Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Over the weekend, I got out for two snow adventures on my feet.

On Saturday, I went for a 90 minute run on the plowed packed/powder streets of Omaha. While you could probably get by with ordinary running shoes, I recommend a safety upgrade for better traction. There are a couple ways you can do this: 1) screw shoes and 2) Yak Trax Pros. I've never done the screw-shoes, but apparently they're quite effective.

I can tell you that the Yak Trax Pros are worth the $25. Yak Trax also makes a walker version for $20, but if you're planning on running, get the Pro model. Yak Trax are a rubber mesh wrapped in steel coils that slip over your normal running shoe. Unlike the normal version, the Pros are secured with a Velcro strap across the top. Running with Yak Trax doesn't feel any different on your feet than your ordinary running shoes. They're ideal for when there is less than a couple inches of packed power. They do provide some protection against ice. I've never fallen when wearing them.

Following Saturday's run, I rented a pair of MSR EVO snow shoes from the UNO Outdoor Venture Center. My boy EB was there with a big old grin and was ready to rent these to the public at large. By the way, have you been on UNO's campus lately? The new HPER building is coming together nicely. What an upgrade! As part of that upgrade, the OVC has a lot of space in a good location. No longer do you feel like your renting equipment from a janitor's closet. Not that there's anything wrong with renting from a janitor's closet.

Anyway, I've wandered from my topic of snow shoes. First off, MSR makes top notch outdoor gear. The EVO is listed as a back country snow shoe, but is excellent all around choice for beginners. Unlike entry level snow shoes with flimsy plastic, the EVO's uni-deck solid plastic mold forms the entire platform of the shoe. In addition to the hardened steel crampons, it has two rows of steel teeth to assist with traction on ice. There are also a couple other features that you also won't find on entry level snow shoes: 1) a six inch clip-on 'flotation' extension for deep snow walking and 2) a heel elevator ('Televator') can be locked into place to help in steep ascents. This latter feature is not necessary in Nebraska, but would make a big difference if you're planning a hike in mountain country.

Now, here's the best part: the OVC rents these $200 shoes for $7 a day. You don't need to be a student to rent them. You can't beat that.

So within 15 minutes, the shoes were rented and I was on the way to joining friends hiking the five mile mountain bike loop at Jewell Park in Bellevue.

If you haven't used snow shoes, you're missing out on some good fun. The MSR EVOs were easy to put on and made walking in the 12-24 inches of drifts very simple. Of the six of us, three were novices at snow shoeing. None had any issues with hiking with their snow shoes.

Snow shoeing not only offers a fantastic fat-burning workout, but gives you freedom to get out and enjoy the winter with a walk in the solitude of the woods. With Shim and Limpach in my group, that wasn't the case. But you get what I mean.

So there you have it. You don't need to be on that treadmill. Indeed, get out there and enjoy the snow.

From old town Bellevue's Mission Aven and Main Street, here are the directions to Jewell Park.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Incorrigible Yellow Fervor

Last month, I competed in my first cyclocross race: the Lincoln cyclocross weekend. It was tons of fun. And that new yellow bike, the Incorrigible Yellow Fervor, took the beating well.

For the uninitiated, cyclocross events are off-road races on grassy terrains with patches of sand, single track dirt, mud and snow. Entrants ride a modified road bike with wider profile knobby tires not unlike what you'd see on a mountain bike. While most ride geared bikes, the single speed classification is also offered at cyclocross races.

The best part of cyclocross is the attitude. It's just fun. For everyone. And race venues have a reputation for being crowd-friendly. The Lincoln cyclocross weekend certainly did. The short loop course offers many opportunities for spectators to watch, encourage, give pity, donate cash, and in the case of Pioneer Park's Hooligan Hill, feed food and beer. I'm not kidding. There was a guy in an orange jump suit (shop overalls? prison garb?) shoving hot dogs smothered in ketchup & mustard in your face at the top of the hill that you just carried your bike up for the sixth time. It's that kind of attitude that keeps it fun. You can race your legs off while having a laugh along the way.

A belated thanks to Lincoln for putting on a great race.

Here are a few of the images that my friend Lucas Marshall took:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Injury Update, part 3 of 3

You may have wondered what compels me to write about my hemorrhoid experience. You may have even advised against it. One such comment came from Shim, "I think it would have been best if you had taken a few more weeks off of blogging."

Remember when Katie Couric broadcast her colonoscopy? It's kinda like that. I'm doing this as a service for the WSCG audience. Chances are, somebody reading this is familiar with this territory. And that's...OK. You don't need to suffer in silence. There are treatments.

So with that, it's time to shit or get off the pot.

Picking up from the last installment, I took the #2 bus from downtown to the Westroads Mall transfer center, which was a short distance from the clinic. Along the way, I became contrite about my behavior on the phone. Even more, I was concerned about Ratchet telling me to be prepared to wait. She could really make me pay for being nasty. Indeed, an apology wasn't going to cut it. This called for a bribe.

A box of warm cookies from the mall fit the bill.

Fortunately, Nurse Ratchet wasn't present when I arrived. In her place was a double for Queen Latifah. With dark chocolate eyes and the voice of honey, Queen Latifah 2 (QL2) was a vivacious and wholesome woman. She was an immense improvement on Ratchet.

QL2: How can I help you?

WSCG: I have a walk-in at 11:00 am.

QL2: Here's the paperwork, and I'll need a copy of your driver's license and proof of insurance.

WSCG: Here's my license, insurance and a treat for the staff. I was a bit irrational over the phone earlier. Could you put these in the break room for me?

QL2: Why that's sure nice of you. Hmmm. I think I'd better have one now... Ewwww these look soooo good! Oh Sugar, you know how to get out of the dog house don't you?

The cookies hit their mark. Within 15 minutes, a paper surgical gown was draped over my torso, while I was bent over in a position of disadvantage. The doctor said that the series of shots I was about to experience were not going to be pleasant, but I'd be feeling relief shortly after.

He wasn't kidding. I was wishing my mother had never met my father while he was delivering those injections. When the anesthetic took effect, the external portion of the hemorrhoid was lanced and stitched. The stitching, although painless, felt like piano wire was being drawn through me. Then he somehow put a ligature (rubber band) around the internal portion, explaining that it would wither up and go away within ten days.

The treatment was immediately effective. However, the doctor explained that I was feeling the effects of the anesthetic. He offered to write a script for a mild narcotic, but also said extra strength Tylenol should be enough to manage the pain.

I passed on the prescription.

Things were fine until I had to go #2 later that evening. It was bad. Really bad. Like, intense raw pain. If you had told me that I was passing a steady diet of coarsely broken fiber glass and chicken-wire, I would have believed you. It was that awful.

*** Again, this information is for your advantage. SO PLEASE NOTE: If the doctor offers a mild narcotic for a couple days to deal with pain, take it! ***

After a restless night, I called in the prescription. I took the narcotics for four days, then extra strength Tylenol for two more before things started returning normal. In all, it took about ten days from injury to recovery.

And with that, I'm done. Whew! Glad that's over with.

Wait - one more thing. This doubles as my heart-felt holiday greeting to you:


Friday, December 18, 2009

Injury Update, part 2 of 3

You'd think that a person who has a diet rich in wholesome steel-cut oats wouldn't be afflicted by an inflamed hemorrhoid. A fibrous diet certainly minimizes the chances, but doesn't eliminate it entirely.

My ordeal started two years ago. I had completed a long run on a sweltering summer day. Apparently, I hadn't taken in enough fluids and was dehydrated. The dehydration led to constipation. Then, straining produced a bloody stool -- I know, yucky -- and worse: an external bump. I was quite frightened; the blood and bump really freaked me out. My thoughts jumped to it being a cancerous tumor.

The Mayo-clinic's website brought some clarity on it. In short, everyone has hemorrhoids. And lots of them. It's basically soft tissue to help you know when it's time to move bowels. Unfortunately, more than half of us will experience an episode of inflammation in their lifetime. Once inflamed, a portion of it can become external, causing the bump. It's at that point when it can become a thromboid (clot) and swell to a considerable size. With nowhere to go, the clots aren't life-threatening. Still, if untreated, they can cause other troubles from infections.

On Monday morning, I made the call to the doctor. As this was a private matter, I slipped out of my cubicle and found a quiet nook in the lobby adjacent to the bustling Starbucks in my office building.

Nurse Ratchet took my call.

Nurse Ratchet: "The next available appointment is mid January."

That wasn't acceptable. I pressed to be seen immediately. Ratchet countered by asking when the symptoms started. My mind accessed the repressed memory of sweating it out on the toilet two years ago. Somehow, I knew that a couple years didn't warrant an emergency today.

WSCG: "Five days ago," I suddenly blurted out.

Nurse Ratchet: "Well there's nothing that the doctor can do now since the swelling of a thromboid subsides after three days. You'll have to make an appointment earlier next time."

WSCG: "But the intense swelling started Saturday morning. That's only two days ago."

Nurse Ratchet: "Well, I'll go ask the doctor, but I'm going to tell him that you originally said five days and then changed it to two."

Did I really just hear that?!? I replayed it in my mind. Yes, she said that she was going to tell the doctor that I changed my story. A flash of anger sent adrenalin coursing through my veins.


Silence. Then after a pregnant pause...

Nurse Ratchet: "Please hold --"

The lobby outside Starbucks had grown eerily quiet. Where did everybody go? Actually, I didn't care anymore. The rush of beta endorphins from that outburst was better at suppressing pain than any narcotic, over or behind the counter.

Nurse Ratchet: "The doctor can squeeze you at 11:00 o'clock. Be prepared to wait."

Next Part 3 of 3: The Treatment

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Injury Update, part 1 of 3

Please accept my apologies for taken an extended leave. It's not that I haven't had breaking news to share. It's more that I've been giving homage to my homey Fredcube for his excellent blogging as of late. Nice Old Yeller and Blue bike, Fred.

As for late breaking news, here's an update on my injury. This may be confusing to you since there was never an original post on the injury. Trust me, you'll be fine. Let's just jump right in to the latest scoop.

For the better part of five years, I've been fortunate to remain relatively injury free. It's partly design, partly dumb luck. The design part is attributed to being multi-sport focused, as swimming, biking and running doesn't contribute to excessive wear and tear on one particular muscle group. At least in the amount that I'm exercising.

Still, I've neglected a minor injury for a couple of years. I suppose I would have addressed it earlier if it had become critical, but most of the time, it'd remain dormant enough to train through it. When the injury did flare up, an extra day of rest would usually take care of it.

That all changed on Saturday morning, December 5th. On that morning, I was preparing to do a trainer ride at the Trek store. But because I woke up late, I was hurrying to get everything together, including bike, trainer + block, fluids, and an extra bag of clothes. As I ran out the door, I remembered that I forgot to do one last chore before leaving: dump the trash.

And by dumping the trash I don't mean emptying the garbage from under the sink.

Now, in an even-more hurried state (you know where I'm going [and yes it's too late to turn back now]), I strained too much. Way too much. This effort erupted into a nasty, fourth degree hemorrhoid (image).

Fourth-degree hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids that prolapse and cannot be pushed back in. Fourth-degree hemorrhoids also include hemorrhoids that are thrombosed (containing blood clots) or that pull much of the lining of the rectum through the anus.

I didn't write that last ditty. That gem came from the MedicineNet website.

Back to Saturday. I quickly reevaluated the situation. Being that I could hardly sit without incredible pain, 90 minutes of rocking on a TT bike's saddle didn't sound like a good idea anymore. So without providing any of the gory details, I tweeted @bredemske that I simply wasn't going to make it. Till now, he didn't know why. Hi Bryan. Sorry I couldn't make it that day. It was because of a raging hemorrhoid on my ass.

From that point until recently, I've been quietly sulking in my convalescence. I went through some dark times, but things are getting better now. Indeed, I'm like a mangy dog, who having gone off to die in the solitude of the woods, has returned to your doorstep with tail-a-wagging and in a dire need of a bath. In other words, wholesome steel-cut goodness is back and is here to stay.

There's your late breaking news. Again, please accept my apologies for not blogging lately. It really wasn't to give Fred homage, but more to deal with this nasty injury.

Next: Part 2 of 3 -- Sunday, Bloody Sunday