Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fruit Flies and Cycling

Voltaire- "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien."
Fritz Menninger- "the greatest enemy of good is better"
NY Times-Lots of Animals Learn, but Smarter Isn’t Better
A NYT article on the cost and benfits of learning as observed on any creature with a nervous system seemed to have relevance to the above quotes as I was nursing my latest ouwee. This year the goal has been more speed, more watts, less mileage. I had started doing pylemetric exercises last winter as an alternate way to stimulate muscle and address the need for bone stimulating activity (cyclists are not the bone density champs of the sporting realm).
I took 4 days off the bike after my low cadence 300K, but felt restless enough to want to do my pyelometric stuff 3 days after . I felt OK the next day, which is my day off, so being a nice day and having a new gizmo (Garmin 705), why not do a challenging ride. I was very happy with my effort and it was a great ride. The next day, however, I woke up with a painful heel. Fortunately, my achilles (s/p surgery in '94) was normal, but the pain was inferior and lateral to the tendon insertion site. Dx is retrocalcaneal bursitis. Another overuse injury to add to my collection.
My physical therapist welcomed me back with a smile, and remarked that I had managed to stay out of PT for nearly a year. She did some not-so-gentle massage around the affected area, applied an iontophoresis patch and cleared me to return to bicycling but avoid jumping until I was fitted with orthotics. She concurred that the mechanism of injury was the cumulative stress of the 300K together with the jumping exercises. The King's Valley brevets were coming up. The 600K was tempting- near home, pretty route, good friends signed up for it, but the 200K had the same things going for it. My heel nuisance, while resolving, pretty much insured the latter choice. On 5/22 I put a new pair of Gran Bois 26c on my brevet bike. I had never used this brand before. They were a little wider than the tires I normally use and some folks felt they were prone to flats. Other reports were quite positive and so were worth a try. Another modification was cutting out a hole on the portion of the shoe overlying the bursitis along with some strategically placed moleskin.
I arrived at the start with only a few minutes to spare, hastily assembled my bike, signed in, got my card and within seconds, the ride started. And so did a squeaking sound on my bike. As noted previously, I'm directionally challenged and much prefer the security of being in a group. Thus, staying in the group took priority over figuring out the source of the squeak. Once noted, my fellow riders politely ignored said noise and provided pleasant conversation on various topics. Along the way, the effect of my two week layoff on my fitness made it evident that I would be in cyclotouriste mode. Thus I started putting my camera to use.
Kings Valley 200K

That damn squeak persisted and I figured the most appropriate action was to put up with it by meself. As the weather was warming up, the clouds clearing and I was going through a particularly pretty section, I was quite happy to be on my own. I stopped several times to move things around to see if I could stop said squeak- no such luck. Toward the last 20 miles, 2 wayward randonneurs caught up with me. They were from WA and being unfamiliar with the area, had taken a wrong turn early on the route and wound up 10 miles from the coast and about 50 miles away from the first control! At the time they met me, they had already rode 90 some miles without going through any of the controls. Of course they noticed my squeak right away, and one of them figured out the source- the front fender rubbing on the tire. We couldn't find a quick fix for the problem, though. As they were happy to find someone familiar with the territory, they put up with my squeaky wheel until near the end.
Once I was home, some judicious filing and my fender problem was solved. Lessons learned and relearned-
I know I feel much better when I have some time to relax and make sure the bike is mechanically sound before the start of the ride. I hope I remember this the next time I'm reaching for the snooze button.
For me, brevets longer than 200K have effects that persist for longer than several days. I'll likely lay off anything more taxing than a recovery ride until I feel good and rested.
Improvements in non-bicycling physical activities will exact a short term price in bicycling initially. Doing something new involves making mistakes- it's hard to know the effects of one activity on another physical function. Hopefully, a synergism occurs that helps with overall function. Or back to the fruit flies- it doesn't help a fruit fly to develop new skills. It seems that the ones who do develop new skills don't survive compared to the ones who stay with the tried and true. Thus fruit flies haven't changed much in the past four thousand years or so. Humans on the other hand have changed significantly over the same time period because they benefit from learning- for the most part.