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You win some, you lose some

April 7, 2009

Following the great race I had at Warda, I had some great lower back pain develop. I had set the hardtail up with a new handlebar that week before the Warda race, and I also dropped the handlebar height quite a bit. During the race at Saint Jo, I was trying out the syntace 16d bar on the hardtail for the first time. It had felt great on the full suspension at the Warda 12 hour, but it did not translate very well to the hardtail. Different geometry, different riding style, and different course. The bar felt too high and too wide, compromising the handling. For Warda, I put the newly acquired Salsa 17d bar on. It is narrower, has no rise, and as mentioned, I set it up lower by flipping the stem upside down and removing a stem spacer. The result was much more desirable. The geometry and handling felt way better. Anytime you make a change to your bike fit, 4mm is considered a large change. It’s best to make anything larger than that in small increments so your body can adapt. I dropped it well over 4mm, all at once. Throw that in when an all out 1 hour 50 minute effort, and you’re asking for some muscle problems.

So I theorize that’s how it all started. It was likely perpetuated by some swimming and running that I threw in last week for triathlon training-AND-not enough stretching/foam rolling. The instant you know you have a muscles problem, you have to attack it with a vengeance. Don’t just assume it will go away. I did the latter, and have paid the price.

As planned, I did enter the 5k trail run Saturday morning. I was very pleased with a 2nd place finish in my age group, but the effort left my back feeling even worse-not to mention the toll it took on my quads and calves. I really pushed it that morning, having not done much running training the weeks before. I  made it home and hit the foam roller until Colleen showed up and we left for Reimer’s Ranch in western Travis County, site of Sunday’s XC mountain bike race. The pre-ride felt ok, but since I was riding with Colleen, I cut out a lot of the expert trails I would be racing the next day that the beginners didn’t have to ride. This would result in less than desirable consequences come race time, but to finish the day up, we rolled down to the Perdenales River for a quick swim, then back to camp for a good dinner and more stretching/foam rolling.

3 raw eggs, trail mix, and kiwi got the day started at 6:30am Sunday. Come 9am we are off! I knew my top end would be gone following the run yesterday, so I was happy to not get last in the field sprint before we hit singletrack. Things were going alright, I was hanging in a nice midpack group and didn’t feel like the pace was beyond my capability-both physically and technically. I got around a few riders who crashed or couldn’t ride some of the ledges and was actually moving up when my negligence to pre-ride the entire course the previous day bit me in the butt.  Actually, it bit my rear tire as it came down hard from a rock ledge, bottomed out on the rim, and sustained a hole.

I took the wheel off and shook it around to get the tubeless sealant to seal the hole. It worked after a few tries and some more air from my mini pump, but not until the ranks of the 19-29 men whizzed by. I knew my race was over, but I still wanted to get a hard ride in, so I kept going. The roughness of the trail did not ease up and the more I rode on, the more the back pain started to kick in. Had I rode these rougher parts the day before, I undoubtedly would have raced the full suspension bike with beefier tires as opposed to the hardtail with the squirrely Ravens. The decision had already cost me a flat, and now it was breaking my back and spirit to the point that I did something that I’ve never done before. I threw in the towel.  I quit. I rode by the race official and said “I’m done”. Not once in my entire cycling career have I recorded a DNF in a mountain bike race. I simply had absolutely nothing to gain by finishing that race that day, but much to lose, and so really, the decision was a no brainer.

It was odd rolling through the expo area with all my teammates sporting a look of confusion on their faces. That was not the Caveman they knew, the one that fought to the bitter end. I held no shame and no regret though. Every day has its dog, and every dog has its day. No group of people understands this better than my teammates, just another reason I race for the best team in the state of Texas. Sure, it was a bummer, but I will live to race another day, and another race there will always be.

Some reaseach and consulting with my therapist and coach isolated the lower back pain to the psoas muscle. I’ve long had a tight psoas and have to constantly keep it in check. If you ever get a tight hip/lower back pain, it is likely the result of a tight psoas. Look up how to stretch it and do it as many times as you can a day! Even if you don’t have problems, increased flexibility in the psoas will improve performance, especially if you are a runner/cyclist. I’m making progress on loosening up the tightness and expect to be working out by week’s end. Late April has some big races coming up that I’m really looking foward to. Thanks for reading. Now go stretch you psoas!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2009 8:46 am

    When you get the time, would you post up some stretches for the psoas?

  2. aardvark102431 permalink
    April 8, 2009 8:58 am

    I’m working on a page in health tips!

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