Monday, October 19, 2009

Well they don’t call it Death Valley for nothing.

If I didn’t learn anything else this year, I came to the realization that no matter how many times I ride this route from Furnace Creek to Jubilee Pass it will be hard and potentially dangerous.

I had been having stomach issues for a couple of days leading up to the event, with some pretty serious cramping on the tune up ride during the climb to Zabriskie point the day before.

Needless to say, I was not totally on my game when we lined up at the start Saturday morning. My BG was higher than I wanted it to be (327 from a 125 when I woke up) so I was a little on the queasy side.

We staged to far forward, the backed us up we staged again and they took our pictures, we waited, sang the national anthem and finally as the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon, we took off.

I left in the first wave and tried to latch on to the Novo Nordisk Rocket train for the 18-mile ride to the first checkpoint at Badwater, but they went out and up a little too fast for me.

I had some severe leg cramp issues 3 weeks before on a training ride at Morgan Monroe, so I had decided that I was going to do my level best to stay out of my zone 4 until I started the climb to Jubilee. (For me this means less than 137 heart rate)

Needless to say, when the train split into 3 groups, I was in the third. At first it was me and three Novo riders Chuck, Bill and Rob, but just before we got to Badwater, I looked over my shoulder and said to them, “Either we have a real fast rider coming up or we have a motorcycle back there.” The next thing I knew, Bonnie had joined our pace line, pulling away as we pulled into Badwater.

A quick fuel, dehydration break, grabbed some GU and checked my BG now down to 91 and we were back on the course. I got gapped a little bit out of the CP but I was soon able to make it up and caught the group again on the first descent.

I had heard on the radio at Checkpoint 1 that they had 22 people through the checkpoint as we were arriving and we soon found one of them on the horizon that had been dropped off the NN B-group. It was Tim from Wisconsin.

We reeled him in and now we were 6! I realized in the rollers that to stay out of zone 4 and hang on to this group, I was going to have to be very careful not to pull to long or at the wrong places, as they were cooking along pretty strong. (Still a 19+ mph avg at Mormon Point.) So I became a major wheel sucker.

Somewhere along the way, Karsten, another Novo rider joined the group We were still looking strong heading to the Ashford Mills check point at the bottom of the climb to Jubilee pass, when the wind began to kick up and slow us down a bit. That was the bad news; the good news was that we would hopefully have that same wind at our back part of the way home.

We talked it over heading into Ashford mills and decided that we were probably going to get spread out on the climb to Jubilee, so we tentatively planned to regroup at the top and run on back in. I was the last one out of the check point, due to checking my BG and so set out to chase the group up the hill.

I caught Rob and Bill right out as they were turning back to fix a mechanical issue with Rob’s bike. I could see Tim and Karsten a couple of hundred yards ahead and figured they would be out of site before long. So I put my head down relaxed my upper body and concentrated on the spinning and keeping my cadence up. I was looking just a few feet in front of my wheel, avoiding looking towards the pass, which seemed an impossible distance away.

Next thing that I knew I was passing Karsten and Tim. It was more survival than anything that allowed me to get by them, as I had to keep my cadence up for this climb so I kept on with what had allowed me to catch up in the first place. I focused on the task at hand which was to keep those pedals turning focusing on the moment and not the goal.

Much to my surprise, I was actually able to do some of the climb in higher gears. Last time I did this event, I had to climb the whole way in granny and that was with a triple front. Last year I switched to a double and this year to a compact double, pretty much with this event in mind. I knew it would be a challenge and figured to be in my lowest gear the whole way up. Imagine my surprise when I saw the speedometer climb above 14 mph a few times.

With who knows how much farther I had to go my left inner quad (thigh muscle) began to cramp, so I was now having to alternate sitting and spinning with up shifting and standing to relieve my leg.

Finally I saw the sign that said the checkpoint was only 1 more mile away and almost at the top. I met one of the coaches (I think John from Wisconsin) who was working the last part of the hill making sure that riders were holding it together or to see if they needed assistance. He rode beside me for a little bit and let me know that I was the 25th rider up the hill (provided I could make the last ½ mile without being caught that is) a couple more minutes and I could see that checkpoint, which I had forgotten was so much short of the summit. So I rode past and shouted to Chuck (who was already there, Bonnie, I had met coming down a little earlier) that I would be right back.

So I pedaled on up to the summit and made the narrow, left hand U-turn to get back. This resulted in violent cramping in my left leg as I pulled it up to turn left,,,, ouch.

I zipped back down to the CP where I was greeted with ice cold wet towels for the back of my neck and someone took my bike for the rack and my water bottles to be refilled. I slathered on the reverse age sunscreen (which unfortunately failed to reverse my age) Jumped on my ride and went rocketing down the hill.

While not the fastest that I have ever been on a bike, it was a great ride down and there is probably nothing that I enjoy more on the bike than a nice speedy descent. While it took me right at 54 minutes to go from Ashford Mills to the CP at Jubilee, I was back at the bottom in just over 14 minutes. The only problem was that I discovered as the hill flattened out towards the CP that I was now having serious cramping problems in both leg now, any time I got pointed just a liiitttle bit up hill. It was serious enough that I was climbing very minor grades now in my lowest gear. I kind of had this idea that I could ride it off, drink my way out of it, magic would happen, but alas, no, I had to ride all the way back to Furnace Creek dealing with this issue.

Well I did a real quick stop just to top off my water one more time and was able to get Karsten and Tim again as ride partners (I think they took a shorter break at the top)

So we headed as 3 back to Mormon Point (don’t you love the excitement that the names ad to this ride???) We had another rider Jeremy chase us out of the CP and the next thing we knew there were 4 of us. Karsten was concerned about my cramping (what with me being Type 1 and in the middle of Death Valley), so he told me that he was going to stick with me as long as I wanted to keep going on. I think he thought I was going to need to be SAGed back especially after he realized that I really could not maintain speed on even the slightest grade when in the draft.

By now the temp was somewhere in the neighborhood of 104 but I think it felt hotter because of the black pavement we were riding on. They were giving us Ice towels at every CP, which was a good break, but the dry heat was taking a bit of a toll on all of us.

When we got back to Badwater with only 18 miles to go, Tim decided he needed to rest a bit longer than the rest of us and so we left without him after a slightly extended (like 13 minute) break.

Karsten and Jeremy by this time would drop me on the up hills hanging back so that I could catch them on the down hills. It was a rolling 18 miles that we had left back to Furnace Creek, and I was thankful not to have the 30 mph headwind I had faced in my first ride here. I really felt pretty good, my legs were just not co-operating.

We stopped for less than 3 minutes at the halfway water point, topped off the bottles and I dropped a Motor Tab in one as I had forgotten to do that at the Badwater CP and was afraid I was going to under fueled, even though I had been running a little on the high side all day. It only takes 30 minutes to blow away 100 points of Blood Glucose headroom.

Finally, we made it to the Hotel California turnoff, back to the ranch. We could see it for miles, which really was no encouragement, because it never ever seemed to be getting any closer and it was as if we were being teased.

Karsten and Jeremy had waited for me to make sure that I was able to get up that last grade and so we all bombed down the last mile to the ranch peaking out at somewhere well over 30 and it felt good.

We rolled through the finish at a little over 20 mph amid enthusiastic applause from the volunteers and the riders who had already finished and were hanging around. I sat up and did my Mark Cavendish phoning it in imitation and rolled through no hands. We ran out of room a lot quicker than I thought we would so that didn’t last long and I crammed on the brakes and circled back, where I was greeted with an ice towel and a medal.

I was having a great time talking to some of my new friends that I met this week (who obviously ride faster than I do) Lars with Novo from Denmark, Frank from Frankfurt and Karsten, when everything started looking blurry and I got kind of weak like my BG was dropping. They took my bike and hustled me on into the medical check out (everyone has to do that at the finish of this ride) where I discovered that my BG was 144. So I have to assume that I was suffering a heat stroke, because when I got in the air conditioning and they put yet another ice towel on me, I started feeling better immediately.

OK, so you would think that this is the end of the story, but the lesson was not over for me. I had cut my basal rate back on my pump at the beginning of the day. This means that I was taking less insulin all day than I normally would have. I did this because at the managing type 1 diabetes meeting the day before, Bob Hanisch had asked me a question when I told him that I never did a reduced basal but fueled up to my insulin rate instead.

He said,” What are you going to do if your stomach is upset and you can’t eat?” Point well taken, especially since my stomach had been messed up for a few days already. Well here is the other side of that equation. I am used to having to fuel a lot more after an event due to increased insulin sensitivity along with having a bit more on board. In any event, it is standard to be more worried about lows after than highs. I am not sure exactly why this happened but I started running high, like between 300 and 480 between an hour after I got off the bike and the end of the evening meal 3 hours after that, even doing full boluses (I usually would have cut them back but I was High) as a result of this I had a domino effect of unfortunate things happen.

The high BG made me dehydrate, my kidneys using onboard water to try and scrub the excess sugar out of my blood. I was thirsty and knew that I needed to hydrate and with the high BG I didn’t want to drink sports drinks and aggravate my BG with more carbs, so I drank a bunch of water, which served to flush electrolytes out of my system.

The net result was that when I at last was able to get back to my room all packed up to leave the next day and relax on my bed a terrible thing happened.

I layed down and was relaxing watching a little TV wishing it wasn’t so hot so that I could put my compression tights on and help my legs recover faster. I checked my BG which was finally down to a reasonable 180 and decided to read for a few minutes and then give in to what I thought would be a wonderful but short sleep, when I felt my hands starting to curl back in cramps. I didn’t really think a lot about that but my legs all of a sudden started to feel kind of tweeky along the hamstrings. The next thing I knew, I had full on cramping down the entire back of both of my legs. I jumped up exclaiming a colorful metaphor, thinking that standing up would make it go away…….. It didn’t, in fact the next thing I knew, the front of my legs were cramping too.

Quads and hamstrings co-operating in a perfect symphony of pain, with me doing the vocals. (Screaming at the top of my bloody lungs like someone was killing me) I am sure that my room mate Bob Karnack was a bit freaked out by this, it took him a few seconds anyway to figure out why I was acting so crazy, He was still getting ready to go to bed so that we could get up at 4:30AM to catch the airport shuttle when my legs went mad.

I have no idea how long this went on, but Bob went to get the Brock the EMTIC and my legs did not decide to release until he was well out of the building. By the time they got back, I was starting to go into shock and was freezing. I was able to get my hooded sweatshirt on and was afraid to try for the tights as my legs felt like they could go back to the dance at any moment.

Short story is that Brock figured it out immediately, got me under the covers talked me out of my hyperventilation and got electrolytes in me. OMG, I won’t make this mistake again. I am really thankful for Bob and Brock getting me taken care of, I don’t know what would have happened without them.

I almost forgot the most important part..... we raised $710,000 for research for the cure!!

I will do this again next year!

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