It’s Hard to Like April

Mostly, April 2018 will fade from memory, because nobody wants to think about cold, wet, windy weather. April did have a few high points. For a start, my pulmonlogist was pleased with my recovery and backed off the prospect of leaving me on blood thinners for years or maybe even forever. She also lowered the dosage of my asthma medicine. And hopes to further lower it when I get back from my bike tour.

My bike tour planning is going along very well. I received several bike maps from the Adventure Cycling Association a few weeks ago. This allowed me to plan my trip as far as Missoula, Montana. There are numerous options for the rest of the trip to the coast. The southern route goes through central Oregon and follows the Adventure Cycling Transamerica Route. The middle route follows their Lewis and Clark route down the Columbia River gorge, through Portland, and on to the coast. Both these routes are encumbered 50 miles on road construction through the Lochsa River valley. In this corner, Felkerino, who is a man of many miles, advises that this road is awesome and contains a continuous downhill stretch of over 90 miles. In the opposite corner is Andrea, a woman of many miles too who rode the Northern Tier from Seattle east. She (and some commenters on this blog) both say the Cascades are awesome.

Two more maps arrived today from Adventure Cycling. One is for the missing segment from Missoula to the western edge of Oregon on the Lewis and Clark. The other is the segment of the Northern Tier that goes through the Cascades. To get to the start of that route, I’d need to ride a truck route along the Flathead River. I’ll plan both routes out and wait until I get out west before finalizing the way to the coast.

Getting back to my health, I did an acupuncture treatment last week that has done my left arm and shoulder a world of good. Yesterday I rode a 52-mile event ride called Breaking the Cycle. It was cold. The first 28 miles were uphill into a headwind. I rode The Mule as a test ride for the tour. It did fine except for some chain skipping on the cassette (which I had tended to today). At Friday Coffee Club last week, I bought a Brooks Flyer saddle from Felkerino. I mounted it too flat and spent much of the ride sliding my butt back to the rear of the saddle. This caused pain in my bad shoulder. Today I tipped the nose of the saddle up just a bit and my shoulder is happy again. So happy in fact that today’s visit to the gym involved two machines that I have avoided for over a month. So I cancelled tomorrow’s physical therapy session in a fit of optimism.

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The Mule at the Turn Around Point

A word of warning about acupuncture, if you don’t want to look like a junkie, you might want to avoid acupuncture if you are on blood thinners.

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The Golden Arm

Near the end of April, the sun came out. The trees and grass did their thing and we got to enjoy a shit ton of pollen. This is my car today.

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There was one excellent thing that happened in April, I went to three baseball games! On my bike, of course. I missed catching a home run at the first game. The Nats lost. At the second game I nearly killed my buddy Kevin with a nacho bomb. The Nats lost.

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At the third game, I avoided batted balls and gut bombs but the Nats still lost. I sense a disturbing pattern.

Despite its crummy weather, April did give me my biggest mileage month of the year. I rode 27 out of 30 days for a total of 789 miles during the month. For the year, I’ve ridden 2,743 miles. That’s a pretty decent foundation for what lies ahead.

 

Rainy Friday, Worth the Ride

Rain. Cold rain. On a Friday morning when most retirees stay in bed. I got up and hit the road a little after 6:30. The rain, blown by a northeast headwind, spit on my face. And I rode. I arrived at Friday Coffee Club (yes, we capitalize it) around 8. The crowd was predictably small, given the crummy weather: Ed, Ricky, Andrea, Jeff, and a player to be named later. (Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.) Ed and Andrea were discussing a 400 kilometer randoneuring event they are participating in tomorrow. (Ed is riding. Andrea is volunteering.) That’s 248 miles (plus 5 because the course designer is a sadist.) In one day or so. I can’t even.

Ed brought a lightly used Brooks Flyer saddle with fancy copper rivets. I bought it from him for my tour. It has lots of room for tension adjustments. My tush should be a happy camper.

After Andrea, Ricky, and the PTBNL left, Ultrarunnergirl made her first appearance of 2018. Yay! I haven’t seen my biking-hiking-baseball-flaming drinks buddy in a very long time. Hugs and smiles. She took the bus because she is nursing a messed up hip. We must get her well for future adventures.

After I left FCC, I rode to the gym and went all Hulk for 40 minutes. Next, I did 20 minutes of physical therapy at home. Then, I went to an acupuncturist down the street.

I had a hard time tuning my ears to my acupuncturist’s heavy Korean accent but with some forbearabce, we managed to get the gist of my problem understood. He examined my tongue and poked various parts of my body. Mostly this was painless, but a couple of pokes in my feet caused sharp pain. (A similar discomfort shortened a Thai massage a few years ago.)

As I lay on my back, He pinned me in my upper left arm and at various other points all over my body. After about 15 minutes, he flipped me over and repeated the process. Acupuncture is rather hocus pocus to me but I have had success with it in the past. I have to say that my arm does feel better this evening. I’ll wait a day or two before declaring the trip a success.

At the end of the appointment, he placed small stickers on spots on my hands. This mark points that I should prod and massage to help my shoulder heal.

When I got home I ordered two new maps from Adventure Cycling. Over coffee, Ed has made the road west out of Missoula sound like bicycle heaven. He said there is a 90 mile gradual downhill that follows a river through the mountains. I stumbled across a blog online that described the shortcut to the Cascades in less than glowing terms. I will use the maps to work out itineraries for both routes.

One of the maps contains a small surprise, a short cut to Missoula from the east. I’ll have to give that a closer look at that. (It probably involves a climb of horrific proportions.)

I think the only way to properly plan for this trip is to go with the flow and see how I feel when I get to Montana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Right Foot No. 5 – So Much for Acupuncture

It was a snowy day today and I didn’t much feel like driving in the chaos that developed on the unplowed streets near DC. I worked from home. At 2:15 I gave myself 1:!5 minutes to get to the acupuncturist. It should normally take half that time. Wouldn’t you know it, the roads were clear and devoid of cars.

The acupuncturist asked how I was doing and I said my foot was still numb. Then he asked about my back and my arm and shoulder. Both had been bothering me. He went to work on my back and my shoulder with gusto, even attaching electro stimulation thingies to my shoulder. I was face down for 30 minutes with my arm muscles twitching.

After that he turned me over and did more work on my shoulder. He was about to leave the room when I reminded him about my foot. He put some lubricant on the sole of my foot (the first time he did this) and I flinched. It tickled. He tried again and I flinched again. He stopped and said that I needed to get some magnesium cream and work out all the nodules in my foot. Then he walked out of the room.

Suffice it to say, I am not confident that this is a pathway to success. So, barring a significant change, I am going to a neurologist next week. Back to conventional medicine.

My Right Foot 4 – Acupuncture Mission Creep

Since my last (and first) acupuncture visit, I have purchased orthotic shoe inserts. They seem to help my back from getting stiff while standing. They also make my feet sweaty. You can’t have everything, I suppose.

I rode Big Nellie, my recumbent, twice over the holiday. It made my right foot tingle and generally feel messed up. Yesterday I rode Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, to Old Town to meet some peeps who were having brunch. After brunch as I rode home I felt the peroneal tendon on my calf and foot snapping back and forth. This is not good.

I told my acupuncturist about this. He asked me if I was having any other problems. I mentioned my lower back and my right shoulder and he went to town on me. His method involves squirting the area with a lubricant then massaging the area feeling for tight muscles. Basically, I am a gold mine of tight muscles. His examination amounted to a massage so I can’t say I was bothered by him loosening all my tight areas. While he did this he mentioned that I should take a magnesium supplement to keep my calves from getting all cramped. Not a bad idea.

He pinned my hips, my middle back on both sides of my spine, my right calf (which he declared a mess), and my right foot.

After about 20 minutes he took those pins out and went to work on my right arm and shoulder.

The new areas (hip, back and calf) will need more treatments. Really? We were on the two and done plan last week.

The fact is that one week after my first treatment my shoulder and arm feel much better. I couldn’t be happier with the improvement. My foot is getting worse by the day. In fact, I am starting to get concerned that if I don’t get it squared away soon, I might tear something and be up the bike path without a bike.

So tomorrow I am calling a neurologist. I will likely have to wait a few weeks for an appointment. Then I will decide whether to do one more acupuncture treatment. Mostly that will depend on whether any of today’s treatments do any good over the next few days.

2014 in Pictures

This was a truly eventful year. I don’t normally talk much about my family here but today I will make a few exceptions.

Icy Sunrise over Dyke Marsh - 1/9/2014

January: I have been a year-round bike commuter for several years now. Ice and snow are usually deal killers for me. This day in January was an exception. The frozen Potomac River at Dyke Marsh was beautiful. Even in the dead of winter, my bike commute is the best part of my work day.

Woveling

February: For most of the winter and spring, I was dealing with severe back pain. The weather gods did not cooperate by hitting DC with several snow storms. I decided to fight back; I bought a Wovel. Damned if it doesn’t make snow shoveling enjoyable. And it didn’t bother my back one bit.

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March: I finally decided to take care of recurring, painful cyst on my middle finger. It made for fun pictures.

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April: In 2006 I met Charmaine on the 50-States Ride in Anacostia. We’ve done dozens of rides since. She got the idea to go to coastal North Carolina for a three-day bike riding event. We pitched tents on the banks of the Neuse River. Sunrise was something special.

Eamonn BS

May: My son graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.  After a summer job, he took off on the Great American Road Trip, which included a three-day hike to the base of the Grand Canyon. I am one proud and jealous papa.

SharrowsDC: The Ogremeister

June: I was getting ready to start the 2010 50-States Ride  when Mary came up and took my picture with Little Nellie. Sometime later, she, her husband Ed, Brian, and Lane launched Friday Coffee Club at M.E. Swings coffee house in DC. It has become a thing and has many imitators. I have been going nearly every week and have met so many great people. Here’s Brian, pre-coffee. You can tell by the fog.

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July: I really got into following the Washington Nationals. I love how the long season traces a story arc, something I first came to appreciate in 1975 when I was living in Boston. (Go Sawx!) I took my son and daughter to a Nats game and it rained like crazy for hours. The game was called but we got to see this amazing rainbow.

Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge
Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge

August: I started doing day hikes this year. I was a little too ambitious at first nearly killing myself by hiking the Billy Goat A Trail in Great Falls Park on a sweltering day. I’m still getting used to the slower vibe. There’s so much to see, like this bizzarre series of tree roots from an 11-mile hike in Rock Creek Park.

Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy
Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy

September: Early in the year, my friend Florencia returned from over a year and a half abroad. We made plans to do the 50-States Ride in September. She had to cancel but not before sending Emilia my way. Emilia blew me away with her enthusiasm. 65 hilly and rainy miles later she proudly held up her prize.

Flor Tending to Sundance

October: Florencia and I spent many great days together this year, making up for the time she was away. In October, we took a golden retriever named Sundance to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland for a nearly four-hour hike among the changing leaves. Sundance had us worried as he wouldn’t drink any water all day. Here, back at the car, Flor watches with relief as Sundance finally drinks some water. Thanks for coming, Sundance. Thanks for coming back, Florencia.

Hawk on a Wire 2

November: We always seem to have some interesting wildlife near our home. In the spring we watched kit foxes play in our back yard. At the end of November this hawk stood guard over our neighbor’s house.

Accupuncture leg

December: Sometime in late November my right foot started to go numb. I suppose this is what I get for years of beating the bejesus out of my feet. I went to a neurologist who creeped me out something fierce. Then on the advice of Kirstin, with whom I cycled beaucoup miles this year, I went to see a sports acupuncturist. As of this writing I don’t know if the treatment worked but it was certainly an interesting experience.

In Memoriam

Brother Mike and Me

My younger brother Mike passed away in October. His death was not unexpected. I defy you to find a cuter baby or toddler, than he. When picture books gave way to word books, it was clear that Mike was dyslexic. Before the alcohol did its insidious work, Mike was a talented special ed teacher in upstate New York, turning his struggle with learning into a a gift for his kids.

Lore and Flor

I learned of the tragic death of Lorena Gimenez, one of Flor’s dearest friends, in September. I had seen her just a few weeks before at Flor’s birthday picnic in Meridian Hill Park where this picture was taken.  They were celebrating 15 years of friendship. Flor, as one of four “soul sisters”,  gave a brief eulogy at Lore’s memorial service. It made me laugh and moved me to tears. About a month later, we learned that American University will award Lorena a Bachelor’s degree in International Development next May. Well done, AU. Congratulations, Lorena.

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Speaker after speaker at the memorial told of how Lorena comforted them in times of crisis and gave them some simple advice. Her advice invariably  boiled down to three sentences that I subsequently put on my white board at work. She died on the eve of her 42nd birthday. She was wise beyond her years.

My Right Foot – Part 3: Acupuncture

Having seen the world’s creepiest neurologist, I figured I might as well go all in on the bizarre. I went to see a sports acupuncturist. He came highly recommended by Ultrarunnergirl. She said he cleared up her plantar fasciitis with one treatment. I remained skeptical but for a nominal fee I figured what harm could be done.

I sat down in the examination room and discussed my foot problem with the acupuncturist whomI will call Pokey. Pokey listened to me then pulled out a book and quickly found a page with a drawing on it depicting my problem. Well, whaddaya know about THAT!  He then showed me a picture of the peroneal nerve which runs along the outside/back of the calf straight into the numb area and toward the pinky toe. I explained that mine felt like a guitar string and he said he knew pretty much exactly what was wrong.

Then he asked me if there is anything else bothering me. Well, the true answer is my left knee, my lower back, and my right tricep. I decided to tell him about my tricep. “Okay, let’s see if we can fix that while you’re here.” Go for it.

I took of my shoes, socks, and shirt and laid face up on an examination table. In short order he was massaging my tricep to determine where the needles would go. I figured he’d put one or two in but he went for broke and turned my upper arm into a pin cushion. I didn’t feel him put most of the pins in, only those ones that went into a tight bunch of tissue.

Accupuncture arm Accupuncture leg

Then he moved down to my calf. He went to town down there, finding all kinds of tightnesses. He asked me to tell him if the needles hurt but my leg reacted so much when it did that I couldn’t get “Ow” out of my mouth fast enough. Not that the needles hurt all that much. Just a bit. Each “Ow” elicited an understanding nod or comment from Pokey. Once he was done needling me, he told me to lie still for 15 minutes. I took a couple of pictures of his work. I was shocked at how many needles were in me. I didn’t feel half of them. Also a few needles were hooked up to wires.

Out of curiosity I tried turning my foot. Ow! Not a good idea. Lay still dummy! When we were done he said that he thought the treatment would take completely in about 4 days. (Younger people take less time, he said.)  I don’t notice much difference yet in my foot but my arm is distinctly better. This may just be a placebo effect but I’ll the reason seems irrelavant. It’s better.

Pokey was really very negative about conventional medicine. I told him my diagnosis is spinal stenosis and he laughed. “That’s what they call it when they have no idea what’s wrong.”

When I asked him about Rolfing he was somewhat positive. Basically Rolfing works on the some of the same principles as acupuncture. Acupuncturists find the troublesome nerve or tendon and they used needles to free it up. Rolfers use a sort of targeted deep massage. Rolding can hurt but it also gives you the benefits of a massage. So it’s still on the list of possibilities for me.

Pokey said that he could probably make my lower back feel better but I seriously doubt it. In any case, I’m going back next Monday to see if we can get the foot better. He sounded very confident that 2 treatments would fix it.

Bring Me Light

We are in the trough. The next two weeks have the least amount of daylight, then, like a overweight cargo plane, we take off ever so gradually toward springtime. Of course, the coldest days of winter remain but they are small price to pay for deliverance from the dark.

The morning dawned shrouded in fog. This always means an interesting river view. Today was no exception. The spike of the fog bank looming above the far river bank looked as if a madman had taken over, his hair pointed skyward.

Sunrise, Fogbank and Bike

Despite the 40+ degree temperature the boardwalks on the trail were treacherously coated with a thin rime layer. In old town, Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley came rolling my way, Normally she awakens me from my commuting reverie but this day the tables were turned.

“Hi,Nancy”

“Watch out for the ice on the boardwalks!”

When  I came to the beaver boardwalk, the one north of Old Town where a beaver builds and re-builds a dam, I saw a cyclist recovering from a crash. I glided, hands off my brakes, past him. I could see the right leg of his tights were torn. I asked if he was okay and he nodded. On I rode. A few minutes later he passed me. Even crash victims ride faster than me.

The boardwalk under the TR bridge seemed ice free by the time I made it there. I took my time to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

I learned through Twitter that Nancy had in fact been involved in a four-bike pile up on the beaver boardwalk. She was pretty composed for someone who had such a nasty ride.

During the day, my numb foot had me contemplating alternatives to the creepy neurosurgeon. Ultrarunnergirl gave me the name of a sports acupuncturist so I decided to schedule a treatment. He didn’t sound very optimistic but I figure I only have a few bucks to lose. Ultrarunnergirl says he cured her persistent plantar fasciitis with one treatment. I am not one who buys into alternative medicine. I even don’t like chiropractors, but the prospect of back surgery will have me trying just about anything. If acupuncture doesn’t work, I’ll try massage or rolfing or golfing or, maybe, bowling. Back surgery is very risky, even with the best of surgeons, and months of post surgical misery is not something I hope to repeat.

The ride home tonight was about as good as it gets for December. I had a nice gentle tailwind and the ice was gone from the trail. Even the headlights and ninjas didn’t bother me.  Pretty soon, they’ll be a memory.