Sunday, September 2, 2007

What's Harder?

Riding a windy, rainy 1200K brevet or …. Going back to work after?

As I mentioned earlier PBP was pretty challenging, for everybody. I think having ridden so many rain sodden miles in the past gave me a bit better preparation for this version of PBP then I might have had otherwise. All along the route people commented “oh, your from Seattle, you are all probably used to this. Let me say this for the record:
Yes, here in the Pacific Northwest, we do ride in rain a lot, BUT ... that does not mean we like it any better than anyone else.

Anyway, back to the post ride, recovery, work etc.

I took Monday off, I knew that I would be jet lagged and I was. Monday, for me is more of a haze than any of the days on the bike. I know I was here, I know the cat kept leaping up on the bed attacking my feet and trying to get me out to the kitchen. But much beyond that is lost to me. I was sick, actually sicker than I thought.

I had a sinus infection and a slight cough before I went to France, I was trying desperately to get over it. In St Quentin before the ride I was feeling better and thought maybe I was turning the corner just in time.

Monday night, in the pouring rain I knew better. By Mortagne, my slight cough had turned into a pretty decent smokers hack, and my typical runny nose was starting to compete with the rains. By Tuesday I had the symptoms: heavy nasal discharge, frequent bouts of coughing up what looked to be little green curds. I could get more graphic but no need, I’m sure you all have ridden with colds at times, this was sort of like that. Some of my ride pals expressed concern, offering decongestants etc. I appreciated their offers but was actually doped to the gills pretty much. I'm sure that if I had subjected to an "in competition drug test" I would have been yanked from the peloton and sent home in disgrace. More drugs probably would not have made much difference. The sinus infection was in full bloom and the lung infection was developing nicely.

On Tuesday I had one bloody nose. It wasn’t too bad but a bit of a hassle. Wednesday I decided to try to back off on the decongestants a little. This resulted in an amazing sinus flow. Really, I left a trail of green slug slime across Brittany that probably represented a slippery road hazard for those who rode after me. This resulted in a lot more nose blowing and as a result, between Carhaix and Brest I’d had 4 bloody noses. The last one was a doozie, a gusher and hard to staunch. I went back to the decongestants. It was like that the whole way.

So work Tuesday through Friday was very challenging. I was really slammed with Jet lag after the return home. (Amazing that you can get on a plane in France, fly for 10 hours, and when you get off the plane your watch says an hour and a half has gone by). This makes a 24 hour day into a 34 hour day, hard for me to get my head around that. But unlike previous 1200k’s my body feels very good. No DOMS, no feeling like I had been flattened by a steamroller, no sore butt, hands, feet issues (one numb thumb tip), a little tight in the shoulders, but oh the cough and sinus problems have just made working in a small, poorly ventilated office very tough. I have given it some thought and I think I have just discovered the most important value of a custom bike with geometry just for me. Thanks again to Steve Hampsten, Tweedy, and Kent Ericson for creating what may be the perfect bike for me.

Once home I went to see the ENT Doc hoping he would finally pull out that magic pill that they keep in reserve for boys and girls who have been especially good (I think I could fake ‘especially good’)

He was impressed with my stories of the ride, but much more impressed with the condition of my sinuses. He made clear that sinus surgery is my best hope and really the end of the line for trying to get back to normal. We discussed the procedure and to me it sounds less like medicine and more like page 236 out of the Big Book of Medieval Torture Techniques. The procedure is scheduled but frankly I’d rather not be there.

The guy also strongly suggested that I not take on any more ‘epic’ adventures’ until after the operation and recovery period. I sort of laughingly told him about the 1000K scheduled for late September. After we both got through laughing and he figured out I wasn’t joking he was surprisingly stern.

This all sounds pretty dramatic but you need to know that my situation pales in comparison to what I witnessed a lot of riders going through. Riding with a real runny nose and a cough just does not stack up to some of the cases of Schirmers neck I saw, or the sore butt people I saw late in the ride, trying to set new records for distance ridden while standing.

The typical cold sores have popped out, and my nose is so raw the combination makes me look like a leper. Funny how used up your body is and you don’t even notice until you try to step things up just a bit. At the health clinic I always take the stairs; half way up though I found I had to either stop or ‘shift into granny’ to get to the top. Likewise for mowing the lawn or any other light duty work. It just takes a whole lot for your body to recover from this special kind of ‘fun’.

I’m working on a short vignette about a few of my ride partners and what it took for them to get to the start, and then the finish. It’s a classic PBP story; if I had not witnessed it first hand I might be inclined to call BS. Amazing, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Anyway now we have a three day weekend and I plan to scale things back. I’ll do some yard work, work on my bike, and go for the sunny south bank ride, oh and lay around on the patio like a lizard on a rock. Definitely gonna have to do something about that cat though.


  1. Wow - interesting story without even being the stories you're thinking of writing. Hope the sinus issues resolve well in your favor. But, I can't help it and have to ask: what's different about the current bike from the previous? Geometry? Sounds like this current model performed like a champ! See you in the spring.

  2. Hi Paul, good to hear from you.

    I have no 'scientific' evidence that it was the new bikes' geometry that resulted in so much less discomfort on days two through four, It's all anecdotal, but consider this:

    I have now ridden 5 1200K's and I think three or four 1000's. In all those rides upon starting up on the subsequent days my body has always ached, and it got progressively worse as those rides wore on, such that after the ride is finished I am usually very stiff and achey especially in my neck, and low back for several subesquent days.

    I have two ruptured discs in my low back and though I have learned to live with that, long rides, or even not so long rides when I am really pushing always give me something to remeber them by at least for a couple days after. That didn't happen this time.

    The only significant difference I can think of is the new bike. Though by the numbers the changes in geometry are not dramatically different the results are. In fact,when I got up in Loudeac on Wednesday morning I was pleasantly suprised to be able to bend over and squat to the floor as I was repacking my bag for the coming days ride. I noticed this even in my groggy state. I didn't really give the why much thought, but I had plenty of time to think about it in the next 800K. The same thing occured when I got up the next morning, again in Loudeac.

    It is possible that I am just grasping at straws trying to justify to myself the extravagance of such a new acquisition. Then to, my respiratory problems may have been giving me enough to think about that I just didn't realize I was aching.

    At any rate I don't think I'll go back to the old bike for a 1200K just to test the theory.

  3. Congratulations on such an epic ride! I honestly don't know how you guys do it. Admirable and inspirational. Hope you solve some of those sinus issues soon so you can get back on the bike.

  4. Paul, enjoyed catching up a little at the hotel and on the ride. Also glad that I didn't have to fight the green slime as well as fatigue. Andy

  5. Hey Paul:

    I'm glad I got to talk with in front of the Mercure before I left for Paris. I'll forward my busted Rivendell story as soon as I finish it up. As a bonus, I ended up with a really bad dry hacking cough that probably kept more than few of my neighboring Parisians up into the night!

    Patrick Shea
    Mill Valley, CA