Friday, August 12, 2011

Life's a Bike... and its all down hill from there

Its been some time since I ventured back to the blog... I don't know why, it seems like things just haven't been right for a while. All through the winter and spring I was fighting an IT Band Leg injury... this is a tendon pain in the leg that is caused by not stretching (properly) both before riding, and after. It was a painful lesson, since I really hoped to do some serious riding in 2011. I missed the Colorado Springs Carmichael Climbing and Descent School, and had to cash it in for the Coast to Coast ride for Kids Cancer from Vancouver to Halifax.

In May, things started feeling better and I started some short rides... nothing over 25km, but with some time, I started to practice on some hills, too. All through the winter and spring I was helping to organize the Tour du Lac... a 910km ride around Lake Ontario from St. Catharines to Kingston in Canada, and then through Oswago, Webster, Lockport and Niagara Falls in America. As time went on, it became apparent that while I wasn't planning to ride the Tour du Lac, it might be the only long ride I would get in this year... if only I could get into shape.

I committed to the ride in June and started some fund raising for the Cath Labs in the new hospital for St. Catharines. When the ride day came, I was on deck and did the first "mile" century of my year... 170km. It was hot, and the track took us through Toronto, but it was a good day. We continued the next day with another 150km and then a 162 on day three. By then, I was starting to feel good, working my way into 'shape'. It was on this ride that I started thinking about my life as a 'bike'. It seems to me that when I get on one, I start feeling better and better. I like climbing the steepest hills... because when you lip over... its all down hill and that's what its all about... fast, smooth and letting it all hang out...

Years ago when I would drive my Porsche in Cleveland there was an exit off I271 onto I90... it was a long up-hill curve that I could get into at around 100mph and then at the apex of the turn and the hill, I could accelerate down into the interstate and hit about 135 before letting off... I called it "playing with the devil"! The years have passed, and while I was a cyclist way back then in the late 1980's, it was the car that was doing it for me... now, when I hit 70 to 80 km on the bike... I feel the same way! Grin on my face all the way up the hard part of the hill, so I could have a white tooth smile on the way down... Playing with the devil... don't ever crash! Never mind the road rash... at these speeds it could be heaven, or it could be hell...

After the Tour du Lac I was worn out. The heat got to me, the miles wore me down. Lots of things were not right about the way I felt after the ride... legs swollen and sluggish; hands sore; four toes numb and the bottom of my feet were sore... my mood was a little down... mostly because it was over! The ride was a blast... we had great riders with us, good friends. We met some fine new friends along the way in Trenton, Webster and Lockport. But something wasn't right...

It turned out that what was bothering me was my poor performance during a couple of training days after the Tour. I had three practice rides, getting ready for the Cabot Trail ride that would occur the following weekend... August 5th to the 7th. I found some hills to practice on... but in the back of my mind, I was finding out that I was not going to do well on the trail... and I was right! Hills that I was blasting up in the weeks before the Tour du Lac, I could hardly climb, at any speed... this was going to make the Cabot Trail really bad... with four major climbs coming in the next week, it was sure to be ugly. I put my best face on and headed east to Nova Scotia.

I got to Halifax with several days to spare before the Cabot Trial ride. I decided to try one more training ride... I did Highway #7 on Monday with legs to East Petpeswick and on #357 to Cozy Corner... all about 80km... it was a good ride, and I was feeling better... but the next day, my legs were like lead! My recovery capacity sucked and I wasn't sure why. I decided to take the rest of the days until the Cabot Trail off...

I was lucky, it rained a lot over the next few days... a planned ride in Halifax with some fast guys was cancelled due to the liquid sunshine and I found other things to do. I was heading for Cape Breton with Chad Robertson and Stuart Richardson on Thursday and we arrived as planned early the evening before the Cabot Trail ride was to start... what a great evening. We saw all sorts of folks we knew from the Vancouver ride last year.. spirits were high and we were ready to go... 6AM Friday morning came and we were on deck...

We started riding at about 8 AM... I was a tour marshal and had six really good riders with me. We started out tight and together... I was moving up and back in the line and everyone was doing well. I dropped back to help a rider with a tire problem and picked up a pull back to the group I started with ... all in all things were OK for the first 75km... then I hit Cape Smokey! I had again dropped back to help a rider and had not gotten back to my group when we started this ascent. It was just spitting a little, it was warm, but no hot, there was no curb lane, we were exposed to traffic... but thankfully, in the whole 2.1km and 425 meters of vertical I noticed only about five cars... but Oh Lord was it hard... I had a friend climbing with me, Mike Cross who has become a really interesting part of the ride as we compared notes from the Vancouver ride... we got to the top of the climb, and there was a clear view of the basin below... but I was spent and rested... we were a large group that were resting there... knowing the rest of the ride was 'all down hill to Ingonish with smiles on our faces'... but I was really spent!

In the morning I was feeling the effects of the day and night before... I had arrived in Ingonish, 'all in'. We had our recovery routines and I went through mine... to no avail... I didn't feel recovered. Then dinner and it was a good one... put on by Coast to Coast and 'the guys from New York Fries'. At around dusk, we all piled into the Tim Horton's bus and headed to a party in a local pub... after shooters, beers and wine we were back in camp and sleeping. While I had mostly abstained (gone are the good ol' days of "hunting with the Owls at night, and soaring with the Eagles in the morning"), I felt like I had done every shooter! Thanx Todd and Jeff...

We pulled out on what was to be the hardest climbing day... North and MacKenzie Mountains... Here are two videos of the descents... the first is of MacKenzie... and the second of North.

These are what we saw... in reverse... these are the descents of what we were to climb this picture perfect day... but for me it started out really poorly... The group was in great shape... everyone was riding well. It started well for me, although I was hurting in my legs... they were like lead. Just about 10 clicks out of Ingonish I dropped back to help out friends from the Vancouver Trip... Peter and Angelo Gatti were having bike problems... Peter's front derailer had been a problem before, and was now causing him to be unable to get to his small crank. Angelo, like me, wasn't feeling well, and we decided to go slow... Peter had to put his bike on the rack of the support vehicle. Angelo and I continued, like the two older guys we are, and at some stage we decided we had had enough... the support vehicle came and I decided I could continue... there wasn't enough room for both bikes at this stage, and Ashley Ward decided she wanted to do some riding... we had not ridden together on the road bikes, even though we were both on the Vancouver to Austin, Texas ride last year. Ashley is the ED of Give to Live and has a lot of responsibilities during the ride, so some times decides to ride or not... I was lucky, and she motivated me to ride the rest of the way to the base of North Mountain. I didn't think I had the legs to go it alone, and Ashley had to get to the lunch location, so we packed the bikes on the bike rack and rode North in the comfort of a car... I was a little ashamed, but it was best for me.

After lunch, Ashley and seven others decided to try MacKenzie Mountain. I was not really feeling up to it, but my generous ego got the best of me and I got on the bike... wow, was I glad I did... don't know where the legs came from, but I had the power that was missing for the 24 hours before and climbed MacKenzie very well. Not as well as I would have liked, but I made up for the failure on North (where I will reprise my failure of 2011 in 2012 with a strong ride)... the best part was the really great descent... there are several 'fool's knobs' (good hills up that you don't see ahead, causing you to be fooled into thinking that the climb was over) at the far end of this climb... but the descent is not only steep, it is curly and the views could cause you to lose concentration and become a part of the view for the next rider! Wow, but a picturesque descent... I passed a surprised half-ton truck driver who decided to try and follow me down... as I hit 48 mph on my speedo, he backed off coming into a 30km curve (for what ever reason, I still calibrate in mph) and I lost him ... now I was starting to feel better... and by the end of the day, when I rode into our camp in Cheticamp, I felt awesome.

That evening, I rested, and caught up with some really good friends. Many of the riders 'from away' had gone on a whale watching trip. It gave some of us who were from Nova Scotia a chance to spend time as we awaited them... we were accused of drinking all the beer... but it was a great time... I spent time with Ron Allan and learned a little about his many Iron Man competitions and the area of the South Shore where he lives... it was a great afternoon.

On Sunday, it was planned to be a short ride... about 92km... and it was. My lead legs were back, I rode well on the flats, but when the relatively short and low Hunter Mountain presented itself about 70km out, I had to have a psychological pull up the hill from Chad Robertson. Chad had been the fastest, strongest rider both days leading into Sunday... but this day, he was good enough to ride with me, and he paced me all the day... he coaxed me up several hills before Hunter, but kept me with the team most of the time. Here I was riding with the guy who did my cancer surgery in Halifax, and a guy who easily could have been leading the ride into Baddeck... well, he really helped me yet again... as he did on several of the big climbs in the Rockey Mountains last year.

After we did the descent from Hunter, we all massed at the point where the Cabot Trail meets the Trans Canada Highway... the RCMP lead us all onto the highway and we rode the last 12 km en-mass, two up, and ended with a big party in Baddeck... 300km of absolutely spectacular riding. And I was 'all in'. I had completed 1,200km of riding in two weeks... more than I should have, and I knew it.

Chad, Stu and I drove back to Halifax... I was starting to feel like I do now about the ride... I had learned so much about my own physical and mental characteristics that I felt like it was a totally great weekend. I added to it by learning so much about the way the two doctors I was riding with operate in the healthcare system in Nova Scotia... Stu and his wife Paula are prosthedontists and Paula was the dentist that designed and maintains my prosthesis that resulted from my cancer. Chad is a Maxillofacial Surgeon with degrees in both medicine and dentistry. Both Chad and Stu treat cancer patients along with others... and both interact through the Maxillofacial Tumor Board in the QE II Hospital. It was around these activities that I went to school during the three and a half hour drive to Halifax. I have joined the Board of Trustees of the Niagara Health System, and I was able to have an education on the way these cancer guys work... and perhaps how the Walker Cancer Center will work in St.Catharines... a place we are raising money for as I write.

The weekend ended with my getting in the Prius and starting the 1,200 mile ride back to Niagara. I would drive to Woodstock by 1AM that night... sleep till 0800 and head to home by 11 pM... thanx to a huge traffic accident that caused a two hour delay. In the end, I was done! But mentally, I know that I passed through a stage of my life where I overcame the largest physical challenge I had ever come up against... and I am ready to go again. I have a couple of challenges coming up... have the Walker 100mile cancer ride that I plan to do non-stop with a 28km average time in September; and I will be having surgery on my heart again some time in the next year to re-replace my aortic valve... the one I have seems to have started decaying with one leaflet having seized so far... we will change it out before it causes me any trouble... I figure this will slow me down for a month...but I plan to be back on the bike next spring... and again, it will be 'all down hill from there...

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!