Tuesday, 31 May 2011

finally the sun shines

Which was great for the Lilac Festival down the street from my house, which created a lot of traffic but I didn’t make it down to see what it was all about.  Also for the deadgoat Giver8er, but 8h of riding isn’t in my body’s capacity right now either.  So it was mostly errands, doing “moving in” type little projects that a normal person would have done within a week of moving in, and a few ventures outside.  I’m going to try riding to work for some rehab on the Achilles, which is at worst 8 minutes thirty seconds with disadvantageous traffic light timing, or much lower if I can roll unencumbered most of the way.  Got a nice setup going for my computrainer – even though it’s generally the wrong time of year for it… it’s just that spinning without the threat of any sort of torque is good right now.  Got a music stand to put the iPad on and clip the computrainer controller to the side of, which is elegant. 


Motorcycle is now running, which is always a bit of work in the spring.  Watched the Long Way Around which got me pumped to get it going… and fired up the insurance policy on it again.  It feels like summer.


Still doing physio, foam roller, stretching, icing, anti inflammatories, etc. for the Achilles, hoping it gets better soon.  I’m not cut out for only doing cruise rides on flat terrain along the bike paths, although the high water is neat to see.



Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Dr. Part 2

Apparently I had this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptosporidiosis  Awful.  But incubation time, duration of illness, and the fact that I was in a way immunocomprimised (just being exhausted) all make sense.  Makes sense I got it from untreated water too. It's gone though, I turned down whatever medicine they offered.

We're at Sheldon Chumir trying to get a newly focused look on her side given the latest on my side. All the symptoms line up. It's busy. A drunk guy got beat up for his stuff, and is bleeding and swearing at the nurses. Eventually he got ejected for being an ass. He's clearly upset upon arrival, but has lost (or never had) the right instinct on who is helpful, who isn't, and how to behave right in the right circumstances - 'cause ignorant belligerence isn't a one sized fits all recipe. So he narrowly missed a doctor's bed with being wiped down, administered painkillers, and stitches for going to jail now. I'm guessing he's another one who's NPV negative on the tax/medical system. Tough to see a turnaround happening either.

I'm munching on my organic salad from Sunterra, a luxury my guts couldn't take before. There's not a lot of other suit and tie types wielding blackberries.

5h later and we've got some samples in, but they say its something you'd only treat symptoms on even if it was crypto sporidium and wouldn't prescribe anything for, which is different than the advice I got. We'll see what the results show. Some of those drugs that are designed to kill stuff in your guts kill to broad a spectrum anyway. So its suffer time until at least tomorrow. Got a couple IV's of saline solution for hydration and some nausea and anti inflammatory IV too.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Illness part 2

So the plot thickens. Cindy is ill with similar symptoms and weakness I had, but essentially arrived from Vancouver and felt that way a few hours later, which in the absence of time and transmission events is surprising. Makes me wonder if mine had an incubation period and hers did too from last weekend. I was weak but not ill on the last race day. I've got "stuff" in for lab tests, but it would seem the guess of simple water borne or food borne stomach bug as slipping if transmission is an issue in this context. iPads are the medical system's friend. The battery life is longer than the longest wait and I can do newspaper, read work stuff, games and general communications. The other people here got through the stack of crummy torn up magazines quickly and are staring at walls. At least I know this place is only 2 blocks from my house for future reference. Spent a disproportionate amount of the day at a walk in and wait forever clinic. After that they said go to Sheldon Chumir slightly more hospital type thing where we wited, got the shivers/shakes, then went in for blood tests, IV and sleep.
Departure from Chumir was different than entrance. Waiting area was darker and definitely more alcohol aroma and blood in sight. This place must be a gong show most nights, especially during stampede. Highlight of my drive to Foothills Hospital was the next guys trying to attain emergency patient status by long boarding down the bike path on the 19th street hill complete with near simultaneous double wipeout when hitting the street/curb interface at the bottom of the hill and the ensuing full flail rag doll finish.  I drove myself and they took her.
Foothills on Saturday night is morbidly fascinating. Thuggish types in full shackles with police. A drunk native couple where the girl's bleeding face and missing teeth are due to falling off a bike. I suspect otherwise, but that's for later. Coincidentally a client who's rushed in to see a father. Relative to Chumir they seem much more intent on keeping guests away, which I guess makes sense, at least in the short run. The drunk "cyclist's" partner made a commotion then left. She later fled from her room, found him in the lobby, and had a messy argument involving cops, missing teeth and bloody face no obstacle to this. These two clowns in my estimation are NPV negative on their tax base vs. societal services equation.
The extra IV, anti inflamatories, and test to rule out meningitis (spinal fluid sample) in a negative pressure room were interesting, as is the 4 doctors and half dozen nurses medical problem solving question sets and logic I've been party to hearing over the last few days. We went home at 3am which was a long day. I got some sleeping in on the floor of the Foothills room, but was happy to do own bed. The conclusion is nasty virus, but not meningitis. I still don't have my sample test results back, but seems like we're both on virus patrol.  Nasty virus means buckle down and treat symptoms but body needs to solve it. I had no jump start hydration with 3 IV bags, so she's ahead there, plus gravol and over the counter flu medications to reduce fever and the other bad feelings. Still not fun.
I'm on home nurse duty. Hot and cold are the main vocabulary, it's funny how much it shrinks. Shivers to sweats. Other than that I'm a revivalist jello maker, tea with honey maker, mini yogurt flavor picker, blanket arranger, and so forth. For me it was the worst (by intensity and duration) I've ever had.
I got out for a short ride with a co-worker yesterday morning for an out and back on Coal Mine Road before we started the medical system episode. Lovely morning in every respect to be on a bike, none of that awful wind. The easy pace felt very hard for me and subsequently my Achilles doesn't like the feel of stairs. This is the next thing to address now that I'm past gross illness. Craig has similar crepitus (we both had creaking Achilles). Aspirin, elevation, rest, gentle stretch, some gentle movement, ice, and physio with massage, ultrasound and electric stimulation seem to be the modern remedies. Doesn't add up to a showing at the giver8er next weekend.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Light at end of tunnel

I’ve systematically followed up the hardest (ie. most volume combined with least preparedness) race of my life with the worst recovery.  After 4-5 days of not eating solids and general delirium, dehydration, and expelling all nutrients, I elevated my status to general functionality underlain by feeling gross for another week – limited food intake, still struggling to hydrate, completely sedentary, low levels of nutrition absorption, etc.  Now on the 13th day, I have appetite for some tasty foods which until this point grossed me out.  Steak and greasy Caesar salad sound good for a change.  Salty take out stir fry with hot sauce sounds good.  Yogurt still sounds good, but not an exclusive diet item. 


I’ll try to ride this weekend, especially given the giver8er next weekend.  I have no idea if I’ll just feel weak and junky, as I’m still sleeping a lot and not feeling spry, or if my Achilles will balk at activity again.  But it’s better than spending all my time white faced and stomach churning.


We’ll see what the Dr.’s visit turns up, other than testing my patience.  The experience was characterized by long bouts of waiting interspersed by a small amount of good advice which I expected going in “we don’t know until we get a sample analyzed, and if you did get here during the time you were violently ill we would have thrown some medicine your way to help alleviate the issues, but given you’re feeling decent now we’ll do the exact approach and figure out exactly what the lab shows first.” 


It’s nice just to have my wits back and not feel extremely ill just by being me.  The feeling of that kind of illness is awful, and especially for that duration.  What a writeoff of time.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

slow recovery

first, the big news of the weekend is Tori made it all the way on the Tour d' Afrique.  I'm so impressed, and even moreso from the crippled state an event 1/10th the length complete with luxury hotels has left me.  I've thought about it a bit over the weekend, but to be honest, I can't think about it too much.  Any daydreaming or pondering a bike trip that large gets shut down by instinct right now given the way i'm feeling - it hurts the fibre of my self to even picture it.

my milestone for the weekend has been dabbling with a few bits of solid food, but I can't eat very much at all and after a small meal have to lie down.  did a very small ride with Cindy which was nice for fresh air and just getting some circulation.  the route was nice, but saturday's winds were awful.  Calgary does it's best to be unpleasant as much as humanly possible it seems.  when I have energy and can temperature regulate my body better I care less, but this just seemed so harsh and gross relative to Portugal.

i find it hard to stay awake for more than 6h straight, standing for any length of time isn't in the cards as i feel the need to lie down, and overall i feel very low energy.  like, the deepest fatigue i've ever felt.  but it's not so much my appendages, just my soul has little energy.  that whole not eating much for a week while waging a war of attrition with Portuguese microbic vermin of some sort took a lot out.

i bought a bunch of polysporin with all the extras.  this isn't the time to go for not top of the line ointment i felt.  and some bandaids.  I'm a good customer of both this week.

dinner today was cup of soup, a couple pancakes, couple spoons of pudding, a small piece of chicken (like what most people would refer to as a chunk that fell out the side of their chicken sandwich), and a half can of fake margarita (essentially lime pop) that I found at shoppers drug mart.  the upside is food has never had so much flavour before.  a pancake has layers of doughy, yeasty, milky, buttery.  buttered toast tastes intensely grainy, salty, greasy.  fruits are unbelievable.  I've got a list of stuff I'm gonna crush when I can get back to burning calories willy nilly.

when i walk the stairs my legs burn.

Friday, 13 May 2011


In a rampant case of entirely un-ideal recovery, I managed to catch a stomach bug on Monday night in Lisbon.  Few guesses as to what it’s from, but nevertheless it wasn’t welcome.  My body was already depleted from 9 days of hard(est) race I’ve done, and now I went on pure empty for a grand total of 4 days.  It’s all a blur, but for the most part it was pure delirium and sleep.  I think I ate about 400 calories a day, and only fluids.  Of those 96 hours, I’m sure I was awake less than 10 in total.  I’ve never slept that much before.  What really concerned me is that from the dinner then airports with friends, to home 1 day, to home the second day, is it just kept getting worse with me being more incapable and uncomfortable each day.  I’m not sure how much was real sleep and how much was just “out” so I didn’t have to feel ill.  My luggage is still by the front door, my plants unwatered, and a floor of my house unvisited – just front door to bed.  I mostly just shuffled from bed, to bathroom, to occasionally lying on the floor of my shower and back through the cycle.  I can tell it’s massively stunted recovery as my road rash has healed minimally as all my body’s efforts have gone to whatever bug battle was being waged.  I really haven’t had it that bad/long before.  Turning point seemed to happen (about time!) at midnight last night.


Today I have my mind back instead of pure misery, it’s so nice to be able to think again instead of just moan.  It’s weird to do things like stand up, pick up a towel, or focus on a concept without it being insurmountably hard, after a week earlier doing trip mountain pass crossings with 3,800m of vertical in 140k on a bike seemed like it was hard but manageable.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Explorer Nutbrown

Monument to the Explorers

Museum try hards

Past closing time on our one tourism day.


Squares aren't complete without statues of guys on horses.


Great big peacock at the castle.


From high point of Castello St. Jorge.


Those are impressive tan lines and leg scratches!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

TransPortugal Day 9 wrapup

This morning had a few long faces. Jon and Craig aren't eating and are feeling ill. Craig and I reversed roles and for once he slept in till last minute. I did his bottles and bike, and found one of the 4 bottles had a lot of mold going, so mystery solved on his end.

All three of us started, although Jon's front tire appeared to be going soft at the start line.

We did the sharp climb, the rolling roads, the valleys towards to coast. Craig was behind, Jon was too once he stopped to fix the flat. None of us were riding very fast. Eventually got sight of the ocean. Once I saw ocean, my achilles heel for the day became my left achilles - no prior sign of pain but it wasn't happy today. Did the walk across the beach, then the steep climb up to the straight shot descent.

A Spaniard was behind me and insisted on doing the cross-country race "me first" move onto the descent, I just took a line a few feet to the left. It's a steep, behind your seat, only can rub off speed but accelerate the whole way down kind of descent with loose rocks. I got the perfect action camera view of him coming unglued, rolling a few feet on his front wheel, then exploding with bike and body rolling down the hill. I just stuck to my side and rolled on.

Few more ups and downs along the coast... came around one corner and saw a water crossing full of jagged rocks in the descent, and thought it'd be perfect to unweight and skip getting a flat. Thought I did so adequately, didn't feel any real impact, but rear tire didn't like it and was flat. Lots of Stans in the tube, but it was a long rip. As I put in a tube Jon came by. He said Craig's combo of no food and sore left achilles had him abandon at a cafe earlier so Jon rode on.

We did the last two climbs together, then the tailwind flats toward Sagres. Despite the slight downhill and tailwind with some paved sections, we were doing everything we could not to make it. I was standing for the majority of the last 15km with my left heel on my left pedal to avoid employing my achilles, other than a few road downhill coasts where I could clip in and do no pressure spinning. Once we ticked over the only 10km to go mark, about two minutes later Jon went into a bout of dry heaving and other excitement while riding. We were going to finish, but it certainly wasn't coming with elegance today.

We finally made it into Sagres and through the entire town to the beaches on the east side where the finish line was. Felt nice to be done - sat motionless and enjoyed the commotion. As we sat there Craig rolled in as he changed views and softpedalled the remainder of the day.

Photo and dip in the ocean, then up to our minimalist white hotel to pack bikes. My crank arm is stuck on so mechanics working on that, other than that I'm just super mellow.

This last week took more energy out of me than I thought. Just to finish this race you need excellent fitness, an advantageous power to weight ratio, reliable equipment and navigation, and a head stubborn enough to deal with all the rest that appears along the way. The route crosses the country in the longest way possible, to take in the mountains, plains and algarve. For all that, I get to sit on an elegant patio looking at sail boats bob in the marina and the big blue sea.

Kate finished 4th overall which is awesome, the race organizers loved her.

I beat my age with a 29th, and the finishers paper they give you is very nice with a high resolution map of the route in the background.

Craig and Jon didn't officially finish but they had more than enough memories for the highlight reel regardless and thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it was punishing on all of us.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

TransPortugal Day 8

I woke up feeling good, but as we started off through the rolling countryside I didn't have much power and was off the back of the lead group within 15 minutes. Rode with a few buddies for a bit, till my new friend Paulo Marques (who'll be at BCBR next year, aside from the 4-5 Portuguese who will come this year including Alfredo, Joao, Ana Isabel and I'm not sure who else) went down crossing railway tracks. He's strong on flats and descents, he caught up, passed, and I drafted into the wind for about a half hour, then we came to a stop crossing a road and saw the lead group a hundred yards up on a straight slight incline into the wind. I felt good all of a sudden and decided it was time to bridge up and get some real draft. As a side note to all this, my scraped forearm hurts. Every time my hands/arms jiggle, which on an off road mountain bike race is a lot, it hurts.

Made it close cresting the hill, then worked hard on the descent and next hill to get nearer. Not easy, but a super good interval. I assumed that I'd burn matches trying to stay in draft today then fall back to reserve like yesterday.

Once the group turned so I could see what was going on, it was Marco (day one winner) off the front, Craig chasing, and the remainder of the field spreading out in the mayhem to stay on. Not, as you may have guessed, ideal circumstances to try to bridge up.

I made it on eventually as the alternative was even less pleasant, but relaxing group draft was not to be had, more like redline chase. Stayed in for maybe a half hour till the group was whittled down, then blew. That was the last I saw - Jon still in chase group, Craig gone.

Reserve tank lasted a while, but then I realized I had burned what was in the legs and guts weren't delivering any more. Didn't feel good. Held on for a few hours but went backwards a lot on no power. Steve from Texas caught me at one point (he broke a chain earlier) and we rode a big downhill with a couple corners at the bottom together. I was out front, and on last one I realized I made a wrong turn and started slowing, then saw a dog and hit the brakes harder. Steve had is eyes on his GPS and rear ended, inverted, and got his leg against my seat stay with my tire digging into his calf as we still coasted, but his body was face down on the gravel as he was twisted up like a twizzler. This would have been an ideal time for a helmet cam to capture the carnage. Once we untangled and assessed damage, it was time to move on promptly as we didn't want further interest from said dog.

I pulled off shortly thereafter for 3 mini cokes to try to help the energy, but it only helped a bit. Started slogging through the river crossing section. Eventually a trip to the woods left me feeling a bit better. Downed a bunch of food and felt good for the super steep gravel climb about 45 minutes later. Drilled it without dismounting (steep logging type roads) which was a decent accomplishment at this stage of the game.

Day was getting long, and on the pavement after the descent I had to change batteries in the GPS for first time - not a good sign as they're good for just over 8h

Grinded it up the neverending 20k paved climb that always had another up at the next corner. Rode with Dutch Daniel a bit and he splurged for cokes and a ham sandwich at one of the so-called tops. Eventually made it in after the 9k descent.

Kate held in for 13th on a long day. I thought of her in the numerous river crossings - most of the time road rash and dog bite stitches aren't recommended to wade through natures finest a dozen times per day. She eats very little on the bike, it amazes me.

After I last saw him stalking down the breakaway, Craig had a shotgun style blowout of a tire and didn't finish unfortunately, but Marco had been dropped and a lead group of 4 had formed with a Portuguese, a Dutchman, a Canadian and a Spaniard.

Jon was probably 30 something, hard day on the innards I understand. He ate very little at dinner.

Our hotel is unbelievable. My room is nicer, big, and more stylish than a $1.7mm Le Germain penthouse I looked at in Calgary, which of course in itself is a high level of nice, big and stylish. We're treated well when not being slaughtered by bicycle.

I'm clumsy when I walk because my legs are broken down and a new personal achievement is that I have a blood blister formed inside a regular blister I've had for a week.

Friday, 6 May 2011

TransPortugal Day 7

We started today in a relative panic with Jon trying to get a wheel/find GPS/fix bike for start. He ended up chasing on after staring late by a tiny bit.

Today was relatively flat, but with smallish rollers all day. I felt good at breakfast... so I decided I'd just burn matches to stay in the group as long as possible since flat + headwind are totally better to do that way. This plan coaxed out probably the dozen hardest intervals I've done in the last year.
The river crossing had too much water to cross, so surprise surprise, our day got longer by 11k for a total of 154. Who needs short days?

Intervals came from the Dutch skinny climber twins drilling it on hills, to the pro triathlete drilling it on crosswinds so we could all gutter ride with no draft, to Marco drilling it on the rollers to yo yo the group. All hard. To add insult to injury, a farmers car went by on a muddy road and showered me with mud from a puddle. There was so much it felt like I got hit with 3 snowballs at once.

I held on till about 70k. Didn't remount at a river crossing fast enough and was off. Got going again at a sensible pace and yellow jersey Gjis came by trying to get back on after a mechanical. I drafted him at mach speed on the flats, then when it went uphill I was off so fast it wasn't even funny. He puts out a lot of power for that body size, I'd guess he's at or under 120lbs.

It's almost laughable... had 75k to go, or about half way, had just ridden my hardest hammer ride of the year 7 days into riding overload, and I wasn't going to get to massage and finish line snacks without 75k more of headwind. I got that REM(?) song in my head "everyone hurts sometimes" but for me it was "everything hurts sometimes.". Legs were fried, arm was sore, hands have had enough bumps to last a while, butt is sore, and feet sore from putting power to the pedals. Neck sore too.

Anyway that's a long bike race, so quit whining and tune it out. Everyone has lots of sore bits by this point. On my own in the wind I didn't want to slow up too much, thought I could still catch a bunch of people. There were guys in the group who I knew wouldn't ride hard solo, plus it's not over till its over. Rode alone and saw two guys at a water stop who didn't even try to ride with me. Solo for another 40 mins till three Portuguese came up - guys riding together who won't even socialise with other Portuguese. I drafted for a bit after they did the blow by, did some rotations, but got tired of them pulling through by a millimetre before cutting into the line then soft pedalling. Got to a river crossing and the guy who was behind me came through and put his bike right in front of mine to remount even though I was about to hop on - so either entirely oblivious or being a jerk, so I just decided I'd try my chances into the wind on my own. A few gates came up that were jumpable, but even without that I put solid time into them by the finish.

Kept looking across the fields and ended up reeling in 3 more; felt good at the end chasing down a few across the fields, including a Spanish guy that's got a Cannondale Flash fully weight weenie'd, I swear it weighs like what my road bike does.

Craig and Jon stayed in the lead pack... but the lead pack didn't catch a few of the early starters so Kate got 4th, Craig got 5th, and Jon came in just a smidge after when the ending got strung out, I think 14th. I managed 18th which drained a lot but was fun to actually feel a pack racing dynamic again instead of just slogging.

This race is hard even without the other little bits of bonus distance thrown in. It dawned on me while riding that it's about the distance of La Ruta, then TR, then BCBR all rolled into one 9 day blast. The amount of race food we've gone through is nothing short of amazing - we're now pooling so we can buy less stuff here (less to carry home). But laid out at the start, if anyone said you were going to eat that pile in a week, it'd seem just ridiculous.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

TransPortugal Day 6

First, factual correction for yesterday. The fellow Craig and I rode with was a different Portuguese guy. Similar face but my mistake.

The story involves hill accelerations, bridging gaps, and just hard smart riding, but to cut it short, Craig won again. Very awesome. He led the last climb up to the castle from the group he was in, but the little Dutch twin pulled back 55 seconds so the crested together, then rode the downhill and sprinted in.

Jon abandoned the stage. Had a series of double pinch flats beyond what his patch kits, tubes and CO2's could do. Also broke a spoke again and wheel warped further.

Kate had a steady day and survived. Antibiotics, warmer and digestion seem like they're playing a bit of a role.

I had a hard wake up, didn't feel good from the start. Felt hungry, but I don't think my food from last night digested well. Ate breakfast by force, then went up for a nap. Ended up at the start line 30 seconds before start.

Felt fine on the first technical climbs, and on the cobble descents picked up a bunch of spots. Wanted to just get in a good rolling group for the long distance. Got gapped on a smooth steep climb to a town then took some wrong turns and started on with a new group. That went fine on the rolling hills and technical descents until the fuel in my muscles ran out and it became apparent I hadn't digested a lot. Was off the back on rollers, took another wrong turn, ended up alone. Also lost a bottle. Beautiful day and long day so I decided to spin it easy solo, stop for water more instead of fighting to stay in groups, just slowed down to a crawl and plugged away, looking for water in each place.

By noon I backtracked after a wrong turn and bumped into a group of 6. Hard to tell where the field was when I kept going wrong. Felt good at their pace, especially on a road section. We got near another group so I rode up to the next and it felt easy. The 4h morning spin saved a lot of legs, and my stomach started working. Kept rolling forward through groups on the road because nobody wanted to pull into headwind. Did most of the farmer gates solo, which was good as I could do more hopping them. Did one shoulder height - it had a sturdy beam at the top that aided vaulting. More were open this year with farmers working, but hopped half the closed ones.

Got caught near some field with cow footprints everywhere, but didn't want to get caught, so pinned it on the dry cowfootprint "cobbles", hopped two gates and was off.

Last 75km were solo. Felt really good, just cruised along easy. Saw some big storks. Did a low speed wipeout after a gate with a water bottle in hand and a bug in my face. Of course instead of a gloved hand hitting first I put out a soft as can be underside of forearm and ground it into some gravel. Oops. Probably the right way to go though as a sore hand wouldn't have wanted to hold the bars. Has dirt in it.

Came in at about 8.5 hours, and as it turned out it was my best day even with doing an extra 3k and soft pedalling first few hours. Looks like it was a tough day on a lot of people considering 8.5 hours was 25th, or roughly middle. Man this is a long race!

Good day to be short oil and gas too... Bam!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

TransPortugal Day 5

Today was supposed to be an easy day. 145km with a castle-top finish up 20+% cobble paths didn't feel easy.

Jon had his best day yet and finished 13th. It was an interval climb sort of day which seemed to suit him well. He hung with the lead group until the hike-a-bike hill (see below). Looks like everyone is coming into form a bit - good job Jon! On top of that, his parents met us today at the hotel on their holidays.

Kate is hurting a bit from the antibiotics, but pulled in another 6th - sitting in 4th overall still.

Craig had 3 flats, bummer for him. At least he's had some highlights, plus I got to ride with him a bunch today.

I felt decent this morning and hung with the lead group on the coast down the first roads. Once we hit fire-break road along the hills it sped up as it was endless rollers. I was doing fine until I hopped a puddle and one of my friend Gian Malar's Swiss acquaintances (small world!) told me something came out of my pocket. It was my phone/tools/money in a zip loc so definitely needed to pick that up. Lost the group and was on my own. Eventually Tom and I paired up for some road and put in a few good miles, but we parted just before a town where a circus was setting up. From there it was downhill pavement which was fun, rolled along pretty well in big ring. Craig caught me (he flatted earlier) and we worked together to reel in a half dozen riders. One we couldn't catch for a while was Marco the guy who won the first stage... no idea what happened to bump him from lead group, but that explained his pace. He was upset with Craig's stage win yesterday for some reason or another.

So here I am with two stage winners who've got some history together, 40k into a 145k stage, and all I was really hoping for is Pedro to come by and snap a photo in the rolling meadows since Craig and I were riding together and both had full deadgoat kit on. I pounded back some food and held on. The combo of them going easy and allowing me to stay on, with me drilling it, was the name of the game. I hoped to hold onto the next climbing section at least as it was advantageous to stay with a group for a while.

I have little idea of how long that section lasted, I think from about 45 to 80km. Once the climbing started I said don't wait, Craig pinned it and dropped Marco, and I went slow until I recovered a bit. Only 65k to go... felt empty. So much for easy day.

Didn't see anyone for a long time. Covered ground, ate, looked at the sights. Portuguese countryside has a lot of meadows with nice flowers and smells. Some Dutch guy caught me on a road section, needless to say a big Dutch guy is a great companion for riding headwinds on flat to the next town. The massage team passed in a car which was a nice pick me up to take my mind off how long my ass has been on a bike seat, how many hours I can ride tempo in a day with stage winners or Dutch roadies, how many blisters my hands have, etc.

He let me go on the next climb after we filled up for water, and when it peeled off for gravel I passed Craig fixing a flat again. He had what he needed, but bummer of a day.

Climb after rolling climb after rolling climb led us to another town for water, then off to the forest paths again. Did a steep descent to a stream that had a trail straight up the other side. I saw two guys ahead and hiked for all I was worth, caught one but not Tom. This is the hill where the Dutch twins attacked and dropped the remainder of the lead group. Ridiculous, but I guess if you can do 500W for 3 minutes and weigh about 50kg it works.

Endless rolling roads between fields, rock walls on both sides, and a few gates. Some stick got my left ear and cut it enough that blood dripped down, got my head too behind in my hair which I don't quite get, and ripped my helmet strap and took a chunk of foam out. Oh well. The sting took away from the hurt of the saddle and legs for a bit.

Around this time I could see a few guys coming from behind in a group, the Swiss guy who told me I dropped stuff this morning ahead, and a couple sharp peaks with castles on top like 20k away. I had a good day up to this point other than a little trail side break, and didn't really want a group of three to go by. Caught Swiss guy but he was too fried to work (not too windy, but just having a pace buddy on the trails helps too). Kept pounding the monotonous taste of gel and driving on.

Finally got to bottom of castle hill, ear was itching. A Portuguese guy was 30 seconds up; shoulder checked and saw 3 guys closed on the last bit of headwind road and were right behind. Ugh. Didn't want it to be that way so just pinned it up the steep sidewalks/cart paths or whatever they are. Portuguese guy got off on some stairs, but they were wide spaced so I could ride up them. I got off when I made a wrong turn on a steep incline and he went by. I walked back and up, then photographer was there. I hope I re-mounted before he clicked, sheesh.

Pinned it on a few more hills, took one more wrong turn, then saw the remainder roll in after me at the finish line. I think another 6.5h day... man this is a physical challenge. Of the many ups and downs of the hills, I didn't get the ups and downs of poor fitness as much today, none of the "about to meet your maker feeling", none of the "I want to lie down right here and cry" feeling. So I guess that's good. The duration and the proliferation of soreness through my body is ridiculous, I'm sore almost everywhere now for days. My ears weren't sore but now one of those is too. Hands and feet. Legs and back. Hamstrings, glutes and calves. Shoulders and neck. Saddle. Shins and forearms from bramble bushes. Eyes from sunscreen and sweat. Wow. My nose feels fine, and memory is recording a lot of fun and a lot of beautiful countryside and sights, so I'll count my blessings. My spiritual journey today came in the form of half an extra strength muscle relaxant pill before massage. I was putty.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Celebratory Cerveja

Life is good!

TransPortugal Day 4

Today was 110km with about 2,900m of climbing, "easy" says Antonio after the first few days. There were a couple of notable climbs, but the rest was "Portuguese flat" which is like riding rollers at the nordic center for 6h - entirely draining. Few puddles, but other than that, blue skies and warm. The scenic highlight of the day was Monsanto ("the most Portuguese town"), a hilltop town where everything - houses, stores, churches are built into/around/against the massive granite boulders of the mountain. We climbed up to it via the Roman road exit and left through the entrance, and all I can say is if human technology stuck with Roman roads and didn't advance to the more standard European cobbles, suspension bikes would have been invented centuries ago.

Craig had been reviewing the course profile last night, elected to carry enough water for the whole day, and speculated as to where the attacks may happen to split things up. Turns out his analysis was pretty sound. I can't do Craig's racing play by play justice, but to cut the story short, he won. I'd say it's mostly because he's awesome, with some badass thrown in for zest. It's one of those moments where you love your friends for being who they are, with a layer of awesome on top. And his GPS was on! No rumours have surfaced yet on whether he's cancelled his plane ticket home due to the appeal of the Euro stage racing scene... although he's all smiles with the general vibe of it all so far.

Kate did a 7th but I haven't heard the story, other than once the lead group went by that she bridged back up to them after one more time on some technical.

Sounds like Jon had a good day and ended up 21st. Everyone is doing the "right thing" and placing better than their age except me!

I felt sluggish off the start and forgot to load my map, so had to wait till a smooth enough stretch of dirt to do some on-the-go GPS adjustments. After 50k felt ok, lots of longer climbs, one descent where a screw top rattled off my bottle, and some fast granite sand paths. At about 70k our group had coalesced to 8. A ninth rider, a faster Portuguese guy went by after recovering from previous derailleur issues. Went right up to the front and rode everyone off. I did a couple seconds of pondering then decided to go hop on, figuring I could probably do at least a good portion of the 2+ hours left at that pace. One Dutch guy came up too after a few minutes, then a last Portuguese so it was 4.

The 4 didn't last long. Portuguese one fell off on climbs with a skipping derailleur, number two stopped to eat I think, and Dutch guy and I carried on. He stopped on a hill after pulling away from me to oil his chain. I said I'd work with him till the finish for some oil (today's the first day I left mine cause it was all blue skies, but also probably the day I needed it most). He pulled out a snack and said he'd catch up...

So I was on my own till Monsanto. Finished water before getting there, and started riding the Roman road, but after 3 up sections I elected to walk as I was absolutely dripping and figured I didn't need to bonk/dehydrate to prove some technical skill when there's still 30k left. Refilled with water in town - which of course was steep, and entirely unique/beautiful.

Most of the rest was rollers/45 second power climbs, so reeled a bunch of people in who apparently don't have the tendency to coast fast into them, pedal over top, avoid brakes on way down.

Ended up rolling in at about 5:50 time, nice to have an "easy" sub 6h day for once. I'm winning the contest for most sore Canadian investment banker crossing Portugal by bicycle. I also rank high in loving the finish line food. I should probably finish off with a bit more food on the way in, but once I know I'm in range to make it, a gel or other is hard to take. The sea salted and olive oiled potatoes with oregano, proscuitto, chorizo, cheese, beans and tuna, bruschetta like stuff, fresh bread, dark chocolates, coke, peas/corn/peach salad, are my staples, but there's another 10 items out every day. The spread is nothing short of heavenly.

Vanessa the massage therapist, who's appears to be made out of nothing but Portuguese friendliness and a magic set of healing hands did great job of helping me repair. Cassie from Bend is also great, but I have only foggy memories of a day or so back when I piled myself onto the table in a dishevelled heap. She had a classic line that essentially went "I'm not nearly as messed up as after day one two years ago" when she helped me deal with the after effects of riding all day in the heat so I was just a cramping, sore, tired mess. Ahh, the things you can laugh about later.

Our hotel is absolutely dripping in old world charm and elegance vs. yesterday's new one. The building is old, but Craig and my double bed setup is a minimalist decorated room with a full patio, glass headboard with an inch of space so the 6' tall impressionist art can hang nicely. To properly picture the accommodations thus far, discard thoughts of "bike race hotels" and picture more like "freedom 55 upscale retirement celebration trip through Portugal".

Monday, 2 May 2011

New Precedent

Lounging in the grotto (which with it's steam room, sauna, indoor and outdoor tubs, and two lounger decks) sets a new post race precedent in terms of recuperation luxury. The dinner was spectacular - the buffet blows the pants off any I've had. Seriously impressive. To use a phrase I learned from Cindy "I didn't know it could be this good."

TransPortugal Day 3

Today was without a doubt the most beautiful day I've had on a bike in this lifetime. The Cerras Estrellas are jagged, flower covered in pink, purple and yellow, smell like cooking herbs (more astute palettes can probably identify the ones growing), and the weather was ideal. The surface was granular and drained, no mud. It was also a very hard day as we did 3 massive climbs, biggest for last. Descended Roman cobbles, forestry/farm paths, and pavement. The hotel is absolute, beautiful luxury. It's chic. It's chic and luxurious by like Aspen standards. I'm drained still to generate the right superlatives, but this has to be close to epic ride heaven.

Some people rise to the occasion of straight up and down mountain biking action, and one of those people is Climbing Craig. There's lots of racing stories that he can better describe, but the end result was he dropped everyone but two people today and finished third after the Belgian kid and the Spanish guy. Now what I've heard unfortunately is that the recording on his GPS wasn't on so it might not officially count, but it counts in my books as totally badass. I had a feeling that Mr. "I only get stronger the more I ride" Stappler would have a good showing here.

Jon had his best day yet, finishing 21st. It's a day well suited for him with huge climbs and great descents. And no bonking and visiting the local mini mercados!

Kate held on for 5th, which might move up with Craig's out. She was playing ping pong after and doing aggressive shots, and invited me to play. I felt like lying down would be a better plan.

I had a great day, not so much performance, but just feeling. Felt good in the morning, some energy from start to finish, even though the last climb was long. Enough anyway to get a bigger belly up the hills, didn't dab on any of the uphill singletrack. Rolled the downhills well, always fun. Finished off the last of my food with about 3k left to climb and hoped after scaling the Estrellas that we weren't going up the last climb on the horizon as it looked heinous along the opposing cliffs. I've hit empty every day and had to rely on a bit of spirituality every day to go on, at least today it was within a half hour of the top. Antonio doesn't make anything easy here. The Ibis Tranny is nothing short of perfect.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

TransPortugal Day 2

Even being sent out solo into suicide headwinds for a 5+ hour ride, Kate held onto 6th with nary a draft to be had. I'm seriously impressed. Her stitches are looking clean. She met some dogs that scared her but didn't bite her. She's smiley at the end. After yesterday's post, I learned that her fuel for day one was 2.5 bottles and 2 bars. And maybe some uranium in her pocket?

Craig had an awesome day, with lots of racing action that he loves. Climbed the first climb with the yellow jersey, made it in a great group to Castelo Rodrigo, then the lead group got away. 8th on the day, which is great. He's really digging the old world charms; riding through a beautiful fortified town and up to hilltop castles is just plain badass no matter how you slice it.

Jon had a fun descent over the old Roman path as expected, had a solid climb up the other side, then once in the shadows of Castelo Rodrigo decided to hit the grocery store to stave off a food crisis. Among other adventure, had a good day, although doesn't know his time or place.

Today was headwindy from what seemed like all riding directions. Antonio said yesterday was the hardest, today was shorter and would help us recover, and tomorrow is going to be super hard. What I think, and I've heard some consensus around, is that today was more draining than yesterday's 3,840m vertical and 142km even though it was only 110km and just a snick under 2,900m of climbing. Or maybe that's the illusion of second day fatigue for those being walloped. No free pedal strokes today.

Although level of discrepancy between my level of fitness and the parameters of the course is painfully massive, the sights of the walled/fortified town and Castelo Rodrigo were beautiful.

I think I was a touch under 7h. Felt ok this morning. Felt like a bike rider on first few climbs. Had fun on the big descent. The 20k climb into a headwind wasn't easy, did much of the day without drafting, but unlike Kate it crushed me. After Castelo Rodrigo I made an hour of downhill cruising, an hour of riding, then did my best Japanese nuclear reactor imitation by performing a meltdown... but rationalized how to keep my stuff together and was happy when I made it past the point where I abandoned and went to eat snails last time. Abandoning that time was the right thing, now that I know just how much and how hard the remaining part was, it would have been entirely futile. Cruised slowly though the fortified town, then got my act together enough (mmm, love forcing in calories when you've got that don't want to swallow a thing feeling in your gut) to latch onto a bunch of other Canucks which was good motivation. The last 60k were hard, and I emptied myself (even after eating everything) to stay with them for motivation.

I feel 90% f'd and the rest is just painfully sore. It's miraculous actually how many parts of my body are sore and feeling abused.

The hotel is very nice. Dinner buffet, salad buffet and dessert buffet were great. I melted in a bath with my 3rd plate of potatoes, beans and tuna, washed down with lots of coke (the other "black gold"). Washed my clothes from yesterday and today while bathing - it seems Tide Ultra really lifts the dirt from me as well. Suffice to say my hair has never felt so clean. My massage therapist said my legs were really dry and laughed when I told her why.

So back to which of the first 3 days is the hardest... a Portuguese guy I was talking to today said that bar none it's tomorrow. Everyone can have their opinion; but the takeaway for me is this isn't shaping up to be a very easy 3 day boot camp.

We climb the Sierras Estrellas tomorrow, which are the biggest mountains in the country. Same distance as today, but 3,700m of climbing. That might break the long day record for this guy.

As I'm trying to clean up my stuff, I bend over like an octogenarian because my lower back muscles are fried. The hotel we're in is exceptionally nice. It's sweet solace dragging oneself into a place like this. 2h after race finish I feel decent, wouldn't really trade this for anything.

Pat Dodge this race is made for you... hardman 6h days where self sufficiency and not stopping are rewarded, heavy on the engine and less emphasis on technical, organisational precision for the race overall, and beautiful hotels.

Stage 2a

They put your bags in your hotel each night, which is a wonderful race service. We have to lug the 70lb'ers down each morning.

Hotel by Freixo

Built into the hill.

Douro River

View from our room.