Out for the season

Messing Up my knee back in February was a blessing in disguise, maybe even a life-saver. My knee and ears hurt bad enough that I went to see my primary doctor, with whom I had not seen in five or so years.  My knee hurt from the bike injury and my ears hurt from hearing my incredible wife wanking everyday about me needing to go have that looked at.   Instead of looking at just my knee, my doctor insisted on doing a full workup as if I were a new patient.   After reviewing my medical records, she took note of a diagnosis of a faint heart murmur about 20 years ago.   She referred me to a Cardiologist.

After my initial visit with the Cardiologist and an EKG (A bunch of wires, pads and holes in my man sweater afterwards), I was called back in a few days later for an ECG (ultrasound of the heart).   A few days after that my Cardiologist called me and informed that my faint hear murmur had degraded into moderate to borderline severe Aortic Stenosis with regurgitation.   Basically, my Aortic Valve was not opening and closing properly and it was allowing non-oxygenated blood to backflow into the chamber where the oxygenated blood is at.   This is causing my heart to work harder than it should.   I was not having any of the typically symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain and numbness in the extremities at the time.    My Cardiologist was quite the straight shooter with me in that the only way to fix my particular condition was with surgery and it would most likely need to happen within a year or two max.   He set me up for a six-month follow-up with a stipulation that I should call him if any of those symptoms develop.

Looking forward to getting back out here

Between then and now I became more self-aware that I was having some of those symptoms.   Fatigue, well I’m not a spring chicken and getting old sucks.   Shortness of breath, well yeah when I’m climbing a steep hill on my bike and …I’m no spring chicken.   Now for chest pain, I cracked my sternum in 2004 in an MTB crash and I was chalking that slowly growing discomfort up to being visited by the ghost of bike injuries past.   (Which is a thing…when you are not a spring chicken.)

In late September, I had that follow up round of testing with my Cardiologist and things had continued to degrade.   I was not completely surprised when he told me it was time to take care of this.   Failing to take action now could result in permeant damage to my heart beyond the valve and put me at escalating risk of an “unscheduled” cardiac event in the next 1-5 years.

On  November 11th, I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve (with an bovine valve #prostethitic_heart_valves).  I had already had a cardiac caterer procedure and no other work was needed such as stints or bypasses.    I spent five days in the hospital and I am now recovering at home. Currently I’m in the “sucks to be me” level recovery at home which should glide slope into “does not suck as bad to be me” recovery for a total of two to three months.  If all goes well, I’m expected to be able to resume normal life (to include mountain biking) around mid-February. 

After the initial diagnosis back in March, I made a serious commitment at eating healthier and getting fit beyond just mountain biking. I feel like I was pretty close to the fittest and healthiest I could possible be going into the surgery. I was working on the premise that the “Stronger In…Stronger Out” mantra would apply for my recovery.  Between all of my fitness recording devices (fitness watch, heart-rate monitor, Peloton) I have a good set of baseline metrics of where I was at pre-surgery to geek out on as I work my way back to where I was and beyond. Right now the focus is on letting the heart fully heal. The big stick in this recovery tent is going to be my sternum healing up.

I had to give my primary doctor a huge Thank You.   I know myself well enough (now) to realize that if she had not sent me to that cardiologist, I would have continued to press on with my life and chalking up those sneaky symptoms to just having a tough time staying in shape as I age. I think we as mountain bikers are often limit pushers. We push ourselves to be fitter, faster, more skilled, or at any number of aspects of the sport that we love. I think along with that goes a bit of just suck it up mentality and push on through. I recommend that as your vintage starts getting interesting, you should not assume that fatigue, shortness of breath of just generally having a tougher time being able to do what you used to do is related to just the date on your birth certificate. It would be better to be on the safe side with a check up, because it is always better to out on the dirt than be under the dirt!

The knee is all better by the way.   #AfterMarketHeartParts

Home Dirt

So I spent that a little over two months working in the Kingdom of Bahrain. No quality mountain biking to be had there. You could make do, and I know some folks who have because they lived there, but not worth it for a visitor. Anyway, I got back and have been hitting up some of the local goods.

Daley Ranch
Daley Ranch
Santee
Candygram out in Santee

I can really say I have been in much of an exploring mood, just getting in some local dirt. After being away for that long, I kinda want to spend plenty of time with my wife. There is also a considerable amount of things that have to be taken care of as well.

What the hell is that?

I did however manage to grow as scraggly looking beard while I was gone. I don’t know how much longer this thing is going to hang around

The Local Loop

So I have a few options for a MTB ride from my house.   Two of them require riding on a section of road I am just not fond of as it twisty and narrow and idiots driving too fast while being distracted are way too common on this road   There are a number of trees that bear the marks of dumb asses playing chicken with trees and losing.   I am not too interested in playing that game with a car.

So my preferred trail system actually requires  quite a bit more street riding to get to than the other two but they are much less dangerous streets and roads.   Getting to the trail system also requires a bit of climbing which is good for the whole exercise thing.

There are has been sometime where I felt kinda meh about the local.    Since I was off the bike for quite sometime earlier this year with a knee injury, I have rediscovered some of the joy of the local loop when I was actually able to get back on it again.   Earlier on in the recover just getting to the trail from my house was all my knee could handle.

The Perch

Now that my knee is on the mend enough that I can put some work on the climbs it is really nice to get back and enjoy this place.   Even if all I do is make it up to the first climb and chill out on what I call “The Perch”.     I am thankful for a knee that works again and my local loop.

Idyllwild – Pine Cove

I was pretty stoked to finally be able to get a way from the house in the midst of all this COVID-19 BS.    The plan was to take the RV up to the Herky Creek Campground and base camp there for the weekend   Nichol and got up there on Friday afternoon and a couple of hours later my longtime MTB Bud Bill arrived.     We spent the afternoon and evening grubbing out catching up and sampling tasty whiskeys.    Bill and I have learned a thing our two about our proclivity to try and solve world hunger around a campfire at night when there is a bike ride the following morning.    We set an alarm clock, not to get up in the morning but to go to bed 🙂

Base Camp Herkey Creek (This picture was from Sunday, Saturday was cloudy)

The weather was pretty foggy the following morning it looked like we might get some drizzle action as well.   We had the right gear so off we went.   Today’s ride would be Pine Cove and Hub Trails.

In the twisty stuff up top

We took advantage of the spousal shuttle service leaving Bill’s truck at the Hub Trailhead while Nichol dropped us off up in Pine Cove

Misty at the top!

It has been more than a couple moons since the last time I had started from Pine Cove so it took me a couple of minutes orientate myself.   I ended up taking the route I new and then later in the ride realized that few new connectors had been added that optimized your elevation loss/gain.   Our basic route was a bit of Project X, Toptimater, Dreamwalker, Hard Sun and Tubs.

I believe we are on Dream Walker

The cloud cover kept the temperatures at just in the comfortable range.   We got ourselves turned around a couple of times snooping on some of the new stuff (since the last time I rode there) but that is all part of the fun of this area.

That evening was more tasty grub and good times.    The next morning the sun was out and it was time for some more fun on two wheels to the east of where we were base camped.

Desert Flower Goodness

The Pretty Cool Temps and cloud cover were gone for this ride and replaced with gorgeous sunshine and warmer temps.

Desert Goodness

Spring was still holding on in a few spots.

Horny Lil Guy

Bill harassing the locals

More Cactus Goodness

We had a great time out on a nice bit of trail. This was my second time out on this route and I was really stoked to show off some of the bits of trail that included some of the California Riding and Hiking Trail.

Back at camp we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, before breaking camp and rolling back to San Deigo.  I had reserved the spot for Sunday night as well, but I enjoy not having to be rushed out of the site on the last day.    This was a nice weekend getaway and good opportunity for Bill to check out live in the RV for some of less local adventures I have planned with this rig in the  future.

San Pasqual Valley – Raptor Ridge

Well after almost seven weeks off of the bike due to injuring my right knee I got back on the dirt.   For this first ride back I decided to head out to San Pasqual Valley and do the section of the Coast-to-Crest Trail from Bandy Canyon Road up to Raptor Ridge and back.

Heading up to Raptor Ridge from the east. I started at the far side of the valley

I decided on this route at it starts out flat then has a very gradual bit of climbing before you have a more significant climb at you approach Raptor Ridge.   I figured this would be a good opening test of the knee in making the pedals go around.   If I had any knee issues I could simply turn around and have a mostly flat or downhill spin back to the trail head.

Spring colors were out on the trail

This whole COVID-19 virus mess has made it tough to get into see doctors and physical therapy places are pretty much shutdown.     The doctor currently thinks I have inflamed tendons  but I’m not so sure I buy that diagnosis.   I have to do some physical therapy first before they will go done the MRI route but getting physical therapy is tough as they are only seeing “critical” cases right now.

The turnaround spot on Raptor Ridge.

It was so nice to be back on two wheels.   I was purposely going to take it easy on this ride and not mash on the pedals.   Spinning was the name of the game here.    The knee felt descent for just spinning along but I was aware I had a knee.   It was not in pain but it was not quite right either.   The final climbing section up to Raptor Ridge was all done in the granny gear.    I was not straining the knee but the knee was definitely feeling worked.  While this was an improvement, it is still not right as I was also not really putting much force down on the pedals at all and when I did the knee would complain.

It was still a good day to be on bike.

Lake Hodges and Knee Injury

The last couple of weeks January was a busy time with lots of non-biking goodness. I had been getting in some rides but they have been pretty utilitarian in nature. Such was the case on February 4th when I got in spin at Lake Hodges. I started out on the north side near at the storage facility staging area and took on the north side of the lake.

I took the north side all the way out to the dam and back. I was feeling really strong and keeping up a good pace (by my standards anyway).


When I got back to the bridge I cut over to he south side of the lake and started the working my way through the trails there. I was still feeling great.     While doing a bit of out of the saddle work to press up a short rise I felt a sharp twinge in my right knee followed by a sharp pain as I neared the top of the pedal stroke.    Even in my granny gear just getting through the range of motion at the top of the pedal stroke was quite painful.    I had to cut the out rest of my intended route and go home.

Just walking around was a only slight uncomfortable but stairs and getting the knee bent beyond 45 degrees was painful.

Out on the Lower Santa Ysabel Truck Trail

So I have resigned to just walking and hiking to keep active.  The dogs are pretty happy about this they are getting some longer adventures in beyond just the usual walking circuits.

Out at Lake Calavera

It has been three weeks since I hurt the knee and it has only slightly gotten better.   I have a doctors appointment in a couple of weeks when I get back from a work trip to have it assessed.

La Costa Bike tweaks

So I recently made a tweak to my Santa Cruz Bronson. It is built up as an XC rig and it rocks! It is a single track carving machine. The minor compromise I feel have had been making with this setup is that is not the most confidence inspiring rig when thingd get downhill and gnarly. I’m not talking downhill bike gnarly but both wheels on the ground kind of normal. It is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, I just feel I can “over ride” the bike. I hate all the micro-genre names but I wanted to shift more towards a trail/enduro feel on the bike.

I ended up trying something simple and relatively inexpensive. I switched from a 90mm 0 degree rise stem out for a 70mm 17 degree rise. I took the bike out to La Costa to see how this felt. As I predicted the climbs felt a bit awkward at firdt as my weight was shifted back slightly. On the climb I had plenty of switchbacks as well as some steeper pitches. By the time I made it up to the top of the climb I was feeling comfortable with the new setup. I descended down the back side and then up to the towers. This improvement was immediately noticed and I was feeling much more comfortable with the downhill chunkish bits.

Oh and the trails, the backside stuff was a bit overgrown with the flowerinf weeds starting to dry out. Meaning I got a free exfoliation treatment. Good Times.

Last Call at Takatori

My final outing on the mountain bike for this trip to Japan was to head back out to the Takatori area east of Zushi. I passed through here on my lasting outing but it was mostly a transit through it. This time I wanted to futz around a bit.

Coming in from the south
Coming in from the south

I did some street riding from Yokosuka to make may way over to the entrance of the trail system. Like most of the trails in the area, you have to do so grunting immediately after the leaving the streets.

Trail Goodness

I entered the trail system were I had exited on the last outing and I was planning on retracing my way back up to top of Takatoriyama.   I was however going to investigate all of the various spurs that split off of the main trail I was on.

There were a few spurs of particular interest to me as I remembered them as being really cool during my last time on them more than a few moons ago.

I just love these kind of locals helping folks signs.

So much steeper and slick than it looks

I was armed with my GPS loaded up with my personal archive of adventures in this area.    The goal was to jog my memory and avoid a few of the spurs that will quickly dump you off the mountain resulting in pain and/or hike-a-bike to get back up to the prime riding stuff.

Trails old enough to have worn notches through the peaks of the hills.

On my way up to the summit, I did find the junctions that I wanted to hit on the return half of the route.   I even came across about five other mountain bikers out on trail.    One interesting thing I noted about this group was that while most of them while had rather high-end new bikes (Within 2-3 years), none of them were running  single chain rings up front.   Actually most them were running triples up front.    My theory is that most them ride their bikes to the trailhead which according to where you live on the peninsula you can easily end up being 7-10+ miles on the streets/roads.    While my rental rig is pretty much old and has seen better days I find the big rig to be a really welcome feature on it.

Once up to the summit, I hooked up with one of the trails that I used as part of the Takatori to Sengen-yama (Duckpond) connector.   I was not going to take it all the way out to the duckpond trails today but it took me more a couple of minutes to reorient myself at a couple of the trail junctions.    That section was just a good as I remembered.   This was also my first time on the trail during winter so I was able to see a more things than in the past as most of the foliage was dormant.    There were a couple of spots were I had never noticed that I was riding along a ridgeline that was less than 10 feet wide with extremely steep slopes on both sides with homes 100 plus feet below.   Other times of the year the trail is just in a tunnel of green.

More cool Nippon signs

The particularly trail that I chose to peel off on led me to the top of a long series of stairs back down to a street.    Riding these are just part of the mainstream skillset for riding here on the peninsula.   The rental hardtail added some additional fun to this descent.

Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da…

After knocking out the stairs, I did a bit of street riding to make my way back over to the north side of the Takatoriyama area where I then made my way back up to the summit.

Climbing is what this spot is really known for in the area

From the summit I retraced my way (the trail was really fun in this direction) back the spur I had scoped out earlier in the ride.   This trail worked it is way towards the east along a series of ridgelines between two communities/towns.    There are several exit trails off of these ridgelines and according to my archives there was at least one I had not done before.

It is my understanding that most of this section of trail has a history of being a primary pedestrian route between several of the local communities.  (I suspect trains/buses my have lessened that usage in modern times).   One interesting bit is that there are long sections of this trail which have about an 18″ wide section of concrete walkway poured down the middle of it.   Pretty weird to have a “singletrack sidewalk” through the middle of the woods.    The trail/sidewalk in the woods eventually took me off the ridgeline and in an area of the peninsula I had not been before.     It was a bit of an adventure to find my route back to familiar streets which included traversing more topology than planned but it was all good stuff.

My final week of work in Japan end up being more work than I thought it was going to be so I did not get back out onto trails again.   Well one thing is for certain, my fondness for riding a bike in Japan has not diminished after this visit.

Wildhorse – SART

Bill and I did a ride on the Wildhorse trail near Big Bear and connected it up with the Santa Ana River trail. We typically do this as a point-to-point ride. This logistics of this takes over an hour at both due to the length and the long high clearance road you need to drive to get to the top.

The opening climb at around 8,900 feet

We mixed things up on this ride and met up the evening before and left a vehicle at the bottom and camped at the top.

This fellow has some age on him

Since we were camping just for the night we both went pretty minimalist on the camping gear. One area we did not skimp on is the refreshments.

Ferns and trees on Wildhorse

The next morning we came up with a novel idea. We need to start setting an alarm clock to tell us to go to bed. We had stayed up into the wee hours of the night having tasty spirits and trying to solve all manner of the world’s mountain biking problems. (The world has plenty of working on that pesky hunger thing)

Neither one of use were exactly moving quickly in the morning, but we still managed to get rolling earlier than if we had not camped.

Wildhorse did not disappoint and the SART was in good shape. Surprisingly we made really good time on the SART portion. I think we were afraid the wheels were going to fall of the bus of our hangovers so we should keeping movung while we were good.

A little hair if the dog at the bottom and all was well. It was a great day to be out on a bike.

Friends in Town

I was stoked to have a couple of my Colorado buds roll into town. In addtion giving them a place to shack up and bourbons to sample we got in some riding.

La Costa
La Costa was the local ride.

We had some rain to deal with o. The second day so we went out to Anderson Truck Trail

Anderson Climb
Anderson Climb

The skys looked ominous as we were driving out to the but the there was a large patches of blue sky to the southwest which was where the wind was coming from so I felt pretty good about our chances. Things looked good early on.

Oh Hail
Oh HAIL!

The skys turned pretty quickly and before we knew it we had hail bouncing off our heads. Now we have a bike ride!

Kevin on some SoCal rock

Pretty much by the time we got to the top of the trail the hail and light rain was over and we were back in some sunshine. Time to go back down.

Greg rocking in Socal as well!

I was so stoked to be to return some hospitality back in Kevin and Greg direction.