Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fat Bike Season

The Showshoe Scurry in Madison was a great local race

Off season and rehab

Now that we are on to the first full day of spring I think it’s officially time to wrap up the fat bike season and declare open the spring base training.

It was a tough fall and early winter for me as I battled through a knee injury.  I had to cut my cyclocross season short and focus on rehab and recovery.   I’m happy to report that I made a successful recovery (for now) and am back to my normal training routine.

I was also able to dabble into fat bike racing a little this winter on the new Cannondale Fat CAAD.   It was a bit rough getting going again and chasing some lost fitness from my time off due to injury.  Mostly my winter routine was 3 days of fat bike riding per week, 2 days of lifting, and 2 days of rest.  Rehab was still twice/day every day.

On weekends I was able to hit up the new local Fat and Driftless series races around Madison.  These races were put on my Lee Unwin and I get a sense this is the start of something good in the area.  
I also added the Badger State Games fat bike title this winter

 Through the local race season I had several good battles with Tim Hacker.  For those not familiar with Tim, he was one of the best runners in the US for quite some time and has now made the transition to racing bikes.  I can tell you, he is still a tough out in the bike fitness department!  I think we each won 2 Fat and Driftless series races and got second in an additional 2 so we tied for the series title… although I’m still awaiting official word.

Fat Bike Birkie

I really only had one fat bike racing goal race this year though and that was the Fat Birkie.  For those who haven’t discovered this yet, it’s fast becoming something big.  I think there were 1000 riders this year and it seems to keep growing each year.  I expect some day in the not to distant future it will rival Chequamegon Fat Tire and/or the XC ski Birkie in numbers and prestige. 

Leading up to the race I broke from my normal winter routine the last two weeks and got some road rides in on the cross bike and Quarq power meter.  It seemed I was down a few watts from the summer but this was to be expected. 

All still seemed to be looking OK for a strong race then Birkie race week I got a flu bug Sunday night.  It was weds night before I could eat solid food again.  Not the best race prep.  I hardly rode at all that week.    Surprisingly my form was good on race day and despite struggling a little early with traction with some light tires I found myself in a lead breakaway of 3 after the race’s halfway point.  I was suffering badly but just able to hold on.  Will Ross was clearly the strongest rider in the race and I knew as soon as he put the hammer down I was going to be in a world of pain.  That happened with about 3 miles to go and I ended up trying to hold on to 3rd by myself.  I was totally spent and I think the flu bug had left my glycogen stores a little more empty than normal.  I had to take a gel with only 2 miles left just to feel like I could get to the line.  OUCH!   I ended up getting caught by the chase group of 4 riders with just a mile left and rode in for 7th.   Not the placing I was hoping for but given the week and my prep I was happy.

Birkie Lead Out

Overall I had a hoot racing fat bikes this winter and next winter I plan to change up the training routine a little bit in order to have a full on fat bike race season.  I’m hooked. There are just too many good races popping up and I feel like I’m missing out.  Bring on the fat!

Hammering with the lead pack

After fat birkie it was time for a 10 day mini “off season” before cranking up the official base training again.  It looks like the dirt came early for us this year and I’ve been working hard getting the new bike built and ready for action.  Now time for the trial of miles….

Thanks to HED Cycling, Borah Teamwear, and the folks at Motorless Motion for helping everything come together.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Eccentric Post- Injury update

The 2015 mountain bike racing season was a year of highs and lows for me.  Overall I had excellent fitness the entire year and had improved my bike handling skills another small notch.  The recipe was right for good results but a few events derailed my season temporarily and cost me a few more great results.  

This post is mostly about the aftermath of one of those crashes and the ensuing rehab, which I am still doing.  That is to say the Eccentric Exercise Protocol for Tendonopathy.

Most people as some point in their life have what they may refer to as tendonitis, and it may be a long term injury for them.  More accurately after they have had tendonitis for a while it becomes a tendonopathy.  The difference being a structural change in the tendon with the stands of tendon no longer oriented in a liner fashion.

I have been unfortunate enough to have this 3 times in my life now.  The first being with my Achilles tendon during my competitive running career, the second being in my shoulder or rotator cuff from splitting wood, and the third this year from cutting my knee at WORS Cup in July. 

My knee immediately after stitching
 The biggest issue was some tendonopathy in my left patellar tendon which developed after the initial injury had healed.

My knee now.  The thickened portion of the patellar tendon is visible as a bump below my knee cap
Most recently after I fell at WORS Cup I got my knee stitched up and finished out my mountain bike racing season.  However come October and cyclocross I was in constant pain pedaling the bike and running was almost out of the question.  It took a bit of prodding from the doctors but I eventually got an ultrasound image of my knee and it confirmed damage to approx 50% of the tendon fibers on my patellar tendon right under the scar from my stitches.

State CX was a snowy muddy affair and I was able to lean on my skills and equipment to compensate for fitness
When I got a similar diagnosis of my left Achilles tendon in 2008 most of the doctors told me this damage was irreversible and my running days were over.  It seemed to be the prevailing medical opinion at the time. 

Enter Hakan Alfredson and his eccentric heel drops for Achilles tendonopathy.  How he discovered the protocol is a good story.  Read about it here.

For Achilles Tendons the exercises look like this:
I stumbled across this emerging protocol in 2008 and struggled with it for almost a year before I got it right and eventually “cured” my Achilles tendonopathy.  The latter half of that year I was a participant in a study here at UW Health with Dr.John Wilson for PRP and was getting my Achilles examined by ultrasound every few weeks.  The structural changes were apparent here and I could see the progress with my own eyes on the ultrasound images.

Fast forward a few years after I became a cyclist.  I injured my shoulder/ rotator cuff splitting wood and dug back into more research.  Again I turned to eccentric exercises, I had to invent my own protocol, but the results were the same.  Success.

Back to November 2015 and my injured knee.  Patellar Tendonopathy already had a well establish and documented eccentric protocol and I adopted it immediately.

The exercises I've been doing look like this

The problem with the protocol was that it involved doing 3 sets of 15 squats twice per day or 315 squats per week.  My legs were fried for bike racing.  I managed to scrape together a somewhat respectable ride for the state championships but then decided to call it a season and focus on rehab.

Today I am again cycling pain free but still on the eccentric routine which I will continue through March.

It seems this past year a few people had asked me about the eccentric rehab program and I have sent out links to various studies and protocols as well as trying to explain in person.  It seems I have had a high success rate with eccentrics and I think it’s because I do a few key things.  If I could summarize things and make recommendations for someone dealing with a tendonopathy case I would say the following:

1.  Be your own advocate.

8 years ago it was rare for a doctor to be familiar with the eccentric protocol.  They were still recommending rest and ice mostly.  It’s much more widely accepted now but chances are still good your Dr or PT hasn’t heard of it or is skeptical. There is lots of good research to support it, tell whoever you are seeing it’s the protocol you want to try.

2.  Get an ultrasound to confirm. 

X-rays and MRI's don’t show tendon structure like an ultrasound does.  It’s cheaper and easier than either as well.

Typical tendon ultrasound image showing and area of tendonopathy
3.  Fully commit.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better.  It will hurt.  Read the Alfredson Protocol again.  Pain is necessary to healing.  Remember how/why he discovered the protocol?  When I first started this I thought it wasn’t working because the pain got worse and I backed off.  I had to work through it for at least 4 weeks before I turned the corner. 

The exception is if the pain becomes sharp or excruciating.

4. Go heavy weight

During my Achilles rehab I made it up to about 90# in a backpack then headed to the Smith Machine in the weight room where I had up to 175# on the squat bar.  I’ve heard stories of people having more than 400# on a squat bar. If you get to the point where you can do eccentrics pain free, add weight until it hurts.  That’s how you progress.  For perspective running generates more than 12 times body weight of force in the Achilles tendon with every stride.  For me that is 1620 pounds every stride so I don't worry about rupturing the tendon.

5.  Be a good patient

Part 2 of being your own advocate is following your advice.  I think doctors are reluctant to prescribe this because the protocol is really hard work and it takes commitment to see it though.  Generally people hate PT and don’t do it or stop as soon as they can start working out again.  Don’t quit half way.  13 weeks as a minimum.  Even once you are pain free.

6.  Avoid anti inflammatories

No ice, no elevation, no compression, no ibuprophen.  That stuff is for the acute phase of injuries, not chronic.  Plus NSAIDs are generally not good for ones health.  More research now is pointing towards anti inflamitories hindering the healing process, not helping it.  This article sums it up nicely. Eccentrics involve a lot of inflammation of the tendon.  The thought here is that more inflammation means more blood flow and more healing.  If you are going to push or pull do so with all your might.  Don’t push with one hand and pull with the other.

Beyond this I believe that eccentrics will one day be proven effective to healing almost all tendons in the body.  It just takes a long time for clinical trials to be done on each one and that information to get published and then adopted by the medical community.  There is also little $$$ incentive for more research. 

I have seen already it applied to tennis elbow here.

And hamstring tendonopathy here

Many times I feel a slight ache or pain coming on and turn to heavy weights as a remedy.  It’s somewhat counter intuitive but it has worked in almost all cases for me.  

I can say thus far my knee has been going in the right direction and hopefully I will be back at it full force by this spring. 

We all have bumps in the road but I believe those who do best in their pursuit of lifelong fitness are the ones who work through the bumps and find a way to persevere.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bike Chequamegon

The roll out through Hayward is a sight to be hold

 I haven’t written too much lately about my bike tech or setup but thought I would take a little time to go over my Chequamegon ride and my F-si hardtail.  For those not familiar this race is more of a road race on mountain bikes than it is a single track shred session so the race often sees some unique setups.   While most of the year I chose my Cannondale Scalpel dual suspension bike as my race rig I had been putting in some good training miles on the new F-si hardtail and was waiting for the chance to race it.  While the components, carbon layups, and tech on this bike are all top notch it is really set apart by its unique geometry.  

XC Race weapon

Specifically what makes this bike unique is the combination of:
Short head tube (important for us shorter riders)
Super short chainstays
Slack head tube angle (for an XC bike) and
Large fork offset 

I won’t go over the exact numbers here but if you do some digging on the interwebs you can see that this combination is something really unique by Cannondale for this model and represents what I believe is the future in mountain bike geometry.  After riding the bike for a year I can see why this is a winning combination.  The acceleration is super snappy but what sets it apart is the ride stability on the rough trail or downhills.  In some cases it feels even more stable than my full suspension. 

It adds up to a perfect weapon for Chequamegon.

I put a good amount of thought and time into my setup, especially for an important race like Chequamegon.  The week prior to the race everything is cleaned, assembled, ridden, and re checked multiple times.  Tire pressures are dialed down to the 0.5 psi.  Bolts are torqued to the N-m.

These are the nitty gritty details of my build: 

Frame: Cannondale F-si Hi Mod size medium
Fork: Lefty 2.0.  85 psi.
Drivetrain: SRAM XX1
Crankset: Cannondale Hollogram Si XX1
Chainring: SRAM XX1 36t
Rim: NOX Composites- Skyline 29
Hubs: DT Swiss 240 rear, Lefty Front
Spokes: DT Swiss Revolution.  32 count, 3 cross
Rear Skewer: DT Swiss RWS
Brakes: SRAM XX1
Rotors: SRAM HSX- 160mm F&R.  Ti bolts all ‘round
Bars: Truvativ Noir T40.  680mm width.
Seatpost: Zipp Service Course SL carbon

Saddle: Fizik Tundra- carbon rails
Grips: ESI racer’s edge. Right side cut to ½ length for grip shift.
Stem: Cannondale OPI 100mm, -17 deg.  No spacers.
Pedals: Shimano XTR
Rear Tire: Schwalbe Thunder Burt 29x2.25- Snakeskin (18.0 psi)
Front Tire: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29x2.25- Liteskin (16.5 psi)
Bottle cage (1): King Cage stainless
Bike weight as pictured: 19.20 lbs
Rider height: 5’-7”
Rider weight: 133 lbs

Leading the pack up Firetower Hillclimb

Tucking in behind Jordan for a nice draft
Podium Time!