felt absolutely terrible--dizzy, shakey, nauseated, weak. I tried to drink and there would be none of that. Food of any kind was even more abhorrent. Was this just altitude? If so, it should pass, but I would certainly need to feel better before beginning the descent or I'd wobble into a crash for sure.

I didn't have to pee, but I thought I should give it a try to see how that system was working. The results were not good--only 3 ounces of dark, tea colored urine. A decision needed to be made.

Aborting Cochsie

Team Mama, as I was dubbed by the crews and riders atop Mule Pass, had a decision to make. My kidneys were obviously not doing well. Was it worth the health risk to push on? Bryan and Daniel offered to SAG me to the bottom of Mule Pass and I could finish the 252. Yes, that was an option. I could ride down the pass, or they could SAG me down and I could follow the 92 mile route on back to Douglas. Yes, that was an option.

We sat at the summit for about 30 minutes discerning. Feeling little better, I said, "Let's go back to Douglas and get some sleep."

Bisbee Afterword

We returned to bed at 5:30 a.m. to arise for the second time that day, October 13th, at 8:30. I was full of a swirl of relief, guilt, disappointment, a twinge of failure, and lots of vulnerability. Tears came easily and often. I talked to Kirk who, as always, was hugely supportive and in no way condemning of my foiled venture.

We pulled the rider numbers off the support vehicle, got a refund from Motel 6 for the unused 2nd night, and headed west on AZ 80 for Bisbee and breakfast after which Bryan and I tour-walked Bisbee while Daniel graded papers at a local coffee shoppe.

We arrived at home in Tucson about 2:15 p.m., unloaded the support vehicle and unpacked all the supply boxes, returned the rental car to the airport, and we all went to dinner: Bryan, Daniel, Rachel, Sivana, Ken, and Melissa. We left The Red Sky about 8:15, probably the time I would have gotten to the finish in Douglas, had I been healthy when I reached the top of Mule Pass.

My 2007 riding season has now come to a close. Now is the time to recover and do some specific training for the 2008 season that will officially begin with PAC Desert Camp, in AZ in February.

Chief Cochise

Dragoon Mountains where Cochise (b. 1812, d. June 8, 1874) hid with his warriors. Cochise was a tall man, six feet, with broad shoulders and a commanding appearance. He never met a man his equal with a lance, and, like Crazy Horse, was never photographed. They both were buried in secret locations on their homeland.

"You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts.
Speak Americans.. I will not lie to you; do not lie to me."

“Why is it that the Apaches wait to die -- That they carry their lives on their fingernails? They roam over the hills and plains and want the heavens to fall on them. The Apaches were once a great nation; they are now but few, and because of this they want to die and so carry their lives on their fingernails.”

“I am alone in the world. I want to live in these mountains; I do not want to go to Tularosa. That is a long way off. I have drunk of the waters of the Dragoon Mountains and they have cooled me: I do not want to leave here.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Big BAM on Old Grand

September 30th it rained in the night. My riding partner for the 30th had to cancel so I thought I'd re-ride the North Shore Century Route, a beautiful route for a beautiful day.

Just after going under the underpass on Old Grand in Gurnee between O'Plaine and Delaney, BAM! No warning, no nothing. Down before I even knew what happened. I had been heading east. My bike is now heading west, my body still heading east, bent under my bent (the term of endearment for recumbents). Often what happens in a tumble is one foot does not come uncleated and the combination of the frame on top of the rider and the angle of the foot in the cleat, you can't uncleat. Sometimes you can reach your shoe buckle, release the buckle (kinda like that of a ski binding buckle) and get your foot out of the shoe while the shoe remains on the pedal. That was the scenario Sunday. A couple of other cyclists were passing so they were helpful too. I was 35 miles into the ride so dusted off and rode on completing the 100 miles easily.

But, the lingering consequence is some nagging bone bruises on the Tib/Fib head and some torque and inflammation to the tendons to that lovely muscle, the Extensor Digitorum Longus and Peroneus Longus. I've been nursing them, limiting my mileage and being prayerful that it won't interfere with this Saturday's Cochise 252.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Night Rider Ready

Finding the right lighting system can be quite a project given the specifics of the bike to be ridden and the conditions under which the ride will take place. It's hard to run an acid test on a system you want to use under a desert night sky when your in Chicago. Conditions just aren't the same. But with the help of the Great Lake Randonneurs, Lon Haldeman from PAC Tour, and Amlings Cycle I think I've got a winning number. What do you think?

Riding Cochise

This year's riding challenge is the Cochise Classic's 252 mile, one-day ride. October 13th about 20 ultramarathon cycling souls will toe the start line in Douglas, AZ at 2:00 a.m.

This is an unsupported ride, meaning it's a BYOC, (Bring Your Own Crew). Bryan and Daniel will crew for me, each taking time off work, each giving up a full night's sleep to carry water and shout words of encouragement as I try complete the 252 miles in 16 hours. Mule Pass, in Bisbee, will be ascended and descended in the dark, somewhwere about 3:30 a.m. I am a fearful descender even in the light. What am I doing??? I have borrowed some pretty fancy lights from my ultra cycling friends, so that will help a bunch.

Since January I've ridden over 10, 000 miles; since March I've ridden 25 rides of 100 miles or greater. Thirteen rides were over 125 miles in length, including a couple of 150's, a 175, a 185, and a 200. I've done what I can do to ready myself. What remains are the factors I can't control, like wind, heat (forecasted to be 90 degrees), mechanicals, tumbles, and tumbleweed. Whatever will be will be and a good time will be had by all.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Confuse Not Turds and Tea Leaves

The existential debate over turds and tea leaves has little to do with Bent Wanderings, but a lot to do with the Bent Wanderer, me.

I had been noticing that I must have been growing in carelessness as I spooned my Argo loose tea leaves into the strainer to prepare my daily ritual of tea soy misto accompanied by a dash of stevia and a splash of honey. The drawer where all the accoutrements for preparation are stashed was sprinkled with fallen tea leaves. I reckoned that one day soon I would need to clean all that up.

One peep-eyed morning when I opened the drawer, what to my wondering eyes did appear was that all the extra Starbucks honey packets were nibbled open and the honey devoured, as were all the little peanut butter individual serving cups, like the ones from Fairfield Inn's Continental breakfast bar.

My stomach sank and then churned a big nauseated somersault as I realized the fallen tea leaves were none other than, you guessed it--fallen turds.

That rank discovery began the still, ongoing saga of doing battle with resilient little field critters who, I am told, are capable of squeezing through a crack the thickness of a dime. How do you defend against that, I wonder.

The death toll is 9 and counting while Fletcher, our 16 y.o. feline sleeps on oblivious to how fast his food dish empties. He seems content to rest in the comfort of knowing his needs will be met through Feline Security Disability, a.k.a. me.