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.

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.

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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:

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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.

Mommying

Here’s what being Mommy looks like.

It looks like waking up at 3 am and staying up the rest of the night to hold and comfort your child as he repeatedly vomits. While he’s sitting in your lap, leaning over the toilet, you’re holding his head. Between bouts of vomiting, he murmurs, “I’m glad you’re here, Mommy.”
(No picture.)

It looks like playing the Hero Kids RPG at 6:30 am on Saturday, with Daddy GMing and Benji and I as characters. You work together to defeat a were-wolf, avoiding spiders and killing lots of wolves. During the game, your child takes a whole turn to bring your character up to full health, because he’s very worried that your character is injured.
Hero Kids: Adventure 2

It looks like going for walks in the woods together every week, rain or shine. You find a surprise patch of daffodils blooming in the woods, see innumerable trilliums and other native flowers, and avoid lots of horse droppings. But most fun of all is playing in the creek that’s really 6″ of mud with 1″ of water on top, poking it with sticks, building dams, and dropping big rocks in to make craters that fill in. On your walks, he wants to hold your hand no matter how narrow the trail.
Bridle Trails Walk: Daffodils

Bridle Trails Walk: Muddy Creek

It looks like staying home with your sick child when he has a cold, then getting the cold yourself — and then having the cold turn into the second round of pneumonia you’ve gotten in two years.
3 Generations of Face Masks

And this happens on the first week of the year it’s truly lovely — in the 70s and sunny — right when you’re about to start ramping up riding for Bike Everywhere month and the longer summer ride season. The pneumonia means you’ll miss at least a week of work and you won’t be able to help much with the child, which is real unfortunate, because this is the week all the grandparents and the regular after-school childcare are all unavailable.

Being Daddy, meanwhile, looks like trying to work as much as possible while also taking on Mommy’s jobs and all the after-school childcare.

Nobody promised parenting would be easy. It’s just the mixed-in moments of joy that make all the other moments worth it.

But I really am tired of pneumonia. Honestly.

Based on the recovery time last go-round, it’s probably ended my biking season plans before I even got to start them. I’ll spend the summer just trying to build back up to where I was last week, without any real hope of getting faster, doing the long rides I love, or keeping up with my biking buddies. I have to accept this reality and kiss goodbye the hopes and expectations I had for the season.

And that’s just biking! I have deadlines at work that I should be moving towards, projects and release-related stuff to write. It’s not going to be pretty.

It’s hard.

Under the Weather

Last Friday, I stayed home from work with Benji and his upset gastrointestinal tract. That, thankfully, only lasted a couple days, and then turned into a cold that seems to involve mostly coughing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I now get to experience firsthand the joys of whatever virus this is. It’s mostly deep lung coughing and generally restricted airways, with a little bit of nasal congestion and an overall sense of extra tiredness.

There’s no good time to get sick, of course, but we had a release last night at work. That’s a particularly unfortunate time to come down with something, when I have to start extra-late at work and do a lot of extra preparing for the release.

I’m also bummed because, after several weeks of relentlessly cold and wet weather, we may actually have a few days when I would normally want to go outside. Maybe I’ll feel perkier tomorrow, but I know that today I barely dragged myself out of bed to work. I didn’t want to take a sick day, but I’ll leave work early.

Tomorrow’s another day.