Saturday, December 6, 2008

Familiar roads, unfamiliar pain.


Familiar roads are fun, like visiting an old friend. While some things remain the same, there is always great pleasure in noticing something new about them. Some permanents qualify as old friends. Some of the perks include not having to consult the route sheet much, being aware of what turns are to be made, and what each turns looks like, and the scenery in general terms. Some of the newness comes from construction, the weather, seasonal changes, time-of-day changes, your body, and the like.

Pain however, is not much fun. It's like visiting a few relatives of mine. When I was at their homes, all I could do was try and find something to alleviate the "pain". My body betrayed me on this ride. My mileage this past few months has been very low. It's my own fault of course, but it gave me a good reminder of how little we can take for granted in the randonneuring world.
Needing a 200k for December, and seeing a rare (for December) above freezing day, I set off for the Arco Gas station in Redmond to do the Snoqualmie Valley and Falls Permanent this past Saturday. I rode to the start, and as the fog thickened I stopped a couple of times to seriously ponder whether I should even do this ride today. But, nice days in December are not to be wasted. This kept me going.

My original plan was to start at 5a, but I overshot the Arco gas station, and then rode back to get a receipt, only to find out that I really needed to use the bathroom. The Arco station had no food and no restrooms, and so I was forced to go to the 7-11 near Sammamish Valley Cycle. The clerk there refused to let me use the bathroom, so I just bought food. As I lined up to pay, he asked me if I was from India. When I replied in the affirmative, he let me use the restroom in the back: no lock on the door, and the door didn't close completely. Lovely! Apparently he thought that an Indian wouldn't mind the substandard restroom facilities. I was in no position to argue the injustice of it all to him however. Redmond 7-11 bathrooms are apparently for Indian looking people only.

6a: Start to Lake Stevens

It was foggy. The climb up Novelty Hill Road wasn't particularly cruel, and the turns came fast and easy, and the route sheet was rarely consulted. The joy of riding familiar roads. The sun started poking his head out of the mountains near Snoqualmie Valley Road, and I stopped to take a picture of the glorious light on the greenery.
Traffic was light, but the lights at all of the farms were on. Some people start early. I reached Lake Stevens with plenty of time to spare, and took off after about 10 minutes. My left knee let me know that it was still in trouble, but nothing untoward.

Lake Stevens to Sultan

The fog was lifting, and the trail was full of runners, and quite a few men wearing "Army" uniforms running on the trail. I almost took out one gentleman who hastily turned left with nary a warning, and my "On the left" went for nought: iPod. Just before the climb up Old Owen Road I met another bicyclist out on a permanent ride:
Unenventful roads and an even more uneventful climb up Old Owen Road later, I was at the SubShop in Sultan, which is a faster stop than the Bakery (blasphemy!). My plans of holding off Mark Roberts (who was to start an hour and a half later on this same ride) succeded. But as I was finishing my food I was greeted with "Narayan, what are you doing here?". It was Mark. I had only beaten him here by 10 minutes! ;)

Sultan to North Bend

I set off ahead of Mark (who got a nice Coffee and a sandwich), knowing fully well that he would catch me before long. This has always been the stretch where I have lost time in the past, and this was no exception. However, I pushed the pace a little, trying to gain some time, and this had disastrous consequences. Shortly before the return trek on W Snoqualmie Valley Road, my left leg started troubling me too. It wasn't the knee, but rather the outside of the right knee right where the upper part of the leg attaches to the lower part of the leg (hey, I am not a doctor).

I slowed the pace down, and stopped to stretch the IT Band. Mark caught me just as I started back up, and rode with me for a while. My evening plans included the Nutcracker at McCaw hall (My wife's company Christmas Party), and Mark's included dinner with friends. After asking me to raise my saddle a little bit, Mark took off. Did I stop and raise my saddle? Nope. I was quite sure that it wasn't anything to do with fit. After all, I had completed a 1000 with this same fit. Near Sandy's, my right knee started hurting a "tad". I didn't have time to stop and have coffee at Carnation. I was riding slower than 15kmph now as I ignored my legs' request. This weather may not come around again. I did stop and stretch a few times.

The climb up to the falls, was not quite as bad I thought it would be. I half expected to not encounter Mark on his way back from North Bend, but I did see him in Snoqualmie, shouting encouragement. When I got to North Bend, I was thankful for the break.

North Bend to Redmond

A sane man would have bagged it here. Home wasn't that far off. I thought about the weather, the R-24, and plodded on after about a 10 minute break. Darkness was falling all around us and Mt Si was lit up beautifully from the setting sun. I was running late, and didn't manage to win any brownie points on this ride, that's for sure. I don't remember much of the details of this section, except to say that I tried to find every conceivable leg position, pedal action and muscle pressure. The final solution (shudder!) was to move my knee towards the top-tube, and not apply any pressure at all on the downward stroke of my right leg. This gave me relief from the pain, but the pace was horrible. I finally arrived at the Fred Meyer about 11 hours and 45 minutes after I started. I was running late for the Christmas Party and in some pain.

My left knee hurt, but my right knee was in a class apart. I saw a doctor, and have been recommended Physical Therapy, and a bike fit at the hands of Mr Erik Moen.

Nutcracker Update

I came home, showered and very quickly set off for Downtown Seattle. We were quite late to the Christmas Party and all the vegetarian food was gone. Nice! To top matters off, I kept nodding off during the Ballet, and despite my wife's best attemts at keeping me awake by nudging, hitting, and tapping all failed. I don't think I am a ballet man.

Knee Update
Having been thoroughly freaked out by the experience, I visited Erik Moen at Corpore Sano, and got a bike fit. He was aghast at my bike fit. My self-guided idiocy was hard on his eyes, and he set me up the right way (My saddle was raised 3 cms). The benefit he said, will be better climbing ability and better speed. I have been cleared to ride 10-20 miles on flat lands only. My January permanent is now under serious jeopardy. However, all this snow and ice has meant that I haven't been out to test my new position.