Thursday, October 3, 2013

... So Now I Know

Ride to Lava, folks!

Last weekend, I joined my first fully-supported multi-day cycling expedition. At the time I signed up, I didn't realize it was the first year for this ride. An inaugural event.

We rode from Smithfield, Utah, to Lava, Idaho, and back for a total of 162 miles in 2 days.

There were 41 cyclists and the race directors provisioned each of us with 2 lunches, 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, and 8 aid stations. In my case, they also let me ride in their car.

That's the fully-supported part.

Activities included.... cycling. A lot of it.


Soaking in the natural hot springs in Lava, a yoga session, a prize raffle, and exquisite views of ol' fashioned Americana goodness. We took back roads through small towns and farms, over mountains and rivers, down valleys.

It was gorgeous.

And cold.

The organizers did a stellar job, and it was fantastic to get to know some of the other riders, including a handful of athletes with whom I've been loosely training now for several months but don't actually know too well.

Most of the photos in this video were taken by others. I collected them (in no particular order) and gave them some Canned Heat.

Going up the Country.

If you didn't know already, I could not complete all 162 miles. When I stopped riding the second day, I posted on Facebook that I'd give details later.

Call me a woman of my word.

Climbing the Pass
A few miles outside of Lava, Morning of Day 2

So... I don't like to quit. But apparently it happens. Of all this year's ramped up craziness ~ races, events and training ~ this was my first (and hopefully only) DNF.

But now I know *WHY* I couldn't finish.

Along with my bike and helmet and a will to try, I brought along two infected kidneys.

I figured it was just the cold, being tense and working hard, plus maybe some anemia and hypothermia. But it ends up it was that blasphemed double kidney infection that was really getting me down.

I knew I didn't feel right before we ever started.

For one, I was exceptionally tired. I hadn't slept enough hours for the 2 nights previous, though the hours I got felt solid. My body was dragging. When I closed my eyes, I could drop off in a matter of seconds, no matter where I was.

That's not unusual for me... it's unheard of.

On the ride I went through stages:

  • uncomfortably cold and weary -
  • to numb and full of pain -
  • to mentally foggy and physically incapable.

If I'd stayed on the road I'd have been a danger to myself and others.

I'd done longer rides before, so I assumed it was just the weather conditions. And certainly, those were not to be underestimated.

Or at least, they didn't help.

There were additional potential culprits, each of which may have affected my performance separately or together: 1) doing a long run the morning before, 2) getting a flu shot the afternoon before, and 3) riding when the-time-of-the-woman was upon me.


No but, seriously. Blah.

Another consideration was my gear. Sadly, I wasn't prepared for the cold and unrelenting headwinds we experienced both days.

I had brought warm-ish clothes that I layered up, but they weren't cycling specific. I thought they'd be good enough. I was wrong.

They were insufficient.

Saw a lot of this...

The days' rides were both chunked up into 5 legs. On day 1, I rode legs 1-3 for a total of 46 miles. At that point, I was in rough shape, and the hardest thing I've ever done was decide not to go on.

No, that's an exaggeration. I've done harder things. But still.

When I arrived in Lava (via car) I was embarrassed to tell my team. Yeah, yeah, I'm emotional, but I was so embarrassed I was mostly trying not to cry. I kept choking up at the most inconvenient times.

As much as I wanted to hide in shame, I was honest and told them I'd hopped in a vehicle for legs 4-5.  My new friend Brian immediately said, "Good for you!"

People, if you're ever in a similar situation, just know that that was the exact right thing to say.

The next day I rode leg 1 and figured out fast I was headed down the same path as the day before. I quit while I was ahead. And by "ahead" I mean not hypothermic and vaporous.

It warmed up 10 degrees by lunchtime, so I popped onto my bike and rode leg 5 for a total of 44 miles Saturday.

In the end, I came home feeling pretty crappy that I'd only done 90 miles.

Then I just felt crappy.

Then I felt crappier.

My back -- which had been hurting quite terribly through the whole ride (in fact, I described it as 'right where my kidneys are') -- was the only part of me that ever got sore.

But instead of getting better, strangely, my back was getting worse.

I got up for my 5AM spin class Monday morning and struggled through the hour. I finished, yes, but it was so, so much harder than usual.

Then I woke up Tuesday morning feeling super nauseous, so that afternoon I went to the Instacare.

(Oh! And how cool is this? The Instacare doctor who helped me is a medical volunteer at IMAZ and has done multiple Ironman races, including Kona! So, he gave me a script plus a bunch of tips.)

Dr. Pratt and a lab technician confirmed that I had attempted to Ride to Lava with one too many things gone wrong.

Which changed my perspective in a hurry!

I went from, "I can't believe I only rode 90 miles," to "I can't believe I rode 90 miles!"

No kidding, kids. I pedaled  90 miles sick as sick.

Symptoms of kidney infections, all of which I experienced:
--Back pain
--Uncontrollable shivering
--Feeling tired and weak
--Having a general feeling of illness
--Poor appetite
--Abdominal cramps

That explains shivering for 3 hours straight, even in a heated car / motel / hot spring. And not wanting to eat lunch.

In addition to my pain and general malaise, I'm convinced my screwed up kidneys were also screwing with my hydration. You can't really hydrate right when your kidneys don't work. And when you're doing a long ride, you need hydration more than ever.

This week I'm focused on recovery, downing antibiotics with cranberry juice and sleeping long(ish) hours.

I'm almost out of antibiotics, and I'm "better" but I'm not better. That has me a little worried.

What started as a nice mandatory break for this semi-burned out girl has turned into the most inconveniently timed malady in my recent history of long-distance training. I have 44 days until my biggest race, and for every day I can't train I feel a mounting sense of panic.

In the meantime, I'm coping by buying lots of yummy cold weather cycling gear from Nashbar, a site my awesome physical therapist, who is himself an avid cyclist, suggested.

After all, I've got to be ready to Ride to Lava again next year!


Rosemary T said...

It's all about perspective. I was thinking wow-- rode 44 miles in one day.Impressive!! The scenery is indeed beautiful. My sister lived in Lewiston and currently lives in Trenton. Hope you feel "better" soon!

Lore said...

And for next year's "Ride to Lava," you will have all of the appropriate gear (and watch it be warm and none of it will be needed), and you will cycle all of it! I just know it!

Tammy and Alvin said...

Wow, Kel! I've always thought you were Superwoman in disguise and this is the final proof I needed. You are incredibly strong and constantly amaze me with the way you courageously face pain. I hope you recover soon. I'm rooting for you!