Thursday, March 16, 2006

What's up Doc?

I went to a doctor for the first time as an adult for a non-birth control related reason.

Dr. Jeannie is a tertiary friend who squeezed me in to evaluate my tendon. Normally we see each other at casual BBQ or potluck, so we giggled at meeting each other because we were in our ‘grown-up costumes’ in my lawyer suit and her white doctor labcoat.

As suspected, it was simply inflamed due to overuse. Advil and rest will be the cure. She said I could continue to bike to work as long as I take it easy. This is easy in theory, but in practice I continue to find myself biking faster than I should, especially whenever another rider passes me. Even though I know that I supposed to ride slowly, it galls me that when people pass me they think I am a slowpoke.

Jeannie also gave me a regular physical. Everything is good. In fact, she was shocked when my "oxygen saturation level" read at 100%. She said that this is very rare and she has only seen it a few times. Apparently my hemoglobin contains the maximum amount of oxygen that it can hold. I’ve never heard of this before, but she was pretty excited about it.

Since I now have the luxury of health insurance, I agreed to blood work and an acupuncture therapy – which she thought would relieve some of the inflamation. Honestly though, I was mostly just curious about acupuncture. I haven’t had my cholesterol tested in about eight years, so I didn’t hesitate about that suggestion. In the interim eight years I have had vastly varied periods of eating really well, and also periods of eating horribly (when I was a pastry chef I think most of my daily calories came from butter, cream and chocolate). I wanted to know how much damage I did in the interim.

Here are my lab results (right column is what the goal is):
58 Triglycerides <150
165 Total Cholesterol <200
85 HDL (good chol) >40
68 LDL (bad chol) <130
91 Glucose <100

Although my periods of horrible eating cause my ass to fluctuate, my cholesterol is still low. I don’t know much about this, but Jeannie said that it is unusual for someone’s good cholesterol to be higher than their bad. I am living proof to support the theory that dark chocolate and red wine are good for this stuff (or at least balance out the butter and cream!).

The acupuncture was pretty weird. First, the insertion of the needles should have hurt more – even though I was paying attention, I couldn’t feel one needle prick me at all. After pincushioning me, she hooked some of the needles up with wire and ran electric pulses through them. This felt very disconcerting – my toes and muscles in my feet were twitching with the pulses, and I couldn’t exercise any control over these twitches. Very, very weird. Plus the sensation itself could be pretty intense depending on how much juice she ran through me.

Perhaps the most disturbing part was that there were too many rhythms going on.
I could hear the ticking of the timer, which was out of synch with the two different speeds of pulses going through my legs, plus I became distinctly aware of my heartbeat – which didn’t match any of these other three rhythms. This all felt very freaky and was an uncomfortable, and very overwhelming sensation. But my tendon felt noticeably better afterwards.

So the trip to the doctor was good. Besides this temporary tendon thing, I am lucky to be very healthy. I wish I could spread this to others.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Stairmaster, Hbar Patio, Gimping

Saturday was a gorgeous, gorgeous day in Chicago. High of 66 degrees and sunny. Glorious. It was also a ‘work day’ for Hbar owners as we attempted to excavate the backyard to prepare for laying our new patio.

Working outdoors on a gorgeous day seemed like a grand idea. Very quickly reality set in, though. It is over five years since I labored at the tire warehouse. Apparently a lot of things change in five years – primarily the softening of flesh and skin. My hands have long since lost their protective callouses and quickly became tender after weilding the shovel, spade, pickaxe and wheelbarrow. This is to say nothing of my upper body strength. Shocking as it might seem, parking my ass in front of a computer all day long has not sustained my former upper body strength. Digging in the dirt quickly lost its appeal and revealed its true nature: hard work.

I began to realize the beauty of prison work crews and imagined a bunch of convicts shackled together and making quick work of this project. More seriously, I suggested that something diesel-powered would be more appropriate to complete the job. Todd agreed that sweat equity wasn’t going to get this job done fast enough for our April 8 deadline. His solution was to bring in a crew of day laborers. Briliant!

That decided, I turned my back on digging and focused my attention on a much more fun project: creating a large pan of foccacia bread in the design of a bike wheel. I filled a 18" diameter pan with dough, rolled out a long ‘rope’ of dough to represent the tire, a smaller rope for the hub, and then while studying a bike wheel, used my pastry wheel to slash proper ‘spokes’ in the dough. It was slathered with garlic-infused oil, raised and baked. This bread was for the after party of the final stage of the Tour.

I also had the Hbar cooks prepare a huge batch of veggie chili for the party. To cart this to the party, I slapped a hitch onto the Julep so we could pull a fresh air trailer. My plan was to volunteer for the Stairmaster, then to ride up to the Hbar to load up the trailer/chili/bread and bike back downtown to the after-party.

During the pre-race gathering, I felt great and considered racing in the Stairmaster. My achilles was barely bothering me and the weather was just so damn fine that I wanted to join the group. However, I was wearing 4" heels, and I knew that doing this race would end up badly for my achilles. Then it started to rain.

The rain turned into pouring during the Stairmaster, including thunder and lightening and the temperature also dropped considerably. A thick fog fell upon downtown and I worried for the safety of the racers. I stood at my checkpoint cold and wet while I waited for the race to come through. There were going to be three laps to this race. The first was a ‘neutral’ lap to show racers the course; the second was the real beginning of the race and the third was an optional lap. The race went through my checkpoint twice on each lap. I don’t know what took so long, but we waited forever for the first practice lap to come through. The riders mostly looked miserable. Many people bailed because it was dangerous/miserable. Apparently there were several crashes during the practice lap.

The rain lightened up and the racers started coming through. At first we marked up the sodden balled-up manifests, but soon just gave up and waived people through the check point. Some people did get markers on their faces or hands if they desired. Overall, the racers now seemed more energized and happy than miserable. When they came through the second time they looked tired.

After the race I scooted up to the Hbar to get the trailer & chili. It was hours after the 9:30 that I told the cooks I would pick up the chili. Once on the road I realized something: I never pulled a trailer with the Julep before. With her gearing, she isn’t the best bike for hauling stuff because she is hard to start and it takes a lot of muscle to bring her to a stop once she is moving. When I have pulled a trailer before I have started in a low gear and used the hand brakes to stop – much easier on the knees. Anyway, it also wasn’t great for my achilles – which started to flare up.

On the way there I saw a small group of riders and, assuming they were going where I was going, I tried to catch them. I kept pace for a few blocks, but couldn’t close the gap – damn trailer. When I reached a multi-track railroad crossing, I hopped off the bike and pushed my rig over, and they blinkied out of my sight. In a few blocks I was at the party – there were bikes upon bikes upon bikes – locked three high on every post in sight and in huge u-locked mounds.
Carrying the five gallons of chili up to the fourth floor sucked ass and felt horrible on my foot. It seemed crazy to ask any of the racers to carry this burden after running the 1600 stair gauntlet. So I gimped it up myself. I realized that doing the Stairmaster would have been impossible.

Once people realized I had food they swarmed around me hungrily. I had the sensation of being at a petting zoo with a can of corn and surrounded by goats who threatened to knock me over if I didn't feed them fast enough. I got the food and utensils out and then ducked out safely as the swarm of bikers descended ravenously on the chili & bread. The bread was gone the next time I looked – I suspect my meticulous bike-wheel carving was done in vain. Oh well, it’s good to know that it this creation worked out – I’m sure I’ll recreate it in the future.

The party was quite fun, and I got to speak with the number two girl, Anzie, a messenger. Previously I didn’t know who she was and I had been looking for her. She was really cool. All of the messenger girls have been really cool, with no signs of the ‘cooler-than-thou’ or social reject attitude that many messenger boys seem to have. She said that she sees my cute bike all over town, and I was blusing on behalf of the Julep. Then she told me that during the first race she heard my streamers flapping behind her and couldn’t believe it when the Julep passed her. She expressed surprise that I hadn’t done better in the Tour, and I had to confess my intersection cowardice and tendency to get lost. She said that she feels most comfortable riding in the rear of the lead group, ans suggested I join her there next year. I’d like to hang out with her and Jen, another messenger girl, more in the future.
I woke up on Sunday morning with high plans of being super-productive in the nice weather. I stretched in bed and realized that I felt beaten up. More stretching revealed that many of my muscles were sore. My arms and upper body were achey from digging and swinging the pickaxe at the Hbar; my achilles was puffy and felt horrible, and; my ass and quads felt as though I had raced the day before. Apparently the trailer is a great training tool that compresses a hard sweaty workout of 20+ miles into a barely sweaty workout in under 10 miles.

Trailers – the training tool of the future.

My planned super-productive day turned into: brunch with friends, napping with Paul’s cats, chatting with John, and napping with my cat. Finally at 10:00pm, after another thunderstorm ended, I returned the trailer and chili container to the Hbar. My friend Steve was there, so I increased the productivity of my day by adding alcohol consumption to the eating and napping with cats. Another storm was pouring down water and flashes of lightening lit up the sky as I rode home.

I have a doctor's appointment on Wednesday. Enough of this gimping bullshit.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Operation: Grand Canyon

Frick suggested that he and I and big brother take an interesting trip this summer involving bikes, camping and the Grand Canyon.

The tentative idea is to disasemble our road bikes and strap them onto our hiking packs, descend the Grand Canyon, hike across it, ascend on the opposite rim, reassemble the bikes and bike the 250ish miles back to the starting point.

It will be comfortable at the top and up to 115 degrees on the bottom. My recollection is that the biking route will be covered in broken glass. What could go wrong?

So the biggest question is, "Big Brother -- are you free for the Fourth of July?"

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Suck

I've been busy. Posts that I wrote last week about the Frozen Snot and Stage Five are below.

So...Phil is gone. The office actually feels less crazy than before -- I hope it lasts. I have another really cool case that I actually am interested in. Plus, I will get appointed Special Attorney General in order to work on it. So add that to the Special State's Attorney and my work with the Office of the Special Prosecutor, and I am one damn special attorney. Now, if only I can get into the Special Olympics......

The most important development however is that I Fucked Up my Achilles Tendon. Pain, swelling...really great. Plus, this occurred just before a visit out to CA with Frick. I got to limp through the airport and we had to scratch our plans for hiking, snow-shoeing and drastically reduced the biking. Really Great Timing.

This did however make up my mind about the Stairmaster. Nope. No way. No How. I plan to baby this tendon so it heals ASAP. A bike race with 1600 stairs doesn't fall into the 'babying and healing' catagory. So, instead I am volunteering for the race. Bribes will be accepted for me to stamp your manifest first......offers to do my laundry will be given the highest priority (do my ironing, and i will trip people or jab sticks through their spokes). just kidding.....maybe?

Anyway....crazy busy.

The Tour – Stage Five.

This race series was really quite disappointing, to be honest. I really wanted just one clean race – where I feel good and don’t get lost. I have fucked up every recent race by getting lost, and/or was in no condition to be competitive because of yoga or the Frozen Snot.

Particularly annoying is that Clare beats me. She knows how to do alleycats much better than I do – she hops curbs and runs red lights without hesitation. It is petty and bitchy, but without these variables, I have no doubt that I am a stronger rider than her. When we ride together in a smaller group this seems clear, but she out-maneuvers me in the races. Grrrrrr...

If I do the races next year I am going to be much more aggressive. Instead of comfortably hanging in the middle of the middle pack, I am going to try my damndest to stick with the lead group. I think I have a chance of actually following their draft – BUT – if I get dropped, I can still fall in with the middle.

I’ve learned what doesn’t work is for me to coward around at the back of the middling pack and wait to make a move towards the front when things get less crazy and more thinned out. That has proved to leave me open to betrayal from my own cowardice. One curb, one sketchy red light – and the pack slips away. Without a pack to negotiate intersections for me – I fucking suck, and then I make it worse by getting lost. Plus – no yoga or long rides the day before. Tired legs just can’t be competitive.

Honestly, I just want one clean race because I’m curious to see where I’d place in the group. I might still suck, but I’d like to learn that without any interference.

Stage Six is the dreaded Stairmaster. This will combine everything that scares me about the races in a single tight package – plus there are over a 1,000 stairs to lug my bike up and down. I really don’t want to do this, but apparently it is "an experience to remember."

The Frozen Snot (director’s version)

This was not at all like last year’s ride. We had a kick-ass tailwind on the way up to Milwaukee. Also different was that people didn’t ride in large groups this time. Our first (and only) group stop was in Evanston to attend a press conference. Afterwards we could go at our own pace. Weirdly, the slower riders were in the lead and everyone poked along.

At this point I was chatting with Dan and we agreed that the pace was too slow and that someone should make a break. I offered and he agreed to follow my lead. (Dan usually hangs in the rear of the front pack at the Tour, pedaling like crazy to stay in the draft.) We expected that the other faster riders would follow us. We were (sorta) wrong. For quite a while it was just us two ahead of the pack, before Paul and Jordan finally joined us. They didn’t tuck up behind Dan and I and we ended up dropping them in short order. Then Jim Freeman zipped past on his new recumbent and we sprinted ahead to keep up. Jim is a fast, fast rider on a regular bike – winning the race portion of the last Tour and usually coming in among the top ten riders. On a recumbent he just flies.

Keeping up with Jim was thrilling, but hard work. After a few miles I was overheating and sweating. I realized that Dan was nowhere behind me and told Jim that I needed to stop to strip down. We pulled over for water and clothing removal. Dan arrived and the boys ate some food. Then a pack of other riders rode on past us. Dan said that he couldn’t keep up with Jim and me, so he wanted a head start to catch the pack and left. I waited a bit longer for Paul, but didn’t see him, so I too, left ahead of Jim – knowing that I wouldn’t be able to stay with him if he sprinted to catch the front group.

After a bit, I saw Dan’s helmet in the distance and I started closing the gap. After a while he caught the group and hung in the draft as I attempted to do the same. Then I got caught at a long, suburban stoplight and the group disappeared from sight. In Highland Park I took a wrong turn and went about a mile out of the way, turned around and met up with a lot of the normal-speed riders who were taking a break. Paul wasn’t there, and I assumed that he was ahead of me – and thinking that I was ahead of him. I saw a few other bikers a ways ahead, so I jumped to catch up with them. To my delight, I also happened to see the silhouette of a recumbent zip onto a path about two blocks ahead – it was wearing Jim’s helmet! Giddy-up!

Jim’s helmet bobbed in and out of sight as the bike path curved. I wanted so badly to catch him and zoomed past a few other riders while on this mission. Still, I wasn’t making much progress closing the gap. Finally, he stopped and I noticed that there was another rider stopped with him – it was Paul! I joined them, hot and sweaty and wanting to keep riding. They were hunkered down for a rest stop, though. After a bit my sweaty clothes chilled my body considerably and I told them that I would ride uphead, slowly, to stay warm until they caught up. This was a good idea in theory, but not so good in practice, because biking slowly didn’t warm me up, but did create airflow around me. I stopped to put on warmer mittens and hoped to see Paul, but alas, no. So I poked forward. Jim screamed past me, but I didn’t follow and instead continued slowly until Paul arrived.

I wasn’t very happy with this situation, because previously Paul and I had agreed that we would try to ride with the super-speedy group. In my opinion he hadn’t even tried to keep up. I imagined that somewhere ahead there was a fast group of Grant, Dan, Josh and Andy (soon to be joined by Jim) who were having a great time riding fast to Milwaukee in a pack/pace-line. Instead, I was left to ride with only Paul, or join one of the slower groups. Neither option was ideal for me, because I wanted a bigger group that also rode fast.

Unlike last year, there was no set lunch meet-up spot to possibly join up with the fast group. Paul and I basically rode the rest of the ride together. At times we leap-frogged with other riders, who passed us when we stopped, but none of them were going fast enough to keep up with us for very long.

As I mentioned earlier, my Bianchi resented being stabled for the last several months and my fabulous seat had morphed into a torture device. Being in the saddle was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I just wanted to get to Milwaukee as fast as possible and get out of the saddle. Otherwise, my body felt fine. Keeping my temperature comfortable was the only other problematic thing. Most of the ride I wore a thin merino wool long sleeve shirt, armwarmers and different combinations of gloves and mittens. At times I also wore a super-thin silk turtleneck. When we stopped, my body would quickly switch from ‘too hot’ to freezing as my sweat cooled. I wanted our stops to be very brief: pee, hydrate, leave. It seemed to me that Paul was trying to freeze me to death with his dawdling.

Somewhere between mile 70 and 80 I felt my energy lag. It felt like I was spinning too much, but there wasn’t any higher gear to shift into. Then I noticed a shocking sight – I was in my middle chain ring. My tiredness made sense now – I had spent the day riding in too low of a gear for my mashing tendencies. I flipped into a higher gear and almost immediately felt better once I could slow down my cadence.

We stopped for a leisurely lunch in Racine, had several shorter breaks and got to the end point in Milwaukee by 3:30. There was one other rider there, who said he hadn’t taken any long break. I figured that the ‘fast group’ had arrived in Milwaukee earlier, but decided to go to a museum or something (the fast group did that last year). Nope. The riders slowly trickled in. In some strange turn of events, the ‘fast riders’ that I imagined having fun zipping up to Milwaukee and then having more fun at a museum, were actually behind us. Racing ahead in hopes of catching them was actually putting more distance between us.

The next day was awkward, too. I very much enjoyed the ride until Kenosha because we were riding with the group that I wanted to, and riding fast. Grant, Dan and I were in front for a lot of the ride and setting the pace while chatting as the miles rolled quickly beneath us. At one point when I was pulling I felt like I had let the pace slow, so I clicked up a gear higher and settled in the drops. I heard Grant make some sort of approving sound and we rode on at the faster speed for a while. He then yelled, "damn woman you can pull – you do know that we dropped the group a long time ago, right?" Oops.

Grant agreed that it was fun to ride fast, but we slowed down a bit and Dan caught up with us. I couldn’t see Paul or other members of the group and we were heading into Kenosha. We rounded a curve along the lake and I decided to wait for Paul to catch up, thinking that he would like to take pictures of the lovely view. I dropped back and watched Grant and Dan get smaller, but still no other riders were coming. I also was getting cold, so I decided to catch back up with them. I rode with them until we reached the Kenosha Metro Train Station.

Paul’s ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend were taking the train up to meet us and then ride back to Chicago together. Their train was scheduled to arrive at 12:15. It wasn’t even 11:00. I pulled over and waited for Paul, wishing I could continue riding with Grant and Dan, because it was a fun, fast pace. Riding in a group and riding fast helped to distract me from my saddle soreness – which wasn’t as bad as the previous day.

Several people rode past, and then Paul did too and we stopped for lunch. A lot of the rest of the ride annoyed me. I was resentful that I had give up riding with the fast boys so that we could meet Paul’s ex-girlfriend. Earlier I had suggested that they get off of the train at an earlier spot so that we didn’t have to wait as long for them, but the suggestion fell on deaf ears. I also was annoyed that Paul wasn’t keeping up.

Clare and Scott were at the station and informed us that they hadn’t eaten yet – even though Paul instructed them to eat so that we could get on the road as soon as they got off the train. They were completely fresh and not in synch with the rest of the people on the ride. At several places they wanted to deviate from the route to explore a town or some other nonsense. At one point I bitchily said, "As I mentioned before, my position is that I want to get to Chicago with as little time in the saddle as possible; I don’t want to detour; I don’t want to explore; my bike seat hurts and I don’t want any unneccesary riding." Plus, the chances of running into other riders would lower if we got off of the route.

Basically I was grumpy. At one point we met up with another group of riders and joined them. This was fun. Too soon, we had to leave them so that Clare and Scott could have their lunch. Grrrrr....... They also seemed to be getting tired, so Paul and I pulled much more than they did. I wasn’t very pleased with the situation.

Anyway, we made it into Chicago....showered.....changed....went to the after-party.....had a good grumpiness dissolved. The Julep felt great to ride – even though I accidently tried coasting on her several times, resulting in her kicking me.

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