Results 1 to 9 of 9
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Trans-Portugal MTB Race 2023: A transformative Odyssey

    Post 1: The Crux - Aka "Musings while laying in bed and writing on my phone"

    Out of desperation, I sat on the side of the trail, my chamois useless against the jagged rocks.

    How did I get here?
    Maybe I was wrong.

    Maybe I can't do this after all.

    The Trans-Portugal Mountain bike race was already a monumental task on its own, but my challenge began months earlier when I stared into a foamy basin of urine.

    Kidney damage leads to protein leakage, and protein leads to bubbles in your pee, and the toilet looked like the foamy head of a summer ale. It wasn't the first time I had experienced this—autoimmunity has a knack for finding creative ways to fuck with you.

    Like many others, my life has been marked by a series of highs and lows. After a difficult 2022, I decided that 2023 would be different, so I signed up for three events—three attempts to prove to myself that I still had it. Trans-Portugal in May, FNLD gravel in June, and Dakota 5-0 in September. But my immune system has no respect for my calendar.

    And now I have a choice to make. I can either give up or keep taking steps forward, doing anything I can to make even the slightest progress.

    Training for an eight-day mountain bike stage race -- with stages averaging seven hours -- is challenging to perfect but you do the best you can. My best effort involved a 17-hour training week, during which I received one of two monoclonal antibody infusions to eliminate my B-immune cells—the ones that protect you against COVID and other viruses. Regardless of whether my fitness was improving, the training-induced sodium loss was doing wonders to reduce the extra fluid building up on my shins.

    With my lab values and compromised kidney function holding steady in the weeks leading up to the race, there seemed to be no compelling reason why I couldn't attempt the north-south crossing of Portugal on dirt and cobbles. In the absence of a clear no, I assumed the answer was yes. So, after arriving at the airport, I was shuttled to Lisbon, having received a last-minute plea from my nephrologist begging me to avoid dehydration.

    And now I find myself on the side of the trail, somewhere between Paso de Regura and Fornos de Algodres. It's only the first stage (supposed to be the second, but the airline lost my bike), and my body has already given out. Hours of high-intensity climbing in unfamiliar heat have robbed me of my ability to push on the pedals. I've also lost my ability to sweat. And for the past hour, the fluids I've consumed have rapidly evacuated via alternative means before ever reaching my bloodstream.

    So much for avoiding dehydration.

    How did I get here?
    Maybe I was wrong.

    Maybe I can't do this.

    And now I have a choice to make. I can either give up or keep taking steps forward, doing anything I can to make even the slightest progress.

    Crossing the finish line, closer to the time-cut than my pride allows me to admit, had a metaphorical parallel. Sixty kilometers earlier, isolated from everything I knew, I had hit rock bottom. All my struggles, all my strains, all my physical and mental health issues, manifested in that one bleak moment. And yet, I rose, relying on no one and in control of my own well-being. Apparently, I'm a phoenix or something.

    When we look around, we are inundated with apparent perfection. However, we do ourselves a disservice by judging our-self based on an incomplete understanding of others. The truth is, we may not always be able to move with the speed and grace that we prefer, but we can continue moving at the pace we can manage—and doing so makes us superhuman.
    Last edited by XtrPickels; 06-02-2023 at 03:12 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Post 2: The Sparse Images / Timeline

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Post 3: Learnings, Science, Tips


    General training for me tends to fall into a 3 or 4 week block periodization.
    All riding is at base intensity unless it's part of a specific workout.
    Week 1: Intensity (4 - 5 workouts in a week, typically 8 to 10 hours total volume)
    Week 2: Volume (1 workout, typically 12-15 hours total volume)
    Week 3: Moderate (1 workout, 8 to 10 hours) OR Recovery (No workouts, 6 to 8 hours)
    Week 4: Recovery if Week 3 was Moderate, otherwise I didn't use a week 4.

    Training for this event was at times on-point and at other times non-existent. I had known that I wanted to do the event since the fall of 2022, but with my kidney's going through a rough-spell it was mentally difficult to commit to training. To be honest, I was afraid of failure and protected myself by not taking it too seriously.

    Monthly Hours
    January: 22
    February: 32
    March: 50
    April: 35

    By January I was under a lot of stress because I hadn't been training specifically for this event but it was approaching quickly. However, life was getting in the way. I had ski trips planned and because my kidney's were continuing to get worse, suddenly also had 2 Rituximab infusions. I decided that I would wait until after the infusions to begin serious training - because I didn't know how I was going to feel. Throughout the month of January, I basically waited to have my infusions, but because of insurance delays they never happened.

    In February, I began training with some reservations and in March I was in the full swing of things. March had 2 17 hour weeks, the second of which was supposed to be a spring-break trip to Tucson, but at the last minute my 1st Rituximab infusion was scheduled. That made for a big, stressful, week.

    My second infusion occurred in April, 2 weeks before the race. April turned out to be the hardest month because my kidney function continued to decline and I continued to spill more protein. I eventually got to the point where I lost protein to the point that I began retaining ~ 5 lbs water and having edema in my ankles and shins.

    Bike and Equipment:
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	PXL_20230508_083044912.jpg 
Views:	13 
Size:	2.54 MB 
ID:	460790
    Frame: Specialized Epic Evo - Large
    Fork: Stepcast 34 w/ DSD Runt
    Shock: Factory DPS with No Spacers
    Wheels: i9 UltraLight 280 Carbon w/ Finishline Extreme Fluoro Grease
    Tires: Continental RaceKing Bernstein Edition 2.2 + TuboLight Evo SL insert in the rear.
    Stem: Specialized S-work -17deg x 100mm
    Handlebars + Grips: Enve M6 + Ergon GXR + Togs
    Saddle: Specialized Power Pro Elaston 155
    Dropper: KS Lev Ci
    Drivetrain: Full XTR 9210
    Cranks: SRAM XX1 DUB with Quarq Spider + Wolftooth 32t chainring
    Bottles: Zefal Magnum on Downtube and Toptube + Specialized 26oz on Seat tube
    Bottle Cages: Specialized Z-Cage on frame + SKS Anywhere on Top Tube
    Top Tube Bag: Revelate Mag-tank run backward to neutralize the top tube slope
    Computer: Garmin 1030 Plus on K-edge Steerer tube mount
    Repair kit: Lezyne pump attached to bottle cage + Silca Mattone Boa on the downtube with: 2 x Tubolito tubes, Fix-it Sticks multitool, Small bottle of Silca Synergetic, Small Bottle of Stans, Stans Darts

    In talking with the guys at DSD they recommended running my shock pretty open for compression, removing spacers to make it more linear, and relying on the pressure to provide support. I was running a bit less sag than the 27% recommended. This was been working pretty well for me, especially on the fast / smoother surfaces in Portugal and around my house. However, I think that if I were in my technical terrain / rocks / roots / slower speeds I'd actually add some volume spacers and pull some pressure to get a bit more compliance out of the rear end. The DSD runt on the front really allows me to have some compliance off the top, but nice support. With the remote lock-out I run the front a bit softer than the rear because it's easier to firm up when I get out of the saddle.

    I also need to give a shout-out to the Conti Race-Kings. They're arguably the fastest rolling XC tires on the market and with the rear insert I didn't have any of the flat issues that plagued other riders. I'm not the fastest descender in the world, but I was fast enough that people commented on it and to be honest it's because I was confident that this set-up was going to have my back. I had adequate traction on trails, and I coasted away from people on paved descents. You really can't ask for anything more than that.

    The last thing to call out is the combination of the SKS Anywhere cage + the 1L bottles + the Revelate Top Tube bag eliminating the need to wear a pack. I'm a big, sweaty, animal and packs just make that situation worse for me. I also never can tell how much I've drank AND they add additional weight. I avoid them at all costs and this set-up lets me carry everything I need without one.

    Flats and Slight Inclines: Base Zone
    Long, manageable, climbs: Sub-Threshold
    Steep Climbs: If I was forced over threshold, I went as slow as I could to keep moving forward

    I spent a lot of time matching people on climbs, pushing over the top and dropping them on the downhills or on the flats.
    In my experience, if you go too deep on the climbs of long days - you spend some time recovering at the top and this kills any advantage that you had.

    On-Bike Nutrition
    Standard Hydration: 750-1L per hour
    Standard Calories: I aimed for 120g per hour with 90g per hour from Sucrose from my bottle + 1 gel per hour (Maurten and SIS Beta 2.0) // when my pre-mix ran out, I switched to straight gels (4 per hour) + water
    Standard Electrolytes: 1 tsp of Sodium Citrate per liter in bottles // 2 salt-stick capsules per hour when consuming water.
    Standard Schedule: Drink 500ml every 30 minutes. Eat a gel on the half hour (e.g. 0:30 / 1:30 / etc. )

    I typically started with my on -bike bottles filled with water, sugar, and sodium citrate + an additional DRY bottle in my jersey with Sugar and Sodium Citrate + an additional baggie with Sugar and Sodium Citrate. This gave me ~3 hours of range before my first stop + an additional 2 hours of pre-mix for the water stop. Because stages were often in the 7 hours range, the second half had a heavy reliance on additional gels per hour + salt capsules + straight water. This works well for me because I'm someone that really really enjoys drinking straight water as the day gets longer.

    Whenever I got to a water stop, I made sure to guzzle a bit extra. I also slammed the occasional coke on the few times I stopped at cafes.

    My energy level was amazingly sustained throughout the day. I experienced almost no cramping, no bonking, no stomach discomfort. Pretty incredible actually.

    Physical / Body Work:
    Each day I got the worlds most excruciating 30 minute massage as part of my race package. I made noises that I am not proud of. I also focused on Quad / Hip-Flexor / Hamstring Stretching as well as core-strengthening each day. My biggest savior however, was my Pso-Rite... which is a medieval torture device - but amazingly effective for keeping lower-back pain at bay.

    Recovery Nutrition / Supplements:
    Immediately after crossing the finish line I picked up my bottle that I had loaded with First Endurance Ultragen. I pounded this on the way to return my tracker and stop at the food spread. At the food spread I got 3 (small) sandwiches of chicken salad or ham plus a bag of chips and an orange soda. I then went straight to my hotel room, ate 1 sandwich before my shower and the remaining food while stretching / watching "Midnight Diner" on my iPad.

    Dinner each night was a buffet. I ate as much as I wanted of whatever looked good. I didn't intentional stuff myself full, but I also didn't restrict. The food was always terrific, but often different from what I would have eaten at home. There was a big emphasis on meat and fish, there were some vegetables available, but It was hard to find a decent salad. Dessert was usually good enough for seconds.

    Before Bed:
    Normally I'd take additional recovery drink before bed, but because dinner was from 8pm to 9:30 each night, I always went to bed full. Prior to bed I'd take First Endurance Multi-V / 1g of NAC / 400mg of Advil / 15g of HVMN Ketone-Aid.

    I'm someone who thinks that ketones are a game-changer. I've had great success taking them during long rides but I chose not to take them during this because I was cramming in carb calories and there were too many other variables to control. I did, however, have ketones with me on the bike in case I hit a low point. Taking them prior to bed has shown benefit for reduction in over-reaching, increase in glycogen stores, etc. It's impossible to say if it was beneficial, but I felt great every day, so I wouldn't change anything.

    NAC is pretty widely used within grand-tours because it's a potent anti-oxidant and can help with improved recovery. This is not a good strategy when you are looking to maximize adaptation because it blunts some signalling, however, for an event like this recovery and next-day performance are paramount.

    Breakfast for me was pretty light. A little big of egg, some toast with jelly. I can't really handle a lot in the morning. I'd focus on getting in some electrolytes (Liquid IV) with some good hydration. I'd also eat a solid bar (Skratch or Maurten) ~1 hour before the start. Because of the calories I was eating during and after the race, I didn't need to make up a deficit in the morning.

    Despite the copious amount of calories, I lost ~5 lbs throughout the duration of the event.
    Last edited by XtrPickels; 06-03-2023 at 06:24 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Quote Originally Posted by XtrPickels View Post
    When we look around, we are inundated with apparent perfection. However, we do ourselves a disservice by judging our-self based on an incomplete understanding of others. The truth is, we may not always be able to move with the speed and grace that we prefer, but we can continue moving at the pace we can manage—and doing so makes us superhuman.
    100%. Excited to read the full TR!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Quote Originally Posted by XtrPickels View Post
    and protein leads to bubbles in your pee, and the toilet looked like the foamy head of a summer ale.

    Looking forward to the rest of the RR
    "High risers are for people with fused ankles, jongs and dudes who are too fat to see their dick or touch their toes.
    Prove me wrong."
    -I've seen black diamonds!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    ride bikes, climb, ski, travel, cook, work to fund former, repeat.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Bump for another post.
    Pictures and daily write-up to come.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    On a genuine ol' fashioned authentic steam powered aereoplane

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts