Oh, That’s Saturday

Thanks to Ian, I get to spend most of every Saturday biking. It’s the part of the week I finally don’t worry about anything harder than not getting dropped. It helps keep me sane. I ride on Saturdays rain or shine, heat or cold; the only exception is extreme wind or ice.

The other exception is when I’m sick. This week wasn’t my best for health: On Tuesday I got a cold from Benji. But I spent all of Wednesday, the Fourth, lounging in bed watching Netflix (thanks, Ian!), and by Thursday I felt much better. Friday I planned to do the usual Saturday ride, maybe albeit a little slower than usual.

Then, on Friday night, I got some kind of what I suspect to be food poisoning. It wasn’t pretty for about four hours there, is all I’m going to say about that. After which I went to sleep (it was the middle of the night, naturally) and woke up feeling normal. Definitely some kind of food poisoning, but to be on the cautious side, I decided to move my ride from Saturday to Sunday.

It was then decided (to use passive voice for its intended purpose, which is obscuring how/and who) that Ian would get a little mini-vacation day, while I took Benji. Thus it was that I got to see what normal people might do with a Saturday, given the whole day in which to achieve…uh…achievements.

Okay, let’s not get hung up on the use of “normal”; moving along, let’s instead get to the point of the post, which is this list of things I got done on Saturday:

  • Sort through a bunch of old clothes and bag a bunch up for Goodwill.
  • Wash a ton of dishes left from Friday night. It was a lot.
  • Drop Ian off at the place where he was going to hang out and do some stuff by himself.
  • Take Benji to Hillcrest Bakery for a little treat (where he ate the entirety of an enormous chocolate croissant, but only after agonizing between that and an apple fritter the size of his head).
  • Go grocery shopping with Benji. He stuck with me most of the time, but we went by the kids’ room where there’s a super nice attendant who will watch your kids while you shop, and he wanted to go in to play. So I finished up without him. When I came back to pick him up, he said, “Oh no, it’s time to go already?!” Then he started negotiating about when he’d get to come back.
  • Pick up CSA veggies and do the CSA kids’ garden. Benji also found a rainbow array of glass chips in the parking lot of the CSA parking lot, which is graveled with a ton of glass chips. I don’t know where they get them, but they aren’t sharp anymore. He did that, and then he picked some carrots and beets and a zucchini in the kids’ garden. Learning moments: Those squash plants are prickly! Also, to pull veggies, you need to grip at the base of the stem, near the dirt, rather than at the top of the leaves.
  • Put away all the food and wash a bunch of the veggies (although I did save the lettuce for Ian).
  • While also getting Benji some lunch, make two loaves of zucchini bread to use up the zucchini ASAP. To use up everything we got, I put in twice the amount of shredded zucchini, and the recipe turned out just fine–if anything, moister and more tasty than usual.
  • Make teriyaki sauce for the first time (easy) and start marinating some meat for today’s dinner. Hope that turns out okay!
  • During quiet time, wash dishes from the zucchini bread and eat lunch.
  • Mow front yard… it’s really mow the weeds, as the grass has stopped growing for the summer. We don’t water and I always look forward to the grass dying so we don’t have to mow any more. I’m sure our neighbors love this strategy.
  • Start weeding front yard. It may be dry, but that doesn’t stop the weeds from growing… and boy howdy, do they grow. There’s still a lot to do. While I was finishing that up, Ian got home from his adventures.
  • Take Benji to Bridle Trails for a 3-mile, zucchini bread-powered hike with Grammy and Papa Gary. As a bonus, we found ripe salmonberries, huckleberries, and some tiny native blackberries. Yummy!
  • Get leftovers together for dinner, probably the easiest part of the day. After that, Ian took Benji for a bubble bath and bedtime, and I collapsed on the couch for a couple episodes of Queer Eye (more on that another time).

Apparently that’s what I can do with a whole uninterrupted day. I can definitively say that if I wasn’t gone for 4 to 6 hours every Saturday, our house and yard would look much nicer, we’d have a lot more baked goods around, and–most difficult of all–I’d be able to give Ian a better break, plus get more quality time with my child.

Well, as time goes by, we keep finding a new balance for what works for us. I guess the thing about balance is you don’t just get it and you’re done. It’s a process that requires constant work and adjustment. On a bike, if you aren’t constantly making tiny tweaks (and sometimes large swerves, depending!), you’re going to tip over. Maybe that’s also true in life.

Fourth of July: God Bless ‘Murrica

This year I spent Fourth of July in bed watching Queer Eye on Netflix because it was my first, most miserable day of a virus shared (no surprise) by my adorable child. Although I missed Benji’s appearance in the town’s children’s parade, I didn’t miss the opportunity to hear my neighbors setting off fireworks until the small hours of the morning.

Which got me thinking.

Fireworks set off by individuals (as our neighbors did last night until all hours) are truly the perfect American way to celebrate our country. They:

  • Terrify to babies, pets, and veterans, all of which we profess to love, and infuriate our neighbors trying to sleep;
  • Generate literally tons of garbage that someone else (ahem, City of Bothell!) has to clean up;
  • Also generate completely unnecessary air pollution that can’t be cleaned up;
  • Start fires that rage out of control, cost millions to stop, and — bonus! — destroy vast swathes of nature at the same time, all out of carelessness; and
  • Have the potential to cause physical harm to the lighter and viewers.

And yet we persist, because we don’t give a sh*t that what we want harms others.

God Bless Murrica. Amen and good night.

Diary of a Commute Bike

This morning started like all normal mornings. The garage door opening let in sunlight — sunlight isn’t the normal part. I mean the garage door opening.

Then my partner, who’s the engine, and I did a short trip to a bus stop. It only takes a couple minutes, but we always have to stop two or three times. I don’t like having to stop so much, and sometimes the engine seems a tad anxious, too–usually when we leave a little later. But we usually make it to the bus stop before the bus.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Bus Stop

We spend a lot of time standing around here. I don’t know why. I’m perfectly capable of doing the whole ride to work, but my engine insists on riding the bus.

Diary of a Commute Bike: On the Bus

I don’t care for riding the bus so much. Bikes are made to have both wheels firmly on the ground, thank you very much.

But once we go across the two bridges and get to the busy noisy place, we get off the bus and my engine and I get rolling again for another short trip with many stops.

There’s a few things I don’t understand about the busy noisy place.

First, we have to stop all the time – six or seven times, maybe more, in less than 10 minutes of travel time. We would get there much faster if the engine wouldn’t stop me so often.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Seattle Stop Light on 7th Ave

Second, sometimes I noticed we get our own special road just for partnerships like us.
Diary of a Commute Bike: 7th Ave Bike Lane
I see lots of us zooming around. The other day we went on one special road for a very short way–about 0.3 miles, the computer told me–short, but super fancy. Later I heard the engine mention that road cost $3.8 million.

What I want to know is: Why’d someone spend all that money for that? My engine and I like our special roads, but just marking it with paint is good enough for us. We didn’t care for the fancy raised up section and the way it feels like we’re on the sidewalk with the intersections with driveways. Sidewalks aren’t for us! Why are they making pretend sidewalks and calling them bike roads?

Anyway, we got to the dark place where I hang out with my friends while the engine does other stuff for a long time.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Hanging Out

As usual, I spent the day there hanging out and shooting the breeze with the other bikes there. I’m meeting lots of unfamiliar bikes who say they only go out when it’s sunny. I say, what’s the point of that? I have fenders, and the engine seems to work okay in the wet, although maybe not as optimally as when it’s sunny. I don’t know why that should matter, but apparently it does.

Eventually, the engine came back and we rode back to the garage home, where we started. I don’t understand why the engine does this most days — not every day, but mostly five days out of seven. Why??

Sometimes she seems to like seeing what’s out there, like on this ride…

Diary of a Commute Bike: Pretty 520 Sky

Diary of a Commute Bike: Pretty Lake Washington

… But other times she hardly looks around at all. What’s the point of that?

Anyway, I’ve noticed there are places — always at the same spots — where the engine pedals slower but breathes a lot louder. She did it again on the way back this time, even though I’m sure I heard her say she was going to not breathe heavy while riding for a while.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Market Street

I’m not sure why we have to slow down so much on those sections, or why she seems to be panting at times, but after those times, I often get to go fast.

I love going fast! It’s my favorite thing!

Except sometimes the engine slows us down for no reason I can see. And sometimes she doesn’t help at all — I have to do all the work. How fair is that?! When it’s up to me, I always make sure we roll along plenty fast.

On the way back, we have an awful lot of times we have to stop. I don’t like that. I want to go faster. We especially already stop at some of those places almost every time.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Eastside Stoplight at Bellevue Way

Diary of a Commute Bike: Kirkland Stoplight at Lake WA Blvd

Diary of a Commute Bike: Stoplight at 132nd and 100th

Maybe the engine likes the view?

Anyways, lately I’ve noticed all this fluffy white snow floating around, except it doesn’t melt and it’s much warmer than regular snow. But just like regular snow, it piles up on the sides of sidewalks and the road.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Cottonwood Fluff

At first I was nervous going over it. Snow is slippery. But this stuff wasn’t slippery at all — just super fluffy. I noticed the engine went with her mouth closed when there was the most fluff, but that seems ridiculous. I bet it tastes like sugar. Yum! If I had a mouth, I’d totally try tasting some.

So then we finished our ride home. I know the route pretty well, except sometimes the engine takes us different ways. Sometimes we just do loops with very slow parts and very fast parts; other times we just go on different roads and I’m not sure why.

Other times we meet up with the engine and bike partnership called “Dad,” and we ride along together. We used to meet up with another partnership called “Michael” quite often, but they moved to Australia and we never see them anyone. I’m sad about that. I miss my friend. I think Australia must be another big noisy place far from here.

When we got home this one day, there were two other engines out playing. My engine spends a lot of time with them. I think they must be extra-special to her.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Home

So that’s what my life is like. Maybe another time I’ll write about the days we don’t commute, and instead go on long rides. But right now I’m out of time. The bus is about to let us off in the big noisy place and we got to roll!

I hope we go fast.

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.