A Day of Frustration

Today was a day of promise and frustration.

Last night I set my alarm to get up for Friday Coffee Club. I woke up at 3 am went downstairs and noticed that it was 2 am. Somehow my alarm clock had been changed. Rather than wake up Mrs. Rootchopper, I just put it in my head to wake up on time. And I did.

I slept well. My back was very relaxed from the Feldenkrais class.

The ride to Friday Coffee Club was easy. I had taken yesterday off from riding and I had a tailwind. There was a sizable crowd at Swings. I met a Twitter follower and re-met someone who is currently living in New York City. The latter reads this blog and is considering a cross country tour this summer. To him I say: DO IT!

The group at my table traded medical war stories. One person had had back surgery that worked except for the fact that part of one foot is numb. Another person had a DVT and a pulmonary embolism. Still another told is of how his Achilles tendon ruptured when he dismounted his bike last summer. None of these three people is over 45 years old. We’d all be wolf dinner if we’d lived a few hundred years ago.

Today was apparently Wear-Strange-Things-on-Your-Helmet Day.

Standing at Swings was not agreeable to my left leg so I ended

up sitting for most of the get together. I rode home 15 miles without a problem. This stenosis thing is just bizarre. I can ride all day but can’t stand for ten minutes. For the next couple of hours, I had no leg pain.

Mrs. Rootchopper and I decided to run a few errands. First, we went to the bank to get a document notarized. Next we went to the phone store for new cases for our cell phones. Next up was the post office to mail our notarized document. Our final errand was to the Apple store at a mall to get a new battery for my phone. I walked maybe 100 yards to the store from the parking garage and stood around for a few minutes. My leg pain came back so strongly that I had to sit.

The battery was only charging to 65% of capacity. While Apple replaced it we went to the food court. By the time I got there, on a scale of 1 to 10, my leg pain was a 9.5 .

After an hour of sitting, we went to pick up the phone. Again I had to sit while the phone was brought out from the back of the store.

On the way home, the pain went away. I started charging the battery. I checked the software. The maximum capacity of the battery was 65%. Did they forget to replace it? I’ll see how the phone performs before going back to the store.

In the morning I made an appointment with the Feldenkrais instructor for an hour-long session next week. I am hoping that some good will come of it. I am not at all hopeful that Monday’s PT appointment will be worth the bother but I am going through with it.

After today’s pain party, I have decided to reschedule my orthopedist appointment to next week (from the week after).

No mas.

Maybe this will help. Or not.

Today was a kinda sorta cold day so I decided to take the day off riding. I went out for breakfast at a diner, read some of my new book (Bill Bryson’s The Body, A Guide for Occupants), picked up my car at the garage, meditated, took a nap, set up some 2020 401K withdrawals, and then went to my Introduction to Feldenkrais class.

The class took place at a rec center in Arlington. It began with a body scan meditation, something I’ve done many times over the years, although never in a room full of a dozen people. Next, came a series of very gentle simple movements lying flat on our backs. As we were doing them, the instructor gave specific instructions as to where to focus our attention. Imagine a narrow beam of light shining down the length of your body from head to toe. The movements were to the left and right of this center line. Knees. Hips. Torso. Arms. Head. All building to a combinations of sideways movements.

You pretty much have to give yourself up to the concept otherwise you’d get about ten minutes into the class, get up, and go get a beer. The rational side of your brain is asking “How can this possibly do anything?” As the movements progress, however, the body becomes more and more relaxed, more and more limber. After an hour, my body felt like it had gone on a nice, little vacation.

Then I stood up, my left leg came back to reality. Ugh.

It was an interesting experience. Pretty clearly, if you are in a high-stress job or life situation, you’d really benefit from Feldenkrais.

I want to see how my body feels in the morning before deciding whether I will do more.

 

 

 

Adulting. Riding. Aching.

After yesterday’s non-storm, we has some minor melting and refreezing. Since the local trails were not treated, I decided to wait until late morning to go for a ride.

First, I drove my car to a mechanic to have its annual physical. Suffice it to say, sometime tomorrow I will be out about $1,000. I expect this will be the last money I spend on the car until 2021. Knock wood.

I brought the CrossCheck with me to the mechanic and rode off to the pharmacy to pick up my asthma medicine. As it turns out, the $10 per month deal I had been getting on this medicine expired on New Year’s Eve. The non-discounted price is $72.

I rode home to get a new discount coupon from the manufacturer. I messed up the data form and the website would not allow me to make a correction without which I would not get the discount. Off I rode to the doctor’s office to get a new coupon. Then I rode back to the pharmacy and got my $10 medicine.

Having now blown an hour of my day, I headed up the Mount Vernon Trail for a relaxing roll. Some of the wooden bridges on the trail still had icy spots. There were no such icy spots on the George Washington Memorial Parkway just 30 yards away. Bicycles are not allowed on the parkway. And you wonder why bicyclists get angry and frustrated.

I ended up about ten miles north in Crystal City where I used streets to return home. The weatherman was nice enough to provide me with a strong tailwind. On the way I swung by my local bike shop which has been closed since a fire broke out in an adjacent business. I rode through the parking lot in the rear. It appeared that the roof has been replaced. As I came close to the shop’s rear door, I saw one of the shop’s bike mechanics wheeling some debris to a dumpster. I waved and said hello. Next I swung around the front of the store. The door was open but the place clearly was not ready for prime time. And the sign saying the store was”closed until further notice” remained in the shop window. Sad face.

At home, I did my stenosis exercises. By the time I was done my leg was aching. (It ain’t working.) In the spirit of Feldenkrais, I tried a 25-minute guided meditation while lying down. When the instructor said, “Pay attention to your left shin and calf,” I thought “I’d rather not!” The meditation didn’t do much good.

While I was enjoying the pain party, I washed some of my holey sweaters and a load of laundry.

So despite my pain, I had a productive day.

Tomorrow promises to be similarly productive. In the evening, I go to the re-scheduled Feldenkrais class.

 

 

 

 

S-no-w day

We had a horrific storm in DC yesterday. It rained all day then a half inch of snow fell. Arlington County cancelled its rec center classes so my Feldenkrais class was cancelled. I have signed up for a make-up class tomorrow night.

In the meantime, I rode 24 miles without incident. Oddly, after doing my yoga/PT routine for stenosis, my nerve pain flared up big time. As my mother used to say, I can’t win for losing.

The rest of the day was spent reading Labyrinth of Ice by Buddy Levy. It tells the story of an 1881 expedition to the arctic region near northern Greenland. If you liked the tale of the Endurance or John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, this one’s for you.

 

Marking time

Today was an up and down day. I rode to PT where I went over various yoga exercises. My therapist pointed out the ones that would aggravate my stenosis symptoms. She and the trainer gave me a new core exercise to do involving stretchy bands. Unfortunately, the exercise strained my shoulders which have compromised rotator cuffs and, since the exercise is done while standing, my stenosis pain came on while I was doing it.

So I used Feldenkrais techniques to gently get rid of the pain while lying down. It took more than five minutes before I could move on to my PT routine which now involves stretches and core exercises from a prone or supine position.

I got through it all without pain.

Afterwards I got on my CrossCheck and rode the Arlington Loop, a 16-mile circuit, including some roller coaster hills, around Arlington County. By the time I reached home I had ridden 36 miles. I could have gone farther but I’m trying to be careful.

I spent most of the rest of the day sitting or lying on the couch reading.

 

 

I won’t stand for it

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty miserable day. I spent the morning at a brunch, the afternoon helping my daughter move to a new apartment, and the evening at a holiday party. I didn’t ride my bike and did only a few gentle stretches for my back before the day got underway.

At the brunch, my aching leg made it impossible to stand. This was okay since we were mostly just eating and chatting. Several people went for a post-food walk in Rock Creek Park but I decided not to on account of my back.

During the move I found that standing around made my leg ache. Walking up and down the hallway, sometimes carrying lightweight items for staging at the elevator, actually relieved the pain somewhat.

After about three hours of this, my leg started to ache. We drove to the party and, by the time we arrived, I couldn’t stand. Fortunately there was an ample supply of chairs and red wine.

We arrived home at 11:30. My leg was on fire. I could now feel pain in my left butt cheek and it wouldn’t go away. I lied down on the couch and gently stretched my lower back by raising my knees to my chest. After about an hour, fatigue conquered pain and I fell asleep.

At 2 am I awoke. Once I stood the pain came back. I did some gentle pelvic tilts in my easy chair and the pain subsided. I went to bed for five hours.

In the morning I had breakfast. As long as I wasn’t standing there was no pain. After breakfast I went back to the couch, put on headphones, and meditated for an hour.

Now I feel okay but I know that once I stand the pain will come back.

It’s cold and windy outside. I’ll probably go for a ride after lunch. Then, I’ll attempt some stretching exercises.

I am not having fun.

Now if only I could walk

Today was another successful bike jaunt. I intended to do an easy 20 miles but ended up doing 26 even though it was raining. I am really amazed at how good I am feeling on the bike. And, more importantly, how the pain in my left knee and hip has seemingly disappeared. Happy New Year to me.

I still have a hot spot of pain outside my left hip. It goes away after I ride. It doesn’t seem to be my iliotibial band and it is no more painful now than anytime in the last year. It just is. Go figure.

As for the stenosis, it’s still hanging around. I feel fine for the first few hours of the day when I’m doddering around the house. Once I start walking more than 30 feet or so, the ache returns. Last week I bought a cane. I can’t bring myself to use it.

In the comments yesterday, my brother who is a retired nurse with apparently the same defective back gene suggested I try a chiropractor. Many years ago I tried one. One treatment made me worse off. Of course, he wanted me to come back for weekly adjustments.

I tried acupuncture for my shoulders. One therapist managed to fix my right shoulder with one treatment. Another therapist didn’t do a thing for my left shoulder. Of course, he said that if only I come back for regular treatments, I’ll get better. No thanks.

My friend Kathy with whom I stayed on my 2018 tour recommended trying Feldenkrais. She and her husband have been doing it for years and swear by it. Feldenkrais is a strange blend of martial arts, engineering, and meditation. It involves monitoring your body through very controlled, gentle movements. I watched a few videos online. I was thinking “No way this is going to work.” Then I tried a few simple exercises. I was barely moving but damned if it didn’t work.

During her recovery from getting bowled by an SUV, Mrs. Rootchopper took a Feldenkrais class in nearby Arlington, Virginia. She said it helped and that, strangely, she felt a couple of inches taller when she walked out of the class. I am intrigued. I signed up for a one-hour class next Tuesday night. If this pans out, I may buy some audio tapes that Kathy recommended.

My father used to say that you should never have surgery unless your ailment prevents you from working. Too many things can go wrong. I think my stenosis falls into this category. I am in no rush to go under the knife even though my back surgery 30 years ago was a success.

One way or another I’ll get through this. I have some bike touring to do this summer.

 

Leg Pain Whack a Mole

It’s all very frustrating. my hip and knee pain seem to be gone but now I have to deal with this stenosis-related pain.

Last night I watched a movie (The Danish Girl) while lying on the couch. By the time the movie was over my leg pain had quieted. I slept through the night without use of pain medication.

My leg stayed calm through noon. Since it was pretty nice day outside, I did a somewhat hilly 36-mile ride on my Cross Check. Lowering the seat has greatly improved my pedaling. Still no problems with my knee or hip, although the pain outside the hip seems to be sticking around. Riding did not bring on stenosis-related pain as far as I can tell.

When I finished my left leg felt fine. Once I started doing my stenosis exercises, however, things took a turn for the worse. Certain exercises that are supposed to help actually hurt. I know I need to do the exercises but I also know that if I keep pinging the nerve while I’m doing them, I am defeating the purpose.

Right now I feel general soreness in my left butt cheek, outside my left hip, my inner left thigh, and in my left calf. On a scale of 1 to 10, the pain is a 3. On a scale of frustration, I’m at about an 8.

 

 

Adios prednisone

Last night while waiting to go into a movie, I could tell that the prednisone I had been taking was wearing off. By the time the movie was over, my left leg was aching every bit as much as it was before the steroids. When steroids wear off, it’s like a light switch. Pow. Welcome back to the pain party.

Today, with a lowered saddle, I rode my Cross Check a relatively easy 24 1/2 miles. There were a few small hills thrown in. I was surprised that neither my left hip nor the underside of my left kneecap hurt at all. After I warmed up, my stenosis pain went away too. Maybe I’m finally making some progress.

When I got home, I had a healthy lunch. (Okay, it was chocolate cake and milk. Cut me some slack here.) Then I did some work on my bike. While I was walking back and forth to my shed, the pain in my left leg came back. Big time. My left butt cheek has joined in the fun.

I hit the floor for some stenosis exercises. They didn’t do much. I did find that the pain completely stopped during bird dogs which is useful to know if I plan to spend the rest of my life as a display at Cabela’s.

So, I’ll be munching ibuprofen for a while. Unfortunately, this is beginning to look a lot like my ruptured disc episode of 30 years ago.

Happy new year.

The Big Finish – Part 3

Prednisone

Today was my final prednisone pill. It’s powerful stuff. It has interesting side effects. It makes you speedy, improves your mood, and boosts your appetite. Basically, you run around the kitchen eating all the Christmas goodies. It’s a dirty, lousy, thankless job but somebody has to do it. Oink.

Stenosis

After breakfast, I did a half hour of yoga for my back. Normally, I start by doing standing stretches, but today I did nothing but stretches and core exercises on the floor. Child pose is the bomb. I think the prednisone allows me to relax and stretch without muscle soreness. It’ll be interesting to see how my body handles some of these positions without the benefit of steroids.

Colonoscopy

Earlier this month I had a colonoscopy. The doctor found three abnomalities. He found one to be obviously innocuous. Two were suspicious. He biopsied the baddies and removed all three. Today, he showed me the results from the pathology lab. My two suspect polyps were adenomas, the kind of polyps that can develop into colon cancer. Had I not had this colonoscopy I might have been in for a rather rude surprise in 2020. Long story short, I’m good to go, so to speak, for another three years.

The Last Ride

After a 20-minute meditation session down by the river, I went for my final bike ride of the year. It was a 28-mile gentle meander on the Mount Vernon Trail aboard the Cross Check. My back did not much like the bumps on the trail. After the ride I lowered the saddle a couple of millimeters. We’ll see how that feels next time. (Later in the evening my hips and left leg were sore from stenosis. Hmm…)

Fleet Miles

I have four bikes. The end-of-year odometer readings are pretty cool. Clockwise from top left: Little Nellie, The Mule, The Cross Check, and Big Nellie. These are only outdoor miles. I put some miles on Big Nellie in the basement every winter so its odometer reading is probably short about 1,000 miles. Grand total: 135,050 miles since 1991.

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December Miles

In December I rode 667.5 miles. All but 44 miles were outdoors. I rode 24 out of 31 days. My long ride was during the Hains Point 100 when I did 37.5 miles.

2019 Miles

I rode a total of 10,618.5 miles in 2019, 2,978 of them during the No Name Tour from May to early July. During the tour, I climbed over 150,000 feet. I rode 188 miles indoors, evidence of a mild winter. I climbed 0 feet indoors. Boredom has its advantages.

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Miles by Bike 2019

2019 Events

In addition to the Hains Point 100, I squeezed in a few other bike events this year. I did my 11th Fifty States Ride, my fifth Cider Ride, another Great Pumpkin Ride (I can’t recall how many times I’ve done this one), a ride looking at murals in Alexandria, and still another with a George Washington theme.

A Decade of Riding

I rode 84,531 miles in the 2010s.

Miles by Year - 2010 to 2019