Thursday, July 29, 2010


Back to my latest injury, I just got back from the gyno.  I saw 2 of them today actually.  The first one, Dr. Jackie Gutmann, is my endocrinologist and she completely rocks.  She helped me navigate my way through the hormonal maze I was in, which really helped me control my moods and stopped all of the irregularity in my cycles.  The only issue is that I have been off birth control since April-ish and since remaining celibate for months on end has never come naturally for me, there is that possibility that I could get pregnant. I don't want to have a baby.  Not now, and probably not ever.

So the purpose of the appointment originally was to discuss the current options of birth contol on the market.  I had been on NuvaRing for 10 years and I felt a bit out of the loop when it came to the current options out there. And because being on the ring that long had caused my body to all but stop producing testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen, I was loath to go down the synthetic hormone chemical pathway again. I mean I could literally supplement with testosterone and get a Therapeutic Use Exemption, my natural levels wer so low they were off the charts. (Maybe this would make me faster??)

Well guess what?  The options are pretty much the same as they have been for 20 years.

Hormonal options: you have pill, patch, ring, implants, or the shot. 
Non-hormonal options: you have the barrier methods, diaphraghm and condoms (not happening), IUDs, and there is one more option....

Dr. Gutmann looked at me and said, "would you consider permanent sterilization?"

I looked away for a minute and smiled.  "Well, to be honest, I'm not completely sure that I can make that decision with certainty at this point...things might change...." my voice trailed off and I laughed.

"Well then it's out of the question," Jackie said, "because you would need to be 110% sure."

Then I showed her the cyclists's nodule, and she winced.  "Wow, this is a new one for me," she said, and called in a nurse in so she could see too.  Jackie did an ultrasound and said that there was indeed fluid in there, and suggested I call my gyno and get in to see her TODAY.

"And you will get back to me with your decision about birth control,"she reminded me, and then added, "the good news is you won't have to worry about it right now, since you won't be having sex for awhile."

I laughed.  Yeah that is the least of my problems.

So I called my gynocologist's office and they were able to get me in today to see Kim Einhorn, MD.
She stuck me with some lidocaine, then barely waited for it to work before she slid a scalpel right into the mass.  I could feel it and that was pretty awful.  I tried not to move, but I knew my face was all twisted up and I started to sweat.  Then she proceeded to squeeze the swollen abcess hard, in an attempt to get the stubborn thing to drain.  I can't describe to you how much that hurt.  So she kept this up for 15 minutes:  needle, then scalpel, then squeezing.  The second hole was in the tenderest corner of the female body, actually under the abcess, and because of that one I am on Darvocet right now as I write this to you, sipping a glass of red wine.

So she got 3 tablespoons out of it, and said it was most likely not infected, but she put me on Cephalex anyway since she did just cut three holes in my hoo-haa.  She said I needed to do a warm compress 3x a day, and clean it with soap and water.

"So what other sports do you like besides cycling?" she asked, and then she proceeded to tell me a story of how she was a serious gymnast up until college when she realized that her ligaments just could not handle it anymore, she just kept getting hurt.  She said she started running and skiing.  I mumbled that I had started running, and then I asked her to stop squeezing me for 10 seconds so I could reply to her question, because my tolerance of the pain required me to zone out and concentrate on something else and in doing so it was hard for me to be in the room with her, answering her questions.  She told me a story of another female cyclist she had seen with a similar condition, and how the woman resolved the problem by changing her saddle after bring off the bike for months.

"This will go away Andrea, you will not need to have surgery." Dr. Eichorn said.

"You mean even the indurated tissue will go away?" I asked, meaning the hard tough tissue that felt like a callous.

" Yes, it will heal, but you will have to be off the bike for a long time."

"What's a long time?" I asked, already fearing the answer.

" At least six months" she replied, and looked at me with the empathy that only an athlete who was forced to give up the sport that she loved could muster.

I smiled.  Here we go again.

None of the medical mishaps that I have had over the past two years have required that long off a bike, not the broken collarbone, the pacemaker implantation, the LEEP procedure, Mark's slicing out my cyst (on the same spot as this one), getting run over by a truck----none required that much time off the bike.  I cannot even believe this.

So I am offically no longer a cyclist.  I honestly don't know how I am going to get through it.  It looks like running, swimming and weight training are going to have to do it for me for now.

I do have an appointment with a urogynocologist next week for another opinion.  Like maybe a scalpel could help move this along a bit.  It's hard to believe that I am going to be off the bike for six months because of a saddle sore gone awry. 

Please feel free to email me your personal horror stories regarding time off the bike due to saddle issues.  I'm thinking it might make me feel better.

my latest bizarre malady: bikers nodule or perineal nodular induration

So I've mentioned saddle sores a few times on this blog.  To be honest, as much as I am in love with bikes, my crotch has never had much  love for any bike saddle.  The list of the saddles I have tried reads like a who's who of elite race saddles:

WTB Speedshe
Sella Italia Trans Am
Terry Damselfly
Fizik Pave
Specialized Body Geometry 130mm
San Marco Aspide
WTB Rocket V
Fizik Aliante
Selle Italia SLR GelFlow
Selle Italia SLR XP
Selle Italia SLR Gel Flow LDY
Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
Fizik Vitesse
Selle Italia SLR T1
Selle Italia SLC Gel Flow
Selle Italia SMP Evolution
Selle Italia Max Flite Gel Flow Team Edition

One day a few years ago I was talking to Colin about it and he suggested the Terry Liberator.  I purchased the saddle, and it was the most comfortable one I had tried.  After several rides with it, it did not hurt me in the front or the sides, so I went with it, on my road and my mountain bike. 

Our relationship was somewhat tumultuous (that is me and the saddle, not me and Colin)  I'm not sure if I was born this way, or if this is a result of my femur being deeper in my hip socket on the left side, but there is a tad more flesh on my left perineum than on my right.  This has caused a lot of discomfort on longer rides and a slew of saddle sores, always on that left side.  Usually my misery peaks in the spring and by the middle of the racing season it bothers me less, perhaps because I have beaten into submission I'm just not sure.

At any rate, suddenly this year the Liberator was not working anymore.  It was hard to get through even short rides, whether I was wearing the new improved Voler team shorts, or my Assos shorts.  It was all pretty miserable.  Going into Marysville I was wondering how I was ever going to get through 9 hours on the saddle. 

Marysville weekend: Saturday evening at the camp as I was showering off the grime off at the Oesterling's, as the water washed over my peach I let out an audible, "ouch."  I inspected the area and was pretty much horrified at the swelling I saw, I have never seen anything like it in all my years riding bikes and beating up on my peach.  Of course that did not stop me from racing the STXC the next day but it was a stage race after all, I could not get a DNF for the stage.  Almost unbearable pain during the race.  When this swelling got even worse in subsequent days, I called my gyno and made an appointment to have it drained.  Dr. Barsoum stuck a needle in it, then cut a hole in it, in an attempt to get it to drain.  But there really was very little fluid in it, it was more like hardened tissue, like a callous.  So a few days later I texted Steve Collina, MD, my sports med doctor who I pretty much could not live without at this point. We used to be teammates on the now defunct Biketopia team.   And yes, he is one of the docs I have on speed dial due to my various maladies.

He stuck it first with lidocaine, and then multiple times with cortisone.  Over the next several days the swelling went down, enough that I stupidly decided to race the Summer Sizzler (GCC) after all, as I had been off the bike since Marysville 9 days prior.  The day after GCC was the beginning of the Week From Hell, and the cyst was very angry so I saw Steve Collina and got it shot again.  We realized that we were buying time and I needed to think about two or three weeks off the bike if the shots did not elicit immediate improvement.  There was some improvement, but the hard capsule was still there even when the swelling subsided a bit.  I did ride Belmont with Nate Thursday and commuted to work on Friday, just to try and preserve my sanity.  By the end of the day Friday I could not walk without pain and riding was unbearable.

Nate had come up from Georgia to race Fair Hill with me.  He spent all day Saturday servicing and cleaning the bikes, and to be honest I never ever saw the Yeti so clean.  He then cut holes in my two saddles, as I got up on the trainer and gingerly tried to fit my cyst in the hole in each one, so that I could attempt to finish the 50 mile race. However, Sunday morning my dog was dying, and we skipped the race so I could spend half of the day at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at UPenn weeping as I said goodbye to my poor suffering cancer-ridden Gryphon.  (Yes the worst day of my life, and that includes the day I got run over by the truck last July,  the day I crashed into the guardrail at 90 mph that night in 1998, the day my beloved grandmother died 2 years ago on August 1st, and the day I discovered that I had a rare disease of the conduction system in my heart that would eventually kill me if I did not let them rip open my chest and install my little black box.) So no Fair Hill for either of us.

When I went to see Dr. Colina Monday the 19th, he took one look at the cyst and said, "I cannot believe you rode on this."

The nurse, who is also a cyclist, turned her head when he stuck the needles into the body of the cyst, which by this time basically had its own zip code it was so large.  I tried not to jump off the table.  I try not to move during these pain situations, like the time they stuck a needle in my neck in an attempt to find the nerve bundle that when stuck would make my arm go dead before they opened up my shoulder in December for surgery #5.   I like the challenge of showing no pain in these situations, but this was my peach after all, so I did wince a bit.

So basically the plan was now to use ice to try and diminish the localized swelling.  The cortisone would hopefully help shrink the hard capsule, but if it did not I needed to be off the bike for at least three weeks. I iced it for 3 days straight.

So Steve finally gave me the name of this little atrocity: perineal nodular induration, which is  rare complication that usually only affects elite or professional male cyclists.  Of course, since apparently the "W" in Walheim  stands for "worse-case scenario", and my season after all had been going pretty well from my comeback after 2 years of medical problems, I was overdue for some rare malady to show up and rain on my parade. 

The perineal nodular induration is sometime called the biker's nodule, or, when it occurs invariably in men, the "third testicle."  Yeah, I swear, gross.

At this point I have been off the bike for two weeks, and the nodule has grown larger, not smaller.  It now hurts to walk, and it is painful to sit in my chair at work.  I have been going to the gym and running to preserve my sanity.  It completely sucks, especially since Nate is coming up to the the Wilderness 101 and I get to go up there for the weekend without my bike to support him and whine about not being able to ride.

The nodule looks like something out of the x-files.  There is no broken skin; which is the scariest part, because it looks like it's part of me, but it's not.  I made an appointment with a urogynecologist-surgeon so I could get an idea of what would happen when they cut this thing out.  The problem is it is so large there won't be anything left on that side to cover my bones so I have no idea how I'm ever going to ride a bike again. In the literature I have read it usually presents as 3 centimeters and this one is 7 and growing.  It is likely infected, so I see a gynecologist tomorrow to see what her recommendations are.  Colin thought I might want to go to the ER tonight but I think I can wait it out until Friday.   This one is really scaring me.

So here is my new ride:  A sweet recumbent model with a built in HRM.  Yeah, it's not carbon, but at least I don't have to drag it up any hills.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

the week from hell, complete with demon and all

So the Monday after GCC started out like most Mondays after a race, with a visit to the chiropractor.  Dr. Wahner is an elite cyclist  has been helpful about keeping me aligned through my many crashes, especially since I have not been right since that truck decided to take a detour over my leg last July.  But this morning, when doing his final adjustment, he tweaked a nerve in my upper back.  I felt it was soon as I stepped up from the table but I figured it was a result of me getting back into alignment and it would pass in a few minutes. Ian and Claudia were out in the waiting room and we were laughing about this and that and I ignored it.

 When I got home it was really uncomfortable, and it soon became so painful that I stopped back to Wahner Chriropractic on my way to work and just missed them as they went to lunch.  So I headed for work, but the pain got worse and worse.  It was a sharp stabbing pain in my upper back under my left shoulderblade and radiated through my chest. It was about as subtle as a really bad toothache. I could not turn my head.  It hurt to breathe, and laughing or coughing or sneezing was excruciating.  I went back for another adjustment the next day, but that only made it worse.  I was not able to ride my bike all week because of the pain.  Between that and my saddle issue.

My saddle issue?  After Marysville I developed an abcess on my left perineum.  It was severely swollen and angry, I had never ever in all my years of riding seen anything like that, that huge.  I had already gone to the gyno to have it drained, which yielded virtually nothing, then to Steve Collina MD (a mountain biker himself and a Best of the Main Line kick-ass sports med doctor) to have it shot with cortisone.   Riding a bike was almost unbearable.  It did shrink after the first set of shots, but after GCC it was angry again, so on Monday afternoon he graciously fit me in. He shot it again several times, which feels great by the way, and of course after that there was going to be no riding anyway.  Again, it's still Monday, mind you.

That night we had torrential thunderstorms and my basement flooded.  I was actually in my basement when it happened, I turned around from grabbing some paper towels and water was pouring in from the bilco doors.  By the time I gathered up enough towels they were soaking though every half an hour.  This went on into the night.

Then Tuesday am I somehow lost my favorite David Yurman ring.  It was in my backpack because I was all set to ride into work  Monday but then I was able to get the appt with Steve.  Somehow the ring was in my hand, then it disappeared. That pissed me off.  Rich had given it to me years ago and I had a set of three.

Then I got a notice in the mail that my car insurance company, Erie, was not going to renew my policy in September.  Because of the 2 accidents I had over the winter that were not my fault, but I could not get Erie to return my calls to hear my side of the story.  Great.

So on Tuesday morning there were more thunderstorms, and calling for even more in the afternoon, so I called Chris and asked him if he could bring some stuff home for me so I could work from home so I could monitor the flooding situation. He agreed, but when he got here I could tell he was agitated.  It was hot and, of course, sunny, and I was praying for rain, even though it would mean hours of work in the basement to stem the flood of water, so I could justify my working from home.  I was hating my job these days, overwhelmed with all the paperwork I was doing that should have been the job of my assistant.  Eventually we just had it out on my front steps, until I realized that I was not wearing sunscreen.  With my typical lack of segue, I asked him to come up to the porch so we could finish telling each other off.  It was there that I told him to go fuck himself, which I'm pretty sure is a fireable offense in the employee handbook I am currently working up with a lawyer.  Hopefully she does not read this blog either. 

I was so stressed out that I canceled the little sioree I was going to have Tuesday night in honor of Francois Parisien's visit with coach Colin.  Kelley had picked up wine, but I was basically having a meltdown by Tuesday afternoon and was swamped with work, so I pulled the plug.  We ended up doing it on Wednesday. Which meant again I got like 5 hours of sleep.

Then there was the whole mess with my new bike rack, which I am not even going to get into here, but needless to say I was PISSED that Colin had taken my old rack off my car because I could not take Cadence class Tuesday night.  Nevermind the fact that I was in so much pain there is no way I could have taken class. But don't let reason get in the way of a woman having a really bad week who cannot self-medicate herself with cycling as per usual.
Did I mention by Wednesday my back was spasming so badly that I asked Colin to punch me, hard, in the back?  Which he did, and almost knocked the wind out of me.  He punched me hard enough that Francois let out a incredulous  "whoa!" which sounded funny in his French accent.  Obviously Colin was not deterred by the golden rule that guys should not wallop girls.  It seemed to stop the spasming but the next morning I was not a happy camper.  We did have a nice dinner Wednesday, the four of us, and Francois taught me the art of finding potential dates on Facebook.  And I thought it was just about being "friends."

Thursday morning Gryphon peed all over the floor, I mean all over the rugs, the hardwood, everywhere.  I was angry, and I pushed my poor weak dog out through the dog door in an attempt to get him to finish outside.  I was an act of cruelty that I will never forgive myself for, because little did I know it then that he did it because he had an advanced stage of cancer.  And that it would be the last Thursday of his life. 

Thursday afternoon Nate was flying in and we were planning on riding Belmont together that night and then racing Fair Hill together on Sunday.  I was really excited about it. He was bringing both bikes, road and mountain; I would pick him up at the airport, he would build his bikes downstairs at Liberty while I did some work and then we would cut out of there at 4.  I needed to get in early to pull this off, and Gryphon peeing all over the floor did not help my efforts much, so I was stressed driving in.

On my way I was on 76W right where it splits into 3 lanes funnelling traffic to South Philly, the WW bridge, or the airport.  I was going about 70 and this white van pulls up behind me right on my bumper.  WTF?  This was not even a passing lane, it was the ONLY LANE you could be in if you were heading to the airport, and this asshole was on my bumper at 70mph.  So I did what any self-respecting redhead would do, I slowed down.  I made sure I slowed down so I was going the very same speed as the slow poke in the lane next to me, as he was trying to get around me. I closed the gap.  Sorry asshole.

This pissed him off.  So we rode like that for a about 20 seconds, and then the person in the right lane started turning off.  Dickhead in white van darted into the right lane to pass me, but I veered over in front of him and cut him off.  This REALLY pissed him off.  The next thing I knew he was trying to play bumper cars with me and run me off the road.  Holy shit, this guy was crazy.  I accelerated, fast, because he was racing me to get into the tunnel, and I could tell he was going to do anything he could to do run me off the road, like knock me into the side of it at 90mph.  If I got into a collision with him, he was going to win.  And another accident would pretty much mean I would be eligible for car insurance that costs less than 5 grand a year about when I started collecting social security.

I floored it.  That Infiniti accelerates fast.  Those vans have big engines though.  I don't know how fast I was going when I hit the 2-lane tunnel that dumps you from 76 onto 26th street, but I had to use both lanes, and he was right on my tail.  It had to be close to 100.  Then we were on 26th street and he pulled up beside me and veered into my lane to try and force me off the road.  I saw a truck up ahead and knew I had to put that truck between us.  My heart was beating so fast that it blocked and the pacer kicked in.  I was really freaked out, but really angry myself.  I managed to get in front of a large truck and Dickhead recklessly raced between cars, and I watched 2 other cars almost collide trying to get out of his way,.  He made a right onto the Platt bridge and that is when I decided that I need to get Dickhead's license plate.  So I raced up the Platt bridge right behind him, and managed to get this photo:

(Note how close Dickhead is to the truck in front of him.  We were all going about 70mph at that point.) Then I decided that was not enough, almost being killed by this whacko, no, I needed to get a picure of Dickhead himself.  It was not going to be easy because we were about to dump onto 95 now and he was weaving in and out of traffic like a madman.  I was undeterred, because as I said, I was mad by then.  So at 80 mph I rode up next to him on the left and held out my camera.  He was a caucasian, middle aged Dickhead with graying brown hair and an creepy, evil smile.  When I rode up next to him, he threw back his head in laughter and waved at me.  I smiled and held up my camera.  click.

If you look carefully at this picture, in the top left corner you can see the outline of half of his laughing face, the picture is fuzzy and gray, as if his demonic visage is appearing in a swirl of smoke. 

So that episode upset me just a bit, my pacemaker did not stop pacing for about a half an hour after I got to work, although I was not exactly an innocent victim.  I did post his plate on platewire, after realizing that it was pointless to call the police because at least in PA they don't really do anything about road rage if no one dies.

Nate came, and suddenly things got a lot more bearable.  He cheerily built both bikes while I was upstairs in my office pulling my hair out, still in extreme pain from my back and my peach.  On the upside Chris was being sweet as pie to me, an odd turn of events that always happens in the days following one of our fights.  Nate and I drove home and headed out to Belmont.   So fun to ride with him! We had gotten so much rain that it was an abbreviated course, more like a STXC, but I felt good and rode fast for an hour so I was happy, despite pain in my back, wrists, and peach.  Nate got a little taste of Belmont, and  I could not wait to show him more.
By Friday am my peach was enlarged and pissed off.  Gryphon was in bad shape, and I called the doggy chiropractor to come to the house with Nate there while I rode my bike to work, but 20 seconds out of the door I realized that it was a mistake. By the time I got home Friday night my perineum was unspeakably swollen and painful, I had to ride standing the entire last mile up to my door.  Gryphon was very weak and I should have taken him to the vet right then but I thought it was more of the same we had been dealing with for the past couple of months.  But actually, he was dying.

The rest of the weekend turned out to be different than expected, but this post was only supposed to be about my shitty week, that is the week leading up to Gryphon's death and the end of my racing season.  So if you got through this post and thought to yourself, how could it get worse? well, I'm about to tell you. 

Be careful out there, or I guess I should say, "don't drive like me." 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

D & Q Summer Sizzler at Gloucester County College 7.11.10

So I was a bit nervous about my first XC race in 2 years, as I knew that riding fast did not come easily to me anymore.  Having a heart problem that made it impossible for me to ride at intensity for a year leading up the the heart surgery, and then having the heart surgery, and then finally being able to start doing endurance rides again, and then being run over by a truck....well you can see why I have no top end.

But the season had been going well, and I was looking forward to racing this course since I used to regularly train there when I first started racing bikes and worked in Jersey.

It only took me 25 minutes to get to GCC.  No traffic.  I set up the trainer under a tree on the course right near where my "feed zone" would be, and started my warm up.  Yes, the sucky thing about XC is I have to warm up, with a road bike, trainer, and powertap.  It's a pain to lug all that but there is not getting around it. 

When I got to the line we all realized that the competition was in 40+, the only young chicks racing were Kathleen Harding, Carolyn Popovic, and Deborah Leedale, who ended up DNFing.  Katherine and Carolyn could fight it out for first place. So I started out fast, and about a quarter of the way through the lap a photographer told me I was a minute off the leaders.  It  felt good to fly, but I knew I would have to settle in a bit, which I did, and Andrea & Lisa were on my tail when I was going down a drop too fast and crashed hard. Endoed actually, I have no idea why.  I lost 2 places, shook it off and got back on my bike. 

Anyway, I had the second fastest first lap in my class, behind the winner Lauri Webber.  I dropped 2 minutes between my first and second, but at least held it there for 2 more laps.  So I have the endurance, just need to be able to hold the speed.  Ended up 5th, won a  few bucks, and felt really good about it.  The best part was only having to do 4 laps.  Are you kidding me?  To be done a race in 2 hours and 19 minutes? And actually get paid cash for placing?  I could get used to this again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marysville 2010 day 3 Sunday, STXC

Not too much to say about Sunday in terms of racing, the STXC course was awesome, a great mix of field and little singletrack sections to make it interesting.  My wrist and my peach were both throbbing in pain, and my legs were not happy either.  I remember saying, in my attempt to convince myself that I needed to go out for an 8th lap on saturday, that if I did my legs would be noodles for the STXC.  Which they were.  My finish was not very strong.  So I can't tell you how surprised I was when they were announcing the awards and they said I was third in the GC.  I mumbled out loud, "how did that happen?" considering my poor showing in the NTT and the STXC, but I went up to the podium, shared some champagne with Nicole and Carolyn (we were told later that this was lame so the boys showed us up, see below) and received an envelope full of cash.  Very cool.

As it turned out, I found out later in the week that the timing company had rushed the results out because people were wanting to leave (many already had, as some of us have families and jobs we have to attend to) and they had bumped me to third in the GC when I was actually fourth and Rebecca Frederick was 3rd.  I did end up returning my cash to Mike who forwarded it on to her, but hey, at least I got some good pictures out of it.

But honestly one of the best parts of Sundays at the Stage Race is the Huffy toss.  That damn bike weighs upwards of 60 pounds and I could barely drag it up the hill much less get any distance out of it.  My attempt was somewhat weak, but Mike Festa's was weaker:

Kuhn had these really cool wooden medals made for all of us who did all three stages.  Here we are (the ones that were left late Sunday) sporting our medals: "3 days/3 stages/one badass - me"

Anyway, the weekend was a ton of fun and I'm looking forward to doing it again next year. The Stage Race is fun not only for the racers but for their whole families, so really I don't understand why more people from my team don't do it. 

Anyway, here is the link once again to all of the pics, enjoy.  And come out next year and join us.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Marysville 2010 day 2 Saturday, 8-hour enduro

Saturday was the 8-hour endurance race. I got up late, since I had been woken up at 5 am from the couch at the Oesterling's by Erica loudly speaking to baby Isaac, who was debating which truck he wanted to play with.  In a pretty loud baby voice for a toddler. I am pretty sure they woke up everyone in the house. I ended up crawling back into the attic bed to get another hour of sleep and the combination of the sleep aid, lack of sleep, and the earplugs I did not wake up until 9am. Shit, we start in an hour! I did get to hop on my road bike set up on a trainer overlooking the festivities for about 10 minutes before the 10 am mass start. Seeking not to make the mistake I made at the Stoopid, I started out faster than I had in the previous races this year, not quite XC pace, but close. The first lap was my fastest, 57 mins. It hurt. My legs were stiff, and I’m not used to the starting at that pace because I fear I will run out of gas before these longer races are up....but it was a smart strategy because I did not have to fight my way out of a slower group of riders. I settled into a pace halfway into the lap and towards the end Nicole Sheets passed me. I would not catch her the rest of the race, even my pace was not much slower, but I was stopping for anywhere from 2 to 6 minutes between laps to refuel.  I was feeling pretty poorly in the heat.

The first lap, even though it put me a bit in the red, felt pretty good. The course started with a reasonable climb and had a great mix of singletrack, the twisty, log-strewn stuff that Mike loves, a few field climbs, and some tough new trail that apparently had only been cut in the 4 weeks before the race. It sucked your energy out of you as it was spongy, not yet packed down.  Add to that, it was in a part of the farm that had been recently logged there was no treecover to protect you from the sun, and it was very humid and hot on Saturday.   By the middle of the second lap I was hurting and wondering why I felt so crappy and weak, and how the heck I was going to get through this race.

Luckily I had the help of John Davidson (Jake's dad) who took pity on me and asked me if there was anything I needed after my second lap.  And on my third, fourth, fifth, well you get the drill.  John got my bottles out of my cooler, poured water on me, got me electrolytes, etc, and I don't know what I would have done without him. A big kiss and thank you!

The major factors I had during this race that I had to overcome were:
a. the heat
b. my left wrist which kept getting numb and painful, and then dead altogether (can't brake, can't shift)
c. nutrition
d. my peach.  That is, my ill-fitting saddle, if you need a better picture of that

a. the heat I delt with as best as I could, and really after the first couple of laps I got used to it I guess, because I ended up doing 8 of them.  Water poured on my head helped, as did ditching the sugary stuff for some plain cold water.

b. The wrist was a major problem.  I rode one-handed as much as I could, and crashed a few times as a result.  I was able to keep my left arm from going totally dead this way, but it was really taxing and took a lot of energy away from my legs to be riding with one hand and twisting up my back.   (try riding up a climb 8 times with one arm and tell me how your back is feeling the next day)  I had a few nasty crashes in this race, due to the fact that my one arm was all but useless and the other was overused; I was not lifting my bars at the right split second and I had one memorable endo simply because I smashed into a log.  Bike flipped right over me and I once again landed on my head.  So I was not riding as aggressively as I would have liked afterwards, but I feel pretty confident that once I have two working limbs consistently on the handlebars I may fare better in this department.  I might need to invest in a new helmet as well; I've taken more headers than a world cup soccer player with this one.

c. nutrition, well there's the rub.  This was something of a disaster.  I had two 50-ounce camelbacks with Infinit 5+ hour custom formula, but I made it too strong.  Nate explained to me that if you make the solution too strong, your body diverts fluids from elsewhere in your body in an attempt to dilute it.  This would explan why I started feeling really sick after the third lap, my stomach became bloated, and I was not able to take anything in.  My plan was to use those two bladders in addition to the bottles I had made up, 6 of them.  The problem was after the second lap I could not take in any sugars, my stomach as rebelling, it all was making me sick.  I switched to just water for the rest of the race with a pack of Hammer Endurolytes at the beginning of each lap.  I did not fuel with anything except water from 2 pm to about 6 pm..  I actually felt much better when I switched to water and my 6th lap was my second fastest lap.  That lasted a lap, when my blood sugar tanked and I started feeling shaky and irritable, like so irritable I was going to punch the next guy who came along and said "elite" from 6 bike lengths away, you know, so I would just jump into the woods for 5 seconds to let him pass by without havving to sacrifice his line.  Actually that irritates me when my glycogen levels are topped off come to think of it.  Anyway, I forced myself to swallow half a bottle of Infinit and popped some Gu Chomps  although they upset my stomach a bit.  I promised myself, as I was pushing myself to get through the 7th lap, that it would be my last.  But then I arrived at the start/finish with time on the clock and I had to go out again, I just could not deal with the self-recrimination I underwent after Granogue when I wussed out with 10 minutes on the clock.  It turned out to be a good idea, because there were only 4 of us who did 8 laps or more, Carolyn Popovic (the winner) rocked it with 9 laps, Selene, Nicole, and I all did 8.  I ended up finishing about 19 minutes behind Nicole.

d. As for the peach, well, that chapter is not completely written.  Without getting too graphic, the left half of my tender parts was so beat up that I had to go to the gyno to get it, ummm,  drained.  She cut a nice hole in it, but that did not work.  I was off my bike for a week and a half.  I finally was ask my sports med doc, Steve Collina (who also races the MASS series and has been kicking ass in Sport Class) to shoot the thing with cortisone.  He did, about 7 times, and I was able to finally get back on the bike, but the problem has not been solved yet.  

So I ended up in 4th place with 8 laps, and I was riding my bike for 8 hours and 45 minutes.  It was really hard, really fun, and it made up for the NTT fiasco of the night before.  In the evening there was music, a keg, and everyone relaxed at the camp and had some fun.  There are more pictures here, mostly thanks to John Davidson since I was in no shape to take pics until later in the evening.

Carolyn chillin' with some watermelon post-race

Mike Yozell

Mike Festa, one half of the Festa/Lebair duo
it's just a flesh-wound
some of the campers

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Marysville 2010 day 1 friday, NTT

Got up early and had my granola and raspberries. It was quiet at the farm, the calm before the storm when the campers would arrive. The NTT course was already laid out, so I headed down the the basement, out of the heat, and opened up 10 boxes of prizes, organized and tallied them. This way Mike and his team could just come in and make up the prize bags quickly as needed without having to rummage through box after box. I then organized 200 t-shirts by size, folded them, and stuffed the swag bags. It took a few hours. Then my roommates showed up. Mike and Erica Yozell arrived with their baby, Isaac. I was sharing my attic room with 2 adults and a baby and they informed me when they arrived that young Isaac was teething and would be up every hour and a half. Yikes. I ended up sleeping on the couch for the rest of my stay and made use of earplugs and a sleep aid, since I had not slept well in weeks.

My legs were tired and stale from the 4 hour journey and I wanted to pre-ride the course early but it became apparent that that was not going to happen.  I was installed as the "meet and greet" person to direct the campers as they started pulling in at 2. I sat in my camp chair for 2 hours yapping on the phone and telling people where to drop their shit and park their cars.

Finally night fell, and the first riders went off.  I was not up until 10:30 or so.  I tested my lights before my ride and they were intermittently turning off, so I changed the battery and they seemed fine.  I felt good, and I love riding at night.  I did get a chance to pre-ride it and the course was really fun; it had a great flow, some technical bits (of course) and it was fast.  I felt as if I would do well tonight.

So lined up  and waited for the ref to tell me to go. Off I went and flew into the woods, rode well for about 6 or 7 minutes, got into some twisty stuff and clipped a tree with my helmet.  I slowed to adjust my helmet, it was loose. I could not tighten it, and worse, my light had turned off.  Great.  I managed to get the light on, but the inner cage in the helmet had snapped so the helmet was only resting on my head.  Forget about the danger aspect of that, the bad part is that I could not get the light to shine where I needed it to to ride.  I tried to amble along awkwardly a bit like this but my light kept shutting off and when it was on it was all over the place, not on the trail where I needed it to be.  So there I was in total darkness.  I moved off the trail and started heading to where I heard the music, out of the way of the other riders. I got lost a few times but then the light came on and I dragged my bike through the woods for 10 minutes until I finally found my way back to the start. 

"What happened?," Mike asked me, putting down the microphone.

"My helmet broke, " I said, "and this light is a piece of shit."  I had signed up to get a trial Lupine tonight but somehow that never happened.  Mike Hebe chimed in that I could use his helmet and light. 

"You had better get back out there or you will get a DNF for the stage," Kuhn said.  Fine, so I slipped between 2 other riders and got back on the trail.  The light was focusing too far ahead of me on the trail, probably because Hebe was a lot faster than me and needed it to focus farther from him....but not this far, it was focusing halfway up the damn trees! So I stopped for a second to tighten it down and in doing so I broke the cage. Again.  No shit.  This was turning into an Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The TT From Hell."  So with another helmet rendering my head into a bobble-head caricature of sorts, I managed somehow to cross the finish line.  In something like 48 minutes, dead last.  That of course included a lap and a half, 10 minutes of fumbling in the woods, and a few minutes behind the start switching helmets.  Not bad when you take that into account!  Seriously, I was pissed, since blowing this stage meant possibly blowing my chances for a decent finish in the GC, but I was going to have a good race tomorrow anyway.

Hebe was at the mic when I got in and announced to the crowd, "Hmmm. Andrea has another broken helmet. You have to wonder when one rider breaks two helmets in one TT if it is maybe the rider..not the helmet."

ha ha. 

He forgot to mention when he handed me his helmet that the cage was broken and he had zip-tied it together, which is why when I tightened it down to fit my smaller head it broke.  Thanks Mike.  I'm going to tell your GF to buy you a new one for your birthday.

where the hell is she?  do we need to send out the search dogs?

heading to marysville, thursday June 24th

a suspiciously empty WaWa parking lot

Ok so Thursday I took the day off from work so I could head up to M’Ville and help Mike out. I would have liked to have left by 2, but by noon it was pretty apparent that this was not going to happen. I had not even started to pack and well.... I’m not such a good traveler so packing is quite a project for me.

Around 3 I was loading up the car and the skies looked really ominous. I decided I had better get everyting loaded before it started to pour and I opened up the hatch and ran into the house for another bag. In a matter of seconds it was coming down in buckets. I ran outside, hoping the key was in my pocket so I could close the windows. You don't actually need to put the key in the ignition to start the Infiniti, it just has to be somewhere in the car. I pushed the start button and the screen read “no key", alhough to me it was, "no dice." Crap. I ran back into the house, completely soaked now as were my leather seats, and I grabbed my spare set and ran back and out closed the windows. I finally got the car loaded up and hit the road at just about 5 pm. Rush hour traffic in Philadelphia, perfect timing.

The gas station at the bottom of the hill had police tape across it, no gas for some unknown reason. I decide to get the hell out of dodge and hit 76 west and get gas on the turnpike. Big mistake. It turns out once 76 becomes the turnpike there is no gas until the Downingtown exit. My guage flashed that I had 20 miles until I needed to refill. I was cutting it really close and started to wig. I called a friend for moral support as I was caught in stop and go traffic heading towards the exit. My guage started flashing with dotted lines, meaning (I thought)  that I was a few miles from running out of gas. I was freaking out. I finally made it to the exit and used the Infiniti GPS to direct me to a gas station. When I got there I was ready to get out and kiss the ground I was so happy to have made it, but, wait, someting was wrong. There were cars everwhere, no one pumping gas, and people spread out on the grass trying to survive the heat. WTF? It turns out a tornado had blown through there and everything in town was closed because of the lack of electricity, I mean we are talking gas stations, restaurants, Wawa, Starbucks, the whole shebang. So everyone was waiting at the station to see if the electricity would come back on before they ran out of gas. I guess they all stupidly forgot to fill their tanks before they left the city too.

So I found a local Wawa that was down the road and headed that way, praying that I would make it. When I got to the Wawa it was shut down for the same reason. At this point I was sure I was going to run out of gas so I pulled into a bank parking lot and set up my camp chair. For an hour. Until I talked to some local residents and realized the situation was not going to be changed anytime soon.  I finally ventured to another gas station down the road, with Colin on the phone, I was sure that I was not going to make it, and we realized that Colin had driven to the Great Valley training crit and he was only about a mile from me, so he waited around to make sure I got to the station...which I did. I filled my tank. What a waste of 2 hours.  After that there was terrible traffic due to a lane closing, so by the time I got to M’ville it was too late to do much but lay out my stuff, greet Mike and the Oesterlings, and head to bed. It took me 4 hours to get there from Philly. 

I set up camp in this really cool attic room with a gun cabinet (everyone needs one!) and my own little double bed. I had it all to myself tonight at least.