Tag Archives: cycling

Sometimes feeling small is the absolute best!


As the blog title says, you can feel very small in the shadow of something so immense. Just one more thing cycling can do for you. Put you in your place, in a very awesome sort of way.

Visiting the Tour de France isn’t all about riding the same roads as the race and being in huge crowds all day long. It’s also about the things that make France special, like trying to figure out why anyone would build roads in the crazy places they do. Oh yeah, there’s the food too, especially if you like the type of meat that hangs on one of those big rotating thingees and the scrape the meet off in layers.

Today was our first full day, which meant it was time to hit the ground running, er, riding. Originally the Tour de France wasn’t in the plan at all, until I discovered that the stage finish was too far from where our ride would be ending. But mostly, since my friend Larry had never ridden a bike in France, I wanted to introduce him to some of the special back roads with great pavement, little traffic and once in a while, a bit of insanity you’d never see practiced in the US. Since we were staying in Grenoble, what better way to start than the Vercors.

Most haven’t even heard of the Vercors. The Alps, the Pyrenees, and if they’re really educated or a bit snooty, they’ll let you know about the Massif Central. But not the Vercors, which is good and bad. It’s almost as if it’s a semi-unknown semi-autonomous region in France, build within its own miniature-but-powerful mountain range. Perhaps no coincidence that it was also central to the Resistance movement in WWII.

I discovered that amazing piece of road, the Combe Laval/Col de la Machine, 5 or 6 years ago on a trip with Kevin. It was a beast of a climb, but that ridiculous road with the incredible views (shown in the photo at the top) made it worthwhile. But, the climb getting there was really grueling (Col de la Machine) and the payoff, the cliff road above, actually came too early in the ride. So I made some improvements. 🙂

Basically we did it in reverse, and it would have been completely awesome if not for the gnarly headwinds we faced once we had descended the mountain and were riding the flat roads into the town of Romans, where today’s ‘Tour stage finished.  I think I could improve upon it further still (even after dropping the flat section because there’s really no need to ride into Romans); the route we traveled up was supposed to have some cliff roads of its own, but a few years ago they abandoned the fun part in favor of a modern, uphill tunnel that’s over a mile long. Still, a very pleasant ride heading up to it. You can view our route below, including photos taken along the way if you click on the map.

When your Doctor finds something you weren’t looking for

Me and a subset of my support network (Kevin center, Becky right), having coffee at Sheri’s Java Shack last Friday after my most-recent blood test. Turned out we had reason to smile. Good thing, that!

A few weeks ago I embarked on a new journey, departing from my long-time quest to climb faster by figuring out what has been causing my breathing issues, to dealing with an anomaly in a blood test… a very-high platelet count. Out of maybe 40 different tests run on me, 37 came out beautifully, indications of someone in very good health. 2 or 3 did not, which, I’ll admit, put me into a restless state of mind. The first re-check came back worse, quickly adding a new Doctor to my portfolio, a Hematologist/Oncologist. The fear and trepidation of each incoming blood test, prior to my visit with the Hematologist, was stunning. For the first time I can remember, I felt like I had something I couldn’t fight using my wits, intelligence or strength. A really scary feeling!

New test results continued to arrive on my phone even later that same day, as if someone was deliberately trying to torture me. It made for a very rough weekend. In fact, my phone let me know of a new test result just as my daughter and I were getting ready to ride away from the shop that Friday night. I didn’t check the results until later, but as we started the ride home, we came across a down-on-his-luck guy pushing a shopping cart with his belongings, asking if we knew where a soup kitchen was. We said no (which was truthful) and moved on. 10 seconds later I turned around and headed back to him, checking on my phone to see if I could find one. Nothing open that late. I had $14 in my wallet; I took out $10 and gave it to him. I don’t know why. I just knew it was something I should do. It didn’t make me feel better, but one of my core values seemed to have become more important. All those little situations you don’t give much thought to, where what you do might make the world just a little tiny bit better, or a little tiny bit worse. Always try to choose the better.

The results of that evening’s incoming test were worse than those previous. There was this feeling, a totally irrational feeling, that the “worse” numbers on the retest might be an indication of something bad happening really fast. That feeling had no basis outside of an amateur looking at numbers without having any real context to understand them. But I resolved to handle things better, and besides, I was now on a medication (Hydroxyurea) that has a history of working very well dealing with my specific issue (too many platelets). Give it a chance. And yes, pray.

Some of the fear subsided as I began my meds, and even more so as I continued to ride well, improve even, completing the 100 mile Sequoia Century with my son in fine form. By the time two weeks had passed, I felt OK with things, I was ready for that next test. So I went in Friday morning, knowing I’d be getting those pesky emails later in the day, emails with test results that had the potential to wreck my weekend. I went with Becky and Kevin (seen in the photo) and had a truly good feeling about things, about not just the tests themselves but the future in general.

And at 2:48pm the results came in. Platelets decreased from 3x normal to just 2, with the Doctor hopeful that further improvement will be seen at the current relatively-low dose of Hydroxyurea. Thoughts of things going seriously wrong completely dispelled. Many thanks to my family (kids Becky & Kevin, wife Karen, dog Jack, cats Zack & Zoey), extended family, Chain Reaction employees and customers who have helped keep my spirits up. It’s time to settle in for what’s likely to be a very long journey (in general, scary as “bone marrow” issues are, a diagnosis of essential thrombocythemia does not typically affect lifespan but becomes a long-term managed condition).
–Mike–