Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Injury Update - Wrists and Rhinos

This year certainly started off with challenges.  With my road bike getting stolen and with getting parts for the new mountain bikes.  Every company seemed to be back ordered on what I needed, going out of business (Race Face), or things like an earthquake/tsunami in Japan to delay shipments (Shimano).  It was quite stressful and giving bikes their maiden voyages on race days isn't optimal.  But it all got worked out in the end and now I have two awesome bikes to ride and race.  Then I got taken out in the short track race at Fontana the last weekend of March.  I took a good hit to the left shoulder which caused me some pain for the next month or so but wasn't anything that would keep me from riding.  Since the motion that would aggravate it was lifting upward.  But the left wrist was the real problem, and still is.  This is what it looked like two days later:
It's a little hard to see but it was pretty swollen, for a wrist, and it's all red and purple and blue.  I got xrays later that day and was told there weren't any fractures.  Well that's good.  But here's what it looked like 4 days after injury:
Nice and purple huh?  Nasty.  But the swelling was going down so I figured it's getting better.  I just kept icing it and alternating with heat whenever I could.  It seemed a lot like the injury I had to my right wrist last year.  Though this one had more discoloration initially.  A week or two went by and it seemed to be getting better.  I was able to ride for the most part if it was taped up, but it would be pretty sore after a rough MTB ride.  I wanted it to keep getting better so I danced the line between time off the bike and trying not to loose too much performance.  And it was going ok, until one day I while I was driving I reached back behind the seat in the car to push something back that had fallen over, kind of flicking it with that hand and SNAP!  Ohh that didn't feel good.  This was not the same injury that I had to the right side last year.  When that one would pop it was a release and would feel better.  And this was more of a snap, not a pop.  And after that it seemed to feel warm.  Hmmm... but this stubborn guy didn't go back to the doctor.  Just kept icing, wrapping, taping, etc. in the hopes it will get better.

Well now almost two months after injury it's not any better.  You know that little "divot" on the underside of the wrist at the base of the thumb?  Well it's not there on my left wrist, and it seems like a bone is protruding out where it's not supposed to.  Time to go see the orthopedist... we'll see how that goes.  I'm just tired of going to the doctor lately, just keep reading...

Now lets back track a little to early April, the 13th to be exact.  The week of the Sea Otter Classic.  I raced the Wednesday night Prairie City Race Series and was feeling really good, taking the win.  After the race I put away the Tallboy and hopped on the "cone bike" to help pick up the race course like I usually do.  I was about to set off when Brian, the race promoter, said to me "Hey they rolled the Rhino, you should go check it out."  I figured maybe they needed help putting it back on its wheels or something.  They just pick up the cones on the course too so it probably wasn't a big deal.  "Where are they?" I asked.  Brian was on the radio to them and said "Over by the kids moto track."  Then I asked the question I just figured I should but wasn't really necessary... "Is everyone ok?"

Brian: "Jen's foot got squished." 
Me: "($&!#)"

Prior to that I don't even think I knew Jen was out on the Rhino.  But she does go out as a passenger to help pick up the cones frequently so it wasn't too big of a surprise.  I tore off in the direction of the kids moto track, trying to remember what part of that night's race course went by there that would be so rugged to cause a rollover.  Going as fast as I could, but not very fast (dang cone bike is a single speed!), I spun my legs frantically feeling like a mouse on a running wheel and finally got over to where I thought they'd be.  (insert cricket chirps) There was nobody there.  I looped around a little to make sure I didn't miss them, scanning the area and nothing.  So I wheeled back to the venue area at about 130 rpm and as I rolled up I saw the flashing lights of the park ranger truck down the hill, maybe only a quarter mile from the venue.  I ditched the stupid cone bike for the Tallboy and sprinted down the hill.  As I got closer I could see the Rhino still on its right (passenger) side and that Jen was still on the ground being tended to by the Renee, the event EMS.  As I skidded in, Jen was on her back with her foot splinted and elevated on a medical bag.  There was nothing I could do except comfort her.  She was in pain, quite a bit.  Her foot was bluish purple but I wasn't sure how much of that was because with the wind chill it seemed like it was in the 40's.  Her foot didn't look "squished" to me, but it was obviously bad considering how much pain she was in and she did NOT want anyone to touch it, or her, or the bag it was on, or really look at it wrong.  I tried to distract her by telling her that her pedicure still looked good (she just got it the night before, and that's a rare occasion).  I think she giggled.  I asked what happened to the general vicinity, and I'm not sure who responded if it was Jen, or Kelly the driver, probably a combination of both.  Jen missed grabbing a cone as they moved along because the front wheel of the Rhino hit it, so when they made the left U-turn to go back and get it, the Rhino rolled onto the right side.  In the split second and seemingly slow motion process, Jen instinctively put her foot out, as you would on a bike or motorcycle, to protect her head from hitting the ground.  We keep telling ourselves that thankfully the Rhino only landed on her foot.

The ambulance finally arrived and loaded her up to take her to the ER.  They wouldn't let me ride in with her, which I thought was odd.  So I loaded up the bike in the car and followed them to UC Davis Med Center.  I went in to the ER waiting area and asked the front desk if I could go in and be with my wife who just came in via ambulance.  She said no because my wife isn't in the system yet.  Ahhh!!!  I asked if I would have ridden in with them would it be any different and she said no.  I went back to the car and ate the couple oranges I had and grabbed all of the Hammer Bars I had stashed, figuring it was going to be a long night.  I went back in and asked the front desk girl if Jen was "in the system" yet and she replied, "Oh she's in C21/22, that's bad."  Oh great!  After a minute of getting me signed in I was able to go back and entered a big room with massive overhead lights and blood spots on the floor.  I hope those were from the previous guy!  But Jen wasn't in the room, just one nurse who told me they had taken her to get more xrays.  I saw that there was an xray of a foot already on one of the monitors and I asked if that was Jen's.  It was, so I snapped a photo:
I'm an eternal optimist, so it didn't look THAT bad from what I could tell.  I was still waiting for Jen to come back from xray and I discovered the ER had wifi.  So I emailed the xray photo to our parents (who I had called on the way to the hospital).  Jen finally got wheeled back in.  She was doing ok and in good spirits considering.  She said the EMT in the ambulance couldn't find a pulse in her foot so she was brought in as a level 1 trauma and there were at least 15 people waiting for her in that room when she got wheeled in.  They swarmed over her with amazing efficiency and before she knew it she was hooked up to everything and her clothes had been cut off.  They had determined that she was getting circulation to her foot and was stable so we were moved to another smaller room to await the test results.  Hours went by and a CT was taken as well.  The Orthopedic docs in the ER came by and kept messing with her foot asking if she could feel this and that and if it hurt when they did this.  Even over all the pain meds she was in a lot of pain, but they kept messing with it.  They said she might need surgery right away, so she couldn't eat anything.  All she could have was a water soaked sponge-on-a-stick that I had ready whenever she needed it.  I finished all my Hammer Bars (cashew coconut chocolate chip is really good!), trying not to make her hungry and eat them quietly.  They ended up putting on a MASSIVE temporary split/cast thing in the ER.  I thought they called it a "Bulky Johnson" and in my sleep deprived state I resorted to juvenile humor and laughed.  But I think it's called a "Bulky Jones" and it was all in my head.  Oh well, at 4am in the ER I think I'm allowed to giggle at the voices in my head right?  Jen got discharged from the ER at maybe 5am or so and officially admitted to the hospital.  They ended up not doing surgery and just keeping her for evaluation.  She got set up with a nice room on the 5th floor by the window so that was cool.  She fell asleep after a while and I went down to the awesome cafeteria to get my post race meal, about 14hrs after the race.  I powered down the biggest salad I could make and about half of a rotisserie chicken!  Jen was doing ok and was finally discharged to go home at about 2:30pm. 
Happy to be going home.  Look at that huge splint!

Ok time to make this long story a little shorter.  We're set up with an awesome Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Yoo, with UCD.  She has a Lisfranc injury, complicated by numerous fractures.  He showed us the CT scan which basically shows the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th metatarsal and 1st thru 3rd cuneiform bones being shattered on the bottom side.  An MRI was taken to determine the ligament damage as well.  Thankfully some of the crucial ligaments are still intact!  Which is great news for recovery.  But there are some that are ruptured.  Since it is nearly impossible to repair the fragmented bones on the bottom of the foot without causing additional damage, the plan is to let the body heal them and fuse them together naturally, then see how it goes from there.  However she did need surgery on the 1st metatarsal, and that was done on the 5th of May.
Getting the nerve block put in, ready for surgery.  Very happy to have SOMETHING being fixed!
The new hardware.
The surgery went well and Dr. Yoo was impressed with how quickly she has been healing.  He said it was actually hard for him to set the bone because of how far along her healing has come.  While he was in there, he also put some stress on the joint and said it held very well.  More good news!  We'll take it.  But the Dr. has tried to keep our expectations realistic, and told us that it will be about a year before she can walk normally again.  And she may never be able to go a day without pain for the rest of her life.  It's very somber news for sure.  But we've been praying for God's amazing power to heal and perform miracles, and we are faithful that he will.  She still has another six weeks of absolutely no weight baring, but she's ready to attack physical therapy as soon as she's allowed.

So needless to say, daily life changed for me since this happened.  I missed Sea Otter for the first time in years, but my #1 priority needed me so that was a no brainer.  I don't make a living off of racing bikes, so training and racing have taken a back seat for a while.  I'm happy that I can be there for her and take care of her, but it's been hard because she's very independent.  Both of our cars are manual transmission so she can't even drive.  Until this last week when our friends went on vacation and have let us borrow their automatic car to see if she could drive left footed.  She's able to drive herself to work and back which is awesome, but is uncomfortable going much farther than that.  This has also allowed me to ride to work and get back to a fairly normal riding schedule too, which I'm thankful for.  I'll keep racing where I can, probably staying more local to save on time and expenses.  Hopefully my wrist will hold up too.

If you got this far... thanks for reading and for caring :-)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rockhopper Classic Race Report - 5/7/11

Someone had the idea of bringing back one of the original NorCal (and MTB for that matter!) races after a about a ten year hiatus.  Well that was a good idea!  This course was a good one, set in the rolling hills of Lagoon Valley Park/Pena Adobe Park in Vacaville, CA, with a good amount of singletrack, climbing, and tons of switchbacks.

Saturday morning I arrived at 9am in preparation for a 10am start, figuring I could get about a half hour warmup which I needed.  I hadn't ridden since Tuesday because Jen finally had surgery on her foot and priority #1 is to take care of her, not turn pedals.  But something caused the registration process to be extremely delayed and I didn't get registered until about 9:55.  Luckily they moved the start back to 10:15!  My warmup basically consisted of a few passes in the parking lot to get my heart rate up as much as I could and then lining up at the start.  I knew this race was going to hurt.

There was some pretty speedy competition on the line including Kevin Smallman who I'm usually pretty well matched up to and current Cat 1 40-45 National Champ and general fasty Dario Frederick.  Should be a fun race if I could stick with them.  At the gun some younger riders set off with a sprint pace.  Ok guys... we got a long ways to go here.  But I managed to tag along with the front group sitting in about 7th or 8th place I think.  My legs felt ok on the first climb, but I was redlining.  Got a little bit of a breather on a downhill and then traverse before another steep short climb.  I hadn't preridden the course either so I was ok to sit in for a bit.  But that second steep climb got me and the pace was pretty fast.  I had fallen off the back a little bit, maybe 5 to 10 seconds already.  Coming off of the first second ridge was a set of two downhills.  The first was pretty open and went into a saddle with a little rise and 'S' turn under a tree.  I went into that turn, having to duck for a branch other shorter riders probably didn't see, and the front wheel washed on some grass as the bike was laid over to the right.  Instinct reflexes kicked in and I shifted my weight, locked the rear wheel with just a split second pinch of lever and the bike popped back up.  Nice, that was close.  Just time for one breath and I'm behind the saddle on a choppy steep downhill with what looks like a sharp off camber right turn at the bottom.  The rear wheel is sliding now so I weight the seat a little to get some traction.  I see a lot of dust at the bottom of the corner, like there was some commotion from the lead group there.  As I get to the corner, yep it's off camber and I've got too much speed so I un-clip the right foot and dirt track drift the corner, getting some extra traction on the exit from some matted down bushes.  As I pedal out, I a rider walking with a tire off what looks like a taco'd front wheel.  Yeah there was some commotion there, it was the lead rider who was maybe a little too reckless early on, and his day was done.  I made a pass on a flat open section which put me in about 5th I think, cool, time for a drink.  I reach down and grab an empty bottle cage.  Crap, my bottle must have come out on that downhill (sure enough it did, found it after the race at that corner on the bottom).  I take my 2nd bottle out of my jersey and grab a swig before putting it in the cage, hopefully this one stays.  And hopefully they have some neutral water or something because there's only about 15oz in that bottle, and I have no support.  Then I came to the "Steeze Jump" photographer...

After a little style it was time for the real climbing to begin.  For the next couple miles it was all steep climbs followed by short steep downhills that quickly take all of that elevation away without much rest.  The legs were burning pretty good but I just set in with a pace I knew I could sustain for 3 laps of this craziness.  I pass Kevin Smallman on one of the climbs as he's off on the side with a mechanical problem.  Come to find out he snapped the chainstay on his frame!  Major bummer.

After a traversing section I get to a steady fire road climb and as it bends around the corner I see some neutral water being handed out.  Sweet, only in cups, but I'm gonna need everything I can get.  I down a cup and charge up the first set of switchbacks.  Have I mentioned this course had switchbacks yet?  Yeah, TONS of them!  Good practice for me, since I stink at them.  At least I think so anyways.  Especially right handers.  And it seemed like the crosswind was always blowing against me on the right handers too for that added balance training.  After that set of switchbacks, was more fire road climbing, then more switchbacks after a little traverse.  Oh but we're not at the top yet!  There's more switchbacks around that corner!

Ok, finally at the top!  The nice 360 degree view was interrupted by that cross wind gust reminding me to pay attention and hold on or get blown off the trail.  From that point down to the finish was a truly sweet cut-in singletrack trail on the steep hillside, gradually making it's way down.  The Tallboy was an awesome choice again as I'm railing the turns, popping off the banks, hurdling rocks and skidding into... oh yes... switchbacks!!!  Though the downhill versions are much more fun.

I finally make it to the bottom in 4th overall about a minute forty back from the lead.  I knew I wasn't going to get the win, but maybe I could get into the top 3, so I kept charging at my "diesel" pace.  Lap 2 was pretty much spent alone but on a few occasions I could see 3rd overall at the top of some switchbacks.  I'd time from where he was and I was about 40 seconds back from him.  Each point I would measure on lap 2 though I was always about the same time back, and my legs were burning pretty good.  I just didn't have any "pop" up the climbs.

On to lap 3 and I had rationed as much as I could but took the last drip of HEED I had in that bottle about a mile in.  Which was about an hour and a half or so into the race.  The quads began to slow-fire on some of the early climbs in the lap and I just went into survival mode.  Thankfully I wasn't feeling any pressure from behind.  Up the last set of steep switchbacks I caught a lapped rider who slowed my rhythm and my balance was off as I spun out.  I dismounted and ran to where I could remount again, hopped on and began spinning as both calves cramped up.  I kept spinning with pointed toes and after about 10 seconds they unlocked but were still stiff.  By the top of that climb every muscle in my legs were slow-firing and my toes and my fingers were cramped as well.  I was dehydrated to say the least!  Thankfully I was done with the climbing and set off on the descent with a few working fingers that could still operate the brakes.  I got cheered on by the lapped riders I passed which was a needed boost and I hammered my way to the finish line taking 3rd in Pro and 4th overall.  Dario earned the overall win ahead of me by 4 minutes! 

Aside from the wind, it was a beautiful day to be out racing a bike and I got my first minor sunburn of the year!!  Is the sun back for good?  Hopefully!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sierra Cup Series #1 - Pine Nut Cracker - 5/21/11

Saturday was the first race of the newly formed Sierra Cup Series which consists of seven races in great locations in northern California.  Each course is different and challenging in its own way.  This first race was in Gardnerville, NV (yeah, I had to "google map" it too) and I've done this race the last two or three years.  But this is the first time they've changed up the course, running it backwards from previous years.

Gardnerville is set in the southern end of the Carson Valley and there were beautiful snow capped mountains all around.  But our starting elevation was only about 5200ft or so.  Not too bad on the lungs.  Normally I don't feel the effects of altitude much below 7000 feet, thankfully.

The Pine Nut course is fairly flat for a Tahoe-area course, with only 2417ft of climbing over 30.3 miles as recorded by my GPS.

So what makes this race hard is that there is really nowhere to take a break and recover.  No long downhills or slow technical areas.  Just pedal to the metal from the gun.  I lined up with a fairly good sized start group of mixed pro and cat 1 riders and we set off on the 1 mile gradual fire road spur to the loop course.  We were heading into a little headwind so I sat in at 3rd position, then 2nd, and forced myself to wait until we made the left turn onto the course.  No reason to try to get away with a headwind since I throw off quite the slipstream.  Once we made the left turn I went to the front and set a strong pace on the relatively flat rollers.  Another half mile or so of fire road and then we finally got into some singletrack, winding around the high-sierra shrubs.  The dirt was dry and the racing line was well packed and fast, but anywhere off that line was incredibly loose.  I could hear riders behind me but I didn't know how many.  I waited until after the first short, steep climb to take a look back and there was only one rider there.  Wow.  I didn't think it set that grueling of a pace!  Good thing though, because I totally botched that climb.  It was loose and I tried to stand up and the back wheel just spun.  The WTB Nanos were not quite deep enough to grab the loose stuff out of the saddle.  I let the rider pass and sat on his wheel for about a mile to see what he had to offer.  He would attack the climbs a little more that I would in front, but I matched his pace just fine.  Because of his efforts on the climbs though he settled in a little on the gradual climbs and traverse where I excel.  So when I had the opportunity I passed in the grass and set my pace again.

The back half of the loop was a long gradual downhill with swooping banked turns in sandy medium pack singletrack.  Tons of fun!  I was railing it and still pedaling.  The Santa Cruz Tallboy was a rocket!  Then I missed a turn... BRAKES!!!!  Ooops.  I quickly turned around and when I got back to the corner my chaser said "Go ahead you're setting a great pace."  Awesome, I'm glad he didn't try to attack right there.  I railed the rest of the lap and stayed in the saddle for the steep climb back to the turn for lap 2.  I was about 15 seconds or so ahead of my chaser when I turned onto the fire road.  I increased that gap by another 5 seconds I think before getting into the singletrack again.  The legs were feeling pretty decent but burning some.  I was making sure to keep on schedule with the Hammer Gel every 30 minutes and keep sipping on the HEED mix in the bottle, so I'd still feel strong for the next hour of racing.
Burnin' up the steep climb at the end of the loop

My goal for lap 2 was to increase my lead to the point where I would be out of sight of any chasers on the longest open stretch before I get to the last lap.  So I don't become a "rabbit" for someone to try and chase down at the end.  Well I accomplished that and had a blast on the last two laps just riding the Tallboy as fast as I could on some sweet and flowy trails.  I took the overall win by 2 minutes with a time of 2hrs and 2 minutes and had a pretty good leg burn.  Maybe the altitude did affect me?  Hard to say, but I still had some energy so I kept riding and exploring for another 45 minutes or so around the area until it was time to woof down some post race bbq and attend the awards.

I'm not sure exactly why, but I always like coming here.  It was a 2hr 45min drive each way this time with the Hwy 50 closure which stunk.  But a great workout and a net profit of a few bucks on the day (even with these gas prices!) with a little cash winnings for taking the overall... sweet!  Big thanks to Alta Alpina cycling club and Sierra MTB Series for putting on a great event.