Sunday, April 24, 2011

You're In Trouble Now

I need to start this post with a disclaimer and an explanation.

First, the disclaimer. This post is going to discuss bodily functions. It's a bodily function that all animals perform. If you're queasy about that, go read Fat Cyclist or BikeSnob. They tend to stay away from such distasteful topics.

Still here? Okay, then, now I can give you an explanation. It's regarding the title, and it's a way of broaching the subject about which I gave the above disclaimer. You see, I had to DNF on a 400K this past weekend because I was having urine trouble. Get it? You're in trouble ... urine trouble ... pretty funny, right?

Look, I told you to go over to Fat Cyclist.

Saturday morning, Jeff Bauer and Jeff Sammons (no relation) pre-rode the middle Tennessee 400K, starting from Cookeville. Even though my doctor advised me against riding anything over 100 miles for the next few months, I really, really, really wanted to ride it. Why?

  1. I designed the route, and how could I let anyone else ride something that I had not been able to do?
  2. It's really pretty, with quiet roads and good pavement, but just enough challenge to keep the masochists entertained.
  3. I wanted to be able to write a blog about it, which the folks riding it "officially" next weekend could read to prepare.
We rolled through downtown Cookeville in the dark. with light traffic as folks headed off to work. The sun was coming up as we passed through Dodson Branch, heading for the bumpy descent down to the Cumberland River Valley just out of town. Although a chronic saddle sore had kept me off the bike the entire week, I was feeling very strong. This, and the fact that I knew the route, enabled me to get all of the first county line sprints on this stretch of Hwy 135.

(Okay, sorry about the "saddle sore" thing in the paragraph above. I didn't give you any warning that there were more intimate topics coming ... my bad. Unfortunately, it plays into the story later, so I needed to mention it. Again, it's not to late to click over to Fatty's site.)

After we skirted the edge of Gainesboro, we rolled along the Cumberland River for a few miles. Jeff B. was riding his fixed-gear bike, since he plans to use that for Paris-Brest-Paris this year. At this point, the route was familiar to him, since it follows a 200K permanent that I designed last summer, but have not yet submitted to RUSA. The roads were new to Jeff S., however, but even the normally taciturn Tennessee RBA considered them scenic.

The strong winds from the south pushed us briskly along here, and soon we were climbing back up to Red Boiling Springs. Leaving town, the steep climb around a bend in the road caught Jeff S. by surprise, causing him to drop his chain. This gave me the chance to grab the state line sprint as we crossed briefly into Kentucky for the Gamaliel control.

We now turned southeast, and the wind made the next leg a little more difficult. We worked hard on busy TN-52 E, passing through Moss, TN (home of Honest Abe Log Cabins) and then re-crossed the Cumberland River back into Celina, TN. The day had warmed up by now, although the wind and moderate cloud cover kept the temperatures feeling pleasant. We opted for the Dairy Queen at this open control, and on the way there we passed a buggy of local Amish farmers doing their Saturday shopping.

After a quick milk shake, we continued out of town on TN-52 E. The crosswind continued to buffet us, but we still made good time to Standing Stone State Park. This part of the route was new to the Jeffs, and they enjoyed the descent down to the old stone bridge.

They were not that crazy about the climb back up from there, however. Also, I had placed the information control in the park at the end of Beach Road, so after we climbed all the way back up from the water, we then turned and headed right back down to it.

After a curvy descent down, we rolled along the edge of the water through a lovely primeval forest.

After passing the "beach" and the lodge there, the road continues along a quiet stream for another mile, and then climbs beside a waterfall up to a pond.

Just past this, the pavement of the road ended. We rode another tenth of a mile to the information control, which is a sign at the intersection of the dirt roads there. We stopped to write the answer to the question on our cards, and I took the opportunity to pee.

But, I couldn't.

Now, I'm a 52-year-old male. I watch television, so I've heard of things that can keep a 52-year-old male from peeing. But, for all of those 52 years, whenever I wanted to go pee in a quiet spot in the woods, I've been able to pee in a quiet spot in the woods. Only somehow, Saturday, standing in front of the information control sign ... I couldn't pee.

So, I did what I've done with most of the troubling physical ailments that I've encountered in my life: I ignored it. Physical maladies either get better, get worse, or stay the same, so ignoring them has always been a valid solution for me.

Mounting up to retrace our route back out, I soon caught up with the Jeffs again.

To let you know how cruel this route is, if you look really hard in this next picture, you'll see that stone bridge we crossed over. Yeah, that means that we did climb all the way back up, just to turn onto a road that made us go all the way back down to get some information off of a sign. Then ... yeah. Back up.

I was still feeling very strong and climbed out pretty quickly. Just before I got to the road, my bladder was insisting I give it another chance, so I pulled over and gave it the good old college try. This time, I peed a little, but then it stopped. And when it stopped, it hurt. I'm talking "hurt" in a way that only special parts on people can hurt.

After saying a loud "Ouch," I opted for more ignoring. So I rode on up to the top of the hill and waited for the Jeffs.

I had been drinking a lot on this stretch, and decided that drinking more might help. This is typical guy thinking. If a hose is plugged, we turn the water on higher, thinking that it will blast loose whatever impediment is clogging the stupid hose. I knew that blasting this impediment out of this hose might be very painful, but would it really hurt more than the constant bladder discomfort? Also, I wanted to finish the ride, and this was slowing me down.

I quickly killed one of my bottles, and mentioned to the Jeffs that we should stop at the Hillham General Store for more fluids. By the time we got there, I had finished my other bottle, so I bought a Gatorade and a water and filled up everything, and then drank what wouldn't go into my Camelbak bottles.

After all this, I really wanted to pee, but they didn't have a public restroom. We quickly rolled out, heading southwest on TN-53 S, getting more of a headwind than on any other leg of the ride so far. About a mile down the road my bladder was begging for a break, so I told the Jeffs to go on. I pulled over to try again, only to be rewarded by another dribbling/stabbing-pain episode.

Sighing, I mounted up again and started to hammer to catch up. And thus began a pattern that repeated two more times as I worked into the wind on this road. I would put my head down, ride hard, and then get a phone call from Bladdertown. "Yo, RandoBoy. Need to stop soon." Then I would start looking for a quiet spot, still hammering, until I could pull over and ... nothing. Or, to be honest, something less than satisfactory, ending with a very unsatisfactory pinching pain.

When I hit the end of TN-53 S, the Jeffs were waiting in the shade. At this point, I had to admit to them that there was a problem. Although I could probably finish the ride with regular stops to attempt to pee, I would have to do it alone. If they stayed with me, it could imperil their chances of finishing in time, and if I continued to ride, they would continue to ride with me. Since Jeff Bauer still needed this 400K as a qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris, I could not take the chance of my problems becoming his.

Heading towards Gainesboro, I told them what was going on, and that I had decided to abandon and head straight back to Cookeville. As they continued west, I went to the local Dairy Queen, where I rested with a hamburger and another milk shake. After a half-hour break, I stopped by the restroom and was rewarded with a happier bladder ... followed by the stabbing pain.

I then got on busy Hwy 56, discovering only then that the really hard wind was coming straight out of the south. After 15 miles fighting this gale on the wide but rubbish-strewn shoulder, I returned to the route on Buffalo Valley Road. I was back at the hotel about 4 pm, where I enjoyed a nice hot shower, changed into street clothes, and drank three diet root beers. The fluid did what fluid does, but that, too, did pass. The pain was still there, however, and stayed with me for the rest of the night.

A little after 5 pm, the Jeffs came in. They had suffered on the constant rolling hills between Gainesboro and Granville, and then on the tough climb up to Chestnut Mound. I got them sandwiches from Subway and beer from the package store as they cleaned up and prepared to do the "lower" 100 miles of the route. We ate as I packed up, and I made them promise to give my loyal readers a report on the remainder of the route. They rolled out into the late afternoon, just as the wind was finally calming, and I got into the Watzzwagen and drove home.

The Jeffs finished the ride successfully, returning to the hotel at 4:30 Sunday morning. Jeff Sammons posted his GPS track here. It ended up being just under 15,000 feet of climbing, thanks to a lot of ups and downs in the first 130 miles, with one good long climb up to Spencer. I was really looking forward to going up on that plateau via Yates Mountain Road, beginning at mile 183. If you look at the elevation profile, you will see why the Jeffs ended up walking the first two miles on this road.

As to my physical ailment, while we were eating our sandwiches Jeff Bauer asked if I had been sitting differently on the bike today. It was then that I realized that I probably had been, mostly to accommodate the inflamed saddle sore that had plagued me that week. This was what had probably been irritating my plumbing, so that the only solution to the problem was just what I had done: Get off the bike. Sure enough, by Sunday morning things were back to normal, and I was even able to do a 40-mile recovery ride with RandoGirl.

I'm glad that my problem wasn't the result of something really bad, but bummed that I didn't get to do my route. I had been looking forward to it as my ultra-cycling swan song for the year, since I will probably limit myself to just 200Ks from here on. The fact that I wasn't able to do this really pisses me off.

Sorry. Couldn't help myself.


  1. I would remiss if I didn't at least mention the word...recumbent. There. I did it. Carry on.

  2. Jim: On a 'bent, you can even use a catheter, right?

  3. RB, happy to hear your problem was temporary. Re: recumbents, the problem with them, as I found out recently while stoking my friend's recumbent trike tandem, is that when you flatulate, it wafts back on you and stays a while. Sorry, just continuing a theme.

  4. Kevin: Wow. And I thought that I had shared too much ...