Death Ride 2020/rehab

In six months, I’m riding the Death Ride – 129 miles, 5 passes, 15,000 feet of climbing. Today it hurts to get in or out of bed. I can only get out of a chair if it has arms, tying my shoes is an adventure, and if I drop something on the floor it has to stay there. If I fell, I’d be there until someone came to pick me up.

Such is the wonder of the human body/mind, that such a thing can be possible – that I can hold those realities simultaneously.

https://ytcropper.com/cropped/Qq5e179c9b8fb1d

Post-op Day #0: Not much pain (yet), but peeing requires standing with a urinal for several minutes to squeeze out a few drops in hopes that I don’t have to return to the hospital for a catheter or see my bladder explode. Using NSAIDS (which I normally avoid because they don’t seem to help my pain or inflammation but do cause constipation – and constipation is not something you want when your abdomen is held together by plastic mesh and Superglue) and lots of ice.

Post-op Day #1: OK, now it hurts. Not so bad if I don’t move, but any change of position requires careful thought and lots of use of my arms. While it hurts to move, the longer I stay in one position, the worse it is when I do move. Catch-22.

Post-op Day #2: I walked all the way to the corner and back, then a block in a different direction later in the day. Things are looking up. No more oxycodone.

Post-op Day #3: Scrotal edema is the new change for today. Purple may be my favorite color, but not there. My second ice pack from the hospital has started to leak. Cut my Tylenol dose in half, still lots of ice.

Post-op Day #4: Time to get dressed in real clothes to go to a funeral. First some compression shorts for the edema. Now some pants. Unfortunately, I had to loosen my pajama pants last night, so I’m not sure about getting pants on. They go on but are about 3 inches from fastening. Just my luck, I bought some new pants this fall that are too big in the waist but otherwise comfortable – how is it that waist size, measured in inches, can be 2+ inches different in pants from the same company? I think they want men who are getting old and fat to be able to pretend that isn’t so and they can still wear the same size. At any rate, I have real clothes on today, not sweats. Another small victory. I just sneezed for the first time this week. That was not a victory. Laughing hurts, but it has redeeming value that coughing lacks.

The funeral was for Carl Durocher. My brother once said, quoting a co-worker, “There are only 50 people in Madison. The rest are an illusion.” Carl was one of those 50 people. I first met him 45-50 years ago. Our paths crossed over the years but I can’t claim he was my friend. They crossed again when I was a student and he ran an organization called “Computers to Help People”. (If I’m not mistaken, it was in the same building that housed the Whole Earth Co-op [and, briefly, the Yellow Jersey Bicycle Co-op] in the 60s.) He was at the forefront on computer accessibility issues. He chaired the city’s Transit and Parking Committee. I last saw him at a choral concert conducted by my son. At his visitation I saw our US Senator, Tammy Baldwin, who used to live a few blocks away.

Carl Durocher – Photo credit: Steve Apps, WI State Journal

Post-op Day #5: My bike sits on a trainer in my daughter’s bedroom. It is mocking me. Even if I could swing my leg over the top tube, I wouldn’t be able to turn the cranks. Even if I could turn the cranks, I wouldn’t be able to clip out. The only comfortable position pre-op was on a bike, bent over the handlebar. In a painful irony, now I can’t even sit up straight to eat at a table. I have to hold the plate in my hand because I can’t reach the table, needing to recline partially at all times. The day’s goal is to get up and down stairs with a reciprocal gait all day (not leading with my left foot every time I step up).

Week 2: It has been a week since surgery. I met my goal for the stairs. I’ve met two friends for coffee. I can walk farther each day – walking is now less painful than pre-op (sometimes). I actually passed someone on a sidewalk today. Lest that go to my head, several others passed me in the next block. The idea of getting on a bike is still absurd.

One of my rules in acute care is: “If it hurts, don’t do it.” One of my rules for post-acute rehab is: “Everything in moderation, including moderation. If you don’t occasionally bump up against your limits, you don’t know what they are.” Last night I went to see Dwight Yoakam. Had I not bought the ticket months ago, I’m not sure I’d have felt ready to venture out in the world 10 days post-op, sitting in those low theatre seats with limited legroom.

I struggled through the opening act, trying to get comfortable. When Dwight launched into “Streets of Bakersfield” the pain went away. He was dressed in his usual tight jeans, denim jacket, and cowboy hat. He’s old now (nearly as old as I) but he still has his signature dance move and it still made the women scream – some of them young enough to be his children. His band was decked out in sequined suits, led by a guy whose name I can’t find, but he played keyboards, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, and pedal steel guitar – sometimes more than one in the same song. His guitarist and guitar tech had a dance of their own, swapping instruments without missing a beat. The songs came in chunks of five or so at a time without pause. He covered tunes by Elvis, Jerry Jeff Walker, Merle Haggard, Chuck Berry, and others, as well as his own catalog from the past 30 years. He never was one to shy away from cover tunes.

I’m glad I went, but I’m still not ready to get on a bike.

The lake has frozen!

Lake Mendota officially froze on January 12. Since January 2000 it has frozen later than this 4 times. Prior to that (from 1852-1999) it froze later than that 3 times – once in each 50 year period. National Geographic has called Lake Mendota “the most-studied lake in the world”.

This is posting two years after the debut of the blog. At the time I only knew it would last until we reached the Atlantic Ocean on the coast-to-coast tour; but I’d paid WordPress for a year so kept writing. Now I can say it’ll stick around through the Death Ride, or as long as I have something to say and you want to read it.

Your correspondent has aged a lot in those two year – truth be told, most of that happened since an injury in May of 2019 and even more of it after the surgery to fix the damage done. I’ll be younger again in a month. In January 2018, I was doing a lot of core work including strengthening and stretching; stretching now is trying to stand up straight and sit at the table like it’s not a Seder. I can pick something up from the floor if I’m real careful. Core strength? Ha! When I cough or sneeze, I hold on to keep from splitting open.

Next time you hear from me, I’ll be riding…

Why ride a bike?

Part One, The Practical Reasons:

  • A bike is faster than walking.
  • A bike is faster than taking the bus (especially if you consider the time spent waiting for the bus and walking to and from bus stops – you can’t just walk out the door and have the bus magically arrive).
  • A bike may be faster than a car (when you consider getting stuck in rush hour traffic and the time spent parking/getting to and from your parking place).
  • A bike is cheaper than a car:
    • cheaper to buy – you can buy a phenomenal bike for $10,000 – like a Ferrari but $2-300,000 cheaper (depending on the Ferrari model). A bike for basic transportation is maybe $15,000 less than a car for basic transportation. (Comparing a Trek FX or Zektor to a Toyota Yaris)
    • cheaper for daily use – no gas or electricity to buy, no parking fees to pay.
    • cheaper to maintain – a bike is much easier to work on yourself – no sheetmetal in the way; if you pay for maintenance, it is still way cheaper
    • cheaper to insure
  • A bike is cheaper than a car for society:
    • fewer resources used to produce them
    • no fossil fuels burned to power them
    • fewer urban acres devoted to parking, which makes more land available for other development (at a higher use-value) or open space, which creates less impervious surface, thus decreasing urban runoff:
      • this means less pollution of waterways
      • fewer urban floods
      • faster recharging of underground aquifers
    • less wear and tear on existing roadways, less need for ever-larger roadways
    • A bike is the most efficient form of human transportation in terms of energy usage per mile traveled.
    • I’ve never fallen asleep riding a bike.

Part Two, The Health Reasons:

A picture is worth 1000 words. So two pictures must be worth 1000 words plus a whole lot of data I therefore don’t need to cite.

  • riding a bike burns fat
  • riding a bike leads to greater aerobic fitness
  • riding a bike causes minimal stress on joints
  • riding a bike leads to lower stress levels, reducing mental health costs
  • as obesity and cardiovascular disease lead to greater societal health costs, riding a bike has public health, as well as individual health, benefits

Part Three, The Fun Reasons:

  • Riding a bike can be done alone, with family, with friends, with strangers – whether you like your fun in solitude, with loved ones, or as a way to meet new people, you can do it on a bike
  • Riding a bike lets you observe the little changes in the world around you – you can see your surroundings more easily than in a car so you can see wildlife (whether urban or rural), watch seasonal changes (seeing flowers bloom, trees bud out and leaves change color, watch and hear waterways freezing and thawing) [We won’t repeat pictures you’ve already seen here – scroll back through old posts for more.]
  • Riding a bike gives you time to think and reflect – or to stop thinking and just feel the rhythms of your body and your interactions with the bike, the road, and the world around you.
hoarfrost
Half-fast Fall Classic, Devil’s Lake
Sunset, stormy night (NOT a fire in the distance)

Part Five, Because Frazz Does It:

Short subjects (or, in Herb Caen parlance, three dot journalism…)

Ice fishing season started before deer hunting season. That is not normal. To continue weather weirdness, I saw all of this within a couple of minutes, on the same small bay:
* piers dismantled and stacked neatly by the shore
* piers frozen into the ice, likely destined to become scrap metal by spring
* ice fishers
* shoreline fishers working a 30’x30′ opening in the ice
* someone fishing from a boat…

I just watched “The Donald Trump Story” on television, but under its original title “Gaslight”…

I hope to answer the question “Which is harder – the Death Ride or the Horribly Hilly Hundreds? ” I rode them 27 years apart so it’s not a fair comparison so far. Both are about 200 km or 125 miles. The Death Ride climbs 15,000 feet, the HHH about 11,000. The Death Ride climbs to over 8700 feet. The HHH never reaches 2000. The Death Ride contains five epic climbs; the HHH about 40 short and steep ones. My experience is that a long steady climb allows one to settle into a rhythm. A short steep climb tempts one to charge up it, only to have to do that 39 more times – so my current hypothesis is that the HHH is harder (for me), as long as you hang out at elevation before Death Ride…

If I fail to answer the question, at least I plan to have fun and tell you about it after. Now I just need to get the time off work and make the arrangements for the 40th anniversary Death Ride.

I got two STDs. The Death Ride is July 11, 2020. The HHH is June 20,2020 -doing them three weeks apart wouldn’t be a fair comparison, either. Save the dates…

I just earned my last badge.

At work I was invited to try lovetoride.net. We formed a team and recorded all of our riding for a month. At the end of the month I won a dozen tamales, so I did it again the next time. In addition to tamales, one can earn virtual badges for things like encouraging others to ride, riding a century, commuting by bike… Last year I noticed the badges were piling up but I was missing two: “Legend”, for recording 10,000 miles on the app, and “Super Commuter”, for commuting by bike 200 times in a calendar year. So rather than just recording rides for a month when they were running a promo, I started recording all rides just before the coast-to-coast trip. 10,000 miles came soon after. 200 days came in November 2019. No big deal. That’s just doing what I normally do for the first 40 weeks of the year. But now I have a fake badge to show for it…”Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

If you’re not blazing a trail, you’re just breaking wind.” Frazz, by Jef Mallett

Horribly Hilly

Yes folks, it’s time to fulfill the promise I made to a guy in Texas I don’t even know. One year after leaving for the coast-to-coast trip, it is the infamous Horribly Hilly Hundreds (or “Death Ride of the Midwest” as I call it), not to be confused with that other HHH, the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred in Texas.

But first things first. Last week was the Marquette Waterfront Festival, the gateway to summer around here. Four years ago, we were wowed by the appearance of the March Fourth Marching Band, as they marched, danced, and stilt-walked their way through the park to the stage for a show that was talked about for the rest of the summer. Everyone wondered when they would be back.

Two years ago, they were scheduled to close out the festival again; but they called from somewhere in the middle of Iowa. A broken-down bus on a Sunday in Iowa is not a good thing. When we heard they were coming back this year, we were ready for them and hoped they were ready for us. A new(er) bus rolled slowly down Yahara Place at 5; just in time for the 6:30 set.

MarchFourth (they shortened the name) is one of those bands that everyone says you have to hear live. Everyone is right. But I did find a video that gives you a flavor of their work. If I had to describe them in a word, it would be “steamfunk”.

We had seats near the front, right behind the dancing section. The seats were not used.

MarchFourth

A year ago today (Saturday) I was waking up in a motel at the SeaTac airport, then shuttling to the starting point of the coast-to-coast ride. Sunday we dipped our tires into the Pacific Ocean (and I sealed up a vial of Pacific water) and started east (more or less).

Yes, the Horribly Hilly Hundreds is horribly hilly (but also breathtakingly beautiful). When it was a mere 100 miles, it was just the “Horribly Hilly Hundred”. Now there are 100K, 100 mile, and 200K options. 200K includes an alleged 10,700 feet of climbing spread over “40 significant rises”. While the Death Ride includes 15,000 feet of climbing over the same distance, it is confined to five major climbs. Spreading the climbing out means you can’t just psych yourself up for the passes and it is tempting to see the top of the rise and power over it…until you realize somewhere along the way that doing that 40 times will reduce your legs to jelly.

And jelly is what my legs are now. I left home at 5:15 AM. Heading out Verona Road, many of the cars had bikes on the back. Turning off to head up to Blue Mound, the traffic became bumper-to-bumper, and everyone had a bike on the back.

Traffic coming into the park as I rode out.

Start line

We reached the park and got ready for the day. The first 1.6 miles didn’t count, as we rode into the town of Blue Mounds for the oficial start. The road out of the park was steep. In the back of my mind was the knowledge that we would have to ride back up that hill after 120+miles of riding.

Start line

The route was divided into 5 “stages”, roughly 20% of the miles each; except that the 4th stage was over 30 miles and contained some of the toughest hills of the day.

Enchanted Valley. Note tiny bikes on the road.

The day started cool and sunny. All week the forecast had been for scattered showers throughout the day. This morning it changed and called for later afternoon rain. Around noon it was bordering on hot, when clouds rolled in to cool things down. The clouds looked ominous at times but the rain held off – until about mile 110, when it let loose. I put my jacket back on and tried to scrub rainwater off my rims on a long downhill. The rain stopped in time for the final climb up the infamous Mounds Park Road and the even worse final climb to the park.

I overheard a guy in a “Triple Bypass” jersey telling someone that the HHH is harder. She asked, “even with the elevation?” He said yes, because the mountain roads are only 5-7% grades and the HHH has many stretches of >15% and “you have to go anaerobic to get over them.”

I was thinking that this was harder than the Death Ride for the same reason; though I can’t make a fair comparison since I rode the Death Ride more than 25 years ago. Maybe if I were to ride it again next summer I could compare. I will say this was the hardest single day experience I have ever had. Being 66 years old could have something to do with that;)

Finish line.
Food by Friends of Blue Mound State Park.

I stayed in the saddle for all climbs for the first 30 miles. In the last 30, I got over them any way I could. A friendly farmer’s offer of rhubarb water got me over one climb. (Rhubarb water: a lightly sweetened infusion of rhubarb, seasoned with cardamom.)

My calves started cramping at mile 25 – a bad omen with 100 miles to go. Bilateral quad cramps and a left sartorius cramp followed. Lots of pickle juice as well as electrolyte drinks and Clif Shot Bloks (the extra-salty margarita flavor) helped stave off the cramps. My triceps are not happy – but I am.

The free post-ride beer was a raspberry radler. I don’t know about you, but I like fruit and I like beer, but I like to keep them separate. When I was a teen (in the era of the 18 year old beer drinking age) there was a product called “Right Time Malt Liquor”. I referred to it as “training beer”. It was an attempt to market to teens, to get them drinking even if they didn’t like the taste of alcohol. (Sound familiar? Just like the tobacco industry making fruit and candy-flavored vaping products as training cigarette to hook kids on nicotine; though I don’t recall the beer industry was “shocked” to find kids drinking.)

Dear Curtis:

Spring may have arrived today [Monday, May 13]. Two weeks ago I cleaned snow off the windshield. Today it was pollen. [Is that what I get for not driving for two weeks?] Nothing says “new life” more irrefutably than pollen. The sun is shining. It is 65 degrees (18 Celsius).

Our annual Mother’s Day walk through the lilac gardens at the arboretum was a bit anti-climactic. While the lilacs are behind schedule, the redbuds are in bloom, as are irises, tulips, and grape hyacinths. Apples are beginning to bloom.

It is Stevie Wonder’s 69th birthday. My sister introduced me to him when I was ten (Stevie had just turned 13 when the single, recorded when he was 12, was released), with this song:

In honor of Stevie’s birthday I saw the Aretha Franklin movie “Amazing Grace” today. Almost enough to give a non-theist religion. It is also the birthday of Professor Craig Werner. Who’da thought a guy who wrote his dissertation on James Joyce would end up as a professor of Afro-American studies and write numerous books on African American music, including the seminal “A Change is Gonna Come“?

While Stevie started as a prodigy, he really came of age with “Songs in the Key of Life”, an album which showed his breadth and depth as a songwriter and a musician. No single song can encompass that, but one of my favorites is “Sir Duke”:

Time flies and it is now Thursday. Last night’s ride began the warmup for the Horribly Hilly Hundreds, the midwest’s answer to The Death Ride – but on a midwestern scale – instead of five passes, you climb “40 significant rises” in the words of the organizers.

Our warmup included the (in)famous Mounds Park Road. The third of four climbs for the evening, it starts with a 5½ mile lead-in through a slowly rising valley. It’s mostly flat, but you don’t stop pedaling the whole time. With a tailwind, it might be a way to warm up your legs. With a headwind, you might wonder if you’ll have jellylegs before you even start climbing. For those of you in Alpine County, CA, it’s sort of like climbing up through Woodford’s before you even get to the climbs to Carson or Luther Pass.

You finally turn off the county highway and get teased by a brief downhill, then a few gently rolling hills and you wonder what all the fuss is about. Someone was nice enough to spray grade markers on the road. You approach the first and see “6%”. Not bad, just your average mountain road and a whole lot shorter. Then you see the ramp ahead and the “13%” painted on the road. You ride through various 12 and 13% markings and see a spot where it “levels out”. A rest, you think. A mere “9%” is painted on the road. Now you know why people talk about this road. The respites are the single-digit sections, and “single digit” means “9%”.

Still, it’s fun…and then you remember that the Horribly Hilly climbs it once at 6.5 miles, and again at 120 miles. No sweat; today is only a 30 mile ride, and there is only the final and beautiful climb to Brigham County Park after this. You never actually reach the top on this ride – when you get near the top, you turn left onto Ryan Road. If you were thinking about sitting up, catching your breath, and taking a drink of water – think again (or do it fast). Before you know it, you are screaming down a 40 mph curving and shaded road. You better pay attention.

It was also the first post-ride potluck of the season. Like everything else, the rhubarb is behind schedule. Luckily I froze some last year so I was still able to make a rhubarb pie – 4 cups of frozen fruit from last year, and a cup of fresh was all I could muster from this year.

By the way, the rest of you can read this. Curtis was a friend in LA; the last person with whom I kept up a snail mail correspondence. Were he still alive, I’d have written something like this as a letter to him. Since he’s not around to read my letters, that falls to the rest of you.

I can’t get away without acknowledging that this is posting on Syttende Mai (17th of May), Norwegian Constitution Day.