Chris Froome and I have something in common

This morning’s Giro d’Italia stage saw Chris Froome come unglued from the leading riders, watching them ride on ahead while he got to think about the time he’s losing and how to minimize his losses. It was a moment of weakness in a race that, for him, is defined by unusual and difficult scenarios, beginning with the doping issue hanging over his head (he was tested at twice the legal amount of Albuterol during last-summer’s Tour of Spain, as yet unresolved in terms of penalty) plus his goal of winning both the Giro and the Tour de France in the same year. Watching him ride this morning was painful to watch. But he stayed cool and in interviews, talks the long game, knowing that we’re not even halfway through with the biggest climbs ahead, plus a time trial where he’s expected to do very well.

And of course, all his issues started because of a breathing problem. Like me, he uses an Albuterol inhaler before hard physical efforts, to help his lungs work better. But Chris Froome, on his very worst day, can outride me on an e-bike on a great day. Maybe I need to take enough to trigger a positive doping test?

OK, today’s ride- Solo ride as Kevin has recently developed (or re-developed, since this has happened before) a very sore knee. My thinking is that he doesn’t have enough base miles to support the hard-charging hill climbing he’s capable of. I don’t know how he does it; he can skip quite a few rides and still ride very hard & fast up Kings, Old LaHonda, Tunitas, you name it.

It would have been nice to be just a bit warmer and not have to wear a base layer and leg warmers, but really can’t complain too much; it was between 54-64 degrees. No need for long-fingered gloves anyway! West Old LaHonda was too slow to mention and had me wondering if I’d make it back in time for mother’s day dinner. I recovered a bit on Haskins, and arrived in Pescadero feeling pretty good. Mtn Dew and an Ollalieberry Strudel and I was fueled up for the return.

Stage Road… could have been more fun without a tail wind. Why? Because in the Strava era, you can’t waste a tail wind. You have to push and see if you can “accomplish” something. Today, I did. No personal bests, but I did get my 2nd fastest time up the first Stage Road climb.

No Tunitas today; I thought it would be a bit faster taking 84 back. I’m not sure if that’s really the case though. From San Gregorio, it takes just under an hour to get to Skyline via 84, while going by way of Tunitas, it takes… maybe just a few minutes more. And from Tunitas you get dropped off at the base of Kings instead of having to ride from the base of 84. My guess? It might actually be a couple minutes faster via Tunitas.

“Definitely” Response from my pulmonologist when I requested more tests. A good thing, that.

Above is the video I sent to my pulmonologist, asking for a retest of my lung function almost exactly a year after the last one, the test that eventually led me to yet another test that showed something I didn’t want to find, a mild bone marrow cancer called Essential Thrombocythemia. That discovery put an end to finding a solution for my breathing issues, because it seemed there were more important things to put in order. That scary “C” word, concerned about bigger things than how fast I can ride up a hill.

But as time went on, after many, many more tests, and, finally, a bone marrow biopsy a couple months ago that completely put to rest any fear of an early demise, it become increasingly clear that my breathing issues were once again taking center stage when on my bike. But would my pulmonologist agree? After all, he and my GP were wondering why, if my VO2max measurement was 140% of normal for someone my age, I was having an issue. I get where they were coming from, but my frustration has been building as I’m questioning if I can even get under 30 minutes climbing Kings this year. The simple truth is, the average 62 year old is in really awful shape, so any comparison to “average” just isn’t relevant.

And last year, I don’t think my doctors really understood what it’s like to be riding near me, hearing my continuous labored breathing on a climb. So, I made the short video above. It shows what I sound like at a moderate, not strenuous, pace. I explained that, once the road tilts upward, once my power goes above 220 watts or heart rate above 140, I can’t talk, I can’t even take a drink from my water bottle without falling apart. Most people breathing like that might keep it up for a pretty short time. I can do this for half an hour. More if I have to.

It was enough to convince the doctor for a re-test, and to try something different from the Qvar/Albuterol/Singulair combination I’m presently on. It’s been just over a year since the last test (April 18, 2017). My daughter, Becky, is a bit concerned that new tests might being up something new & scary, like last time, but I told her, at this point, my attitude is “bring it on!” I can’t fight or fix what I don’t know about. I’m looking forward to May 21st, when I go into the “glass booth” again.

Another important date is coming up. May 24th will be the one-year anniversary of what I consider the darkest week of my life. The day I got hit, really hard & fast, by the news that there was an issue with my bone marrow. I put on a pretty good face most of the time, but until I discovered a relevant Facebook group (yes, Facebook is good for something!) dealing with Essential Thrombocythemia, and learned that people live with this rather than die from, I had some serious doubts about the future. So, Thursday, May 24th, I’m going to have a “breakfast at Alice’s” version of the Thursday-morning ride, to celebrate.

OK, what about last Thursday’s ride? Yes, I did ride, along with Kevin (kid) and Karen. I had hoped I’d continue to feel like I had on Tuesday’s ride, attacking the climbs rather than capitulating, but it was not to be. I was a slug heading up Kings. I did recover some on Skyline, but I never had that sense of “pushing myself hard is fun!” that I had Tuesday. Maybe it was just a high-gravity day.