Post Back Surgery Rides

On Monday, November 16th, I had back surgery. It was not major surgery, just a trimming of a protruding disc and arthritic spike on a vertabrae that were teaming up to put pressure on my L5 nerve. That had been a problem for many years, and had progressed to the point that I really needed this surgery.

Four days after the surgery, I was back on the bike. I rode 12 miles on the Xstream. Back when I had lung surgery, I found that the more upright seating position on my long wheelbase bike of the time put less pressure on the surgery incision on my back, and so was more comfortable. I figured that would apply to this surgery as well. But I found that every bump in the road hurt my back, and wasn’t happy with the pain level I experienced on that ride.

The next morning, as I got ready to ride again, a cold front had come through and there were 40 mph winds. Because of the pain of the previous day’s ride, and the fact that the Xstream, with its fairing, doesn’t handle 40 mph winds very well, I decided to ride the F5 instead. The F5′s more reclined seat puts more weight on my back, but spreads it out all along my back. I rode 18 miles on this Saturday ride, and was much more comfortable on the ride. I decided that the F5 would be my ride of choice until my back is much better. The next day, I rode 15 miles, then took a day off the bike on Monday.

Yesterday I did a 22 mile ride out to County Road 2938, and this afternoon, did my regular 30 mile loop out to Purtis Creek State Park. I’m going to try and get in a few miles tomorrow morning before the Thanksgiving gathering, but there is rain and cold forecast for the rest of the week, so it’s not clear whether or not I’ll get another ride in this month. I have 327 miles total for November. Not much, but considering I had back surgery in the middle of the month, I’ll take it.

4 days after surgery, on the Xstream.

50 Mile State Highway 19 Loop

The rain was just ending when I got up this morning, so I waited a few hours for things to dry out before taking off on the F5. I rode my 50 mile loop out to State Highway 19, and did an extra loop through Purtis Creek State Park to end up with 54 miles for the day. Combined with Tuesday’s 30 mile ride and Thursday’s 36 mile ride, that gives me 120 miles for the week. I rode 560 miles in October, a pretty good monthly total for me. I’ve ridden 230 miles so far in November, but my riding mileage is about to take a hit, as I’ll be off the bike for a bit.

I’m having back surgery tomorrow morning. It’s not major surgery (though using the phrases “back surgery” and “not serious” in the same sentence is hard, when talking about yourself). I’ve had cratered discs in my lower back for over 20 years. The one between the L4 and L5 vertebra, combined with an arthritic spike on L5, is pinching a nerve, and this surgery is to alleviate that. Hopefully, I won’t be off the bike too long. I’ve been taking etodolac for many years to control the inflammation in my back, but using etodolac for that many years is too dangerous for kidneys, so it’s time for me to get off of it once and for all. This may not be my final surgery in that quest.

All of those years of etodolac have also masked what was happening to other joints in my body. I did not realize how bad my shoulders were getting until I needed surgery on my left shoulder, and ruptured the bicep on my right. My left knee, which has been a source of pain during winter rides for the last three years or so in spite of the etodolac, has started popping and cracking, and sometimes buckling when I make a wrong move. I suspect it won’t be too many years before I need a knee replacement. Ah, the joys of aging. But, I do think that dealing with this repair of body parts due to overuse and abuse is still better than dealing with the health issues that a sedentary lifestyle brings. We’ll see how I do with the surgery.

Today’s route.

Martin Mills Metric

I dropped my truck off at the east edge of Gun Barrel City for an oil change this morning, took off from there, and did a modified version of my Martin Mills Metric route this morning. It was 55 degrees at the start, as the first decent cool front of the fall had just come through. I still wore shorts, knowing it would be 80 degrees or so by the time I finished, but I added arm cooler sleeves to my jersey. They were for duty as arm warmers this morning.

I ended up with 60.3 miles for the day. I had ridden 30 miles on Monday, and 30 miles yesterday morning, so today’s ride gave me 120 miles for the week. I ended up with 515 miles for the month of September. That gives me 4,146 miles for the year, so I’ll need decent miles these last three months to reach my goal of 5,500 miles for the year.

Martin Mills Metric route.

Martin Mills Metric

I took off on the F5 this morning around 7:00 am and rode my Martin Mills Metric route. I ended up with 64.1 miles and was finished before 11:30, so avoided the hot part of the day. I had ridden 30 miles on Tuesday, and 36 miles on Wednesday, so today’s ride gave me 130 miles for the week.

My ride back to the church after HHH ended up being my last ride of the month for August. I rode a total of 624 miles for the month, a decent mileage total for me. I used to always ease up a bit on my mileage right after HHH, but I need to do the best I can to keep my mileage up this month. After two years of living here, what I’ve discovered is that the crappie fishing here at Cedar Creek Lake is so good in October, I’ll struggle to have a good mileage month on the bike then, so I better have one in September.

Today’s Martin Mills Metric route.

2015 Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred

For the ninth straight year, I rode the one hundred mile route at the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred today. I was concerned about how many miles I’ve gotten in this year, but my weight was much better than last year, just about where it should be, and I knew that should help. I wanted to finish the ride in less than six hours, and figured I should be able to do that.

I started out trying hard to keep my lizard brain in check, and not ride too fast. Every time I’ve cratered at HHH, it can be blamed on riding too hard early. I tucked in behind some tandems for the first few miles, but ended up all by myself much too early. The group I was with was faster on the hills that start around mile 15, and I knew better than to try and keep up with them. I rode mostly by myself for the next 7 miles.

I finally got behind a group doing a reasonable pace, but they stopped at the Electra rest stop at mile 33, so I was on my own again. By the time I made Electra, the faster pacelines were starting to catch and pass me, so here and there, mostly when it was a flat or downhill, I would join them for a short time. Just past Electra, at mile 36, where the route turns back east, the road has been resurfaced with new boulderseal for 14 miles or so. That stretch was tough. Just like two years ago, it was around mile 47 when I realized that my legs were getting crampy. I had ridden too fast early again.

Nothing to do but ease up the pace, and I did. I had a 19.6 mph average at that point, but it started to fall quickly. I would still tag along with some faster groups for a short downhill stretch, but did lots of miles alone. It was shortly before 10:00 am when I passed Hell’s Gate, still with a 19.1 mph average, but by the time I had ridden up the long hill right after that, it had fallen to 18.9 mph. My legs felt bad enough at that point, that I was certain that I would not see a 19 mph average again, and would keep losing average quickly, and might not make the six hours.

But at mile 62, something happened that had a major effect on the ride’s outcome. A fast group passed me at the top of a hill, so I jumped onto the back of the group, knowing that once the downhill was done, I would need to drop off. But, at the bottom of the hill, they passed a sizable slower group. I moved over and joined the slower group. This group was averaging 19 to 20 mph, and not hammering up the hills at all, exactly the kind of group I needed to be with at that point. I was able to ride with much less effort for the next 15+ miles, and by the time the group stopped at the rest stop just short of mile 78, my average was back up to 19.1, and I felt much better. I knew then that I was going to finish the ride in less than six hours.

I rode on alone when the group stopped. I made two very short stops for my bladder, at mile 47 and at mile 94, and those are the only two stops I made. The last 23 miles of the ride are tough, mostly uphill and against the wind. I watched my average dropping again and rode mostly alone. By the time I finished, my average had dropped to 18.4, still not a bad average for me for a 101 mile ride. It’s better than I thought I had in me.

And once again, the timing chips don’t quite seem to work right for the early starting recumbent riders. My official finishing time was 5:14, when it should have been closer to 5:30. At 64 years old, and 7 1/2 years after I lost half a lung to lung cancer surgery, I’ll be happy with the 5:30, and smile at the 5:14. With the 100.7 miles of the course, and a 4.5 mile ride to and from the church where I stayed, I ended up with a total of 110 miles for the day. My legs are telling me about it, too.

The 100 mile (actually 100.7 mile) route at HHH.

View of the start from the front of the tandem and recumbent section.

Hell’s Gate.

And the finish.

Medal for finishing HHH.

My official timing chip results from Cadence Sports.

90 Mile Ben Wheeler RIde

I took off on the F5 this morning and rode out to Ben Wheeler. I did some extra miles on State Highway 19, and turned the route into 90 miles. I got an early start to avoid the 100+ degree afternoon, but it was still 95 degrees by the time I finished the ride. It’s just hot in Texas right now.

Most of the ride went smoothly, but as I was making my loop through Purtis Creek State Park at around mile 76, I was stung on my leg, through my shorts, by a wasp. I’m used to wasps and such hitting me as I ride, and am very quick about brushing them off of me the instant they hit, but I wasn’t quick enough to stop this one from stinging. Better a sting on my leg than one on my face, I guess.

I got in 30 mile rides on both Wednesday and Thursday this week, so ended up with 150 miles for the week. I was able to do both of those rides in the morning, so today was my only riding in the heat of the day this week.

A 90 mile version of my Ben Wheeler route.

Ben Wheeler 85 Mile Ride

I took off on the F5 this morning and rode my loop out to Been Wheeler. I did a few extra miles in Purtis Creek State Park on the way back, and ended up with 85 miles for the day. I had ridden 40 miles Monday afternoon and 30 miles Tuesday afternoon, so had a total of 155 miles this week.

I was really feeling the heat this week. I rode in the afternoon on both Monday and Tuesday, days that were both 100+ degrees in the afternoon, and worked in two very hot machine shops on Wednesday and Thursday, also 100+ degree days. A cold front came through yesterday, and it only got up to 98 degrees this afternoon (some cold front). Of course, I got an early start today, and was finished with my ride before the hottest part of the day.

My bathroom scale showed my weight as 187 pounds all week this week. That’s only two pounds over my goal, but it’s a false reading, because of dehydration from being in the heat every day this week (I weighed 181 pounds right after today’s ride, a reminder of how much water we lose on a long and hot ride). Still, I believe I’m making progress. And I was stronger on today’s ride, feeling better at the end of today’s ride, even though I had better than a 1 mph higher average speed than on last Saturday’s ride. Hopefully, I’ll gain some more before the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred.

Here it is, August already. I ended up with just under 600 miles for the month of July, not a bad mileage month at all.

Today’s route.

Ben Wheeler 80 Mile Ride.

I took off on the F5 yesterday morning and did a different route out to Ben Wheeler, then back through Martins Mill and Purtis Creek State Park. I kept a bit easier pace in the early part of the ride than I did last week, and felt much stronger at the end. I’m still not where I need to be for next month’s Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred ride. I finished around 12:40 in the afternoon, long before the 100 degree afternoon high temperature showed up, but it was still pretty hot. I ended up with 80.2 miles.

I had a total of 150 miles for the week. I did 30 mile rides on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a 10 mile ride on Monday. 10 miles is a shorter ride than I ever normally do, and this one wasn’t intentional. I had installed tubeless tires on the bike last Sunday, and the tire on the rear wheel just wouldn’t quit leaking around the bead on Monday’s ride. I finally had to give up, cut the ride short, and install a tube in the tire. The Velocity A23 rims on my wheels are supposed to be tubeless compatible, and the front rim is working perfectly, but not the rear. I’m thinking I’ll just run a tube for a month or two, giving the tire bead some time to better conform to the shape of the rim, then try tubeless again.

Today’s 80 mile Ben Wheeler route.

Tubeless Tires

At best, I seem to get around a year of service from bicycle tires on my main bike. Replacing tires has become a summertime ritual. But this year, I decided to do something a bit different. I converted the F5 to tubeless tires. With the rough roads I find myself riding since my move to Gun Barrel City, tubeless tires sounded appealing. You can run them at a lower pressure for a smoother ride, without having to worry about the pinch flats you can get with tubes. And sealant in them gives them flat protection.

The wheels I built for the F5 last year have Velocity A23 rims, which are already tubeless tire compatible, so it was just a matter of buying tubeless tires and the other components that go with them. I bought Schwalbe One tires, the Velocity valves and 21mm Velotape that are made for the A23 rims, Stan’s Notubes sealant, a sealant injector, and a presta valve core remover. Today was installation day.

Research had told me that inflating tubeless tires for the first time can be tough. That proved to be true. I’ve ordered a presta chuck for my compressor that should make it easier next time. We’ll see how the tubeless setup does.

The tires are now installed.

They are Schwalbe Ones.

Ben Wheeler 86 Mile Ride

I took off on the F5 this morning and rode to Martins Mill, then on to Ben Wheeler, then a few miles more. I’ve finally found a good road past Ben Wheeler. County Road 4714, south of town, is a quiet little road that’s not too rough. On the days when I still want to ride further when I get to Ben Wheeler, this is where I’ll go. I may work out a loop that uses this road.

I had a very unusual sighting on today’s ride: other cyclists. I met several other riders at the store in Martins Mill. They were leaving as I arrived, so I only got to talk to them for a couple of minutes, but it turns out they belong to the Athens Bicycle Club. I had no idea there was a cycling club this close to me. I’ll probably join them on some future rides.

I had intended to ride 90 miles today, but I was so wiped out when I arrived at Purtis Creek State Park at mile 74, I just rode straight home from there, rather than doing my usual loop through the park. I ended up with 86.2 miles. My weight is getting closer to where it needs to be for the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred next month, but as today’s ride reminded, I’m definitely not ready for it yet, fitness-wise.

I managed early morning 30 mile rides out to Purtis Creek State Park on both Tuesday and Wednesday morning this week, so ended up with 146 miles total for the week.

Today’s route.