Friday, April 29, 2011

I've Been Glutened!

Sooner or later it was bound to happen.  Fortunately for me, it fell at a good time:  in between races and early in my gluten-free lifestyle. 

After the SERC XC race in Spartanburg, SC where we both podiumed, we treated ourselves to a post-race victory meal.  As Carly loves their lettuce wraps, we stopped at PF Chang's in Asheville.  I had done my homework and discovered that they have a gluten-free menu ... and the lettuce wraps were on it!

Carly's Favorite!  Mine is on the right, no wonton crisps for me.

Our waiter seemed to be very knowledgeable and quickly exchanged the sauce tray to a gluten-free one.  We had our fill with just the lettuce wraps.  Carly also had the egg drop soup.

Later that night (about 6 hours later), I should have known something was not quite right when I did not get hungry again.  I just assumed that the race had curbed my appetite and that the hunger monster would strike in the morning.

The next morning I awoke with no hunger pains.  Hmmm.  After I drank my usual cup of coffee, my abdomen blew up and I had discomfort in my stomach.  Oh no!  As the day progressed, I felt worse.  By noon, I came to the conclusion that my body had been contaminated.

Now I cannot be 100% sure it was from the restaurant, but for the week leading up to the race, all the food that went down my gullet was made/prepared by moi.  So I am 99% sure.  The only conclusion I can come to is that I had ingested some soy sauce that contained gluten.  It may have come from Carly's plate, but I had ordered hers GF as well.  After researching a bit more, the chicken lettuce wrap recipe does use 1 tsp soy sauce.  Perhaps some one in the kitchen made a mistake or there might have been cross-contamination. 

I definitely learned a few things from this experiment.
  1. I was just as miserable with this slight poisoning as if I had eaten a loaf of bread.  It only took a fraction of gluten (1 tsp soy sauce) to set me back full force.
  2. Bloating, stomach discomfort, fatigue, headaches, irritability, constipation:  all the signs I experienced.
  3. It took 6 days for my GI tract to normalize.  (Thank God as it took 6 weeks when I decontaminated myself the first time.
  4. I felt like crap on the bike! 
  5. YOU assume the risk when eating out.  People are only human and do make mistakes.  No hard feelings, PF Chang's. 
What I am interested in learning is the time it will take for my on the bike performance to return.  Will it be the same as the return to GI normalcy or will it take longer?

Since that fateful day, I have not eaten out.  I am scared too!  Having to go through the gluten demon exorcism was most painful and not an experience I want to repeat.  So for all you racer and non-racer friends, don't be embarrassed if I brown bag it when going out to eat with you all!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SERC #3 Spartanburg -- Carey's Race Report

I needed to get this one on the books as the next is only day's away.  It had been 5 years since I had last raced here and forgetting most of the terrain, I chose to easy of a gear when pre-riding.  Having been gluten-free for 6 weeks, I felt strong enough to race SS in the women's field.  The first half of the course was flat, flowy, and fast.  The second half had some short punchy hills and lots of roots.  At the end of the ride, I changed out gears and headed to the hotel for the night.

Carly's race was not as near nerve-racking this time, so I was able to save a little adrenalin for mine.  20 ladies lined up at the start, the largest field ever at the StumpJump.  It was also the largest field I had ever raced XC in.  It was awesome!  Of course, I was the only one with one gear, but did not have any second thoughts. 

I got a good start and was off the line first, but very quickly ended up towards the back as the start did not suit my gearing.  I entered the single track in 11th position.  This was a new experience ... being in a train of with some very fast ladies.  I bided my time and slowly began working my way up.  I thought I might be at a disadvantage on the first half of the course where it was flat.  I guess being able to spin a cadence of 120 has its advantages.

Most of my passing took place on the short power climbs.  Interesting thing I learned is that those with gears take it too easy on the climbs, gearing down and subsequently slowing down.  And it was these same climbs where I accelerated because I HAD to.  Hopefully I can remember this the next time I race gears.

Towards the end of the first lap I had caught up to the two leaders.  I was sandwiched between them as we finished up the first lap and started off the second.  Just before the single track entrance, while Carolyn was feeding, I jumped at the opportunity and passed her.  Thinking that she would be on me quickly during the first flat section, I let her know she could pass when she needed to.  I looked back once shortly thereafter and saw them some distance away.  That was the only time I looked back and did not see them again for the remainder of the race.

I finished the race with consistent laps.  At times, I felt like I was not going that fast or pushing myself hard enough.  I suppose that when your fitness is at a good level and your body healthy, the effort can feel easy.  It doesn't always have to feel like your eye balls are going to explode and you are going to choke on your vomit!

For my 1st place I earned a $200 payout and a free lactate threshold test at the Carmichael Training Center in Asheville, Tn.  Now that might be an eyeball exploding/vomit choking experience.  But one that I will look forward to!

I was extremely pleased with how this race unfolded.  It further emphasized just how bad the gluten had been poisoning my body for the last 1 1/2 years.  I hope that this is a new beginning ...

Friday, April 22, 2011

SERC #3 Spartanburg Carly's Race Report

We arrived to blustery conditions Saturday.  A necessary evil; it helped to dry out the trails, but made for a miserable pre-ride for Carly.  20-25 mph winds + freshly mown stobby field + loose gravely climb = MAJOR frowny face for the kiddo.  After Gainesville's sweet single track kid's course, this course was lame according to Carly.  Unfortunately, this venue was just not suited to using any of the single track for the kid's course.  So after a couple laps and a mother/daughter "fuss-fest," Grandmom Sandy came to her rescue and I went off to pre-ride my course.

We made up that evening with a home-cooked meal heated up in the Hampton Inn microwave.  Topped the evening off with a good game of Yahtzee.  Sunday morning came early, but Carly was in good spirits again.  We rode a lap before the race and I do believe I saw a tiny bit of a game face on Carly.

5 lined up in Carly's race.  I did not see the start as I went up to the top of the 50 yard gravel double track climb to cheer everyone up a pretty steep hill for the young 'uns.  Mom said that Carly got a good start.  Imagine trying to hop on a 60 pound bike with flat pedals in a soft field and get it up to speed.  Well, that is equivalent to Carly and her 25 pound bike.  But she did awesome!

At the top of the climb.

She was second to the top of the hill, with me wildly cheering her on.  And no, I did not embarrass her, she said.  She actually enjoyed her Mom rooting for her.  As she turned around the last pylon and headed back down, I could hear her clicking down her gears.  Good for her, as in the Gainesville race, she never shifted.

The second time up the hill, I think she was in the pain cave, but pushed through it and then hammered back down the hill.  I followed behind her, at a distance that was pre-determined by her before the race.  As she turned the corner and headed up a slightly off-camber hill toward the finish, a boy tried to pass her and "bumbled."  I immediately had deja vu (see Gainesville race report), but fortunately Carly held her line and the boy hit the barrier.  Only his pride was hurt, especially after seeing Carly pull away from him.

Carly finished second, got a cool medal, nice T-shirt, and some nice schwag.  I will have to teach her to smile when standing on the podium.

We will have to work on podium etiquette and save the stare-down for the start.

I think the bug is beginning to bite!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Warrior Creek 6 Hour Race Report

I love hand made podium awards!
The thing that impressed me the most about this race is how prideful and devoted BMCC is to their trails.  On Friday, I pre rode the course.  There had been rain leading up to the event and on Thursday night.  This trail system was so well thought out that it was mostly dry, save for a few squishy spots here and there.  As I rode, there must have been 10 volunteers out with their trail machine and tools, fixing those spots!  Awesome!  They take better care of this trail system than most parents take care of their children.  And they were out again on Satuday, just before the race, fixing a couple areas and removing some downed trees.  Yes, on Friday night there was only a 20% chance of passing showers, but when I woke up Saturday morning, there were standing puddles of water everywhere.

This was going to be my first 6 hour on my single.  I was both excited and nervous at the same time.  Just 2 weeks ago I had raced gears instead of single at the first SERC XC because I did not feel strong enough at that time.  Time would only tell if I chose the right gear and if 2 more weeks of being gluten-free was working.

Endless Bike Company had me ready to go with their cogs and socks!  Both Shanna and her friend Laura were there in their usual garb ... flaming tutu's.  Nope, I don't think I will ever go there, no matter how good a deal there might be!

The Start

No LeMans start (yea!), but about 3/4 of pavement to sort out some 230+ riders before we hit the 13 mile loop of single track.  Just another reason why I love this race ... a nice big loop.  My gearing was good enough to enter ahead of most of the pack.  It was slicker n snot, that first lap.  Thank goodness for 29 inch wheels and Specialized Captain tires.  They kept me hooked up even during the steepest sections of the course and at an RPM of 40 as I followed behind several trains of gearies spinning and slipping wildly about.

The course was beginning to dry out on the second lap and I was able to open it up a bit more.  I rode for awhile with Ruthie's husband.  Very cool!  I had known about Ruthie for some time but was able to hook up with her after the race and talk a bit.  Rarely do I talk in complete sentences when I race, but today I was feeling quite sparkly and enjoying life. 

Laps 3 and 4 seemed the fastest.  The trail was so hard packed now that my tires "whrrr'd"; you know, like when you hear those silly lifted trucks with their huge gas guzzling off-road tires.  This trail is best described as a perpetual pump track.  The berms and whoop-de-doos were so well placed that if you knew how to carry your momentum, you could spend quite a bit of time just coasting and pulling "G's."  It had almost sort of a roller coaster feel as you would climb for a bit, nothing too steep, and then enjoy a blazing fast ride through dips and tight turns.  And, if you were fast enough, could go horizontal!

Silly me, I thought, at the beginning of the race, that I could get in 6 laps.  After that first lap, however, my goal quickly changed to how fast could I get in 5 laps.  Even though my time on the last lap was within 1 minute of the previous lap times, it seemed WAY HARDER than the previous.  My calves were the most tired; hmmm, might have had something to do with them getting sore when I hiked a portion of the course on Thursday.  I was thankful that the significant amount of mashing I did on the climbs did not send them to "Crampville."

Speaking of mashing, why is it that most single speeders listen to either their egos or their SS buddies when choosing their gear?  Me, it is a collaborative effort involving my LEGS and my BRAIN.  Yes, I may get dusted in the beginning, but slowly, but surely, I pick them off, one by one, when they are all mashed out.  Oh, well, I have only been doing this crazy one-gear thing for a little over one year, so maybe there are some things I just haven't learned yet.

We turned around to face the setting sun.

5 laps in 6 hours was good enough for 1st in the Open Women's class.  No money, but a HUGE amount of usable schwag, in addition to the super cool coffee mug.  And most of the clothing fit, save for a pair of Specialized Pro shorts, size Medium.  Come on, you guys, sizes run BIG in women's clothing.  Clothing manufacturers try to make every woman FEEL skinny.  I could get two of me in those Mediums. 

 This was my first race with the Ergon GS2 with the rubber grip inserts on the bar ends.  Quite "gecko-ish," I must say.  I absolutely love them.  In the wet and mud, my hands never once slipped.

The post race barbeque was most excellent.  Thank you, Sledgehammer Charlie's.

I give this race an A+, in all respects.

Friday, April 1, 2011

1 in 133

I entered my 5th decade full of promise and high expectations.  I was the healthiest I had ever been and with a phenomenal coach, I was ready to tackle the world ... or so I thought.  After I had won the 2009 Cowbell Challenge, I was ready to win the 100+ division of TransRockies with my super strong training partner Zeke.  Things did not go so well for either of us.  Zeke injured his knee on Day 1 and I hit a brick wall on Day 5.  At the time I thought my poor performance was just due to late season fatigue.

However, even after a recovery period, my form for the remaining races never re-materialized and I ended the season wondering what was wrong with me.  In addition to fatigue, new signs began appearing, in the form of bloating, stomach discomfort, and the beginning of a "buddha" belly.  After taking 2 home pregnancy tests, I breathed a big sigh of relief.

One doctor told me it was related to following a modified Paleo diet and getting 30-40 grams of fiber daily. I  began to worry about the Big "C" so I had my primary care doc order up a bunch of tests including blood work and a cat scan with contrast.  They all came back normal.

My primary care doc then sent me to another doctor who said, after a brief palpation of my abdomen, said it was my gallbladder.  I was not ready to be cut upon, so I asked if we could confirm it with testing.  A Hida scan performed a couple weeks later, showed a poorly performing gallbladder.  I, believing the numbers (more so than my clinical signs, which were atypical for gall bladder) gave the o.k. for it to be yanked out.

I had the cholecystectomy performed in January of 2010.  After recovery, initially I thought I was doing/feeling better.  But by April/May, I realized that my body was still "just not right,"  I was told by professionals that it was just related to my body getting adapting to life without a gallbladder.  Bullshit!  That's a cop out!  I think that we, as athletes, are better in tune with our bodies than your average joe or weekend warrior.  Something was still amiss.  Along with my little "buddha" belly that never really went away, my power numbers and recovery time were not on par with my training or my early 2009 numbers.  Even my coach was puzzled and concerned.

Then a new clinical sign  appeared:  constipation.  This was most unbearable!  I have always been regular; you could set your watch by me.  So in September 2010 I went back to my primary care doctor I went.  My blood work was still normal, so he punted me to a GI specialist who after palpating my abdomen said I had IBS with constipation and placed me on Amitiza.

Although the Amitiza did help with regularity, I still had all the other signs:  fatigue, bloating, stomach discomfort, and Buddha.  Even Coach was concerned with my "numbers" and especially my RPE with each of my training sessions.  Mind you, throughout 2010, I was doing my own research.  I thought it might be related to a food allergy.  So I began performing my own food elimination trials:  dairy, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, caffeine, peanuts, etc.  Nothing worked.

Then, through my coach, other endurance athletes, and even FaceBook, I began hearing about gluten intolerance and celiac disease.  So I ordered this.    Ding!Ding!Ding!  Lights went on!  Fireworks went off!

Beginning in March, I began scrutinizing labels and eliminating everything that contained wheat or gluten.  Voila!  Within a week, I began seeing changes with my body.  Now, 4 weeks later, I am getting closer to normal.  I am losing Buddha, my fatigue levels are within reason, bloating/stomach discomfort has almost subsided, my "regularity" is returning, and my power numbers are improving.

So, whereas 4 doctors never had gluten intolerance/celiac disease on their differential list, my fellow athletes did.  Hmmm .... what's wrong with that picture?  1 in 133 people have celiac, and even more than that have gluten intolerance.  The average time to diagnosis for celiac disease or gluten intolerance is 10 years.  I was lucky; it only took me 1 1/2 years.

I have taken blood tests to rule out celiac disease; they came back negative.  However, that does not necessarily rule it out.  At this point, I don't want to pursue any more diagnostics, i.e. stool testing and intestinal biopsies.  Mainly due to time constraints, finances, and potential for false negatives.  I am happy with a self diagnosis through food trials.  I also went back on gluten for a few weeks when I had the blood testing done and all that "crumminess" came back immediately.

Did I need my gallbladder yanked out?  Probably not.  Am I angry at my doctor for yanking it out?  Angry, no.  Frustrated, yes.  I am just happy that I finally figured it out and can now move on with my life, training, racing, and hopefully kicking some ass.  I have also learned, that as a patient, you have to be pro-active with your health and question your doctor's methods/madness!

Do I have celiac disease?  I dunno.  But for now, I am assuming so and therefore being incredibly thorough and picky about what I ingest.  Going gluten-free is not so bad.  The biggest thing I miss is my post-ride/race PB&J.