Practically Perfect

It’s real tough going around here these days, let me tell you.

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Ian and Benji wear hard hats while playing construction site, a game inspired by all our visits to…

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…a real construction site. Benji was oddly thrilled when a bored excavator driver, waiting for dump trucks to come back, pulled out and ate a banana. We immediately had to eat a banana while wearing a hard hat when we got home.

This morning we went for a fairly easy trailer ride, and the conditions were exceptionally nice. Benji tolerated our time on the trail, but perked up when we got back on the road with all the cars and trucks. If we could, he’d probably have me ride on the freeway. In lieu of that, as a compromise, we ride busy roads that have bike lanes.

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My phone does some auto-HDR when it detects the appropriate conditions.

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I have a cold, but honestly, I’ve got nothing to complain about. Life is good.

OH! I meant to add this: We must be a really weird family. This morning Benji asked (through pantomime and sign) about how the washer and dryer worked. So I drew him a picture on the chalk board:

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As I drew I narrated the story (by the way, this is a summary. My story to Benji was way longer and more detailed): First you get your clothes all dirty; then you put them in the washer with soap, turn it on, and water comes in and swirls it around; when it’s clean, you put it in the dryer, where it’s spun with hot air blow drying it.

Fine… But then somehow I ended up explaining how soap works. I had Benji acting as dirt, while I was soap; I grabbed Benji and some water (in a sippy cup) and off we went to have adventures. I drew it in the diagram, too. And included a real water molecule with two hydrogens and one oxygen. Somehow I don’t think normal parents do this with their 2-year-olds.

First Post-Baby Bike Ride

Yesterday I went for a bike ride. A year ago, that wouldn’t have warranted much comment, unless something unusual happened on the ride. Now, however, it’s an achievement in and of itself.

By any measure, it wasn’t much of a ride: Just under an hour, riding within 3 miles of home the whole time, and avoiding all the hills. But after just over a full month off the bike, between the end of pregnancy and having the baby, it felt wonderful to ride at all. After all, I wasn’t sure I had healed enough externally to even sit on a saddle, let alone spend any time there.

A quick note on pregnancy, for those who haven’t been there. NOTE: Stop reading now if you’re squeamish or uncomfortable talking frankly about female anatomy. Now, onwards!

After you have the baby (assuming a straightforward vaginal birth, which we had), you have two wounds that need to heal before you resume significant exercise. First, the external rips and tears inflicted by the baby as he comes out. Odds are you’re stitched up. You’re massively bruised and swollen in that area immediately after, too, although that subsides relatively quickly. Second, there is a huge wound in the uterus where the placenta attached; when the placenta is expelled, it leaves all these open blood vessels just…leaking. This covers a very sizable percentage of your uterus, and can take a long time to heal. If your heart rate and/or blood pressure get too high, that lightly-scabbed wound comes open and bleeds again.

So, when I think about starting to ride again, I have to consider both external and internal wounds. External progress is easier to judge, as I can clearly sit and walk with greater ease. Internal progress I judge based on how much I bleed, an indicator that lags behind effort. I know after the fact that I did too much, but I don’t get immediate feedback to ease off.

Anyway, I tentatively started my ride and immediately noticed a few things:

1. My center of gravity is radically different from last time I rode! Balancing felt extremely weird. It’ll take a while to adjust to having my body back to itself.
2. I love being able to take a deep breath! It makes riding so much easier.
3. I can bend over with no stomach intruding!
4. Riding up hills feels super easy! Although I did ride slowly, I still noticed that I’m not carrying those extra 20 lbs.
5. I still love riding, and I will be overjoyed when I can start consistently spending time on the bike.
6. I felt so freed from anxiety, not having to worry about riding to protect Benji. I’m never reckless, but I rode on heightened alert while pregnant, being hyper-vigilant to avoid crashes. It felt great to exercise a normal amount of caution and not worry about the effect of my actions on Benji’s wellbeing.

Now, what about physically? Sitting on the saddle wasn’t an issue, so the external injuries have completely or almost completely healed. I’m sure if I go out for any longer, my butt will be sore from too much time off the saddle, but baby exit wounds aren’t a primary concern.

Alas, uterine bleeding was an issue. Not a massive amount of bleeding, but clearly increased from where I had been. This means that even though my Voice of Reason (Mom, who accompanied me) kept it minimal – and I felt like I could easily have done lots more – I still did too much.

Although I ache to get out on two wheels in this last gasp of summer gorgeousness; although I pine for my bikes and biking friends; although my legs and lungs and heart are fit and ready to go, I have to rest. Rest now, I tell myself, translates to resuming riding sooner.

Still the disappointment and impatience threaten to swamp me. It’s been almost a month since he was born! Surely I should be healed by now. Surely it must be soon. Surely I’m not asking too much, for just an hour or two on the bike now and then.

Welcome, Garmin Edge 800

Day’s Verse:
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
James 1:2-4

I have NaNoWriMo brain right now, but I’m shifting gears because I want to talk briefly about the replacement I bought for my sad, squashed Garmin Edge 605.

REI is having a 20% off sale right now, so I decided to go there and buy a Garmin Edge 800. Garmin has changed their Edge lineup significantly, and the 800 is the only one that still displays maps, a feature I really want (as per my 2008 blog post, Directionally Inhibited). As it turns out, the 20% off excluded “devices using GPS,” so I didn’t get my $90 off. As REI members we’ll still get $45 back at the end of the year, though, so that’s something. Plus I was able to obtain it in time for the Sunday’s ride. After a mere one day on the data wagon, I fell back off again, gladly.

I bought the Edge 800 on Saturday afternoon after we finished moving dirt. I used it on my short Sunday ride, and while out Monday and Tuesday for errands. I have not yet used the navigation features, but I can speak to using the device in general. Oh, and I didn’t buy the heart rate monitor, cadence monitor, power meter, or rocket pack, either.

My experience so far with the Edge 800 all by itself:

1. I love the touch screen. I always found the little toggle button on the 605 irritating to use, but got used to it because in 2008, when I bought it, touch screens weren’t exactly mainstream. Now if it’s not touchscreen, you wonder why not. Garmin did pretty well with the touchscreen features; my only complaint is the hard-to-use vertical scrolling. But being able to change the data display by pressing and holding more than makes up for any annoyances.
2. The elevation data is noticeably more reliable. By now I have a sense of how big hills are, and about how many feet I can expect to climb on a given ride. My 605 would report head-inflatingly large climbing values, I think because it relied entirely on GPS satellites for vertical data. The 800 (like all new Garmin bike computers, I think) uses a barometer for a more accurate elevation estimate.
3. The user interface is improved. Features are listed in logical places. Sometimes the sub-menus seem excessive, but mostly they’ve organized it into many menus with a few sub-menu options each. This may be annoying in the future, when I don’t want to go 4 menus deep to simply turn a thing on or off again. That said, on to number 4.
4. There are many shortcuts to the most frequently used features, so you don’t have to go 4 menus deep to change those features.
5. The device itself feels sturdy and well-built, although I’m skeptical about whether it can take the same kind of beating my 605 took before finally giving up the ghost. Being a touchscreen, I won’t be able to abuse the screen as thoroughly as I did with the 605.
6. It finds satellites just fine.
7. I like that I can put my own background picture on it. That is a neat feature. The background in the screen shots, below, is I took in Ashland this summer.

Here are some screen shots (yet another neat feature).
The home menu.

Main training screen.

Second training screen.

Settings menu.

Training screen sub-menu.

Training screen sub-sub menu. This would be annoying, except that the navigation goes quickly thanks to the touchscreen.

Summary: I’ll have to see how the navigation features work before I confirm that it’s worth $450 + sales tax. But so far it’s performed well and I anticipate that, once I get used to the screen configuration, I’ll find it as useful a tool as its predecessor. (I would set the screens up the same as my old one, but despite having looked at the old one thousands of times, I still can’t remember exactly what went where. I just know when I look at this new configuration that data isn’t displayed quite right.)

Ashland Bike Ride Media

Day’s Verse:
Run to me, dear lover.
Come like a gazelle.
Leap like a wild stag
on the spice mountains.

Song of Solomon 8:14

If I picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth? Here are some videos I took of riding in Ashland, Oregon. This blog post will give you the impression that I went to Ashland for biking. Although the biking was exceptional, we were actually there for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’ll put up another post about the plays and that experience, so stay tuned. Meantime, on to the media from the two hill climb rides I did in Ashland.

The first ride, I went out to the delightfully-named Dead Indian Memorial Road and did hill repeats. I guess you can call it a repeat if you do it twice, right? The interesting thing was going from down low, which has these sere hills, some scrub oak, and various other similar dry, hot-weather plants, up to higher elevations that are populated with gorgeous pines and evergreens. Here’s a video from lower down.

And here’s a video of the same road, a few thousand feet higher.

The next day, I rode up Mt. Ashland. The metrics don’t sound that impressive — 50 miles roundtrip, 5000 feet or so of climbing — until you realize almost all the climbing was in 15 miles going up the mountain. I now understand how different climbing 5,000 feet spread out is compared to all at once. Anyway, the ride was truly spectacular. Here are videos from that ride. They really don’t capture it; I kept getting these amazing glimpses into the valley all the way to Mt. Shasta off in the distance.

Here’s the lower-down video:

And here’s the video a few thousand feet higher up.

Definitely go take a look at my Flickr set for some cool pictures of Ashland and our drive down Highway 101. There are some very neat pictures there. Here are a few I just have to share.

You don’t see these at home. I cautiously walked across the cattle guard, not trusting myself to ride across it safely. How dumb would it be to crash on a cattle guard?
They Don't Have These At Home

This was the road lower down, heading toward Mt. Ashland. There was no traffic because partway up, one of the bridges was closed. Happily for me, the closure was for paving, which was essentially finished — they just still had equipment sitting around. I went around the road-closure barriers without any trouble. The result of that, though, was virtually zero traffic on that road, before or after the bridge. People saw the road closure signs and avoided it. Great for biking!
Mt. Ashland Road: Lower Down

Here’s the view from the top of Mt. Ashland facing…um, I guess south. That’s Mt. Shasta off in the distance.
View from Mt. Ashland

And finally, a vignette and accompanying picture. The story: When I got to the top of Mt. Ashland, I rode by a little boy who enthusiastically hailed me. There was nobody else up there — just me, this little boy, and his mom. And their black lab, Joy. Anyway, I stopped and asked the boy’s mom to take my picture at the top. The boy, who was incredibly gregarious, immediately gravitated to my bike and started examining it with great interest. He talked nonstop. I quickly learned that his name was Ian. He really wanted to be in my top-of-the-mountain picture, so here it is: Me and Ian at the top of Mt. Ashland.
Katie & Ian at the Summit
After that, he got fascinated with my bike pump and I let him carry it off in order to get a picture by myself. Turns out his little bike had a low front tire, and he immediately cottoned on to the idea of using my pump to put air in his tire. Unfortunately, the valves were incompatible and I had to leave without putting air in his tires. I rode down, taking one hour what had taken me two and a half to do going up. Boy it was fun.

Sometimes I really wish I could just ride and never stop.