January Rebound

After crashing and burning in December thanks to blood clots trying to do me in, I made a guarded return to cycling this month. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t kick some ass.

I rode on 26 of 31 days. Half the rides were in my basement on Big Nellie. This kept me allowed me to gradually get back into the swing of things without crashing and causing myself to buy the farm.

I started very slowly, waiting for clearance from my doctor. On January 4, I did 8.5 miles in my basement.  I guessed at mileage based on time. As I got my legs back the length and intensity of the basement rides increased. I figure that conservatively I averaged about 11 miles per hour. So I guesstimate that I did 183 miles indoors. The remaining 363.5 miles were done outdoors. The first ride was a bit scary. I was paranoid. Over time, I settled in. In the end, I did 340 miles on my Cross Check and 23.5 on The Mule. My longest ride was 46.5 miles.

After all that medical drama, doing the math, I managed to ride 546.5 miles. If you had told me on January 1st that I’d ride more than 200 miles this month I’d have thought you were crazy.

 

February awaits. I’d love to go somewhere warm, but I have scans and doctors visits out the wazoo.  Each visit seems to bring on a follow up visit of one sort or another which makes planning ahead next to impossible. This medical nonsense should settle down soon.

Of course, the February to do list includes some fun stuff too: a hike or two, a happy hour, at least one foray to Friday Coffee Club, many bike rides, more reading, and a rare day (tomorrow) of museum-ing. And, in two weeks, the return of baseball. Somebody pinch me.

 

Notes on the Road to Recovery

  • Yesterday was my longest ride since November 4,  46 1/2 miles to and from Bladensburg by way of the Anacostia River Trail. The ride was about as flat as possible so I wasn’t exactly taxing my heart and lungs. I’d have gone further but when I turned from home, I inadvertently took a short cut of sorts. It turns out that there are entire sections of the DC area that I get lost in. I become un-lost when I stumble on a street that’s on the 50 States Ride route. Yesterday I was good to go when I found West Virginia Avenue.
  • Thanks to my CT scans I have a new wardrobe. You can’t wear anything with metal on it to a CT scan so sweat pants are ideal. Mrs. Rootchopper was so embarrassed by my threadbare sweat pants that she bought me two new pair. Now I have CT Scan clothes!
  • When I moved to DC I had to jettison my Mr. Michelin down winter coat. You know, the big, puffy green ones that keep you warm on the tundra. The coat took up a ton of closet space and had no usefulness in the mid-Atlantic. I also stopped wearing sweat pants because, well, you sweat in them. I get plenty of sweating just by living in this swamp I don’t need help from my wardrobe. I had three pair of sweats (one was thermal!) and they were all falling apart from age. My new sweat pants don’t have a heavy lining; they are more like pajama bottoms. Yes, I am that retired guy that lays around his house in PJs and sweats.
  • Ultrarunnergirl just tweeted a link to information about deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms. https://www.webmd.com/dvt/ss/slideshow-visual-guide-to-vein-and-artery-problems. She is awesome for doing this. And it reminded me that I haven’t seen her in ages. Ack! Massive hugs to you Kirybabe.
  • Even though I have read a ton of stuff about DVTs and PEs, I still am perplexed by what caused mine. Lately, I’ve been thinking that I’ve had PEs for a long time. But what caused the sudden eruption of clots in my lungs in December? The WebMD article offers some possibilities. Athletes, especially endurance athletes, tend to get clots more often from injuries, dehydration, and travel. https://www.webmd.com/dvt/ss/slideshow-dvt-surprising-causes  I think the DVT forms from dehydration and travel. An injury to the DVT breaks a chunk of the big clot off and it travels to the lungs becoming a PE.
  • My ride to Key West had all three aspects.
    • I fell from a porch and my bike landed across my body. I don’t know if the bicycle frame whacked my leg. I was too worried about my smashed ribs. Still it’s the only impact injury I have had in a long time.
    • The south is humid. It’s hard to stay hydrated, especially when you are riding in a tropical depression and getting sandblasted by gale force winds.
    • I rode back on the train. Despite being able to walk around, I was stuck in my seat for several hours when my seat neighbor fell asleep.
  • Today is a rainy day. It’s warm enough to ride outside but the gloom doesn’t float my boat. So I re-acquainted myself with Big Nellie in the basement. I rode for 1:13 or about 13 miles at a snails pace.

 

Long Ride, Pleasant Dreams

I rode 120 miles today. It felt great.

Then I woke up.

I needed a day off the bike and the couch was the right place to spent it.

In the morning I went for my annual dermatologist appointment. The doctor froze three pre-cancerous lesions from my face. This is the price I pay for any Anglo-Irish heritage and spending so much time running and riding and hiking in the sun.

After that I spent a couple of hours reading and meditating. Then I went to the dentists where I had a filling in one of my few remaining virgin teeth. Once I saw the novocaine needle I tensed up. My hands were fists. I used meditation/breathing techniques and I relaxed through the entire procedure. No pain. I truly hate going to the dentist.

I planned on going for a ride but the wind was blowing and it was cold and I was feeling all rubbery in my face so I sat down and promptly fell sound asleep. I dreamed of warm summer days and riding The Mule across the prairie. Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above….

I get next week off from medical madness. Then it’s two more weeks of scans and visits to all four doctors including my annual physical. I imagine these visits will spawn more visits. And scans.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 20 days.

In Baseball Speramus.

Quiz note: There is still no winner to the Cereal Quilter quiz. Why would my quilter wife need me to eat more breakfast cereal?

Another Day, Another Doctor

Is that a Tumor on Your Gland or Are You Just Happy to See me?

After a couple of long-ish days back to back, I decided to take it easy today. I was 18 miles into my ride when I stopped at the gym to re-acquaint myself with the weight room. I still hate it but it is a good thing to do to maintain bone density, especially when the only exercise you get is non-weight-bearing.

When I stopped, I checked my phone. My doctor had left me a voicemail about my CT Scan results. He referred me to an endocrinologist to have some tests done on my adrenal gland and its hitchhiker (an adenoma a little over 1 cm x 1 cm).

So I am up to three specialists so far. Four if you count the fact that my hematologist is also an oncologist.

None of this is bad news, by the way. I am grateful that I have a personal doctor who is thorough.

There is a tid bit of good news to report: I tried the spirometer today. I broke 3,250 ml. This is the target level for a healthy six-foot 62-year-old male. It’s a bit like ringing the bell at the circus. It’s pretty good news considering the fact that I am asthmatic.

The Cereal Quilter Quiz

I am not surprised that no one has guessed the answer to my quiz: Why would my quilter wife need me to eat more breakfast cereal?

A point of clarification: we are talking about ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, not oatmeal or cream of wheat.

I’ll give the answer in a couple of days.

 

 

Two for Tuesday

I Rode a Jackie Robinson Today

The thermometer said 73 degrees. I stepped outside. It was no lie. Dang! I went for a ride, of course. In shorts. Yes, shorts!

I know I am supposed to be taking it easy but did you hear what I just said? 73 degrees in January. And SHORTS!!!

So I went for a level-ish ride on some local trails, mostly the Four Mile Run, W&OD, and Mount Vernon Trail. With a steady wind out of the west, the ride out the W&OD was a bit of a slog. I decided to turn around to have a little fun with a tailwind.

Wheeee!

I timed the turn around just right. Near the end of the ride it started to feel a little cool on my legs.

My odometer read 42 miles. That would be 79 miles for two days. I haven’t done this much riding since early November. And my heart and respiratory rates stayed down the entire time. My windpipe, which has been tight for weeks, felt like it was wide open.

All I can say is WOW. I can’t believe how good I felt for all 42 miles.

I know. I know. Take it easy, you idiot.

Cold air is coming. That will mellow me out.

The Cereal Quilter Quiz

Mrs. Rootchopper is a quiltaholic. She’s made 37 quilts last year. It was an off year for quantity. (I kid you not.) She spent more time than she had intended preparing donated blankets for distribution to sick kids.

She makes a lot of quilts and other fabric creations for sick kids. The quiz question is: why would she need me to eat more breakfast cereal?

 

 

 

 

Recovery Milestone

Today it was warm and the weather begged me to go for a bike ride. Who am I to argue? So I decided to re-do the 36-mile ride I did the day before my pulmonary embolisms hit. Tempting fate?

No way!

I rode all 36 miles and tacked on another mile for good measure. The route took me down to Mount Vernon. I did a three or four mile loop through the Woodlawn area then rode up the big hill on Jeff Todd Way. At Telegraph Road I took a left and rode further up hill until I reached Beulah Road. At no time did my legs or lungs crap out on these hills. I don’t think I ever fell below 7 miles per hour. I rode up the long hill to US 1 and had no problems. This hill usually kills me. Then I turned left and pedaled back along US 1 past Fort Belvoir. I headed back to Mount Vernon and down the trail to Fort Hunt Park where I did a couple of celebratory laps.

All was good until I got home. I did my usual physical therapy exercises which my wife insists on calling yoga. Then my lower back started to go out.

You should do yoga! Yeah, right.

I took a nap.

Then I spent the rest of the evening watching a movie on TV: Into the Wild. It was pretty brilliant. Very true to  the book. And for the second night in a row, the main character was emaciated. (How the actors pull this off is beyond me.)

So I am back to where I was a month ago. I never thought I’d get to this point this fast. It blows my mind that a month ago I was lying in a hospital bed gasping for breath with pneumonia, a collapsed lung, and blood clots all through my lungs.

Despite all the medical insanity, I have ridden 349 miles in January, almost 2/3rds of it out of doors. I can’t believe it.

 

I Am Going to Kill My Body

It’s been four weeks since my cardiovascular system mutinied. I feel perfectly fine. I plan on going for a long-ish ride tomorrow. I plan on not dying.

My body has recently decided that it’s not through screwing with me. I was up half the night with a pain in my foot. It’s the return of my Morton’s neuroma. (It’s an inflamed nerve that runs several inches between and behind my “ring” and middle toes. It felt like someone was sticking a knife in my foot.

The nerve finally calmed down after a couple of hours. I swear I could hear snickering coming from my foot.

Today I went to the dentist for my semi-annual exercise in mindfulness. I HATE going to the dentist. I get all tense expecting intense pain while my teeth are being cleaned. This is not without reason. I have had some pretty unpleasant dental visits including the time the endodontist prepared to close off the hole in my front tooth from which he had removed my root. The problem was that he removed only half the root. There was still a live nerve in the hole. I literally jumped out of the seat. He said, “That wasn’t supposed to happen.” I kicked him in the balls and said “Neither was that!”

Okay I lied about the kick in the balls. But the pain went straight up my nose into my brain. It was an Olivier/Hoffman Marathon Man moment. (Ironically, I ran marathons at the time.)

The blood thinner has caused my gums to get all inflamed in the past week. I tried a home remedy that seemed to calm things down. I just put mouthwash in my mouth and hold it along my gum line. It stings but the gums waved a white flag.

The cleaning today went much better than expected. Occasionally during the cleaning something would hurt. My hands tensed up waiting for that jump-out-of-the-chair moment. So, and here’s the mindfulness part, I focused on the fact that the pain was insignificant. I consciously relaxed my hands which relaxed my arms and my shoulders. And reminded myself that I am just anticipating pain that will probably not arise. And every time I found my hands clenching, I’d just repeat the routine.

It sounds pretty weird but it worked.

So my body tried to get me again but my brain triumphed. Until the dentist came in and said words I hadn’t heard in ten years: “You have a cavity.”

I go to the dermatologist next week. Do you think maybe I should reschedule?

 

From a Scan to Afghanistan

So it snowed a little the other night. Mr. Outside (that would be me) stayed inside and rode for nearly 90 minutes in the basement.

Big fun.

Not.

Today the temperatures broke 40 degrees. Cowabunga!

I rode 21 miles on my Cross Check stopping so I could get ready to go to the hospital.

We’re having fun now.

I went in for a CT scan of my adrenal glands. (They are located atop the kidneys.) My doctors are looking to rule out cancer because some cancers increase the propensity for blood to clot.

The scan is pretty hot. Literally. You lie on a table that moves into a donut shaped scanner. You hold your breath and the scanner activates. The table gradually moves back out from under the donut. This takes about five seconds. After three passes, a contrasting agent is injected into a vein in your arm. The agent flows back into your heart and then get pumped throughout your body. As this happens you feel eerie warmth spreading through you system. The spreading takes a few seconds so you feel it gradually advancing. Next, you get moved back under the donut for another scan. The warmth dissipates and you get one more pass under the scanner.

I have no idea what the outcome was. The technician is not allowed to tell me. She did, however, seem pretty upbeat afterwards. I’d be surprised if they find any cancer.

Which, of course, leaves us wondering what caused the deep vein thrombosis in my calf that released the pulmonary embolisms into my lungs? Don’t you just love a mystery?

A few hours later I drove to DC to attend a #bikedc happy hour at District Hardware at the recently opened Wharf development along Washington Channel. District Hardware is one part hardware store, one part bike shop, and one part coffee bar with beer and wine. I am not making this up. What a concept.

There were a few dozen people at the happy hour, most of whom are involved in the friendly, somewhat loony winter bicycling competition known as Freezing Saddles. I knew perhaps a third of them. I can vouch for their loony-ness.

One of the attendees not involved in Freezing Saddles recently returned from a year abroad. I met Lis Wilson several years ago at Friday Coffee Club. She’s one of those people that make DC such an incredibly interesting place to live in. Lis recently returned from Kabul, Afghanistan. She spent much of her time confined to a compound for her safety so, although the work may have been rewarding, the living was rather tedious. It was a terrific surprise to see her. She shamed me into forgoing alcohol. L’chaim indeed. Welcome home, Lis. We missed you. Maybe next time you can spend a year in someplace a little less edgy like Omaha. Or Elmira.

Many thanks to Lis and the many others who expressed concern about my health. And to Joe and Rachel for organizing this get together. I needed a social fix.

 

 

(Out)side Effects

Following up on yesterday’s post, I bundled up and hit the road today. It was a little over 40 degrees in the direct sunlight and there was no ice on the roads and trails. It took me an unusually long time to get warm. Normally, when I dress properly, I warm up within a mile or two. Today it took about five miles. I did end up riding 32 1/2 miles, but I was cold for the last five miles too.

I wonder if this chill is a side effect of the blood thinning medication, Xarelto, that I am taking. I wouldn’t be surprised because I have had two other side effects in my first 3 1/2 weeks on the drug. I noticed within a day or two of taking the drug that I itched everywhere. This itchiness went away only to be replaced by sharp nerve pain in my feet. These stabbing pains would last only a few seconds. They came and went. Ultimately, they left for good. Around this time, my dosage was reduced by 50 percent.

And my nerve pain was replaced by another side effect.

The other night I was flossing between my two front teeth. The floss broke off. It took several tries to get a smooth, floss-free groove between my teeth. It was as if my teeth were pushed closer together. As it turns out my gums are inflamed and red. The interwebs list bloody gums as a side effect of Xarelto.

I hope this side effect goes away soon. I have a dentist appointment on Friday. Maybe I can learn more.

I am still being asked on a daily basis how I am doing. All is well. There is nothing for me to do but take my medicine and wait for the clots to be absorbed by my body. This will take at least two more months, or more likely five.

It is what it is.

 

Winter Weather Wimp Gets Back into a Routine

I really am a wimp. It’s below freezing outside but there’s no ice on the roads so it’s safe to go riding. But I walk out the door and the blast of cold air pushes me down the stairs in to the basement where Big Nellie and Lincoln in the Bardo await.

I know I am a weenie because my bike commuting friends are out there slogging away to and from work. Although she doesn’t exactly slog, Mary the Coffeenuer is braving the cold and – for the most part – enjoying it. Her latest blog post pretty much is a call to arms, or pedals. So I resolve to get out of the basement as long as there is no ice on the ground. (It’s supposed to snow tomorrow night so this might be a pretty short lived resolution.)

An update on my recovery: I feel fine. I have my energy back. Mrs. Rootchopper says that my left calf looks bigger than my right. This is consistent with a deep vein thrombosis or big blood clot in my left calf. I have used a tape measure and I can’t find a difference. I also don’t feel any difference between the left and right calf.

I have ordered a mirror for my Cross Check just to decrease my chances of being run over by big metal things. And I have purchased a RoadID which is like a medic alert bracelet. It has my name and address, my wife’s contact numbers, my blood type and Xarelto, the blood thinning medication I am on. This is especially important in case I crash and hit my head and am knock out or concussed. Blows to the head can lead to runaway bleeding in the skull which can be fatal within a day or two. I want to make sure that EMTs and ER doctors know about my medication from the get go even if I can’t speak for myself.

Well, that was depressing.

My CT scan for tomorrow has been postponed because my insurance is flinching at having another one so soon after the last one. This is pretty routine.

Later this week I have a dental appointment. Hopefully I won’t need any crowns or fillings because I’d have to stop taking Xarelto for a couple of days and I really can’t do that right now.

I am getting back to the daily routine I was in before all this craziness took over my life.

  • Meditation for 20 -30 minutes – This is a hold over from self treatment of depression. I’m into my fourth year of sitting on a daily basis. Oddly, it’s also the last vestige of a friendship gone sour. Go figure.
  • Reading the newspaper over breakfast – I have been doing crosswords since college. Breakfast doesn’t seem right without a puzzle.
  • Reading – I am an obsessive reader. I can’t imagine living without books all around me. I am working down the pile of books I got for Christmas and as gifts for nearly dying. (I can’t die now, God.. I have four more books on my nightstand.) I should be coming up for air about May 1.
  • Riding – I am still searching for a good substitute for the best bike commute on the planet. And I have to get myself into some sort of decent riding shape because I fully intend to ride to Pacific waters this spring and summer.
  • Learning guitar – I am the least musical person on the planet. And I have small hands. So this is an uphill battle. Still, twiddling away at finger picking is strangely relaxing. And it’s a lot easier to learn these days because there are a bazillion instructional videos online.
  • Listening to music – This is something that has fallen by the wayside with all the bike riding that I’ve been doing over the years. I was browsing YouTube recently when I saw the name Brandi Carlile. I’ve heard her name many, many times over the years and never took the time to listen to her. Doh. She’s been making interesting music for 12 years and six (soon to be seven albums). So I am wearing out two of her CDs and I am about to buy all the others. This will tide me over until the next Neil Finn CD comes out later this year.
  • And doing at least one adult thing –  Today’s was driving my daughter’s car so its battery wouldn’t die. And doing a load of laundry. Hey, that’s two.

In addition to these daily activities I have a few other things I want to keep doing.

  • Socialize – I am trying to do at least one social thing a week so I don’t turn into a hermit. The weekend before last was brunch with folks from grad school. This past weekend was the wedding of the daughter of a former work colleague. It was at a mosque which made it especially unusual (for me at least) and interesting. This Thursday I am going to a #bikedc happy hour. I am not supposed to drink alcohol while on my medication but I think one drink in a two-week span won’t kill me. Then again, who the hell knows!
  • Advocacy – As a total introvert, I make a lousy advocate. Still, I hope to attend a meeting with National Park Service staff regarding the Mount Vernon Trail on Saturday.
  • Sportz – I don’t watch much sports but the NFL playoffs include the Patriots. I lived in Boston and Providence for 11 years during which time the Patriots were consistently mediocre. Their recent run of excellence has been fun to watch. I only watch during the playoffs. I don’t have time for the other 16 games.