Lesson Learned, Maybe

Last time I had pneumonia, pretty much as soon as I was able to stand up, I started riding hard again. I pushed myself to regain my lost fitness as fast as possible, doing fast, hard rides almost immediately.

I also spent the next four months coughing during and after rides, sometimes so hard and uncontrollably I could barely breathe. It was not fun.

That experience is in the front of my mind as I try to recover effectively this time around. I really want to get back to my former level of fitness, but I don’t think last time was the best approach.

This time I’m trying a different recovery method: slow and steady. I’m riding, but being really strict with myself about not breathing hard. Speed isn’t a factor; my lungs tell me what’s too fast. If I find myself starting to get an elevated heart and breathing rate, I back off, regardless of how fast I’m going.

I’m forcing myself to stick with this plan through the end of May. That gives me most of the month the doctor said I would need to fully recover.

I’m getting better, though: I’ve started wanting to chase some faster guys and push harder on hills. Soon enough.

…I just have to exercise the discipline to stick with this plan when riding with faster guys.

Something to Anticipate

With this round of pneumonia knocking me out of biking for the month, and slowing me down for probably a lot longer than that, I’ve been looking for a good event to get excited about. It has to be pretty far in the future, since I’ll have a lot of fitness to build back up. And around here we’re lucky if the biking season lasts through mid-September.

That’s when a friend mentioned he was doing the Il Regno route on Levi’s Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa in early October. He invited me to join him.

Normally I’d not even consider doing a ride out of state: too much hassle, too expensive.

But this year, I need something to look forward to. Something motivational to get me working hard again (when I’m finally done recovering). After reading about it, I got interested.

It’s supposed to be a really beautiful area to ride. The weather in October should be good. The timing should give me time to train and be prepared. The route would be challenging under any circumstances, and I’d certainly have to work hard from June to October to be ready. But I could probably do it. Plus, I might be able to squeeze in a quick visit with my Uncle Gerard, who lives in nearby San Francisco.

So I signed up.

Now I’m committed, I’m really excited about it — excited and apprehensive. I’m not sure I can build the fitness I need to finish the ride in time; I’ve lost a lot over the last month, and I’m not getting stronger yet, just trying to get healthy. In the past I’ve done lots of hard rides of similar description (100+ miles, 10,000 ft of climbing), but I hear this is exceptionally challenging. That’s part of what makes it an accomplishment: not knowing if I can do it, but working hard and trying for it anyway.

Now I’m just ready to be all better so I can get out there and start riding hard.

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.

Back to Life

I went back to work on Monday with great trepidation: Would I have the energy to do a workday? Could I get back to commuting home by bike afterwards? How would my family handle getting back into the regular routine?

Thankfully, all these concerns proved unfounded. I definitely feel more tired than usual — not sleepy, but tired. Even so, I’ve been able to get through a whole day, including commuting, tolerably well.

Overall I’m breathing pretty well except when I accidentally breathe hard; then it’s still raspy. But that’s about the only symptom left besides the residual tiredness.

I’m trying to exercise discipline when biking to ensure I ride at a pace where I don’t have to breathe hard. This means I’m slow, but thankful to be back riding again. Also, the streak of beautiful weather that persisted during my entire illness has snapped and it’s back to drizzle and clouds. That’s okay, it’s what I’m used to.

It feels good to be getting back to real life.

About Your Favorite Artisanal Blog

This blog, established in 2003, celebrates its 15-year anniversary this year. In honor of this anniversary, I wanted to give you all a little sneak peek into the inner workings of each post. On this blog, the content is:

Sustainably Harvested. Supremely Fresh.

On this blog, our wild content is line-caught by generations of small family harvesters. Content is never farmed or frozen. You get it within hours of its being caught. We serve only the freshest content, as you can tell by the healthy pink color.

Organic and Fair Trade.

Any content not wild-caught is organically grown and harvested from local idea farms by employees paid a living wage and granted full benefits, including 401(k)s and health insurance. Some ideas may originate from international fair-trade farms. Regardless of location, all ideas are carefully nurtured with only organic components, so you may notice some imperfections. This is natural!

Carefully Curated. Completely Unique.

When preparing our blog posts, our artisans combine only the most appropriate ideas into a carefully curated mix to achieve the precise tone and feel desired. Each blog post is a 100% unique, hand-crafted product you cannot find anywhere else on the internet.

About the Author

Katie started blogging before generating content online was cool.

She lives with her amply bearded spouse and uber-precocious offspring (just the one child, for environmental reasons, naturally) in their all-renewable-energy-powered home. In season, they eat beets.

Two Weeks of Pneumonia

All I have to say is…let’s not make it three weeks.

The last two weeks have been downright heartbreaking. On Monday, April 23, I was diagnosed with pneumonia in one lung and went on a five-day course of antibiotics. Thursday and Friday that week I felt a lot better, and hoped to get to work on Monday. Then I spent Saturday vomiting and Sunday nauseous. Monday and Tuesday I started getting low-grade fevers intermittently, but they were so low and infrequent I couldn’t be sure what was going on.

I finally went back to work on Wednesday, May 2, but not because I felt better. I felt the same: Exhausted, coughing constantly, and occasionally spiking a low-grade fever. Wednesday afternoon I took the first bus home, went to bed, and took my temperature. Fever of just exactly 100.0.

I called the doctor and they said they wanted to see me that night. They said that not only was my original pneumonia not gone, but it was now in both lungs, and my cough was (as I knew) much worse. I got a stronger seven-day course of antibiotics, two cough suppressants (one pill and one inhaler), and strict orders to do NOTHING for the next few days.

I can go back to work “when I have enough energy.” I hope that’s tomorrow. The doctor left it to my discretion and said that I was young and fit, so that should help, but also reiterated what I already knew: Full recovery from Pneumonia usually takes a month or more. A month from May 2nd is June 2nd.

June 2nd is after Memorial Day, when I always participate in the 7 Hills Century as my first organized ride of the year. The next Saturday is Flying Wheels Summer Century, when I’ve traditionally tried to achieve a sub-five-hour century.

This breaks my heart. I had such high hopes for the year: I had, before getting sick, finally almost clawed my way back to fitness after the December 2016 pneumonia. I wanted to ride 500,000 feet of climbing for the year and was actually on track to do so. I had a bunch of big bucket climbs on my list: Mt. Baker, Hurricane Ridge twice, Mt. St. Helens. I wanted to try to finally get back some of the speed I’d lost in the last illness.

Over the last two weeks, and even now, I’m going through a process of mourning the loss of my bike season. I’m having to let go of my hopes and expectations for Bike Everywhere month (riding 800 miles, doing my usual two big first rides of the season, that stuff), of my expectations for how fast and how I’ll be able to ride when I get back on the bike, of the hope of riding with my usual group at our usual pace.

I know; the mountains will be there, my bike will be there. Granted, my friends will be stronger and faster. Rest, recover, you can get it back. But I can’t get this season back. It’s already gone before it’s started.

On top of this, I’ve had to cede almost all my mommying duties to Ian, who’s kept everything from falling apart quite admirably. He’s bought me lots and lots of time to just lay around and rest, which is exactly what I need. I’ve missed two Saturday Bridle Trails hikes and other regular family activities. The grass and weeds are delighted at my complete hiatus from the outdoors, although the ladies from our church group came over and helped beat back some of the weeds in the front yard.

I have no idea what’s going on at work these days. Earlier in the week I was able to call in, but the last couple days of the week, I just laid on the couch and watched movies. (I watched all seven of the Harry Potter movies. They actually aren’t bad, watched back to back like that.)

Throughout all this, I’ve struggled with feeling guilty about missing parenting duties and work responsibilities and helpless, desperate frustration about the biking situation. I feel such sorrow and impotent anger and disappointment and grief and guilt; and all these kinds of feelings trigger anorexia brain. Plus I’m not hungry anyway, because of being sick. I’ve lost weight because of the sickness, and I know in my head I don’t have a lot of extra to lose. But at the same time, deep inside, my anorexia brain is happy that I might be losing weight. That I deserve it, to assuage the guilt and shame and all that nastiness. It’s a battle to overcome the lack of appetite and the secret sense that I don’t deserve to eat anyway. Oh, I’m eating, because I want to recover and I want to lose as little muscle as possible (a fruitless and useless cause; I doubt I’ve got any of the fitness I earned left); but every meal, every food choice, is once again a battle.

I’m so tired of everything. So many times in the last few weeks I’ve just wished I could just… stop. But that’s not how life goes. Just keep going.

Inherit the Sexism

I was proud and excited when my sister, writing as Gwen C. Katz, author of Among the Red Stars, kicked off the “describe yourself how a male author would describe you” phenomenon. It’s a topic I know she’s passionate about, and I completely agree with her points.

I’m reading the book Inherit the Stars, by James P. Hogan, and it’s a perfect example of what she was talking about. It was written in 1977, and envisions a near-future scenario in which people are colonizing the Moon and Mars. On the Moon, they discover a mummified human body in a space suit–and the whole thing is 50,000 years old! Dum da dum!

I’m not going to ruin the story; Mr. Hogan did that himself, the way he visualized women in the future. Here’s what I mean.

  1. The first woman character doesn’t appear until page 28. A couple other ladies are mentioned, but only as a clerk or receptionist.¬† The book leans towards more hard science and explaining technical details, and none of the main characters are technically competent women. Not one.¬†This is particularly noticeable when the author has characters say things like, “I’ll have the boys in the lab” do X, Y, or Z, or “The time has come, gentlemen, to dally no longer…” (p. 57)

    Caveat: I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but I’ve read it before and I don’t recall any technically competent women appearing later.

  2. When the first female character is mentioned, here’s her full introduction:

    Lyn Garland, his personal assistant, greeted him from the screen. She was twenty-eight, pretty, and had long red hair and big, brown, intelligent eyes. (p 28)

    Thank goodness he included “intelligent” in the description. Otherwise I might’ve thought she was just a piece of ass stuck in there to keep the guys interested!

    Garland doesn’t get any actual dialogue during that introduction, however, beyond saying “Sure thing” to the boss’s request to bring in coffee. As noted previously, she’s not actually a researcher or engineer, like the other characters; she’s a secretary.

  3. After her introduction, Garland disappears for 20 pages, during which it’s all dudes talking technical stuff. (Way too complicated for the ladies!) She finally reappears on page 48 as the two main guys are trying to figure out what this mysterious table of numbers and letters means. Here’s how it goes down. I’m going to reproduce it in its full glory:

    His mumblings were interrupted as the door opened behind them. Lyn Garland walked in.

    “Hi, you guys. What’s showing today?” She moved over to stand between them and peered into the tank. “Say, tables! How about that? Where’d the come from, the books?”

    “Hello, lovely,” Gray said with a grin. “Yep.” He nodded in the direction of the scanner.

    “Hi,” Hunt answered, at last tearing his eyes away from the image. “What can we do for you?”

    She didn’t reply at once, but continued staring into the tank.

    “What are they? Any ideas?”

    “Don’t know yet. We were just talking about it when you came in.”

    She marched across the lab and bent over to peer into the top of the scanner. The smooth, tanned curve of her leg and the proud thrust of her behind under her thin skirt drew an exchange of approving glances from the two English scientists. She came back and studied the image once more.

    “Looks like a calendar, if you ask me,” she told them. Her voice left no room for dissent.

    Gray laughed. “Calendar, eh? You sound pretty sure of it. What’s this–a demonstration of infallible feminine intuition or something?” He was goading playfully.

    She turned to confront him with out-thrust jaw and hands planted firmly on hips. “Listen, Limey–I’ve got a right to an opinion, okay? So, that’s what I think it is. That’s my opinion.”

    “Okay, okay.” Gray held up his hands. “Let’s not start the War of Independence all over again. I’ll note it in the lab file: ‘Lyn thinks it’s a–‘”

    “Holy Christ!” Hunt cut him off midsentence. He was staring wide-eyed into the tank. “Do you know, she could be right! She could just be bloody right!”

    [the guys go into why she might be right. Then they ask:]

    “What on Earth made you say a calendar?”

    She shrugged and pouted her lips. “Don’t know, really. The book over there looks like a diary. Every diary I ever saw had calendars in it. So, it had to be a calendar.”

    Hunt sighed. “So much for the scientific method.”… (p. 48-50)

    What does one even say to this? How do I even start to express the depth of insulted disgust I feel at the entire scene?

    The girl gets to contribute, but not before the dudes lasciviously ogle her ass, proving she really is just there as a delectable hunk of meat. At first the men completely dismiss her insight as “female intuition.” It’s not until a man thinks she might be right that they start taking the idea seriously. And then, when she explains her reasoning, the men dismiss her logic as flawed, even though it’s actually reasonable: Nobody knows what the book mentioned is; it’s some alien artifact. It could very well be a journal or diary. But nooooo, some girl came up with that conclusion, so it’s clearly not in keeping with the “scientific method.”

    A little later, the same scientist is in a meeting with all the technical folks, Hunt goes on to introduce Garland’s ideas, without any attribution, as if they were his own:

    “What’s that?” asked a voice.

    “It’s from one of the pocket books,” Hunt replied. “I think the book is something not unlike a diary. I also believe that that”–he pointed at the sheet–“could well be a calendar.” He caught a sly wink from Lyn Garland and returned it.

    He then goes on to say he analyzed the pattern on the page and that the book is remarkably like a diary with a calendar. This, after mocking and poh-poh-ing a woman’s analysis that reached that very conclusion! So much for the scientific method, indeed.

That’s pretty much as far as I’ve gotten so far, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I want to continue.

I know the book was written in a different era, with different norms towards women. But the author was envisioning the future. He wrote about flying cars with internet connectivity, streaming movies, and video-conferencing. In the book, the world is peaceful and everyone is prosperous, and as a result, racism and classism and all that other stuff is gone. There’s no climate change. Countries pour their energy and extra resources (saved because they don’t need big militaries) into exploring space.

And yet, women only ever appear as young ladies in tight skirts serving the powerful, smart men as secretaries. The author couldn’t see past his day and age to envision a world in which women stood on equal footing with men, where a woman’s intelligence was as respected as a man’s, where a woman could lead men or participate equally in technical discussions with men.

And you know what? I think he was right. Forty years later, we’re still a society where ladies are just pussies to be grabbed by powerful men who then boast about their exploits on the record and still get elected to the highest office in the land. So I can’t really complain that the book isn’t realistic. The only unrealistic part, I guess, is the flying cars and the global peace and prosperity.