170-mile Bike Ride Report - Part 2

As we rolled out of Shelton toward the next stop in Olympia, I felt a sharp pain behind my right knee on my down pedal stroke. It happened once, then a few turns later it happened again. Ninety miles into the ride and 80 miles from my car. Eric and I stopped and I tried to stretch. I popped two ibuprofen that I had wisely packed with my bg test kit. I was not sure if I could ride back to the rest stop at Shelton to beg for a sag wagon ride back to Tacoma. The thought of quitting or stopping did not seem to cross Eric’s mind, though. He suggested that I take as much ibuprofen as I could stomach and pedal with a high cadence and low resistance. As soon as we got back on the road again the pain returned worse than before, and we hit the longest sustained climb of the ride. The pain was excruciating, and I found that I was pedaling up the hill favoring my left leg. Eric was behind me, and while he is not usually as good a climber as me, I think he could have passed me on this hill. Maybe he was staying behind to make sure I didn’t fall off the bike. I told myself that if I made it to Olympia, which is a larger city along I5, I could somehow get on a bus or train to my car in Tacoma if no sag wagon was available. I would be at 100 miles by then and I figured there was no shame in stopping.
After a few miles the pain went away, and we were back up to taking turns at 18 mph. Now the sun was beating down on us and a thermometer on a bank read 80 degrees. I glanced behind me now and then to look for other riders, because I was sure that the 8 or so riders who rolled in at Shelton as we left would catch up after our stop and slower pace. But no one caught us.
As the knee pain returned intermittently I began wondering if the miles of running at Diabetes Training Camp were to blame. Knee pain while cycling is something new - I hadn’t changed my bike position or anything. Or maybe I had not trained enough for long distances. I had last done a century ride in late June, but had rolled out for 70 miles on weekends since then, including a 60-mile ride the week before. And why is the Shelton High mascot the “Highclimbers?” Maybe I should have stretched more and earlier, but it seemed that now the knee hurt immediately after stretching. And now the outside of my left leg had a dull pain, in the IT band region. I was clearly overcompensating for the right leg. Soon, I found my mind wandering a bit as I tried to ignore the pain, and soon I was really thinking about nothing. Then I began feeling discouraged and I felt I was losing motivation to continue. This was a sure that my bg was dropping fast, and a look at the 84 mg/dl on my sensor with a down arrow confirmed it. Shoot, maybe there wasn’t as much fruit in that raspberry smoothie as I thought. (Come to think of it, as I walked past the table at Shelton High where the girl was mixing them in the blender I saw some empty cartons of sugar-free Crystal Light.) Snapping out of my hypoglycemic zen, I sucked down two packets of Gu and a fruit bar, for a total of 68g of carbs. I asked Eric to slow down and pull for awhile as I tried to recover. In normal, nonexercise conditions it might take 15g of carbohydrates and 15 minutes to slowly begin feeling better, so it was no surprise that ½ hour later I was still dragging and at only 90 mg/dl. I downed another gel packet.
The glucose and the ibuprofen may have kicked in at about the same time. Once in Olympia, I figured I could make it the rest of the way. Eric encouraged me by pointing out that it was only another 25 miles to the next stop, then another 20 or so miles to the finish. And, he added, we were still in 3rd and 4th place. Of course this wasn’t a race, but anytime you get on the bike it becomes a race, right? I popped the last 2 ibuprofen, ate another 45g of carbs and did not bolus. And I didn’t stretch my right leg since it made the pain worse. A group of 6 riders rolled in immediately behind us as we prepared to leave. We rode out slowly with another rider through downtown Olympia then he dropped behind on the first small incline. After a few more miles 2 riders passed us, and we jumped onto their wheels. We worked together and took turns pulling for the next several miles, although my knee kept me from pulling as long or as strong as I should have. The other guys were satisfied to stay at 21 mph. I looked at my CGM and I was at 140 mg/dl. Yeah, I was going to make it back to Tacoma under my own power. Figuring I was within a couple hours of finishing I set the basal rate on my pump to return to the regular rate in 1 hour.
The rest of the route took some strange turns, including a short stretch on the shoulder of I-5 where we had to pull the daring traverse of a highway exit ramp to continue riding in the shoulder. When we exited, the 4 of us found ourselves on a short, steep climb. One of the other riders announced, “I’m a terrible climber” and dropped back. Eric hung with him. I stood up to climb with the smaller guy who was the stronger rider, and I felt an immediate cramp in my right quad muscle along the inside of my leg. Here was a muscle that was impossible to stretch while clipped in to pedals, so I sat down on the saddle, slowed down and started punching and rubbing my leg. As Eric and The Terrible Climber pulled up Eric asked me what was wrong, and I told him that I had almost forgotten about my knee pain by now. I downed both bottles of sports drink that I had with me, as if that would immediately put an end to my cramping. For whatever reason, when we reached the top and the four of us regrouped my cramp was gone and I felt better. And the knees didn’t bother me when I stood to climb – bring on the hills! I ate a small amount and bolused another ½ unit at the final rest stop. We joked about J.Z. Knight and Ramtha as we rolled through her (his or its?) hometown of Yelm.
We came across another long climb, and Terrible Climber repeated the warning of his shortcomings. Eric and I both stuck with the second guy until about a mile after the top, where the guy told us that he planned to stop and wait for his buddy. Eric and I rolled through University Place, with Eric calling out each turn with the help of his GPS. Stopped at an intersection, we saw the sign for Tacoma Community College. At 5:10 PM we turned into the parking lot, which was now filled with hundreds of parked cars, and toward the finish line: a lone volunteer beneath a tent, ringing a cow bell. She offered us ice cream bars, and told us that 36 people had signed up to ride RAPSODY in one day and we were the fourth and fifth finishers. Ok, either the woman was suffering from sunstroke or someone jumped onto the course and rode only the last 50 miles, because since the first rest stop there were only 2 riders ahead of us. And there they both were, putting their bikes on their cars. One guy called out congratulations, and waved. No mysterious third rider to be seen, although I commend the interloper for talking his way into a free ice cream bar. And that was it for finish line festivities. No t-shirt, no pictures – just the free socks at the start and all the leftover Bumblebars I wanted to grab on the way. The next two guys rode in and we all thanked each other for sharing the work in the paceline and joked about the experience. I am 99% certain I was the first Type 1 finisher and Eric was the first Type 2 finisher, because one of the other guys didn’t recognize what I was doing when I tested my blood. (Shoot, I should have told him it is the way I became a better climber.)
As Eric and I put our bikes on the car and changed out of our gear, my CGM beeped at me to tell me that I had a projected high bg because I was 145 mg/dl and climbing fast. I should have had ice cream bars along the ride, I guess. The woman gazed up at the road then stood up and began ringing the cow bell for the next four finishers. I took a bolus and drove Eric back to his house. I found myself caught up in Seahawks preseason game traffic and finally pulled into my driveway at 7:00 PM, and my bg was dropping down to 98 mg/dl. I nearly fell on my face when I tried stepping out of the car with my stiff legs. Time to load up – my sister and her family were over for dinner, so I ate like a pig and bolused half of my normal bolus. Good to go – I hovered around 85 mg/dl for a few more hours. I set my alarm for 2 AM and I was at 158 mg/dl. I am icing my knees and hoping I can recover without any lasting damage. I am taking some time off the bike now and I can feel good about taking the bus to work for a few days.

Don’t have a clue who you are but I’m pumped by your post. I’ve been biking for three years now and am still in the early/easy stages. I’m riding in my first charity ride this weekend. Only 26 miles but I’m excited. My averare ride is 10-20 so this will be fun. (We all have to start somewhere!!) Thanks for the great post and hope the leg has recouped!

Happy Trails!

I enjoyed your posts about the ride, I hope your knees recover! Good memory about what you consumed! It is amazing how little insulin is needed when so active!