The Man With No Right Hand

06.20.2018 | 12:46 pm

A Note from Fatty: I am going to push my new Leadville podcast every single post, so you may as well get used to it. Better yet, why don’t you subscribe to it, and then go give me a glowing rating + review on Apple Podcasts? And yes, go subscribe, rate, and review it on Apple Podcasts even if you listen somewhere else, because that’s the only game in town when it comes to stats and advertising and stuff. It’ll only take a minute of your time, and it will have a significant impact in my life. For reals. And besides, it’s a fantastic show and I’m really proud of what Hottie and I have put together here. And even more also, I’m going to make The Hammer be a guest on the show even though she hates that kind of thing. You won’t want to miss it. Now go subscribe, rate (five stars, please), and write a glowing review.

Download on Apple Podcasts Stitcher

A Note from Fatty About My Sense of Humor: Like I said yesterday, I’m still sick, but I’m feeling somewhat better. My sense of humor still seems to be offline, though. So this post isn’t funny. Which makes me wonder: if I’d waited to write this ’til I felt better, what jokes would I have thought of? Please feel free to suggest hilarious sidenotes, gags, and anecdotes in the comments. But no puns. Puns are just not funny. Ever.

The Man With No Right Hand
I should begin by confessing that this post is not actually an inspiring post about a man without a right hand who nevertheless rides his bike a lot and is awesome and makes you want to be a better person.

No. This post is about me, and I have two hands, and they’re both in good working condition.

Mostly.

My right hand though — the stupid thing just goes numb whenever I ride for a long time — especially (but not exclusively) when I descend, and mostly my index and middle fingers.

Like, numb to the point of I can’t tell by feel whether I actually have my index finger on the brake lever or how much resistance I’m getting from the lever when I’m pulling on it. I just feel a weird absence where the finger should be.

That does not help my downhilling skills, believe me.

And here’s what’s weird: I know how to fix the problem, for a moment anyway, while mid-ride: I press hard on the muscle between the thumb and index finger on the back of my hand for a few seconds. I do this by rolling my hand inward and pressing that fleshy part of the hand between thumb and index hard into my handlebar.

It’s a weird, awkward way to hold the bar, but it does return sensation to my right index finger, more or less immediately. Anyone who’s ever ridden with me at all has seen me do this, usually several times during the ride.

Changing Grips Didn’t Help
I have tried a few different kind of grips. Ergon for a while. Specialized Body Geometry for a while. Both are hard grips, though, and seemed to make the problem worse, not better. I’m back to cheap ol’ ESI sponge-style grips. Which I will write about at some point. Like maybe later this week. 

I Have No Solution
I recently went to a hand specialist…although not for this problem. I was there to see what he could do about my tennis elbow, which plagues me endlessly (I got a cortisone shot, which has pretty much eliminated the pain, for now).

While I had his ear, though, I told him about this problem and my mitigation. He seemed puzzled by the fact that it’s just my right hand that has this issue, and that pressing in this way solves it. He posited the possibility

Maybe You Have a Solution?
I don’t check stats on this blog (once upon a time I checked them obsessively and it made me miserable and paranoid), but I sense that I have somewhere between seven and seven million daily readers. Regardless, it seems probable that one of those seven (or seven million) readers has the same issue and has figured it out. Or maybe you’re a specialist in this kind of thing and can tell what my deal is. Or maybe you are a specialist in this kind of thing and need more information before you can tell me what my deal is.

Regardless, please tell me how to fix this. It’s been going on for two decades or so now, and I think that’s probably long enough.

 

Pacing and the Powerline, With 6X LT100 Champ Dave Wiens

06.19.2018 | 9:14 am

I’m brutally sick today (I think it’s a bad cold; The Hammer thinks it’s the flu. She’s a nurse, though, so I’m probably right.).

Luckily, before I got sick, Hottie and I got together and recorded a really fantastically incredible new episode of the Leadville podcast.

I’ll describe the show in a second, but really you should just listen to it.

Download on Apple Podcasts Stitcher

In the Show
Six-Time Leadville 100 Champ Dave Wiens joins Hottie and me to talk about strategies for racing the Leadville 100, from pacing yourself to pacing others to just trying to not blow up halfway through the race.

We deep-dive on the first dirt descent in the race: The Powerline, teasing apart one of the most treacherous parts of the race

And In our Questions for the Queen, we ask Rebecca Rusch about food logistics. Bottles! Camelbaks! Food! Wrappers! Where do you put it all for easy access, and how do you manage it when your heart is going fast and your brain is going slow…if at all.

Finally, coach Jonathan Lee is back ramping up your workouts and planning out your week for a proper build to the second Saturday in August — just eight-ish weeks away now.

Thanks to Our Sponsors
We went out of our way, for this podcast, to reach out exclusively to companies we actually love and buy stuff from ourselves. Which is to say, you won’t find ads here for life insurance companies or mattresses or cooking kits that come to you in a box. These are all companies I buy stuff from and use pretty much every damn ride.

Please support them, because you should. And also so they will love me and want to keep supporting me. It’s the circle of advertising, folks.

Shimano

Shift early, shift often… when it comes to changes in terrain, that  is the mantra of mountain biking. And with the right drivetrain on your side, shifting early and often is no problem.

one thing we keep hearing from every expert we’ve talked to in this podcast — the nutrition expert, the blood and oxygen expert, Rebecca Rusch, and we’ll be hearing this from Dave Wiens too: you just do NOT want to go burning matches you don’t have to. The thing is, on the Leadville course, it is super easy to burn match after match clearing little rises or powering up when an easy climb becomes a hard climb. Or passing people. All those are easy places to go into the red zone when you don’t need to.

And I am making a concerted effort in my training to stay in the right gear by making really frequent shifts. It’s an adjustment because of my singlespeed mentality, but I’m having an easier time with it than I would because I’m using Shimano XT Di2 for my shifting. I set it up for fast shifting and for unlimited shifts, and I can get to the right gear for the moment so easy, under pretty much any load. I’m burning fewer matches with Shimano XT Di2.

And I like the way it beeps when I’m at the top or bottom of the cassette, so I don’t go looking for that extra gear that just isn’t there.

The Feed:

Hottie and I have been using Maurtens drink mix, and both of us are totally sold on it. No stomach issues, goes down easy, super easy to mix. Hottie’s super anal about stuff like this, so he loved the package precision; they tell you exactly how much water to use, no guessing with scoops and different sized bottles.

My overarching impression is that it’s a ridiculously non-intrusive way to get down a lot of calories. One bottle, 320 calories — it’s a little sweet, it’s a little thick, but there’s no aftertaste and I felt great — my stomach was fine, I didn’t feel that weird energy spike you get with some energy drinks. It tastes smooth, and it burns smooth. I am a fan.

And our podcast listeners can get a great price on a training and racing packs custom curated for Leadville racers. Go to TheFeed.com/leadville for the race pack, and there’s a link on that page to go to the training pack. And be sure to use the code LEADVILLE15 for a 15% discount on either of those boxes.

Banjo Brothers

At Leadville, and at any race, you will see riders with all sorts of crazy ways to carry their bike repair essentials. People tape or velcro stuff to top tubes, stems, seatposts and seat tubes. We say do yourself a favor, use our sponsor, Banjo Brothers, to get your flat fixing goodies strapped properly  to your bike.

And not just your race bike, but your commuting bike and your bikepacking bike…and they’ve even got great backpacks and messenger bags for when you’ve got to carry bigger stuff.

I’ve got a Banjo Brothers Bag  on every bike I have, and have been for a dozen years. They’re simple and they’re bombproof. They just work.

To get 15% off your order, go to Banjobrothers.com/fatty-favorites.

ENVE

We talk a lot about the Powerline descent in this episode, because it’s a crucial part of the race. In my twenty finishes of this race, I bet I’ve passed more than 200 people on this section of the race, all of whom are faster than I am. Because they’re all stopped on the side of the road, coping with pinch flats.

But neither The Hammer nor I have pinch flatted even once since we’ve been riding with ENVE M525 wheels. It’s the wide hookless bead that really does the trick here. ENVE has a really wide leading edge for the hookless bead, and this broad surface creates a more forgiving platform on which the tire can bottom out, and proves extremely effective in reducing the likelihood of “pinch” flats. And with a lower risk , you can ride with lower pressures, which gives you better traction and rolling resistance.

For example, I’m currently 167 pounds and running 19lbs in front and 20 in the back. The Hammer is running 18 in front, 19 in back.

I mean, wow.

The Worst Thursday, Part 4: Worst Becomes Best

06.13.2018 | 11:38 am

The Hammer was ahead of me, holding my phone and using it as a flashlight as we walked down the mountain. She was crying, with the only times she’d stop being when she’d gather air to yell her dad’s name again. Then I’d let five or ten seconds go and take a turn yelling his name, too.

I felt helpless, miserable. As useless and ineffectual as I’d been up on the mountain, I’d at least been somewhere near where we’d last seen Dee; I was looking for him.

Now I felt like we were abandoning him to the dark, to be alone on the mountain overnight, confused and lost at best, probably injured or incapacitated, and very likely dying or dead.

I didn’t tell Lisa where I thought her dad most likely was on that spectrum; she didn’t need to hear it and I didn’t want to say it.

The thought of going home, sitting there (certainly not sleeping) and not doing anything, made me feel ill.

Encounter
As we hiked down, we saw a man in a high-visibility shirt hiking toward us. Wearing a backpack. As he got closer, we could see he was with the search and rescue team.

Lisa and Kylie recounted what had happened that day and described Dee to the search and rescue man (I can’t remember his name). Kylie showed him a picture on her phone from earlier in the day, and the man took a picture of it with his phone (couldn’t send it; no service).

He assured us he and the rest of the search and rescue team would work through the night to find him, and a UHP helicopter with a heat-sensing scope would shortly be taking off. He assured us they’d actually have an easier time seeing him with that at night than a normal helicopter would during the day.

I was incredibly grateful for these people. For their positivity, for their competence, for their willingness to drop whatever they had been doing and do this instead, all through the night.

We all thanked him and he continued his march up the trail; we continued our trudge down it.

Encounter, Part 2
We hadn’t gone more than fifty feet before the man shouted at us, “Wait!

We immediately turned around and ran toward him.

Even before we got to where he was standing, the man — now laughing — said, “Your dad just walked in his front door.”

What?

“Your brother called and said your dad just got home.”

And suddenly the whole world was better.

What Happened (We Think)
“I’m going to kill that old man,” was the first thing I said, but Lisa didn’t really think that was funny (although she’d say the same thing the next morning).

“I’m just so happy,” she sobbed, over and over. “I was sure he was dead, that I was never going to see him again, and he’s home instead!”

As you might expect, the remaining three miles down the trail in the dark went a lot more cheerfully than that first mile had.

At the trailhead parking lot, we took some time to thank everyone who had dropped everything to come help, then headed over to Lisa’s dad’s house, where first there were just hugs:

And then a little bit of throttling:

And of course Lisa asked, “All our lives, what did you tell us to do if we got lost or separated while hiking?”

“To stay put,” her dad replied, knowing what was coming next.

“AND WHAT DID YOU DO?”

“I just kept going,” her dad replied. Chagrined.

And that’s really what happened.

With his poor eyesight, Dee had mistakenly walked off the trail onto an old deer trail. Then, when it petered out about twenty feet later…he had just kept going, walking down the face of the mountain in deep scrub oak.

Eventually — and I’m sorry I don’t have a lot of detail to give you here, because Dee hasn’t been able to give us much detail — he wound up close to the bottom of the mountain and near a neighborhood, but trapped in a ravine.

Which is when a couple of hiking teenagers came across him.

“Are you OK?” they asked.

“No, I’m stuck and I’m lost!” Dee told them.

The kids helped him out and then walked him down to their car, then gave him a ride home.

One of Lisa’s relatives snapped this photo of them together:

We don’t know their names, we don’t have contact info, we aren’t even really sure where he was when they found him.

But we sure are glad they were there and took care of him.

So many heroes that day. And I’m incredibly grateful for all of them. And that this worst of all possible Thursdays turned out, in the end, to be a great story worth telling over and over.

The (Lack of) Air Up There

06.12.2018 | 9:03 am

Let’s conduct a little thought experiment: suppose 25 years ago you picked up the Leadville 100 race course, and set it down in California. Would it have become the iconic endurance race it is today?

I suggest it wouldn’t have.

The altitude is what makes this race special. It turns what would otherwise be a hard race and turns it into a mystical, confounding, and — for some people — darn near impossible race.

So a couple weeks ago, I met with and interviewed Dr. Colin Grissom. Dr. Grissom is the co-medical director of the Shock/Trauma ICU at the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, but he’s also a well-known pulmonologist, mountain biker and high altitude climber, including mountain climbing in the Himalayas, and has done altitude research on Mt McKinley.

I was SO EXCITED after talking with him that I couldn’t wait — I made a rough audio mix (i.e., I just merged the two audio channels from our mics, didn’t worry about levels or anything else) for The Hammer (who had helped me find and arrange a meeting with Dr Grissom) to listen to that evening.

She listened, and then looked at me and said, “That is the single most valuable interview anyone who is ever going to race Leadville could ever listen to.”

Download on Apple Podcasts Stitcher

We’ve each listened to it a couple more times, taking notes.

So. While I truly believe all my Leadville podcasts are must-hear, let me say this: if you think you might ever race Leadville, or crew for someone at Leadville, or may just go vacationing at altitude, you don’t want to miss this episode. You just don’t.

But that’s not all there is in this episode. In Our Questions for the Queen segment, Rebecca Rusch gets gross, talking about how to keep going when you have GI issues.

In our segment on The Course, we talk about road tactics on Hagerman, as what is often acknowledged as the best part of the race: Sugarloaf.

And finally, Jonathan Lee’s training advice will — finally — cut you a little slack.

Thanks to Our Sponsors
We went out of our way, for this podcast, to reach out exclusively to companies we actually love and buy stuff from ourselves. Which is to say, you won’t find ads here for life insurance companies or mattresses or cooking kits that come to you in a box. These are all companies I buy stuff from and use pretty much every damn ride.

Please support them or I will cry.

Shimano

The Hammer and I are both terrible mechanics. I mean, truly awful. So we’re hedging our gear bets for when we race seven days straight (Breck Epic and Leadville) this year.

First, we’re each bringing three bikes: our Specialized Epic full suspension bikes, which we have at this point planned to race all 7 days on if at all possible. As backup, we each have geared hardtails. And as final secret bonus backup we each have our trusty singlespeeds. (If you see either of us on a singlespeed any of the seven days, you know things have gone seriously wrong.)

But I’m thinking / hoping that our Epics are going to be fine for the whole seven days, and a lot of that has to do with my experience so far. Specifically, Specialized Di2 just feels bombproof. Neither of us have needed any service to our drivetrains since we got these bikes back in April. Same thing goes for our XT cranks, brakes, and pedals.

Now, both the Hammer and I are kind of cautious and are easier on our gear than some, but I’ve been riding with other companies’ MTB drivetrains for a couple years leading up to this last Spring, and I never had as reliable of an experience as we’ve had this year. I’m super glad we’re riding and racing Shimano this year.

The Feed:

Last weekend, Hottie and I each used a variation of Maurtens drink mix on our big rides. And both of us are totally sold on it. No stomach issues, goes down easy, super easy to mix. Hottie’s super anal about stuff like this, so he loved the package precision; they tell you exactly how much water to use, no guessing with scoops and different sized bottles.

My overarching impression is that it’s a ridiculously non-intrusive way to get down a lot of calories. One bottle, 320 calories — it’s a little sweet, it’s a little thick, but there’s no aftertaste and I felt great — my stomach was fine, I didn’t feel that weird energy spike you get with some energy drinks. It tastes smooth, and it burns smooth. I am a fan.

And our podcast listeners can get a great price on a training and racing packs custom curated for Leadville racers. Go to TheFeed.com/leadville for the race pack, and there’s a link on that page to go to the training pack. And be sure to use the code LEADVILLE15 for a 15% discount on either of those boxes.

Banjo Brothers

At Leadville, and at any race, you will see riders with all sorts of crazy ways to carry their bike repair essentials. People tape or velcro stuff to top tubes, stems, seatposts and seat tubes. We say do yourself a favor, use our sponsor, Banjo Brothers, to get your flat fixing goodies strapped properly  to your bike.

And not just your race bike, but your commuting bike and your bikepacking bike…and they’ve even got great backpacks and messenger bags for when you’ve got to carry bigger stuff.

I’ve got a Banjo Brothers Bag  on every bike I have, and have been for a dozen years. They’re simple and they’re bombproof. They just work.

To get 15% off your order, go to Banjobrothers.com/fatty-favorites.

ENVE

I know we’re not talking about the Powerline descent ‘til next episode, but I want to preview an interesting fact about this descent. In my twenty finishes of this race, I bet I’ve passed more than 200 people on this section of the race, all of whom are faster than I am. Because they’re all stopped on the side of the road, coping with pinch flats.

But neither The Hammer nor I have pinch flatted even once since we’ve been riding with ENVE M525 wheels. It’s the wide hookless bead that really does the trick here. ENVE has a really wide leading edge for the hookless bead, and this broad surface creates a more forgiving platform on which the tire can bottom out, and proves extremely effective in reducing the likelihood of “pinch” flats. And with a lower risk , you can ride with lower pressures, which gives you better traction and rolling resistance.

For example, I’m currently 167 pounds and running 19lbs in front and 20 in the back. The Hammer is running 18 in front, 19 in back.

I mean, wow.

The Worst Thursday, Part 3

06.11.2018 | 9:12 am

A Note from Fatty: If you haven’t already, you should read Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this part.

We were all gathered now — Lisa, Blake, Kylie, me, and Austin (the cop), at the last place Lisa had seen her dad. But two hours had gone by since he had been here, and — obviously — Dee was somewhere other than where we all were.

Lisa’s brother Scott joined us, having hiked over from Squaw Peak — since it was a mountain Dee knew well, it seemed possible he would have headed in that direction. A good idea, but no luck.

Blake and Scott trudged off in one direction together. Lisa and Kylie stayed close to where they had seen their dad most recently. I stood near Austin, looking down the face of the mountain into Utah Valley. Austin he talked on the radio, asking for the Life Flight helicopter to come over and to get search and rescue in motion. I was just hoping I’d hear anything useful that came over his radio.

The helicopter appeared and landed in a field in the valley. It couldn’t fly until a couple of paragliders got out of the area. Once they landed, the helicopter took off and started flying back and forth, scanning the mountain.

“You’d be amazed at how much they can see,” Austin said, somehow anticipating my question: “Is there any way they’ll be able to see a man wearing a neutral-colored hat and muted colors for both his shirt and pants?” (In case you’ve forgotten, Dee’s the one on the right in this photo — not exactly day-glo clothing.)

None of us knew what to do, and none of us wanted to acknowledge that it was getting dark, nor what that implied.

But the truth was: we weren’t dressed for how cold it was getting. I wasn’t dressed for being outside at all.

Finally, it was Austin who told us: “You’d better head down, guys. We have a team up here and we’ll find him.”

So we started heading down the trail, yelling Lisa’s dad’s name, knowing that he almost certainly wouldn’t hear us; his cochlear implant hadn’t really done much to improve his hearing even before his stroke. Now he hears — or understands — even less.

It got to be fully dark. I got out my phone, which fortunately still had close to a full charge. It makes a not-half-bad flashlight, at least for a while.

We came across the first search and rescue person before we were a mile down. “We are going to search through the night. We’ll find him,” the man assured us. I’ve never been so grateful for positive confident words like that, and I was glad Lisa heard them.

We continued down, Lisa crying most of the time. I was keeping a tight filter on my words, because I didn’t want people to hear what I was thinking: “It’s cold and dark and he has no light or water or a jacket or anything. I worry he won’t survive the night.”

I knew we were going home to the likelihood of just sitting and worrying through the night. Sleep wasn’t a remote possibility. We’d drive back here before it got light to start searching.

But I was terrified of what kind of condition he’d be in when we found him.

And we’ll pick up there in the next (and final, I think?) installment of this story.

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