Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life is more challenging for bicyclists in the winter.

And winter happens here in CO. It is possible to cycle in the snow (ask my buddy Mike Carter, who does it every day)...but it's a pain in the ass and, honestly, not great training. For serious workouts, one is going to be relegated to a stationary item. The trouble is, riding a stationary bike is the second most boring exercise ever invented.  To keep pedaling while waiting for the weather to improve, I spend the winter riding on rollers. If it doesn't kill you, riding with rollers will improve your cycling skills. It teaches you how to adopt a nice smooth cadence, and it requires a good measure of balance and core strength. And it's not boring. You're too busy trying not to fall over or careen into your kitchen wall to be bored.

With that in mind, any opportunity to ride outside is a welcome one - and especially at this point in the season.  You don’t have to worry about creating a lake of sweat underneath you when you’re moving along an actual bike route, and your place won’t smell like wet feet. You can sense my joy at the notion of a weekend in AZ. In three days, I managed to put a little under 200 miles on the bike, thanks to a trip to Phoenix to ride in the ADA Tour de Cure with my Team Type 1 & 2 teammates.

My flight landed early, and teammate Mark Thul was already on the ground. The rest of the crew came in later that evening which, in my mind, meant Mark and I were about to get in a whole lot of riding, lucky us, while the rest of the guys were slothing about an airport. We made our way to the hotel, schlepping bikes and luggage. The woman at the front desk asked our names to retrieve the reservation...and then could not locate any information. We tossed out a myriad of possibilities: names of team directors, Team Type 1, other teammates... No dice. No reservation.
Insert little known fact about Phoenix in spring: There are NO HOTEL ROOMS available during the months of March and April. It's spring training time for pro baseball, which means every place of repute is fully booked. Frantic phone calls ensue. I had firmly staked my claim on the backseat of the rental car, which meant Mark was looking at a cozy night on a park bench. His wife came to the rescue with reservations across town.

Re-pack rental Suburban, and head to Tempe.

Finally in a room, we set to work on the bikes. There is always a breathless moment when I open my hard case after a flight...a second where I expect to find a broken fork or cassette. Luckily, all seemed in good order. Assembly commenced.

A five o'clock start is a bummer. Only so many hours of daylight. The good news? Perfect weather, nice stretches of pavement, and bike lanes everywhere. The bad news? An incessant grinding sound emanating from my derailleur, and the sudden inability to brake. Mark, at this point, suggests we pack it in, throw the bike in the Suburban, and find a bike shop. Undeterred, I decide to just ride the mile and a half to Tempe Bikes sans brakes so as to make certain we get our time in the saddle. Best news? Quick fix. A little adjustment to the rear cassette, and I was on my way.

Mark and I got in a quick - albeit beautiful - 20 miles on the bikes. We grabbed a quick dinner and made a plan for the morning, which is to say that I cajoled him into a ride the next day. We had a 2pm scheduled training ride. I sold Mark on the notion that this would be an easy cadence, a nice social pace... After all, who is going to go "holy balls" with 80 on the docket for the next day, right?


With Marty Bassett's arrival, there were three of us. We were ready to roll Saturday morning. Marty was recovering from a host of pre-season injuries, not the least of which were minor. Still, he was game for 30 before the two o'clock meet up, and we all set out. We made our way up some scenic roads, through Scottsdale and back through Phoenix.

No one had a watchful eye on the time, and we still had to check out of the hotel in Tempe and head to a different hotel in Phoenix. When we dismounted the bikes, we had a little under two hours to pack, eat and get to the training ride. Did not happen. With the time crunch looming, and an accidental detour down the wrong stretch of highway, we made a meal of Shot Blocks and Clif Bars, a few apples and a banquet of chocolate chip cookies set out by the front desk staff at the hotel as a treat for guests. I rolled my hard case into a maid's cart, nearly knocking it over, at which point Mark wisely advised I check my sugar. Low. I returned to the front desk, positioned myself next to the cookie jar and feasted. (If you’re a serious athlete, you eat to train. I am not a serious athlete, so I reverse that mantra.)

Mark and I doubled-checked our blood sugar before the start of the ride, given that we'd not had a satiating meal all day. We were both hovering in the 180s. I was actually relieved. Our guide affirmed that this would be a nice, leisure ride up some gently rolling hills. We spun out of the Phoenix Tap Haus parking lot.
About a half mile in to the ride, it became clear that "leisure pace" means different things to different people. My leisure pace? About 16mph. Our guide's leisure pace? About 21mph. And so it was. Being somewhat egotistical and coming from 6000ft., I feel a certain obligation to take hills with dignity. I rolled up on some of the other participants and made conversation but, at the end of the day, I was not about to be shown-up on a 20 mile training ride. Marty, on the other hand, was beginning to feel the pangs of his respective injuries...and managed to ride two full miles on an under-inflated tire without realizing it was flat.

Back at the Tap Haus, we were ready to eat.  I just wanted something other than Powerbar Perform and gels in my stomach, for crying out loud... But I was greeted with a decidedly un-vegan feast. Mark urged me to eat the chicken, telling me it wouldn't hurt me. "That's what they want you to believe," I replied.

We got up, made a speech or two about living well with diabetes (although I live better on a full stomach), and decided that it might be time for dinner #2. This ain’t my first dog and pony show–I’m gonna order a crapton of food, eat it all, feel miserably full and loathe myself, put 80 on the bike the next day, and then feel better when I step on the scale and see that everything’s evened out. It’s a typical cycle, so  I am prepared for multiple dinners.

We met up with women's team member Brittany Willock and her mom, and grabbed some real food. I also managed a few more cookies on the way to bed, requiring me to break my pre-ride insulin regimen, and sending me a midnight hypo.

With all the insanity of the day prior, I was hesitant about pounding out 80 miles on the bike the next day. Brittany convinced me. Mark decided to do a metric century, and Marty wisely decided to give his ailing body a bit of a break, and ride the 30-miler.

I checked to see where my blood sugar was hovering. 101. A good number most of the time, but I like to start a long ride quite a bit higher. A little banana, PB and English muffin sandwich, and I figured I was covered for the next 20. The pace is always furious at the start. People were averaging about 25-27 for the first ten miles. I hung back, knowing most of those would drop around the 20 mile mark...and they did. Brittany hung back a bit further, and I slid in a nice paceline with a group from Oklahoma.

I felt pretty good, so I picked up the pace. I make it a point to chat with other cyclists as I pass them so, as I pushed forward, I would ride up alongside another person on the route, chat for a few, and move ahead. As the courses converged, I rejoined Marty for a short leg, and then made a left up a long canyon road.

I'm always waiting for the moment of misery in any ride : The point when you are only moving forward to return to your car, and the pain in your ass is such that you are really just over it all. I had about four miles like that, but found myself on a nice descent where the ride became fun yet again. At the end of it all, my blood glucose had stayed beautifully stable (thanks to about 4000 Shot Blocks and packages of Chocolate 9), and I had earned an 18.8mph average over 80 miles. Not too bad.

Marty grabbed a quick post ride massage from the ex girlfriend of a former TT1 cyclist (go figure...small world), and we made our way back to the hotel. Showered and packed, we were ready for a final meal. There was but one problem: I could not unscrew my pedals to get my bike back in the hard case. For the second time in three days, we were back at a bike shop thanks to me. With the right tool, I was shoving my bike in its case in the parking lot of a strip mall, ready to head to the airport.

In a shameful display of of gluttony, Marty and I managed to eat everything at the airport Chili's that had not been nailed to the floor. The problem with this, of course, is that I always run high on the plane. And so it was. By the time the flight attendant had demonstrated the proper manner by which to inflate my life vest in the event that the Boeing Airbus became and Italian Cruise Ship, I had earned a blood glucose in the mid 200s. As my seat partner watched me pump myself full of insulin, I knew things were going to be ugly. High then low...a delay on the tarmac with BGs in the 40s...it was a catastrophe. By the time I was off the plane, I was ready to be at home.

In all, it was a great weekend with good friends, and awesome time on the bike and a chance to do what we do best...ride hard, share our stories, and talk with others who have walked a mile with diabetes. Thanks to the folks in Phoenix for a great ride!

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