I approached today’s ride with a bit of apprehension, based on this week’s bloodwork showing that the stuff I’m taking to lower my too-high platelet count is also depressing my hematocrit level (as is expected to happen). For those not in the know, keeping your hematocrit level high is what doping is all about in competitive cycling. That EPO stuff you hear about, the stuff Lance was using, artificially raises it above your normal level, which allows your blood to carry more oxygen to your muscles. Normal hematocrit levels run between 39-48% or so. You don’t want to go too high, because your blood gets sludgy and your heart may decide it’s had enough and stop working. My hematocrit had been around 43-44% since the beginning of time, but has been gradually dropping due to the anti-EPO I’m taking, and on Friday’s test, came to 38%. Yuck.
So as I began this morning’s ride with Kevin, I wasn’t sure how slow I’d be on Old LaHonda, but figured it wouldn’t be terribly fast. Turns out I didn’t have to worry; Strava showed 22:19 which is my faster time in well over a year, and if I’d just been 4 seconds faster, it would have been a two-year best. Strange thing, that. I don’t know that this is a trend I’ll be able to buck much longer though; it’s likely my dosage is going to be increased soon, which will drop my hematocrit even more, and at some point, something’s gotta give. Either that or my body is re-wiring itself.
Just another great day for a ride in the SF Bay Area. Mid-70s, so a bit cooler than France, and no fancy French pastries or cheap huge bottles of Orangina, but the Pescadero Bakery does a good stand-in.
Tunitas? Well, we didn’t attack Tunitas like we did Old LaHonda. Seems like we both ran out of gas at some point, but a nice ride up the hill.
Almost home. Another long travel day, but not nearly so long coming back from France as getting there, since I “only” have to get from Paris to San Francisco heading home, while getting there, it’s flights from San Francisco to Paris, followed by a train or trains to either the Alps or Pyrenees. Alps this time.
Logistically I made the day we left a bit easier than in the past, choosing to stay at a hotel adjacent to the airport, saving the hour-or-so trip from the city of Paris to the airport (which is maybe 30 miles from the city). The hotel I chose was much nicer than expected; if you have the opportunity to stay at an Ibis Styles (part of the Accor chain), and you’re not looking for a high-end high-expense “French” experience, I highly recommend it. Last year my son and I stayed at an Ibis Styles in Lyon and were similarly impressed. The rooms are Paris-sized to be sure (small) but comfortable, good air conditioning, useful bathroom (not one where you can’t figure out how to keep the water from spilling out on the floor) and, at least for this one, it included a free breakfast that was really good. $120/night for a two-bed room, $90 for single.
The airport itself? Eh, nothing’s changed, still carries the “Airport by Escher” moniker. Horrendously-long check-in lines this morning, but with even minimal status on the airline you get to bypass that. Passport control was pretty lengthy though. CDG is the only airport I’ve been to (and I’ve been to quite a few) where you really do need to arrive three hours prior to your flight.
About 3/4 of the way home right now, sitting in the United lounger in Chicago. Long time between flights, which I’m using to update this as well as create some youtube videos for the incredible rides in the Vercors region, near Grenoble. I’m getting a bit tired and sticky-feeling; first thing I do when I get home is take a shower! It’s going to be really great seeing my kids, my wife, my dog, my two cats, and Mike F, Jose & Roger at the shop (and the young new guys too, Spencer and Joey). Time to get back in the swing of things.
It was very nice, even if just for a week, to get away from the normal routine with its heavy focus on business and my health issues. It’s good to know I can still out-climb most, I can still take on interesting challenges where solutions need to be figured out on the fly, and dang, France hasn’t gone away, it still has great food and doesn’t cost much to get around.
It’s about this time, each year, that I think perhaps this will have been the last July trip to France for a while, that there are other places to see and ride. And I’ll actually believe that, for a month or two. And then, in October, I start thinking about the route announcement for the next year, and look at the websites that focus on the route rumors, and start playing through the options in my mind. Because France feels like a second home to me, but with a different routine. What I do during my July trips to France are how I imagine a perfect retirement would be spent. The retirement won’t be happening, but France can.
This was also a significant trip in that it was the first time I’d “shared” my logistical knowledge of France and the Tour de France with someone other than my son. I don’t fancy myself as a tour guide, but it does make sense to share the experience with others. What comes routinely to me might seem dauntingly-complicated to others. It’s nice to have a feeling that you’re competent at something other than running a business. And being a father and husband of course.