First Big Ride After Pneumonia

I don’t normally write ride reports here anymore, because in many ways, one ride is so much like the next. There are good days and bad days, but it’s not that interesting reading about the slight variations of how this Saturday’s ride had 5,500 feet of climbing and last week’s had 5,350, and which hill made the difference.

Yesterday, however, was special. I haven’t ridden on the weekend in three weeks: Three Saturdays ago, I started getting that nasty chest cold that just really wiped me out, and then the following two weeks, pneumonia got me. Last Saturday I spent in the middle of my Harry Potter binge-watching. I think I got through Harry Potter movie numbers five and six last Saturday… or was it four and five? They do blend together after a while…

I went to work all week this week, and although I made it through my workdays and even rode my bike home (very gently), I did feel plenty tired at the end of every day. But I’d be darned if I missed another Saturday!

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough energy to join my friends on the Ramrod Training Series ride. They rode to Black Diamond, a route I enjoy, and not just because halfway there you get tasty baked treats! But I didn’t think it would be wise to try for 75 miles and 4,500 feet of climbing on my first ride back — especially a ride that didn’t have any easy way of going home partway if I started fading. I knew I’d try to keep up with my friends, and they’re riding way too fast for me to handle right now. (I’m sad; I want to see my friends, but I have to force myself to ride so darn slow.)

In any case, Dad’s recovering from the same cold, which for him turned into a sinus infection. Not fun, but much better than pneumonia! That means both of us have been wiped out for the last couple weeks, and we both have some significant building back up to do. We decided to do a basic Lake Washington loop, and extend it to Lake Sammamish if we felt okay. My goal was to ride 75 miles, not worrying about pace or climbing. Just see if I could do 75 at all.

The short answer is “yep.”


The long answer is that we did take it very gently, and we had unexpected help for some long portions of the ride. In Montlake, the bridge was up — I go across that bridge every day, and I was still quite surprised! A big crowd of cyclists waited on the sidewalk, comprising almost entirely guys from a team I’m familiar with.

To cut a long story short, we mooched off of those guys for a long ways. Then, when they were too slow — they really put the “conversational” back in “conversational pace” — we rode on and ended up catching up with another of the same team’s groups. I guess that was the fast group. We tagged onto the back of the fast group along Lake Washington Boulevard to Seward Park, and they were a good bit faster. I hit 26 on the flats with them at one point.

Under normal circumstances, I’d have really enjoyed trying to keep up. Under yesterday’s circumstances, after Seward Park, Dad and I let them go. I say “let them go,” but honestly I doubt I had the legs or lungs to keep up with them on the hills. Drafting on the flats behind a big group is like getting sucked along by a big vacuum cleaner. Keeping up on hills requires your own fitness. There’s no fudging that.

In fact, we let both of the team’s groups go, because we were trying not to get all mixed in with them. But after we rounded the bottom of the lake, who should we encounter again but the same slow group? We decided to stay with them for a while, because going north wasn’t trivial. There was a good strong breeze from the north, very common around here on warm days; this generally turns into a west/northwest wind by afternoon, often accompanied by light cloud cover (the “marine push”).

Back to the bike ride… We mooched off of those guys up to Mercer Slough, and then we felt energetic enough to ride up East Lake Sammamish. This wasn’t super easy, thanks to the “breeze,” but we got up to Marymoor and our second rest stop just fine. Dad wanted to head straight home, so we got to his neighborhood with about 65 miles done. I decided to add just a few more miles and see if I could get to 70… and then once I’d done that I figured I might as well go for 75…

So, long story short, I got in my 75 miles, and at the end of the ride even did a couple of hills. Hills are tough because I want to push them hard, but I really can’t breathe that hard right now. When I did catch myself in a harder effort–like keeping up with that faster group going 26 mph–I felt like there was an obstruction in my chest. It feels like a tennis ball lodged in my chest, although I’m sure it’s nothing like that in reality. And on Friday, when I had to sprint to catch my bus and I was breathing super hard, my bronchial tubes and lungs(?)–in my chest, anyway–felt like I’d rubbed everything with sandpaper. It was super unpleasant.

Needless to say, it reminded me keenly to keep my effort level moderate. Which we did successfully: It was an almost-five hour ride for only 75 miles. But I got home cheerful and thankful to be able to do that long of a ride. I expect I’ll have to do a similar thing for all my rides through the end of the month, as the doctor said it often takes four to six weeks to recover fully from pneumonia. I’m going to just focus one enjoying my rides and not worry about how fast or hard they are.

And when June comes, it’s time to start seriously training for the Levi’s Gran Fondo I signed up for. More on that later.

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