Sorry about the lack of posts lately. Things are kind of brutal here right now. A few specifics from yesterday:
- Susan has to start chemo again soon. While Susan’s cancer is under control in a lot of places — the tumors haven’t come back in her lungs, for example — we’re having a very difficult time with the cancer in her bones. So she has to start chemo again soon.
- Susan was supposed to start chemo the day after I leave for Leadville. Luckily, the doctor says it won’t affect things one way or the other to start a few days later. That’s good, because…
- The chemo Susan will be starting will be pretty nasty stuff. It’s a pill she’ll take five of per day, and the side effects sound worse than the symptoms of anything I’ve ever had. So I’m glad she doesn’t have to start right when I’d be going to Leadville; I couldn’t live with myself taking a vacation while she starts a very lousy round of medication.
- The chemo Susan will be starting will now begin on the eve of our 20th Wedding Anniversary. “Happy anniversary, Susan! Here’s something that will make you violently ill!”
- The chemo Susan will be starting will cost us around $500 per month. If there’s ever been someone who’s been grateful he has a blog that actually makes a little bit of money, it’s me. Between my ads and the jerseys, that new expense is covered.
- The radiation doesn’t seem to be helping. Susan isn’t doing any better with her walking. She can’t feel her legs, and they don’t want to do what she tells them to do. She can still get around with a walker, but only just.
I’m pretty sure there’s more, but I’m too exhausted to remember right now.
Can you tell I’m feeling kind of down right now?
The thing is, I’ve got what seems to me to be a pretty funny post stuck in my head. I’m hoping to write it tomorrow (I was going to write it tonight, but this is about all I’m good for right now).
PS: There is actually one really good thing on the horizon for Susan — nothing to do with health, I’m afraid, but really cool nonetheless. The problem is, until / unless it really happens, I have been forbidden from telling anybody — not friends, not family, not anybody — what this potentially really good thing is. So I’m having to make do with just telling you there’s something good that’s on Susan’s mind, it’s big, and when / if I know more, you can bet I’ll let you know.
PPS: No, I don’t even know how soon I’ll know.
The Leadville 100 is just a couple weeks away, and I’ve got a problem: I don’t know what bike to ride, or how to set my bike up.
This is not the first time I’ve had this problem. I’ve puzzled over whether I ought to ride the full-suspension bike or the hardtail (not a choice this year, since I no longer own a full-suspension bike). I’ve pondered over whether to ride with a Camelbak, or go with bottles. I’ve agonized over the virtues of low rolling resistance versus good traction.
This year, though, is different.
This year, I’m not sure what to ride or how to set up my bike because my right shoulder is still separated, and still hurts like crazy. I can’t lift my arm above shoulder level, and only barely am able to stand and climb for any length of time (like, I can now climb standing for five minutes).
I’m going to explain the things I’m considering, and would appreciate your feedback.
This is the biggest decision I have to make, and it’s a tough one. Here’s why I haven’t made up my mind yet.
- The WaltWorks: If I hadn’t crashed recently, I’d be riding my fully rigid steel 29″ singlespeed, for certain. Dug, Brad and I had this great plan for riding the entire race together, Brad slumming at Dug’s and my speed. But right now I’m not sure that by the time the race begins (August ninth), I’ll be able to do the race on that bike. Singlespeeding requires upper body strength — constant pulling up on the handlebars — that I just don’t have right now. Will I have that strength back by 8/9? I don’t know. I worry about risking it.
- The Superfly: If I ride a geared bike, I’ll be able to remain seated for more of the race. And this isn’t exactly a slouch of a geared bike. But if I ride this bike, it’ll be just one more year of me riding a geared hardtail, but slower (much, much slower) than usual. What’s the excitement in that? And I won’t match Dug and Brad as we ride along together, wearing our sombreros and merrily singing a tune at the back of the pack.
So, say I decide to go with the WaltWorks…which is what I really, in my heart-of-hearts, want to do. Should I put a suspension fork on it? It seems like that would help my shoulder, but my shoulder usually gets hurt not from the up-and-down of rolling over rocks, but from sudden, unanticipated lurches where I try to recapture my balance after losing traction. A suspension fork won’t help with that.
Or, suppose I go with the Superfly? Is it OK for me to put a basket on the front?
The Real Question
Really, what I’m trying to figure out is: What is the bike setup that will give me the best chance of finishing this race in spite of my total lack of training, and in spite of my messed up shoulder, while still giving me a good, believable excuse in the event that I wimp out and bail?
I’m currently sitting in the waiting room (blogging via iPhone) at the local orthodontist as my boys both get braces.
This seems as good a moment as any to ask for theories explaining a curious phenomenon I’ve observed.
And no, I don’t know the answer. I have a theory, but it’s just that — a theory.
So here’s the setup.
The road from the Tibble Fork turnoff to the mouth of American Fork Canyon is an ideal working downhill. With its moderate pitch and loose curves, you can really open up and pedal your heart out. It’s fast. It’s fun.
When I ride this section of the road on my geared road bike, I coast at the same speed as everyone else, more or less.
But when I ride my Lemond Fillmore single speed road bike, I coast much, much faster than the group. The Fillmore is an incredibly fast downhiller. Anyone who has ridden with me will agree.
The question I have is, “Why?”
The Fillmore is stock, apart from the bullhorn bars and TT brake levers I’ve fitted to the end of those bars.
So that’s my question. Why would this $700 bike be such a rocket on the descents?
I look forward to your theories. If you have questions or need additional information, ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.
Once in a while, you’ll have a day where things are so busy that you have no realistic expectation of getting in a ride. You’ve just got too much to do. Optional (i.e., "fun") stuff is going to have to wait for another day.
And then, almost by magic, a "ride window" appears. An appointment falls through. You finish the errands before you expected to. Your spouse takes pity on you. Whatever. The important thing is, you’ve got maybe 70 minutes. Not enough time for a long ride, but certainly enough time for a good ride.
That’s what happened to me last Tuesday.
I got home from work, assuming that my next task was to start dinner for the family, followed by cleaning up the house.
But dinner was made. The house was clean. Susan doesn’t let a little thing like a paralyzing tumor in her spinal cord slow her down.
So I had just enough time for a short ride before taking the family out to a play (we’re a very cultural-minded family).
The question was, what kind of ride would I want to do when I only had just over an hour?
The answer, for me, was obvious and easy: Climb one side of Suncrest, drop down the other side, and then turn around and come back. Two four-mile, 1500′ climbs.
I say the decision to do a climbing ride was obvious and easy, and I mean it. I just love climbing rides. So far, this week, my rides (all road — shoulder’s still no good) have been:
- Monday: Up AF Canyon to Alpine Loop Summit, down to Cascade Springs, and then back again: about 6500′ of climbing
- Tuesday: Up the South side of Suncrest, down the North side, and then back again: about 3000′ of climbing
- Wednesday: Repeat of Monday
- Thursday: Up AF Canyon to Alpine Loop Summit and back again: about 3500′ of climbing
Nobody’s forcing me to select these rides, and I’m not doing them because I’m training for a race. I like to climb.
But — and I get this question pretty often from friends and neighbors — why do I choose these routes, when I don’t have to?
That question isn’t as easy to answer.
Back to Tuesday
As I was climbing up the North side of Suncrest, I was pondering that question. "Why am I climbing? Why do I seek this out?"
See, climbing seems like a good idea except when you’re actually doing it. This is the grand paradox of climbing.
Then another rider turned onto the road, about 75 yards ahead of me. He looked strong. Good legs, nice bike. A worthy opponent.
"Hewwo Wabbit," I said, in my best Elmer Fudd voice. You know, because Elmer chases Bugs Bunny. And because he’s bald. And short.
Look, let’s just say I identify with Elmer Fudd and leave it at that, OK?
I stepped up my pace, the pain easier to endure now that I had a more exciting objective than merely to survive the climb.
I had prey.
The guy I was trying to catch saw me by the time I was 50 yards behind him, at which point he stood up and picked up his pace.
Ha. He had sacrificed any legitimate claim to not caring whether I caught him. He cared, all right.
In fact, he cared deeply.
Each time he looked back and saw I was closing the gap, he’d stand and put on a burst of speed. A foolish tactic. Bursts like that cost more than they’re worth. Ullrich-like, I remained seated, staying in second gear. Knowing that to him it would look like I’m going slow because my cadence is low.
Knowing that he wouldn’t get a look at my tell-tale quads until it was too late.
Hey, How’s It Going?
Eventually, inevitably, inexorably, I caught him. And by law, that meant we were required to exchange pleasantries.
I went first.
"Harsh climb, isn’t it?" The subtext, of course, being that while the climb was indeed harsh, I was faster than he was up it.
"Yeah," he replied. "And it’s just too hot to climb well." A lame excuse, because we were both cycling in the same climate.
"Have a good ride," I concluded, pulling in front of him. And then, ten seconds later, looking back to see if he had cracked.
My victory was complete.
"This," I thought to myself. "This is why I climb." Because it’s the closest thing I’ve got to a superpower. And by "superpower," I don’t mean some lame freebie superpower like the kind you get because you were born near a red sun or bitten by a spider, for crying out loud — "acquired by lottery" superpowers suck.
I mean the kind of superpower Batman has. And don’t believe for a second Batman doesn’t have superpowers. He has tons of superpowers. It’s just that he’s earned them all.
I climb because I can roll up beside someone on a bike, and unless climbing is also his superpower, I can surprise him.
Eventually, it all comes down to this: I climb because I can.