• Thumb surgery

    “Hi! I’m here to be operated on!!!” I said to the receptionist, upon walking into the surgery center yesterday morning.

    She was expecting me, but I don’t think she was expecting a cheerful me. Granted, it had been 11 hours since my last water or food. But it had been two weeks since I broke my thumb and tore a ligament, so I was anxious to be out of limbo and on the road to recovery.

    That was my attitude through the wait, which became FOUR HOURS due to a complication with an earlier patient (spoiler: I had no complications). My friend Deanne and I arrived at 10:15 a.m., and at 10:30 I was taken to a room to change. “We ran out of some gowns and only have XXXL or pediatric. You probably don’t want a mini skirt…” the nurse said. So I put on a gown with a bear print on it — no, I wasn’t seeing a veterinarian — that could have wrapped around me three times, though it ultimately didn’t matter because I was lying on a bed the whole time. The socks were just absurd, even for my size 10 feet, but the nurse found some slightly smaller ones without bear prints on them. The hair net was as attractive as a nun’s habit. Then her assistant struggled valiantly and successfully found my vein (and did much better than the Red Cross people).


    Then they let Deanne in the room to keep me company. Their plan was for me to arrive at 10:15 a.m. with a 12:15 p.m. surgery start time. Surgery would last an hour, and recovery would be another hour. I had no choice; diabetics, elderly and young kids get priority due to having to fast since midnight. Well, then a nurse came in and said the doctor was running behind due to “a bump” in the surgery two people ahead of me. We asked how far behind… An hour-and-a half behind! Poor Deanne hadn’t eaten much and was getting a headache, had driven more than two hours just to my house, and yet, she didn’t leave to get food. I felt so bad, but it really was nice to have her company — plus, we don’t catch up as often these days since we live further apart. Our chatter combined with a few texts to pass the time.

    When your boss texts you...
    When your boss texts you…

    The surgeon came in, looked at my hand, and then drew an arrow and initialed it with a Sharpie marker. I asked him about my “good” hand, which had been giving me concern. He looked at it, maneuvered the thumb a bit, and said he thinks it is okay but he’ll X-ray it next week at my post-op visit. The combination of a sprain in that wrist and little strength in that thumb have been wreaking havoc on me, and I suspect some of the pain was in my head. He said to use it as much as I can without too much pain, and that was a huge relief. He left the room and we resumed our wait, though now I was sweating (probably from the anxiety related to my worry about the “good” hand.)

    IMG_3347 - Version 2Finally, the OR nurse came in, which I had been told meant that I would be on my way soon. And that’s when honest little ole’ me told the truth when she asked if I was wearing contact lenses. Yes, I was. But they were disposable one-day lenses, I’ve slept in contacts before, and I’ve been wearing them for more than 20 years. Plus, I’m so near-sighted that when woken up from the anesthesia, I wouldn’t be able to see anyone or anything (this is true; I can’t see stoplights without them). She went and talked to the anesthesiologist, who had met me earlier, and I think my good humor, patience and reasoning paid off: I was allowed to keep my contacts! That had been the one thing I really wanted to fight for, so I was happy.

    I finally got into the OR around 2:45 p.m. It was chilly in there, which was such a relief. A couple more people introduced themselves and I asked, “Is there going to be a name quiz? Because I’m going to fail. You’re Guy In Mask, right?” I bet they’ve heard every joke by now… Then they put me next to what I now know was the operating table. A guy said something like, “Okay, you can move,” and I had no idea what he meant. “You haven’t done this before??” he asked. “NOPE, this is alllll new to me!” I replied.

    The big light fixtures above me were cool and I wished I could take a picture. Then they started looking like doubles and I asked if they had started the anesthesia. The anesthesiologist joked, “It depends.” I think I said something about the lights swimming and he said, “Yes, we did.” And that’s all I remember.

    Apparently the doctor came out and talked to Deanne shortly before 4 p.m. Everything had gone as expected, and he had successfully reattached my ligament. Whew! The next thing I knew, I was looking at numbers, which I realized were my vital signs on a machine. The contact lenses were so welcome, because I focused on the heart rate number, watching it go from 50 to 52 to 51 to 50 (yes, I distinctly remember those numbers), probably because I was walking up.

    And now the humorous “what I said while waking up from anesthesia” part, as told to me by Deanne: I asked the same questions four times each, including what medicine they had given me. I was happy that nobody had mis-pronounced my name. Then I was insisting to the nurse that I could exercise the next day. She said no because the open wound would get sweaty and probably infected, and that I could miss one week out of 52. The funny thing is, I had known this and intentionally ran 5 miles the previous night so I’d have one last bit of endorphins.

    I don’t remember putting on my clothes, but I must have done that, because I didn’t leave in the ridiculous bear gown. And I’ve since learned that the nurse was impressed at how well I did at getting dressed. I’ve also learned that the nurse sat there and went over post-op instructions with Deanne and me, but I don’t remember any of that, either. They took me out to Deanne’s car in a wheelchair (and I didn’t freak out and start hyperventilating like the last time I was in a wheelchair, which is another story). The first thing I really remember is putting my feet on the wheelchair foot rests. Now I understand why they don’t allow patients to go home alone in a taxi.

    While I was in surgery, Deanne went to Chipotle. We had some traffic on the drive home, so I was finally in my house and eating around 5:30 p.m., 19 hours since my last meal. That burrito bowl tasted soooo good. I wasn’t in pain, I didn’t feel groggy anymore, it was easy to eat, and I was ravenous. But it took me forever to eat — everything just took so much huge effort.

    Elevating my ice-encased arm while eating the best meal ever.
    Elevating my ice-encased arm while eating the best meal ever.

    Deanne was beyond helpful. She’s put up with me for more than a dozen years now, and she drove more than five hours total to help me with surgery. Several other lovely friends offered to help, and any of them would have been amazing. But I doubt they have been through quite as many surgeries as Deanne has, both herself and her family. She brought me food ready to heat up, along with a little container of sour cream because she knows I’m a spice wimp. She stopped at the store for cereal and juice, which I just discovered she pre-opened because my “good” hand can’t really do that stuff. She opened a can for me; she stirred the new jar of peanut butter; she cooked a pizza, cut it and packaged it up; she emptied my dishwasher. She checked my mail and took out my trash. She set medicine alarms on my phone, filled a water bottle, and put it with some of the pills on my nightstand. She arranged pillows so I would elevate my hand overnight.

    I went to bed — and proceeded to lie there wide awake. The medication (Norco, aka Vicodin and Tylenol) is notorious for causing drowsiness. Well, that was most certainly not the case here! On the plus side, at 10 p.m. I could call family in a timezone three hours earlier. I also had no problem waking up to the midnight and 4 a.m. medicine alarms, and by 6 I was awake for the day.

    Good morning!
    Good morning!
    Some have said it looks like my thumb was amputated. It's still there! It's just encased in plaster because I also broke the upper part of the bone.
    Some have said it looks like my thumb was amputated. See, it’s still there! It’s just encased in plaster because I also broke the upper part of the bone.

    I’m going to end this long-winded narrative, since typing is a struggle (now I know to ask about cast thickness when I get a full one next week). But I’ve been amazed at the amount of support and offers for help. From ride offers to Facebook “likes,” I have appreciated every one of them. When I’ve had a couple melt-downs, the support hasn’t faded. I can’t name all of you, but please know that I appreciate it. I can only hope to be as kind as you have been.

    Typing struggles
    Typing struggles



  • My broken thumb

    This is an X-ray of my left thumb, taken last Friday, hours after I returned to the country and about 20 hours after I fell off a bike:

    I have amazing MS Paint skills. Circle = avulsion fracture. Arrow = fracture.
    I have amazing MS Paint skills. Circle = avulsion fracture. Arrow = fracture.

    This is what the radiologist wrote upon reviewing my X-rays, and which prompted the general physician to send me straight to an orthopedic doctor:

    REPORT/IMPRESSION: Transverse, minimally dorsally angulated fracture across the base of the distal phalanx

    Minute ossicle adjacent to the base of the proximal phalanx in the region of the MCP joint, probably an avulsion fracture. The joint is not widened but no stress was applied

    The orthopedic doctor happened to be available that same Friday afternoon, which was very good for this sleep-deprived impatient person who couldn’t move her purple thumb. Here is my thumb, after some of the swelling had gone down, but before the bruising in my palm had spread:

    Two days later
    Two days later

    The orthopedic doctor took one look at my thumb, said the words “might need repair,” and sent me to his colleague, who specializes in hands (and sports medicine, and has a very good background, and is a runner, and has good reviews, and has had no medical board complaints, and yes I have stalked him on the Internet thank you very much). I left with a taped-on finger splint and an arm splint, to make showers even more enjoyable, as well as a long weekend wait to see the hand specialist.

    Two splints = twice as fun
    Two splints = twice as fun

    After a long weekend of waiting and googling, and then a long Monday and most of Tuesday, I finally saw the hand specialist. He looked at the X-rays, read the other doctors’ notes, did a few things to my thumb that had me both crying and muffling shrieks of pain, and promptly said he didn’t even need an MRI to confirm that I needed surgery to repair a ligament. He offered the MRI, but I had already researched “avulsion fracture” and knew there was no way around surgery. Opposable thumbs are kind of a big deal.

    This is a pretty good idea of what happened to my thumb, only with a mountain bike handlebar instead of a ski pole, from this doctor’s site (which also explains the whole thing pretty well, Mom and family):

    Courtesy of http://drrandyviolamd.com (linked above and below)
    Courtesy of drrandyviolamd.com (linked above)

    Surgery doesn’t happen until next Wednesday, which will be two weeks after the bike crash. I’m very impatient, so when the hand doctor said I would need to see my regular physician for a pre-op physical and lab work, I got outside to my car, got on the phone and promptly set that up — for the very next morning. Surgery won’t be delayed through any fault of mine, that’s for sure!

    Meanwhile, this is how things looked before all of this happened:

    Victoria, British Columbia, is lovely and green even though the locals say it's brown from the drought.
    Victoria, British Columbia, is lovely and green even though the locals say it’s brown from the drought.


    This saga is what triggered my angst-filled blog post a few days ago, while I waited in limbo to see the hand specialist. I’m still very bummed, and I have canceled my fall marathon/vacation plans — it was the financially and physically smart thing to do, so that decision was not made in haste to be later regretted.

    In the midst of my angst came a comment on that post from BT, who said, among other encouraging things: “You must be in some serious pain (both physical and emotional).” A lot of people were reaching out in a variety of amazing ways, and I’m grateful to every single one of them. But for some reason, that comment hit me the right way at the right time. I thought, “You know, I AM in pain. I’ve only taken one dose of Aspirin the night this happened, but it does hurt. More than that, it’s hurting my heart and soul. And that’s OK.”

    I’m allowed to hurt. I’m allowed to worry about fully recovering, and about how my other hand still is not right. I’m allowed to be sad. But I am also allowed to hope. I’m not to the point of thinking I can break down all the doors, but I’m also no longer in the depths of despair. I have a medical plan, with a surgery date (September 2) and a post-op appointment (September 10), and a tentative plan to get the cast removed as soon as four weeks after surgery. For now, that is enough to keep me hanging on to a few threads of sanity.


  • I wanted to run another marathon

    I wanted to post pictures and write about the half-marathon I ran last weekend. About how it was my first race in 20 months, and how amazing it felt to stand amidst a sea of runners waiting to start, and how I nearly forgot my timing chip and then my water because I’m so out of race practice. About how I managed to run within the limits of my minimal training, and how I may have been slow by my standards but how I never once walked. About how the IT band pain that derailed me for so long did not surface, which was the biggest victory of all.

    I wanted to write about Vancouver. About Stanley Park and the Olympic Cauldron and the polite residents and the cute neighborhoods and the piano on a bridge. About the lovely harbor views 38 floors above the city, about my disappointment in poutine, about the excellent restaurant service, about how I appreciated the currently low Canadian dollar value. About crossing a suspension bridge under brilliant greenery with a friend who’s shared many other miles with me.

    I wanted to write about Victoria. About the island views and the goats and the piglets. About the Terry Fox memorial. About hiking up a steep mountain with another friend, with whom I once ran a 5k at midnight and was Rickrolled by bearded men on a train in Portland. About a lovely 38-mile bike ride that made me realize I have somehow become one of those people who actually misses being on a bicycle if a week has passed.

    And then I broke my thumb. I have two splints, one for each break. One splint requires tape, which is extra fun to redo every time I take a shower. Tomorrow I see yet another doctor who will hopefully tell me how long it will be before I can wrap a ponytail holder around my hair, wear my new hoodie (or anything long-sleeved), and steer with my left hand so my right hand (which is also mildly sprained) can go back to its main job of operating the gear shift.

    At some point, I will find out how much money I must pull out of savings. I know I’m more fortunate than most because I do have that savings, so I will be more than fine. But that savings has been earmarked for something bigger, and I hate to dip into it, as I have already since my rent was increased and my spending habits did not subsequently decrease.

    And so, the combination of money and now-limited training and maybe even surgery have led me here: I don’t think I can run the fall marathon that has encouraged me to keep fighting to get back on the running track of life. The expensive race-rate/Washington D.C. hotel is refundable, and that would pay a significant amount of my medical deductible. I wouldn’t eat out in as many restaurants, which would get even worse if I kept to my plan of going on to New York to see multiple friends. I wouldn’t show up with minimal training.

    I entered the Marine Corps Marathon through their lottery — I threw my name in the hat and told myself, “If I get in, I’m going to take it as a sign that I should not give up on running.” I got in.

    I wanted to run another marathon. I wanted to revive the hope of Boston. Last week at the end of the half-marathon, I received a carrot-shaped medal that was the most appropriate medal I could have ever received. Standing by the Olympic Cauldron, it felt like I had walked through a door into a ray of light, and that another door was finally opening ahead of me. Four days later, I smashed into the asphalt. The sound I heard was that of a door slamming shut. I don’t know if I have enough strength to try breaking down yet another door.

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: Living in the air

    What do you do if you’re a 20-something travel/internet nerd who wants to escape from a breakup? Well, if you happen to have zillions of airplane miles and credit cards with free perks, you could just move out of your apartment and into … airplanes. Yes, that’s exactly what this guy named Ben has done.

    I think any of us who enjoy travel have fantasized about traveling for free. I had a college classmate who could fly for free because his dad was a pilot. So he flew somewhere almost every weekend, not even staying in a hotel in order to save money. He would just go to the airport, get on a plane, wander around his destination for a few hours, then fly home.

    As someone who’s been flying since infancy and is on four planes this week, I would love to have free flights and perks (first class, please? someday?). But for now, I’ll just read about people like Ben and continue my day job.

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: Small town living

    I grew up in a very small town I know you’re thinking THAT kind of small, but that’s still too big. Try this: My graduating high school class had 51 students. See, that is what I mean by “small.”

    Well, this link to “17 Things People Who’ve Ever Lived In A Small Town Understand” recently made the Facebook rounds among my high school’s alumni. (You see, in a small town, you know everyone in the high school, not just in your own class. You know everyone from all four years, and all of their parents.)

    If I tried to comment only on the items in that list that were correct, this blog post of mine would go on for another 17 paragraphs. But here is my take on that link: We did not have Costco, and weren’t close enough to one to even consider getting a membership. Our “downtown” named Main Street, and that was it. High school dating wasn’t just awkward because you were friends with their ex — you were also friends with their siblings and parents. Visiting family in another city was so different that I never even realized that’s how many people live. Going for a drive was definitely an activity, and it got more exciting when a certain friend would lean over and press down on my leg that was on the gas pedal (platonic friend, and yes, I knew/know his sisters and parents and cousins and aunts and uncles).

    Also, you’re big rivals with another small neighboring high school. BIG RIVALS. Like, you go paint “graffiti bridge” in their town before a football game, even though you know they’ll have it covered up immediately. However, if someone from their team is named Jason Sehorn and goes to play in the NFL and proposes to a gorgeous actress actress on Jay Leno’s show, you definitely claim him as your own. After all, he played at a community college where some of your classmates went. And if the little Black Bear Diner from that nearby town becomes a big chain, yep, you claim that as your own, too.

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: 1,000 musicians for the Foo Fighters

    Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters are kind of known for being good guys. He recently fell off a stage while performing, broke his leg, but finished the show. And then he fought to cancel as few shows as possible despite having major surgery.

    Well, a guy in Italy is a Foo Fighters fan and was sad that the band hadn’t been to Italy since 1997. He came up with an idea: He recruited 1,000 musicians (guitarists, bassists, drummers and singers) from across the country and got them to perform the Foo Fighters’ song “Learn to Fly.” They videotaped it and asked the Foo Fighters to come perform in their town of Cesena, Italy.

    The project took a year of fundraising, planning and recruiting — and I’m not at all surprised, because can you imagine trying to get 1,000 people to all play in harmony?! I mean, it was bad enough when three or four of us briefly tried to start a band in high school. (It didn’t help that our lead singer was also the drummer and it was hard for him to do both at once, and that I was the pianist but didn’t play by ear.)

    The musicians were not paid, and they also had pay their own way to the field where the final performance happened. I assume the field was far away from neighbors who would complain about the noise, and I also assume that meant electricity was another challenge. But it all worked! On July 26, they did their grand one-song performance. Here’s the video, and it’s fantastic!


    So, the performance was on July 26. Four days later, they had edited into that amazing video and posted it publicly. And within HOURS Dave Grohl, being the cool guy that he is, learned enough Italian to record a video in that language, saying yes, the Foo Fighters would come perform for the 1,000 Italian musicians.

    I sat here and watched the whole video of the musicians’ performance. And then it played in the background while I typed this post. It’s just so impressive! In two days, the video received 13 million hits on YouTube, and I’m happy to be one of them.

    If you want more, here’s the website of Rockin 1000, which organized the whole thing. Their diary section tells the story of how it all came together, and there are some videos on that site. Here’s a story about the Foo Fighters also agreeing to playing in Richmond, VA, after fans there sold tickets to a concert in hopes of the band coming. And if you don’t know who this Dave Grohl guy is, well, look no further than Wikipedia. Also, regarding that broken leg earlier this year, here’s what went down that night, and here’s what he did so that the Foo Fighters’ packed show schedule could keep rolling.

  • Website construction

    Things are slightly under construction around here, but I got impatient and decided to post the progress. It’s at the point where I can let it sit for a little while, and it’s also at a good point for some other opinions. I whole-heartedly welcome feedback!

    Here’s what I’ve changed:

    1. I finally updated Word Press, which I’ve been using for four years and 10 months without updating it once. That may be some kind of record (it’s kind of like those people who still use AOL email, which means I’m as cool as my grandma, so I’m not complaining). But really, I revamped my website and hid all the old content almost five years ago. Time flies.
    2. I’m using a new Word Press theme. I’m not sure I like it, and it’s got a couple bugs, but it’s just flexible enough that I haven’t given up. Since I have exactly zero ads on this site, I can’t justify paying my sister to design the site from scratch — though if you’re in the market, check out her work.
    3. I added a “Bicycling” page up there.
    4. I also finally figured out how to reorder the page links up there at the top. It was driving me nuts, so that’s a small victory.
    5. I went back and added “bicycling” categories to old posts.
    6. The “archives” section over there on the right is now a drop-down menu because it was getting so long. (If I ever figure out how to add in old Moveable Type blog posts from 2002 to 2010, it will be VERY long. And there are LiveJournal posts from 2000 to 2002. I fear that work blog posts from 2008 to 2010 are gone forever, though.)
    7. I added the J.R.R. Tolkien quote that inspired this domain name way back in January 2002: “I am told that I talk in shorthand and then smudge it.” It was on other versions of my website, but for some unknown reason I didn’t put it on this one.
    8. The photo up there is new. The old one was five years old, and here’s a blurb I wrote about it at the time. And, in the interest of preserving history, here’s the full version of the photo I just posted today. It’s of Mt. Shasta, a 14,162-foot mountain in Northern California. IMG_2730


  • Seattle to Portland 2015 ride

    I did it! I successfully finished this year’s annual 10,000-rider Seattle to Portland bike ride! And I have no idea how to sum up the two days of 206 miles.

    We are serious athletes.

    First of all, most of the steps in this pre-ride blog post did happen. I never really threw a hissy fit, though. The closest I came was when I desperately needed Advil for my neck around mile 60 on the second day, and Michaela stopped when she would have preferred to keep rolling (me too, though, because we were in a great pace line).

    Second, riding with Michaela was an absolute blast. She got hangry (hungry + angry) at one point and was apparently considering killing and eating me, but she refrained. She did then eat the innards of three turkey sandwiches at the lunch stop, so she clearly wanted meat…

    Third, I don’t know how to write about the ride. Unlike a running race report, I am not about to bore all of us with how long it took to ride each of the 206 miles. However, both days’ rides were faster than my first century ride in May — even though the first day was almost 102 miles and the second day was 104 miles.

    Training: Well, considering that my first-ever century ride was two months before STP (as this ride is known), I guess my mileage increased? Honestly, though, I was VERY undertrained compared to what most people may think. It’s hard for me to ride on week days, and I haven’t gone to gym spin classes since, um, February? Three weeks before STP, I rode 63 miles (of hills) on Saturday and 50 miles (plus a flat tire) on Sunday. The next weekend I had company who didn’t bring his bike, so I kept Saturday to 28 miles — and then Sunday was a failure of only 10 miles because it was incredibly windy and I just couldn’t mentally deal with it after nearly being blown over by a big rig. The Friday before STP was a work holiday for Independence Day, Michaela came to town, and we had a group ride of 60 miles. And that was it for my training. I guess you could say I am a consistent but determined under-trainer.

    Pre-ride photo, in full denial about the 206 miles.

    Pre-ride: I drove 11 hours to Portland on Thursday, then drove three hours to Seattle on Friday. I highly recommend audio books for road trips. Friday night, we went out to dinner with a few of Michaela’s friends, and then she packed.

    Saturday morning: We woke up around 4:30 a.m. with Michaela saying, “Why is everybody meowing?!” This is what happens when one owns three cats… We drove three miles to the start (because it would be all uphill with backpacks on our way home, and we weren’t having any of that). Well, that was a mess and took about an hour to get in to the parking lot. First lesson learned for next time! Comedic moment #1: A guy’s bike apparently came off the rack on his car at a stoplight. How that happened was beyond us, and then Michaela realized the guy was wearing his bicycle helmet while trying to fix it. Safety first?!

    We got started around 6 a.m., after happening to meet up with Karin and Greg, which is kind of impressive in a sea of thousands of riders, most wearing spandex and bike helmets. The riders start in waves to prevent total chaos, and we got started without incident. I later talked to a guy who started within a few minutes of us, and he saw a bunch of people falling over; I missed all of that.

    We went up a few hills that really seemed like nothing to this “I live on hilly routes and have no choice” rider. We wound through some nondescript parts of Seattle while my nerves and excitement calmed down. I have no idea what we saw, actually.

    Photo booth water stop. I refrained from trying to ride my bike with those glasses.

    Somewhere after mile 50, we wound up on well-traveled roads with a lot of cars. The shoulder got narrower and the big trucks seemed to get bigger. And then we reached Joint Base Lewis McChord, a massive military base that has six — yes, six — exits along Interstate 5. (Those of us who know about Fort Lewis and are confused: it’s the same place.) It was the first year riders could enter the base, and it was the most welcome relief EVER from that vehicle traffic. The roads were smooth and wide, the traffic was non-existent, and soldiers were standing at intervals, welcoming us and making sure we didn’t go into the areas that had signs warning about live ammo.

    The lunch stop was inside the base, in a big area surrounded by vintage airplanes and signs reading “Do not lean bikes against planes!”

    When being watched by the military, obey the signs!

    Michaela ate her several sandwich innards (no gluten-free substitutes at this ride, unfortunately), and all was well.

    Planes at JBLM
    Again, bicycling is serious work.

    We rolled into the town of Centralia, Washington 101-plus miles later. Ride time was 6:50, for a pace of 14.8 miles per hour. I was pleasantly surprised, and I also really liked the creamsicles they were handing us.

    Halfway done.

    We got the bags we had left in a truck in Seattle, and then hauled ourselves back onto our bicycles to ride 1.4 miles to a motel. A lot of people camp, but both of us wanted real beds and showers that were not in a truck. On our ride to the motel, we came across a giant pencil. This was actually one of four roadside attractions I had printed out and hoped to see on my road trip, and I may have gotten deliriously excited about it…

    Delirious bicyclist meets a very large pencil.

    Dinner was at Denny’s, because it was the only thing in walking distance that seemed safe. (Definition of walking distance in this case: Travel 0.5 miles on foot but find short-cuts through parking lots. Avoid making eye contact with the yelling meth head.) Let me tell you, salad and a cheeseburger and hash browns from Denny’s were AMAZING. Michaela was able to get breakfast to go, because our room had a refrigerator and microwave. That worked well, and I now highly recommend Denny’s for cyclists.

    Sunday: Time to do the “ride 100-plus miles” thing all over again. We got back on our bikes with some moaning, rode 1.4 miles to the start, and felt a bit better once we got ridof our backpacks. My knee and neck were hurting, and two spots had chafed the previous day despite my best attempts (those shorts are not going to be used again for rides longer than 40ish miles). But at some point, Michaela took this series of photos (I’m cut off in the thumbnail previews; apologies for making you click on the full pictures). I have no idea what was going on. Maybe I was channelling my inner t-rex?

    The scenery was gorgeous. I don’t take photos while riding, since my phone is in a ziplock bag and I would probably drop the phone, fall over, and have blurry photos for my troubles. But just imagine quiet country farms, lots of greenery, and rolling roads with little to no vehicle traffic on an early Sunday morning.

    About 30 miles into the ride, my knee stopped hurting for good. My chafing had calmed (better shorts this day), so my neck was the only cranky part remaining. The cyclists were more scattered today, since there were various Saturday night stopping points ranging from miles 102 to 140. We began latching onto pace lines and watched the speed pick up. Michaela had more food this day, so she didn’t have any canibalistic thoughts.

    Bicycling photos look slightly less appalling than running photos.

    Then we reached the Lewis & Clark bridge, where we had to wait for a motorcycle escort (Michaela had been quite excited about the “escort”). The bridge design has supports that are big bumps for bicycles, and a volunteer had instructions: “Secure your water bottles and personal belongings. Watch for the bottles that have already been dropped along the way.” Ummm, wasn’t it a bit late to secure my bottles? How was I going to do that? Eat them?! Up the bridge we went, where one woman was apparently afraid of heights and began hyperventilating and making very, uh, awkward gasping sounds. I, meanwhile, was THAT rider who was passing people uphill and saying, “I love this!” The bridge goes over a big river with massive stacks of logs along the banks, and Michaela and I both said at the same time, “Look at all the lumber!” Then we started laughing, because clearly we’d been in close proximity for quite a while. We reached the top of the bridge and began flying down the other side. The side had big metal plates that were clearly the cause of bottle/item loss, and I saw a lot of travel-sized sunscreen bottles. Personally, I had an absolute blast on that bridge.

    We got in more pace lines, at one point behind two guys from a Georgia team, with peaches on the tops of their helmets. One woman was singing “Zip a dee doo dah!” on her steel bike, and we’d pass her uphill but she’d annihilate us downhill.

    We reached Portland, where we had both heard that the ride seems to take forever. It also suddenly got warm, with a hot breeze. We went up the St. John’s Bridge, which we had both started to fear because it comes around mile 190 and I had heard that people are walking their bikes up it because they’re so tired. Well, we had no problems (but did see a few people walking), and that’s when we knew we were going to make it. However, now we feared that we’d make it all this way, only to do something like crash at a stoplight at mile 199. That didn’t happen, but we did hit Every Single Red Light. It was so incredibly frustrating, especially watching our average speed drop when we both just wanted to give it everything we had left.

    The last two blocks were lined with cheering, screaming spectators. It was like a marathon finish line, only I noticed it a bit more this time because I wasn’t as delirious. We passed under a big “Finish” arch and came to a sudden stop because everyone ahead of us was stopping. So, now I have official finisher photos with my foot on the ground… Ride time was 104ish miles in 6:44, for an average pace of 15.7 miles per hour. For perspective about that last aggravating part, it took us 20 minutes to ride the last four miles.

    We did it!

    Then we went to collect our bags, which was a SEA. The bags were in lines based on bib number, but my small-ish rust-colored backpack wasn’t immediately obvious in the 8,000-bib-number range. I started to get annoyed, but then I had a realization: We had ridden fast enough that all of these bags hadn’t yet been claimed by riders! There are no chip timers or official finishing times, but that baggage room told me that thousands of people hadn’t been there yet. Yes, thousands.

    That's me in the back, looking for my bag.

    We dropped our bikes off at a truck that would take them back to Seattle, collected our free cups, and went to wolf down free burritos and Nuun.

    Not pictured: Matching shorts that are back-ordered.

    Then we went to our Kimpton hotel, where Michaela has listed my title as Commander. Because she is Michaela, they had a bottle of chilled champagne and a congratulatory note in our room. And because we are very normal human beings, we had to wear the hotel room robes.

    Doesn't everyone wear a bike helmet while drinking champagne and wearing a hotel room robe?

    And then we walked over to Clyde Common, where we ate fancy cashews and olives and popcorn and salad and scallops and drinks. Because what else do you do after riding 206 miles? Well, aside from talking about how “next time we should try to do it in one day”…

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: Ruth Anne Bortz

    Today’s link is most definitely not a time-waster. Instead, it’s an incredibly poignant, elegant article written by a man who just lost his beloved wife. The writing is poetic, the feelings are so very genuine, and it makes me want to read more of his work (which I will be doing very soon).

    Ruth Anne Bortz died last week after battling Alheimer’s Disease for more than three years. I regret that I hadn’t known of her, because she sounds like an incredible, inspirational woman who took up running later in life and achieved some remarkable times. Winning your age group at the Boston Marathon is no small feat, and neither is a time of 24:34 at the Western States 100-miler (at ANY age). It’s nice to know that she was there last month for a 70-year-old woman’s remarkable run, and that the race is recognizing her.

    Every single person in this world has a story. Ruth Anne was no exception.