Thursday, June 29, 2017

Returning to the Scene of the Stupidity

The beginning of the denouement of my heart story was when the doctor called me late one Thursday afternoon and recommended that I cease all exercise immediately and get to a cardiologist ASAP. While I do not know the exact genesis of this call, my best guess is that, two weeks after I asked her about a worrisome sounding comment (which she had previously overlooked) in the radiologist's report from my CT scan, she finally conferred with him and had an "oh, sh*t!" moment about my condition. As has already been documented here, the doctor reached me as I was preparing to get on the trail at Little Bennett Regional Park for a mountain bike ride. I decided that since the doctor had taken weeks to decide that I had an urgent heart problem, a couple more hours wasn't going to make a real difference - so, ill-advised or not, I went ahead with my bike ride (albeit, a foreshortened version at a really, really slow and cautious pace).
On the trail

Last night I made a happy return visit to Little Bennett, this time without the shadow of imminent heart attack (well, with less of a shadow) and had a very, very fun time bombing (by my standards) through the woods - fording streams, doing some single-track, but mostly riding the fire roads (or whatever you call the double track roads through such a park).
I tried to ride through a stream on the way in but slipped and got totally soaked. I walked it on the way back and got only a little wet.

I have to admit, MTB'ing brings a smile to my face in a way that road biking never does. I guess I just like being out in the woods more than being on roads.

SteveO's Most Awesome Baseball Ride

Two weekends ago I did a walk/jog workout Saturday morning and then played a music gig Saturday night, including schlepping all my gear (upwards of 75 pounds worth). I was so achy and worn out by the end of the evening that I had trouble sleeping. On Sunday I was a mess.So, this weekend, knowing that my Saturday was going to be about the same as the one previous (workout then music gig), I cancelled my Sunday plans and decided in advance I would take it easy.

And then SteveO tempted me with his Nats bike ride. I've been eager to get out and do some club rides. This one sounded extra fun - baseball themed, ending up at Nationals Stadium for a game (using a block of tickets secured by SteveO, who is a season ticket holder). The ride wound up being more miles than I anticipated, but it was loads of fun!

We met up for pre-ride breakfast at Best Buns in Shirlington, where the group was joined by "wheels&Wings", who had just flown into National Airport and was biking home, as well as LeprosyStudyGroup (I'm using forum names here), who would be joining us for the ride but not the game. Wheels&Wings left us when we headed out after breakfast, and along the way we were joined by kwarkentian.

The ride wound up being about 20 miles through DC. SteveO had done an excellent job in planning out a route that took us to a number of spots with baseball-related significance. We visited the site of Griffith Stadium (the old Washington Senators stadium), as well as the original stadium which predated Griffith. We rode past the house where Walter Johnson (probably the most famous Senators player) lived at the time he got married, and past the spot where the ball was found when Mickey Mantle (go Yankees!) hit an amazingly long home run out of Griffith Park - one of several 500+ ft homers he hit in his career. Along the way I got a chance to see some of the revitalized neighborhoods around the U St. corridor. Those neighborhoods are a far cry from the hellholes they were when we moved here in the 80's , though they're not 100% gentrified - we did get yelled at by a smelly drunk (and probably homeless) guy for blocking the sidewalk at one of our stops.

The group at the bike valet
Finally, we headed for our destination, where I discovered that Nationals Stadium has awesome bike valet parking. Let me tell you, bike is the way to go to get to the park! Upon entering the stadium we headed straight for the Devil's Backbone beer stand. Having just ridden 24 miles, I probably shouldn't have had a beer, but I did. Along with lots of water for hydration!
What's baseball without beer in the hot sun?

Valerie and her friend Laura joined us at the game, bringing our total to 16 people. I set out in search of (at least somewhat) heart-healthy food. I finally found what I was looking for at the kosher stand wayyy on the other side of the stadium - falafel with lots of veggies.

Unfortunately, the game wasn't a great one for our team. The Reds pulled ahead by five in the first inning and then scored again in the second. After that it was a strong defensive game, but the Nats were never able to overcome the initial deficit.

Valerie, Laura and I headed out after the seventh inning. All the riding, sun and beer had taken its toll on me and I decided I'd take the Metro home. Unfortunately, the flow of people out of the stadium made me realize that there was no way I was going to make it onto the Green line with my bike. So, Valerie and Laura headed for the Metro stop and I rode a couple of miles to L'Enfant Plaza where, away from the baseball crowds, I was easily able to get on an Orange line train which took me home.

A super-fun ride and a happy return to group rides.

Strava is here: https://www.strava.com/activities/1053885054


Friday, June 23, 2017

More Returning to Normal

We always meet at the same place. As usual, I arrived to find Stephanie already there waiting for me. She was young, much younger than I am, a petite triathlete, her corn silk hair tied back in a braid. She approached me and without saying a word lifted up my shirt, ...

... attached the EKG electrodes and said, "OK, after I take your blood pressure you can go warm up on the treadmill."

Ha! Fooled you, didn't I?

Yes, I'm still in cardiac rehab with the other old fogies, being supervised by a staff of Millenials: nurses and exercise physiologists. It's like getting a little taste of the nursing home experience while I'm still only in my 50's!

The good news is that I'm also getting back into more of my regular activities.

To HDCC on two wheels!
Last Wednesday I made it to the Wednesday "Hump Day Coffee Club" on two wheels. I had started making it there a few weeks earlier using Valerie's trike; this was the first time I was cleared to do it on a big boy bike. In the picture above you can even see a little bit of my bike peeking in behind Steve Claeys (red handlebars on the right).

First time in a kayak
 The following day I made it to the Thursday night Pirates of Georgetown paddle for the first time since my surgery. I had gotten Teddy and David to help load my boat, and I was very nervous about my ability to paddle, since it's such a core and upper body activity. I took it really slowly - and fortunately, a new paddler joined us. He was really slow, slower than my slow paddling, so I wasn't slowing the group down. Kayaking felt great. I didn't feel bad afterwards, but apparently I was pretty tired. So tired that I must not have been thinking straight: when I unloaded my gear I apparently forgot to close the rear hatch of my car - I found it still open the next morning when I went out to get the newspaper. Fortunately, the car was backed into the driveway and still had the kayak on top, so the half-way open hatch (as far as it would go with the kayak still on top of the car) wasn't too evident from the street.
Larry, Tom and me at the end of the first outing
This past Tuesday I went out again, this time just with Tall Tom. I paddled faster and felt fine - though we did do a slightly shorter outing. We went up Roosevelt Island channel to the tip of the Island then back down and through the Boundary Channel back to the marina. That's about 1/2 mile shorter than the five miles I had done on Thursday. As always, the Boundary Channel was intriguing with its combination of urban blight and natural beauty. There were ospreys fishing back there that night. Meanwhile, Tom was plucking floating trash, including plastic containers, out of the water.

This thing bothers my scar
I've even picked up the accordion. Believe it or not, I think I found that more challenging than kayaking or cycling. The darn thing is heavy, takes a lot of arm power, and the bellows rubs against my scar. But I will persevere on all fronts, because doing these things sure feels good!



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Back to Coffee Club!

The local cycling community has early morning "coffee clubs" every day of the week - opportunities for bike commuters to meet up and socialize before work. I like to join the Wednesday Hump Day Coffee Club down at Best Buns in Shirlington. It's a good group of people, the location works, and the baked goods are awesome.

As you might expect, I haven't been able to attend coffee club since my surgery. I did drive down once in April, after I got the OK to drive, but that didn't feel quite right. This week I was finally well enough to make it there by bike! Since I'm still under sternal precautions I'm still riding Valerie's recumbent trike rather than my regular bike, but that doesn't matter - I made it there and back by pedal power!

Hooray!

Check out how far I had my shirt unzipped - showing off my "zipper" scar. I look like a refugee from the disco era.

Riding back home. "Zipper" still evident.

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

So, I've been going to rehab for about four weeks. Since I'm a musician, I like to say I'm "in rehab", since it has that rock-and-roll substance abuse ring to it (heck, Amy Winehouse got a whole song out of the topic). The truth is much less cool - I'm in cardiac rehab. S

Actually, maybe the rock-and-roller analogy is appropriate: cardiac rehab is where the Woodstock generation is hanging out these days. Most of my fellow rehabbers are in the 70+ age group. Do the math - these are the twenty-somethings of the Summer of Love, now in their last (or perhaps penultimate) chapter. About half of the folks tote around oxygen bottles from machine to machine. Many are a little hard of hearing, and a few are a little mentally fahrblunget.

And then there's the "youngster" of the bunch. The active fifty-something guy who rides his bike to rehab. Who smiles politely every time they give him literature encouraging him to take up exercising, then throws the stuff away - because OF COURSE he's going to take up exercising. RESUME exercising, that is. Who is already walking and experimenting with a little running, biking, doing some gentle yoga, and even doing a modicum of strength training (abs and squats).

Starting rehab was something I really looked forward to in the days following my surgery - a milestone which meant I was ready to start on the path back to normalcy. However, it's been a little bit of a disappointment, since it's clear that rehab is designed for the elderly and sedentary. I grit my teeth and put up with the rehab protocol, which mandates a very gentle progression of exercise. In the fourth week they finally ratcheted things up to the point where some of the exercises raise my heart rate. I mean, it's not like they can't see that the exercises have been too low intensity for me - they watch the readout from the heart rate monitor I wear the whole time I'm there. Well, I guess protocols is protocols. I keep plugging away, and the fact that I'm exercising and my heart activity looks normal is giving me confidence to gently ramp things up in my own exercising.

Plus they have free coffee (though it's decaf).