Endurance, Activity, Exertion: How Much ?

For the past several months I have been concerned that I have been pushing myself too hard and/or too long on my mountain bike rides. I’m 68. I started to become concerned when a younger guy I was riding with stopped for a rest after a tough climb that spiked both our heart rates.
He told me, “I ‘m going to rest a bit longer, my heart rate is way up, close to 155 [beats per minute]”.
Upon reaching the top of that hill my pulse was 168.
My realization at that moment was, “Wait, if this guy is concerned that he might need more rest, should I be?”

Thomaston Town Forest

When I’m out on trail, I often wear a chest strap heart rate monitor that is linked to my iPhone. My resting pulse rate ranges from 48 to 54 bpm. While I also wear a Fitbit on my wrist, it reads inaccurately at higher levels of exertion. I do use Fitbit to track steps and miles covered while biking or hiking.

Here’s a typical profile, obtained from some of the metrics that Strava offers to those of us wearing chest straps, etc.

Nov. 4, 2018 data from 25 mile ride in Acadia

I discussed these concerns with my doctor at my annual physical, who suggested that I consult with a cardiologist. My physician is a great doctor who admits to having no expertise as to fitness/aging heart rates. I asked around and got the name of a cardiologist in Portland who was reported to have experience in this area.
My MD made the referral and I eventually received a call fro the cardiologist’s secretary. She blocked me from seeing him, stating that the physician was an electro cardiologist who specializes in determining where an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) is coming from. Doctors consult with him in determining if the patient needs medicine or procedures like a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, cardiac ablation, or other surgeries. Consultations for my issue was not an efficient use of his time.
So, my doctor found me a different cardiologist that was able to see me right away. After reviewing my chart and administering an EKG, that physician told me that whatever I was doing should be continued, and that if anything, he’s recommend a low dose statin to reduce my LDL a bit. He buffered that recommendation due to my strong HDL level.

My 8/31/18 lipid panel results:

I recently reviewed discussion about LDL levels and statin usage in Medscape. Several articles appeared to challenge the recommendations that have essentially placed practically all aging male in the category of risk for heart attack that leads to statin prescriptions.

Here a study that perked my interest-Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review
“Our review provides the first comprehensive analysis of the literature about the association between LDL-C and mortality in the elderly. Since the main goal of prevention of disease is prolongation of life, all-cause mortality is the most important outcome, and is also the most easily defined outcome and least subject to bias. The cholesterol hypothesis predicts that LDL-C will be associated with increased all-cause and CV mortality. Our review has shown either a lack of an association or an inverse association between LDL-C and both all-cause and CV mortality. The cholesterol hypothesis seems to be in conflict with most of Bradford Hill’s criteria for causation, because of its lack of consistency, biological gradient and coherence. Our review provides the basis for more research about the cause of atherosclerosis and CVD and also for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for cardiovascular prevention, in particular because the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated.” https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010401

A recent vision exam lead to further tests that were very useful to me in broadening my own investigation about my particular needs and risks. I have fairly good eyes, or I thought I did until my latest yearly check up with an ophthalmologist. My trusted ophthalmologist had retired this year, so I went with an individual who moved from New Jersey who took up the practice. His initial examination reveled some structural concerns in the posterior region of one of my eyes that suggested concerns about the connection to the optic nerve. He was concerned that I might be experiencing the initial stages of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye, and is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.
Four additional tests were ordered, one of which was a 30 minute carotid artery ultrasound scan of both sides of my neck, which displayed the results as live-action images on a monitor. The carotid ultrasound showed some age-related plaque but no significant narrowing. My doctor reported this as essentially a normal result and didn’t recommend any further follow-up. The other tests also ended up with normal results, ruling out glaucoma for the time being.

Bottom line: I plan to continue to keep up with my normal routine of 75-90 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily of hiking or off-road biking. I plan to continue to use 3 minutes of daily heart rate variability monitoring to gauge my state of recovery and adjust the day’s physical activity accordingly. There is a lot to be said about advocating for one’s self in the medical sphere these days, with a number of studies out there that lead to conflicting recommendations.

Slogging out Maine Miles in November

November is a tough month to ride a mountain bike in Maine.

Connector from Norton Pond to Megunticook Lake

I enjoy exiting my garage to ride single track, active as well as discontinued snowmobile trails, along the edges of fields, and up and over some ancient stone walls. What makes all of this tougher right now is deer hunting season, where Mainers deck themselves out in blaze orange, and hunt from dawn to dusk in the hopes of shooting a sizable deer, which can go a long way in filling up the freezer, mostly for venison stew. This year, rifle season runs from October 29 to November 24. Two more days are left. I stay out of the woods throughout November except for Sundays when there is no hunting allowed.

We had two  half foot snowfalls here this past week, making for good hunting conditions, due to the ability to track deer activity through the snow cover. The first soft snows are not so good for biking in the woods. The ground is barely frozen, and some  hunters get around in the woods on all terrain vehicles, heading in and out to their camps and tree stands on land they own or have permission to use and they rut up the back woods.

Rigger grinding through muck

With all the rain we’ve had this past month, riding off-road is mostly weaving in and out of ruts, seeking out solid sections of ground, and dodging black pools of questionable depths of icy water that has not yet frozen solid enough to ride over.

This calendar year, Stevie, one of the members of our loosely-knit mountain biking group dubbed The Bubbas, has been in hot pursuit of a major offload goal for any off-road rider- amassing 2,500 non-pavement miles in 2018. Stevie lives on the edge of The Rockland/Thomaston Bog and can, on any given day, crank out a 12 mile out and back route to put toward his lofty mileage goal. It’s also nice country in there, when it is not churned up  like it was today.

My Ice Cream Truck will follow Rigger left of this mess

Ten Bubbas, including two women, met at Stevie’s this past Suday morning, to stitch together a route, with Stevie’s first tracks as a guide all the way out to our eventual turn around point at Split Rock. With ten riders’ fat-tire tracks running back and forth within a foot wide width of trail, we were build up a packed track for some future rides.

I ride with clipped pedals in spring, summer, and fall, and switch to flat pedals and regular winter boots for the winter. They are a full size larger than I need, which allows me to insert chemical heat packs when it is below freezing out. After about a half hour of riding today, my left pedal broke apart, so I was forced to complete the ride on the slippery metal axle. It worked out, and I was repeatedly thankful that the axle held, and that I didn’t have to hike a bike miles back to the car.

Even with being careful in getting through the wetter sections, I did get one boot under water, and had a cold foot for the rest of the morning. I had good energy today, which was consistent with the results of  thoday’s  heart rate variability reading right after I woke up this morning. My mountain biking mileage goals are more moderate that Steve’s,  with just 1,000 for my year.

My Garmin eTrex30 GPS flubbed today so I copied  Rigger’s Strava feed to record those miles. I’m up to 919 miles of biking with just 81 more miles left to complete before New Year’s.  Those miles are much harder to snag in November !

Rigger on ice in The Bog (2014)

Great Adventurers – a Reading List via Alastair Humphreys

via Great Adventurers – a Reading List – Alastair Humphreys

I’m on a roll with outdoor reading this summer.  Since January I have been reading at least an hour a day.  I’ve racked up 33 books so far.  Here’s my updated 2018 list:  Goodreads Challenge .

Today I’m posting a different sort of reading list, with a decidedly British emphasis, brought to us by one of my favorite authors, Alistair Humphreys, author of a unique book called Microadventures. 

There’s adventure reading gold to be mined here for sure, so consider Aistair’s list.  There isn’t much time left for summer reading, although winter is coming!

Several of these titles are at my local library, and I plan to pick up this one today:

screenshot 27.pngAre there any really good outdoor adventure books that you can recommend as well?

Summer is Officially Here: Get Moving

“Aires ( March 21-April 19). To get where you want to go, you’ll have to make your way through the crowd.  Start moving and people will get out of your way. Movement is what makes things change.”- Daily Horoscope-Holly Mathis, 6/25/2018

Nature is ahead of me on this one.  Somehow,  in a surprisingly short amount of time, the vista outside of my big kitchen window is a mass of slowly expanding movement of green: my lawn, the hay fields all around me, and the three hundred and sixty degree panorama of forest that surrounds our house.

My ever-expanding vegetable garden is fully planted and growing steadily.  I’m already harvesting lettuce, green onions, beet greens, parsley , and celery.  Unfortunately the deer are also moving in to eat my plants, and I plan to install my electric fencing tomorrow after this rain lets up.

Bugs are moving.  I’ve pulled out one tick and plucked off a dozen already.  Did you know that tics are blind, and detect animal hosts through body odors, breath, heat, movement and vibrations?

I’ve got a few mosquito bites decorating my neck.  I’m not much bothered by mosquitoes after experiencing the massive numbers of them in Labrador on several of my motorcycle and canoeing trips there over the years.  Its all relative.

On thing that has assisted me in maintaining a level of activity that has kept my weight down, and in shape for backpacking is setting movement goals.  I have two: biking 1,000  and walking 1,000 miles a calendar year.

I monitor my movement progress through the use of the Strava app, where one of the functions allows users to view distance totals by sport on their Profile page.  As of today, I am 26 miles ahead of my biking pace

but 52 miles down on walking.

I plan to get moving on this by doing several two-hour hikes this week to climb back to hiking pace.

Lifestyle changes matter.  People who live in cities often walk more daily miles than us country residents, where services are too far away to access without driving a vehicle.

Looking for ways to move that are functional helps.  For example, I amassed 17,369 steps (8.4 miles via Fitbit) last Friday where I spent the better half of the day tilling, planting, weeding,  fertilizing, mulching, and watering the veggie garden.

When it stops raining today, I plan to fire up my little tractor and attach a cart and move down to the woods where I have stacks of unsplit rounds that I’ll haul up to the wood shed to split and move under cover for heating the house this winter.  I still cut my own firewood which leads to all sorts of strength, twisting, and core work.

This afternoon I plan to walk thee miles to my friend Dave’s house in Lincolnville Center where I’ll cop a ride to my weekly Men’s Group get together.

But I’ll be competing for a place on the path with the ticks, who will be waiting for me as I walk through the unmown hayfield and the brush that is filling up the abandoned Proctor Road as I move my way down to the pavement of the Heal Road that will lead me to open space walking to the Center.   I plan to wear long pants, sprayed with Permethrin and hope for the best.

The solstice passed on June 21.  Winter is coming.  Get moving !

 

 

 

Real Training Should Be Challenging

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

If you are interested in surviving or enjoying a  backpacking adventure this season  you better be ready to embrace some suffering.     At our house, I am constantly buffering my workout plans so that I don’t get into a disagreement with my wife and hiking partner, Auntie Mame. She is encouraging me to behave like a normal 68 year old guy and chill more often.

For example, I was falling behind in mileage regarding my goal of hiking 1,000 miles this year and outside the rain was falling.   Skipping today’s 75 minute hike in favor of better weather would be what normal people would do.

Well, if you are a backpacker, then  you will someday walk in the rain.  Better get used to it . Also, most of us have purchased rain gear but you won’t know how it works unless you wear it in the rain, drizzle, sleet, or snow.  Doesn’t it make sense to get out when you are close to home and you can warm up and dry out after the outing?

I am reading more and more about Stoic philosophy and mental/ physical training.

Check out this brief, but excellent email that I received from a Stoic website I subscribe to.  It’s perfect!   If ancient Stoics can practice in the rain or snow, why shouldn’t we ?

screenshot 14

Henry Flagler, a top lieutenant for John D. Rockefeller and one of the pioneering developers of Florida:
“I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.”
Like Cato, Flagler trained himself in doing without. He wore only a thin coat, he carried his own lunch, he economized. He did this so he could get used to feeling the sting of the cold, the laugh of his peers. He didn’t want these things to have power over him, and he never wanted to feel fear—the fear of what if something bad happens.
As a result of this training, he became stronger, he became invincible to fate and misfortune and as he said, tyranny. No one could be harder on Flagler than he was on himself, and while that might seem like hard living it was also free living. And that’s the point. It’s not easy to be a Cato or a Flagler, but when things get hard, real hard, you’ll regret being anything but a Cato.

(Want to discuss today’s meditation in more depth? Join Daily Stoic Life.)

Humbling Heart Rate ?

I’m concerned that I’m pushing my heart rate too high on the bike. I’m 68 years old. Two weeks ago I rode my typical Sunday ride up and around Ragged Mountain, where I averaged 155 beats per minute for over two hours with a maximum reading of 173.  For a full 30 minutes of the ride my heart pushed  out 161-171  beats per minute.  My normal resting pulse ranges from 47-55 bpm .   I record data wearing  a Garmin chest strap that is linked to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS unit.  From there I send it to Strava for saving o my profile.

Here’s a Veloviewer 3D elevation rendering of the ups, downs and all-arounds of the same 8 miles ride that I took this past Sunday:

Here’s the traditional view of the ride.  It ain’t easy! These  two images are not aligned correctly, but I bet you can rotate them  in your mind’s eye.

I talked to my doctor about it last week while he was trimming away at a plugged sweat gland that was causing me pain on the side of my foot.  He thought my heart/arteries were OK, but also said that he had at least a handful of apparently healthy patients who were athletes in their early 70’s that dropped dead from unexpected heart attacks.

So he’s getting me a referral for a consultation with an electro-cardiologist who has a exercise specialty.  That’s all I want, a chance to talk to someone who has knowledge and background to address concerns.  My own father died at 72 of heart disease, and my paternal grandfather died from what might have been heart disease when my father was a baby.

In the meantime, I’ll keep pushing it on the bike, rest up adequately between my two-wheeled adventures, keep up the meditation, and start ramping up the relatively short summer/fall veggie consumption season.

Here was my lunch today:

Spring onions, fiddlehead ferns, my own kimchi, tempeh, rice noodle oup.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me

I boss myself and set my own work schedule so I celebrate my birthday with a solo hike or ride. With all the snow around and the temperatures below freezing at dawn, I chose to ride Camden Hills State Park this year. Refrozen snow is good. Thawing snow isn’t, for biking that is.

Whenever I go out on a hike or ride, I hope to notice something interesting. Today it was connecting shade and north slope conditions with good solid track to ride upon.

The Camden Hill State Park is a 10 minute drive away.

Heading Up

I started up the mile long climb on fairly packed surface- many folks walk this section, some with their dogs, and it shows.

Eventually I reached the left tun for Bald Rock Mountain, a 1,000 prominence that overlooks the Atlantic.

It has been deep enough with snow that snowmobiles have gone to the top yesterday. None up there today. I am trying to make the full 5 miles on this Multipurpose Trail and then turn around and come back. I am racing sunshine, which has the capacity to soften the surface of the trail and cause my 5” tires to sink in and wallow.

In the next mile, the Multipurpose Road flattens out and is bordered by hemlocks and spruce trees that not only shade the surface from the sun, but hold the cold overnight. Grip is better here.

Soon I encounter the right tun for the Summer Bypass Trail, left untouched all winter. You can see that entrance right above the top of my front tire.

At the 2.5 mile mark I reach the Ski Shelter, empty this morning.

I will enter on my way back and drink water and eat a snack.

Still pushing to preserve firm snow.

From this point to the Route 1 side of the Park, there is much less foot traffic , with a clean snowmobile track from a rider who probably came through here last night or early this AM.

I stopped just at the water tower, turned around, and came back, deciding to take a left up the Cameron Mountain Trail, a decision which was aided by fresh snowmobile tracks and two sets of foot prints going that way.

Cameron Mountain is at the very edge of the State Park. The snowmobile track swoops around the summit and then twists and descends through private property when it eventually crosses Youngstown Road and heads for Lincolnville Center. The down hill is steep and fast, but my Ice Cream Truck embraces the wobble and delivers.

I decide to continue on the snowmobile trail rather than ride the pavement of Youngtown Road back to the car. I discover a huge hay field where I thought that I had lost the trail, but then I saw a tiny red trail sign far across the center of the field.

Winding my way down toward the village, I encountered an active logging operation that I was able to ride through with little difficulty.

After more than two hours of pedaling, I decided to get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Drake’s corner store where I took this distorted selfie in the window.

My car was still three miles away. I do not like riding on Rt. 173, due to the narrow road and inattentive drivers, so I decided to gamble on the abandoned section of Thurlow Road being tracked in.

After dodging thinly iced-over water at the start, I encountered unbroken soft snow as far as I could see. I decided to walk the bike through. I was tiring, with my heart rate spiking to 155 beats per minute through the snow. Soon I encountered a little maple sugaring operation half way through service via a couple of ATV ruts that assisted me getting back to better track.

A sort while later I was back on pavement, where I took a left on Youngtown Rd. and had a leisurely couple of miles on pavement back to my car and home. Today was a great start to my next season of exploring my local trails.

Georges River Land Trust’s new SnowDog clears the way for groomed trails !

SnowDog Brent

–>> Georges River Land Trust’s new SnowDog clears the way for groomed trails | PenBay Pilot

Great news announced today for our local community recreation area.  Before now, it was down to snowshoeing in a large group of walkers doing this in order to ride bikes in the snow.  Or we’d line up to ride our fat tire bikes and pound the snow down with breaking trail and multiple passes of those wide 5″ tires.

This is the brightest thing that may come my way this snowed-in day!

Snowdog!

Snowdog!

Another Crash

I had hit my chest, ribs, and shoulder hard as I ever did before. The sudden pain that I felt lying face down on the single track caused me to scream wordlessly several times. Blaine had been riding his bike just fifty feet ahead of me on Chris McKearney’s Trail in the Rockland Bog. Blaine backtracked to assist me as I laid face down moaning, and  encouraged me to collect myself and take time getting up. Everything had happened so fast. I recall two immediate thoughts: I didn’t hit my head and no bones seemed broken.

Mudded up Ice Cream Truck

I was apart from my Surly Ice Cream Truck so my winter boot cleats must of released upon impact.  Blaine remarked that the rubber o-ring on my Bluto fork indicated that it had compressed to maximum travel. I was a hurting unit.

The crash happened at the end of a Saturday morning ride, which was not my usual weekend mountain biking schedule. Normally, I ride at 9:30 every Sunday morning with The Bubbas-a tight group of bike nuts that have banded together to ride three times a week, year round, for the past couple decades or more.

I decided to ride with Blaine and Monica because a snowstorm was predicted for Saturday night into Sunday, with a range of 4-8 inches forecasted for the area. Even though I have five-inch-wide lugged Flowbeist/Dunderbeist tires on my bike, I’ve put in enough winter riding to know that 5 inches or more of fresh power might not be very pleasant to move through. Clear ground on Saturday was my choice.

Except that winter Midcoast Maine trails  can suck.

Landowner might be pissed

Most of the leaves that had fallen off the hardwood trees had been blown off the path. Wet (and slippery) bare roots were running across the ground, as were the rocks, ledges, the moss, slimy lichens, and the sticks and branches that fly up and can get jammed into the drive train. The usual stuff for this time of year.

I need to listen to the quiet tiny voice in my head that knows better than me when to back off. I ignored three quiet warnings yesterday.The first message came in the form of my Saturday morning heart rate variability (HRV) measurement. HRV is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. My iPhone holds the app, which links to a heart rate chest strap for a three minute collection of HRV data.

HRV screen

HRV is becoming a useful tool for not only tracking the training adaptation of athletes, but for gauging the body’s readiness for pushing or backing off the intensity of training sessions. Mine was down some 20 points from my usual status, indicating that it was sub-optimal, suggesting that I engage in a more moderate level of physical intensity for the day.

The second message that I ignored was contained in my morning iChing reading.

According to Bill Scheffel, ”The I Ching, arguably humanity’s oldest book, conveys a wisdom that requires no belief, is not part of any organized system or religion and comes to us as a kind of DNA of how we experience time and its events and ourselves as a unique matrix of energy.” My hexagram suggested that, “We are not meant to memorize a path then slavishly follow it.” Which leads to the last message I ignored.

Monica, Blaine, and I were resting a bit at the entrance to McKearney’s Loop on the way back to my car. I was sipping water from my Camelback when Monica said, “ I think I am going to pass. You guys can go and I’ll wait right here for you. I’m beat.” I was also fatigued at that point, at the end of a decent ride where my heart rate was at or above 145 beats per minute for 53% of the 7.7 mile ride.

So, a couple days after the crash  I’m here packing ice on my shoulder and ribs and intermittently dosing with ibuprofen. I’m hoping the throbbing will settle down for the holidays so that I can get back on the bike and share the local trails with my two sons, Lincoln and Arlo, who will be in from Montana and San Francisco for a bit.

It’s so hard for me to listen to inner counsel, but with 500 combined hours of biking and hiking in 2017 so far, and just one serious bike and one bad backing fall this calendar year I think I am not going to beat myself up too much about it. Even so, I am presently acutely aware that so much can happen in just one second.

I already have my New Year’s resolution ready to go. For insurance I plan to tell my hiking and biking buddies to remind about it.

Why is backing off so difficult ?

Goodbye, Golf Clubs. Hello, Hiking Boots…..

William Widmer for The New York Times

 

Today, I ate my usual eggs and toast Sunday morning breakfast that precedes my regular “Bubba Church” mountain bike ride with my aging off-road posse. On early morning Sundays, I read the digital version of the NY Times and catch up on the news, fake or not. I didn’t find much of interest today, so instead I clicked on my Instagram feed where I download media to read later at my leisure. Instapaper is my own custom newspaper.

I don’t ever listen to podcasts when I eat breakfast, but today I am pleased that I did. I listened to Texas Parks and Wildlife Podcast’s Epidode 13: Hiking Across Texas.  It is short, only 12 minutes long, but it spoke deeply to me today.   It’s a refreshing interview with Dave Roberts, 72 years old. Dave is currently on a 3,000-mile “ramble” across Texas, weaving through at least 40 national parks.

I  remember reading about Dave a year and a half ago, and dug up the following article about Dave, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who has found his unique retirement groove- long distance walking, biking, and kayaking.  Dave’s on a $20-a-day budget for this Texas adventure, but more importantly appears to have exactly the right attitude to keep on doing what he enjoys best- being outdoors and having varied experiences.

As Dave puts it, ” If everything does according to plans, you are not having an adventure yet.”

Do listen via the podcast link above, and if you like what you hear, read the Jan. 2016 Times feature below, to learn more about Dave and other retirees who have stood up to leave the couch for later.

My own dream is to walk across the US, someday.