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Fuel

24 Apr

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I’m going to take a detour from cycling this morning, just think of it as a little excursion on a back road, not sure where it leads, but it might be interesting…

 

One thing I’ve found while on my search to improve my gut health, is many of the people who are now at the forefront of digestive health got into it because like me they had a bout of food poisoning. Not your everyday food poisoning – if there even is such a thing – but the kind of infection that doesn’t go away on its own, and even when it finally does, the bad bugs have made a wreck of your insides and overall health.

The one year “anniversary” of my bout with food poisoning was yesterday. For most of the year I’ve struggled to leave it behind and to get back to normal. More progress has been made on that front in the last two months than most of the other months combined and I’m very grateful for that.

Without the help of several books and blogs I wouldn’t be on the mend. For anyone else struggling with digestive issues I recommend the following:

Digestive Health with REAL Food by Aglaee Jacob – a thorough and informative, yet easy to read manual of all things related to digestion. This booked really helped me to understand the how and why I was sick and how to eat my way back to health.

Fast Track Digestion by Norman Robillard – Robillard is a microbiologist and this book focuses on the science of digestion and how to figure out what food to eat that you can tolerate and what foods are likely to promotes symptoms. He also includes tables of foods by category to make it fairly easy to figure out what you should and shouldn’t eat. Many people have had great success with this diet.

Mark’s Daily Apple website and books by Mark Sisson. Sisson is the guy behind the Primal diet. Think of Primal as a first cousin to Paleo, but more tolerant and forgiving. I really like Sisson’s approach, plus he seems very knowledgeable and writes well. I’ve used his book (The Primal Blueprint) to expand my knowledge base about the diet part of this new way of living.

I would add “this way of eating and living” isn’t just for people who are sick or recovering, but for anyone who is not functioning as optimally as they would like – especially the Mark’s Daily Apple website (and other’s he references).

And since it almost always comes down to the bike, I would tell you this “way of living and eating” provides better fuel for your pedal turning engine. I’m experiencing that every time I ride.

Keep on pedaling.

 

Onward

18 Apr

Due to one thing and another, all physical, I haven’t been on my bike much the last three months. Maybe not all physical, because the truth is riding hasn’t been as much fun as it once was.

On one level it seems understandable that after twenty-four years of frequent riding it might lose some of its appeal. Most things become dull and tedious long before, but never cycling. Over the last many months however, riding has frequently felt like something I had to do or needed to do, less like something I wanted to do.

Do you ever feel that way, and if so, what do you do? Push through or take a break from the bike?

I thought I might rediscover my passion for two-wheels by not setting a mileage goal this year. You know, be less goal oriented and just ride and enjoy it. It seemed to be working, I was off to a good start in January when I had several good, long rides that I absolutely enjoyed. But then things turned south. With a head wind.

My lower back, then neck decided to scream in protest whenever I tried to ride, and then finally every time I tried to do anything. On top of that, my gut issues from last April’s food poisoning fiasco during the California bike tour decided to join in and make me suffer. My doctor recommended I give up wheat (gluten) and a range of other foods – many of which most of us would consider healthy to see if that would help. It did, but not as much as I hoped or needed.

My nature to “read and research” everything led me to learn about my symptoms and troublesome foods and finally to recommended diets. The diet(s) led me to give up not only wheat and gluten, but also all other grains and most starches. It has been quite the learning curve.

Every time I thought I found the right diet – not diet in the traditional sense i.e., weight loss, but diet in terms of recommended (and banned) foods – I found something better and more tailored to my health issues. Plus the more I read, especially about wheat products, the more I saw that in many ways our wheat here in the U.S. is poison for many of us and other than taste good it offers nothing in the way of nutrients that I cannot get from other foods.

If you are interested, basically I am eating real food, not exactly Paleo, but close. I eat nothing packaged or processed or labeled “gluten-free”, no sugar, wheat or corn. I eat meat, poultry, fish, a range of vegetables and a few fruits. Also eggs, cheese, but not other dairy, and good fats. For additional carbs I am going to try adding small amounts of white rice because it is more easily tolerated than brown rice.

Through trial and error I am learning what I can eat and what I need to stay away from, or be ready to pay the price. Thus far I have not missed any food I have had to give up enough to pay that price. It is a way of eating that continues to evolve as I am constantly tweaking the “approved” foods list. I keep a food diary of the foods that bother me and the ones that don’t, and I adjust my “diet” accordingly.

Repeat after me: getting old is not for sissies.

It has been about six weeks and I am finally feeling better. Not great, but better and most importantly for me I feel like I am finally on the right track.

The ride I took today reinforced that for me. It is the first ride of any distance I have done since February or early March and I felt strong, stronger than I expected. I wondered about that since I am not eating that many carbohydrates, but the protein and fat must be working. As I understand it, the idea is that your body will burn fat for energy if you do not provide it with a source of carbs. No gels or sugary drinks today, but I never felt like I might bonk. A good sign for a two hour ride.

Now my neck is another story, but I did it and I will nurse the neck and shoulder along. I needed to ride, I wanted to ride and it was worth the pain-in-the-neck to do it!

The issue of cycling being about play and not fitness (except as a byproduct of fun) is still something I want to focus on and explore.

Onward and upward.

Our California Central Coast Tour

12 May

Wisely we chose to do another multiday bike tour in California to kick off the year of riding. We did a fully supported tour in Sonoma County and the Pacific Coast just north of San Francisco the Fall of 2011 and loved it. If you want to avoid cool temperatures and rain in the spring, California is generally a good place to do it.

Like 2011 we did our bike tour with Undiscovered Country Tours. Not only did we have the very excellent Scott bikes to use, but this year we both ended up with new 2013 CR1 Pro’s. As some of you know I ride a 2005 CR1 Pro, newly shorn in Campagnolo  Chorus and love it. I don’t know of another bike tour company that uses the quality of bikes UDC does and it’s one of the things that attracted us to them in the first place.

Our tour this time was a small group, just 6 participants and 1 guide. Like our other UDC Tour half of our group was from Canada – another plus for us – we love Canada and Canadians. I liked the small group; it allowed us to get to know each other better including having a few interesting political discussions at dinner. It isn’t too often Mark and I meet people who have similar thoughts on political and social issues given where we live and we both enjoyed it.

Now for the riding. Our group met in the lobby of the hotel in San Jose then we proceeded to the Amtrak station to take a train to Paso Robles where our tour officially began.


Day One – Paso Robles (4/21/13)

Today’s ride was a 23 mile loop around Paso Robles, We had the hottest weather (the only hot weather) of the entire tour. There were a few miles on a busy highway but otherwise we were on backroads with fairly light traffic.

One thing I was quickly reminded of was that not everyone defines rolling hills the same. To me rolling hills are rollers, up and down – no long ascents. To people on the west coast rolling hills are hills that eventually go down. Case in point: we have a local route we do with approximately the same amount of ascent and descent as this Paso Robles loop but it’s continuous up and down. None of our local ascents are a mile long. On the PR loop most of the 1873 feet of ascent was on one fairly continuous long climb so there are fewer downhills in which to recover. The climbs are longer and so are the descents which are fun because they’re usually not straight. Point being at the end of the day we may have roughly the same amount of ascent in feet as here, but the California ascending is more taxing.

*Clicking on the Garmin Connect Images will provide you with more data and detail.

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Day Two – Paso Robles to Avila Beach (4/22/13)

Riding towards the Pacific coast is always exciting. Day two took us to Morro Bay for lunch then to Avila Beach where we would spend our next night. It was our longest day of riding the entire trip, 54 miles. Unfortunately we didn’t follow the coast, instead we went inland much of it along a busy highway (with shoulder).


If you look at the profile you’ll see there was a long climb of about 6 miles with the last 2 miles being fairly steep. To make up for that we had a long descent. One section of the descent was fairly steep and I definitely worked the brakes. I’m not used to climbs or descents like these. Notice my hands squeezing those brakes!


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Also not used to the volume and speed of traffic we encountered on some of the roads.

We rode from Paso Robles to Avila Beach, stopped for lunch in a cool town on the coast, Morro Bay – home of a Prudential rock lookalike.

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Much of the ride though had that lovely bucolic scenery we saw on our 2011 trip along the northern coast and Sonoma county.

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Although I take most of my pictures while pedaling along, occasionally I do stop – in this case to get a shot of the beautiful field of California poppies.

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All in all a good day on the bike!

As is the norm on bike tours, we had a great dinner on the boardwalk of Avila Beach and stayed in very nice digs at Avila Beach Lighthouse Suites. We slept to the sounds of the ocean.

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Day Three – Avila Beach to Santa Maria (4/23/13)

Today’s route took us along mostly rural roads through vineyards and farms as we made our way from Avila Beach to Santa Maria. The ride was similar in mileage and in ascent to our previous day, but vastly different in experience. We had far less traffic along today’s route and far more bucolic scenery. Always a winner for me.

On a fair amount of our route today we had marked bike lanes or separated bike lanes. Another winner.

48.3 miles/3:41 time

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Other scenes from today’s ride:

 

 

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Day Four – Santa Maria to Santa Ynez (4/24/13)

Today was one of those days on the bike that perfectly captured what I love about riding a bike.

Stable of bikes

Before taking off in the morning, stable of bikes.

The ride started in a light drizzle and fog. Temperatures stayed cool even after the sun chased the fog and dampness away. We rode from Santa Maria thru the cycling town of Solvang before taking us to Santa Ynez, our home for the next two nights.

Typing on my android tablet is too tedious to write much but a few thoughts and memories:

Riding alongside field after field of beautiful crops of lettuce, cauliflower and bright red strawberries.

The speed of the farm workers working in the fields, literally running to pick.

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The strong aroma of strawberries, cilantro, licorice.

The remoteness and quiet beauty of Foxen Canyon road.

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Lunch at Zaca Mesa winery

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The steep little climb right after lunch/wine tasting

Climbing "the wall", a very steep little climb and recognizing I can climb even when the grade is steep, I just have to be willing to suffer.

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The thrill of the twisty descent into Ballard Canyon.

Great conversation and coffee with our fellow tour riders and guide at the infamous Bulldog Café in Solvang where the Postal/Discovery teams used to hang out back in the day. Interestingly, every single picture of Lance Armstrong has been removed.

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And finally the luxurious Santa Ynez Inn – our home for the next two nights.

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Day Five – Santa Ynez Loop (4/25/13)

Day 5 started out great. Our ride was a loop around Santa Ynez through Happy Canyon and an optional climb of “The Fig”. The Fig is Mount Figueroa, a legendary climb in Santa Barbara county. I hadn’t decided whether I was going to do the climb or not, I would decide at the base, depending on how I felt. I didn’t feel great and made the very wise decision to not attempt it. I did ride 1 1/2 miles of the road that takes you to the base of the climb and even it was steep (see the elevation profile on the Garmin details).

Beautiful too.

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The plan today was to ride back through Happy Canyon (love that name) and Santa Ynez and Los Olivos past Neverland Ranch (yep) and to wait for the two riders and support van to come down the descent of The Fig.

As the rest of us made our way through Los Olivos I started feeling dizzy and nauseous. I thought I needed food so I had a gel and a pack of shot blocks. I continued to feel worse, but kept pedaling. Mark joined up with me and we waited under the shade of a tree for the others.

Once they arrived and it was time to head back I did something I’ve never done – I got into the support van and quit. I’ve never quit a ride, but I couldn’t go on. I was so dizzy I could hardly stand. Once I got back to the Santa Ynez Inn it went downhill from there. If you’re had food poisoning, you know. If you haven’t you don’t want to know. I’ve had food poisoning 4 times, and this is the worst I’ve had (I’m writing this May 12th and I’m still sick from it, saw my doctor again yesterday)!  I was able to get Phenergan from my local Doc which helped, but we missed our final dinner with our “tour-horts” which we were both disappointed about.

The only thing I had differently than the others, was dinner the night before at Dos Carlitos, apparently the shrimp I had were bad. I wish we had eaten somewhere else!


Day Six – Santa Ynez-Topanga (4/26/13)

Against my husband’s advice I rode the next morning. It was bad enough missing yesterday afternoon’s ride (downhill!) and the last (and best from what I heard) dinner with the group, I wasn’t going to miss the final ride too.

It was an out and back route from the Santa Ynez Inn to Topanga State Park. It was a fairly easy 21 miles, but it took all I had to do it.

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The California Central Coast tour was great, and beautiful, but I would rate it below our 2011 California Coast and Wine Country tour which took us through Sonoma County and from Sea Ranch to Bodega Bay along the coast on Highway 1. Both have beautiful scenery – California is scenic wherever you go it seems. Overall though I would give the edge to the 2011 tour – and no, not because of my food poisoning this trip!

Total mileage for the Tour: 229 miles – Total Ascent: 8300 ft.

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Drink-Up

4 May

Think I mentioned I got food poisoning while on our bike tour of the central coast in CA. I minimized its effect on my riding to the extent I could, but it seems to have caught up with me. I’m officially dehydrated, so says my doctor, and need to rehydrate before I get back on two wheels. So I’m drinking up!

Ride one for me today, okay?

Here’s a pic from day 3 of California, a lone tree near Paso Robles.

Day 110

 

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