Monthly Archives: July 2012

The 44% Solution (my drug-free days coming to an end)

This morning I may have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, the reason that I voluntarily set up a doctor’s appointment for the first time in 30+ years (“voluntarily” as in not a visit to fix something broken). That light came from a trip to Kaiser’s pulmonary testing lab, where my lung capacity was measured with, and without, “help.”

You’re hooked up to a breathing tube, your nose is pinched off, and you have a Doctor/Tech/Coach who’s telling you to breathe normal, breathe normal, breathe normal etc etc etc and then, at some random point, suddenly raises her voice and says “BREATHE DEEP!” followed by “EXHALE FAST! KEEP GOING! KEEP GOING! GET EVERY LAST BIT OUT OF YOUR LUNGS! DON’T STOP! KEEP GOING!” (and that “keep going” goes on long after you feel like there’s simply nothing left you can exhale, leaving you wondering what possible reason exists for the last 20 seconds of the exercise, but she insists that it’s important to keep trying to get rid of every last non-existant molecule of air that might still be in your now-collapsed lungs).

Waiting for the start of each breathe deep/exhale fast session is similar to the Drop Zone ride, where you’re sitting at the edge of a precipice, not knowing when you’re suddenly going to be dropped so fast that your stomach and mouth trade places. You try to anticipate, look for body language telling you she’s about to switch gears, but you can’t spend too much effort doing so because you need to have all the strength you can muster to perform the breathe deep/exhale ritual. And being competitive, I want to do as well as I can!

After going through this routine maybe 5 times, I’m then fed a new breathing tube, this one sending some sort of fine mist into my lungs. You breathe this stuff in & out normally for maybe 5 minutes (seems longer; it’s not very exciting), and then do the breathe deep/exhale session again.

Result? Whatever was in that mist improved my lung capacity by 44%. This is the most seriously-good-news I’ve had in a long time. Better life ahead through chemistry. Maybe I can stop wheezing on the climb up Kings in the morning. Maybe I won’t face the humiliation of having to get off the bike for a bit on a steep climb in France ever again.

But wait, there’s more! The woman running these tests? She’s a cyclist. She and her husband are totally into the Tour de France. She’s also a nut for Sunflower photos, of which, sadly, I have none from my most-recent trip. But the bike connection is real, and she’s going to get me set up on the V02 measuring bike, complete with EKG measuring. Basically a stress test and V02 all-in-one. Cool not just because it’s cool, but also because there are times when one wonders about mortality issues related to being 50+ and a stress test can identify all sorts of usually-correctable things that could cause issues.

So overall, I feel like the ordeal of having that thing I fear pretty much more than anything else, a blood test, which kept me away from Doctors for ages, may have been worthwhile. That’s how I feel today. Ask me after I’ve been through a colonoscopy, which is likely hiding out there, ready to show up any day now on my appointment calendar.

You’re not really going to ride tomorrow, are you?

Arrived back from France around 9pm last night, and as usual, the usual question. “You’re not really going to ride tomorrow, are you?” No different from when it’s going to be raining heavily. “You’re not really going to ride tomorrow, are you?” There must be something pleasurable about the way those syllables roll of the tongue. Because I hear the exact same thing if I’m sick. “You’re not really going to ride tomorrow, are you?” My wife’s smart enough to know the answer before she asks the question, thus leaving me with this sudden realization that those exact sounds do something to strongly stimulate some center pleasure in the brain.

But I’ve been at this long enough to know that getting back into my normal routine, as quickly as possible, resets my clock. Which, in fact, it did. At least until about 10pm tonight, when it started feeling like the 7am it would be in France and my awareness was dimming quickly just as the sun would be expected to be coming up. And for me, there’s nothing more terrifying than staying up all night and watching the sun come up. Happened in college a couple times. Nothing scarier.

But it felt great to get onto my Madone and feel how lively it handled after 6 days on a heavily-loaded-down Bike Friday. And the nearly-perfect weather, maybe 62 degrees and moderately-low humidity as I started out… it’s good to be home. The air, the water, it’s the best here. And, to be truthful, it felt good to be liberated from a breakfast of french pastries.

Eric, Todd, Karen, Karl & Marcus… as usual, it seems like I’m missing someone (Keith!!!!). I did what I could on the climb, but didn’t have any real-time indication as I was riding, since I hadn’t located my Garmin computer after packing it (found it later, buried in a shoe in a suitcase). But since the ride doesnt’ exist if I don’t have evidence from cameras or computers, I used Strava’s iPhone app to keep track of things, and apparently rode up the hill in 27:38. I can live with that. And overall it was a pretty fast pace, getting us back to the start a couple minutes earlier than normal. And I barely lived with that!

Neither Kevin rode this morning; don’t know where the pilot was, but my son was sleeping in. He missed a good ride.