Terii’s Cycling Babble

Not the River Loop!
January 25, 2015, 10:35 am
Filed under: Day Rides

After my ride on the 22nd being surprisingly low on the pain scale, the itch to ride has started to return. I did take a rest on the 23rd though. My muscles ached, but in the far more acceptable ‘I exercised them’ fashion then the far-out-of-proportion-compared-to-activity burn I’d been suffering. Most of it was in my calves. Every time I got up, I’d take a few steps which reminded me to do a little gentle stretching to loosen them. Also, it was much too cold, being below 20 F.

The night of the 22nd/morning of 23rd also found us with another 4-5 inches of powdery white fluff. That only added to the impetus to get out on the trike with the fuzzy beside me. A husky in the snow where he belongs and me in a magically transformed landscape… preferably off the River Loop.

The rest day on the 23rd also gave a bit of time for plowing and graveling of the cycle paths to be done which would make things a tad bit easier.

On the morning of the 24th, I decided I’d aim for Storvreta, a small town just north of Uppsala. 8-ish miles between here and there. I asked Jens if he minded coming to get us. That one way trip would be longer than a tedious River Loop. Nope he said. So after I dressed for cycling, we drove to the storage.

Jens' iPhone picture of impatient Loke.

Jens’ iPhone picture of impatient Loke.

I had to add a few things to the trike which took a little time. The deep snow around the parking area caused a slight issue. Walking in it with cycle shoes would pack hard ice around the cleat. Difficult to chip off and impossible to clip into the pedals with it in the way. Not to mention, after a few steps, hazardously slick to walk with. So, I sat in the car next to the trike with the door open for the space to wrestle shoe-covers, foot warmers and cycle shoes on. I managed to loosen a bit of molding from the door’s edge in my struggles, which peeved Jens.

During the shoe struggles, my hands became incredibly painful from the cold. I kept chafing them together and putting them under my arms in desperate attempts to hide them from the wind and warm them. It made me wonder at the wisdom of the ride if they already felt so close to frost damage before the first turn of the pedals.

Jens had one of his rare less sympathetic moments. Of course, he didn’t have to take off his snuggly gloves, exposing hands to wind and chill for over 5 minutes. The shoes on and warmers making my toes toasty, I told him to wait a few minutes with Loke while I warmed my fingers. I closed the car, started the engine and stuck said fingers into the vents as warm air blew.

Still, the incident led to questioning my intention to ride north where the cycle path would lead me through a snowy landscape of wide open fields with nothing to block that cruel wind. The River Loop started looking better. Or maybe even something shorter.

Once the pain left my fingers, my mood was a bit more optimistic. I finally was ready to go and Loke started yodeling and hopping. He still had to wait for what little ice had collected around the cleats to be scraped away before I clipped in. Jens asked if I needed a push, but it wasn’t required. We had enough momentum to make it up and over the little bump at the parking lot exit with just a little bit of wheel spin.

Even with churned snow with the texture of damp sand covering most of the pavement and studded tires, the first quarter mile of the ride was a bit brisk. Not only because Loke did his best to run, but also because it’s a downward grade of about 2%. Upon making the turn onto the path leading to the swim hall, we slowed. Thicker snow with a scattering of gravel and flat.

Though the area is something we’ve ridden through countless times, Loke was still quite enthusiastic to be out. Our speed had gone from 8 mph at the start to about 4 mph as we approached Vattholmavägen. My hands started to get cold again, but I found it was only while holding the grips and especially if I kept fingers on the brakes. I experimented with steering with my palms and touching the brakes only when necessary. It helped.

As we approached the mosque, Loke started limping. I slowed down, watching him closely. It was his front right foot paining him. The one with the infection between the toes. We slowed to a crawl, in spite of the annoyed looks that earned me from the furball. I debated turning back, but he’d not yet ‘done his business’ which would further annoy Jens. The limp worsened and I slowed to about a walking pace, figuring I’d push on until he went to the bathroom. Then it would be a call to Jens to come get him at the very least.

That stretch of cycle path was absolutely clear of ice or snow. I wondered if what they had used to to melt it might be stinging the raw flesh. Onward to the north we crept.

After a few hundred yards, the limp disappeared as suddenly as it began. It made it a bit easier in my mind to push on, but concern still lingered.

Gamla Uppsala Church

Gamla Uppsala Church – 2010

Loke finally went potty and remained limp free as I pushed on a little further to the parking at the Gamla Uppsala Grave Mounds. The larger parking lot was the first convenient place for pickup, so I called Jens to get his take on Loke’s limp. I didn’t think there were many places as easily accessible for parking and loading a trike on the stretch from there to Storvreta. Had he hadn’t so much as given a misstep since shortly after the mosque. Jens pleaded that I go a little further and we’d figure something out if early pick up was necessary.

Drawing a deep breath, I pushed on. Loke got quite excited as we pushed past the deep pit which will become an underground tunnel for rail traffic. For about a mile, the cycle path is much improved over what it was. Smooth, new pavement which was free of ice or snow lined with brand new lights.

Northward Ho!

Northward Ho!

As before on the ice-free section near the mosque, Loke limped. Again, I slowed us down and watched carefully. As soon as we were back on pavement which had known only plowing to remove most of the snow, he was fine.

The plowing didn’t completely clear the cycle path. A layer an inch or two thick remains, moderately packed and was scattered with what looked more like dirt than gravel. Not the best for rolling, but manageable. I didn’t even have to get up to push on some of the random short, steep climbs. Here and there were thicker piles of snow with the damp-sand texture which bogged me down. A near constant upward grade meant our speed remained around 3.2 – 3-8 mph for much of the way though Loke pulled constantly. Sometimes, only a tiny bit of extra tether was pulled out of the spring bar, but every little bit helps. Never heard the jingle of the clip on the harness ring which indicates slack.

Ahh snow! Turns the dreary into wonderous!

Ahh snow! Turns the dreary into wonderous!

It turned out the wind wasn’t much of a problem either. It blew from the southwest, firmly at my back. Helped push me in the direction I was going and didn’t feel too cold even though I lacked the fluffy sheepskin I once had for cold riding. My footwarmers had little difficulty keeping up the temperature in my toes thanks to my body blocking the worst of it. When we’d pass a structure or rare clump of trees, a swirl would throw snow on us. Once a very random blast picked up a veritable blizzard from the field to throw on us.

These little building add something to the scenery, summer or winter

These little buildings add something to the scenery, summer or winter

Except for the very few moments coasting down a hill or pausing to let Loke sniff and mark, I worked to keep a steady cadence of 65. A little frustrating to pedal at such a pace and see the GPS announce you’re blazing along at 3.4 mph. It took effort to continually remind myself to relax, I wasn’t out to run a race. The whole purpose of the outing was to enjoy the scenery while getting Loke and I moving for more than a 20 minute hobble around the block.

As on the previous ride, I felt amazingly good! After about mile 4, muscles felt fatigued, but not the crazy levels I’ve been suffering since beginning hypertension medication. This fatigue and ache felt normal and ‘justified’. I’d been almost 3 weeks without single ride, so of course even a short ride in snow with studded tires was going to have me feeling wiped after a short distance. It was manageable. I could push on without seeing stars and both hips felt just fine. I couldn’t stop grinning.

Around mile 5, I was pushing up a short, but particularly steep stretch. A voice startled me by saying in Swedish, ‘On your left!’ I promptly swerved further to the right and a guy on a road bike pushed past with a cheery, ‘Tack så mycket!’. The brief glimpse I had of his tires looked like summer slicks. Certainly not studded or knobby winter sorts. As he crested the hill, he hit a patch of ‘wet sand’ snow and the bike wobbled through a bit of a skid. It didn’t even make him pause. Seeing some people ride in these conditions just leaves me shaking my head in awed wonder that they don’t go sliding down to eat ice covered asphalt.

Vallsgärde Grave Mounds/Field

Vallsgärde Grave Mounds/Field

On the brief coast down the other side of the climb, I saw a few low little hills across the otherwise flat fields. ‘Hmm. Those look like grave mounds,’ I thought to myself. A 100 yards further on, a place-name sign (Vallsgärde) pointed down a nearly invisible little road winding o’re the field. There was also the loopy square of a cultural site with ‘gravfält’ (grave field) beneath it. It was hard to tell if the track had been plowed recently with the wind shifting snow around. It had no snow piles to either side and definitely no scattered gravel.

I decided to save pedaling out to the graves for another day. Researching it just now has indicated there’s a ship setting there which I would definitely love to see. Also some amazing viking age finds I would adore laying eyes on if I can find which museum they’ve landed in.

Ooh! Look! A tiny smidge of blue sky!

Ooh! Look! A tiny smidge of blue sky!

I was approaching the overpass of the new E4 when the cycle path crossed the road. It was a little hard to make out just where the crossing was what with sloppy plow piles scattered around, but I made it over in one piece.

The sun is trying to break through!

The sun is trying to break through!

On the other side of the E4, the light took on that golden luminous quality of sunlight trying to reach through heavily frosted glass. It made the snow even more magical. A few moments later, the sun started to reach through small breaks in the clouds.

It succeeded shortly after we’d made the turn from the main road onto the final stretch into Storvreta. Thin, but warm sunlight hit the snow and brightened the landscape for about 2 minutes before the clouds reclaimed that portion of the sky. Ah well. Nice while it lasted!

Was a combination of sad and relieved when we rolled into Storvreta town limits. Sad that what had been a very lovely (if cold at times) day was coming to an end and relieved that it was nearly over. I’d been pretty tired around mile 4 or 5. We’d tipped over 8 miles as we came into a residential area.

Ice Crusted Back Wheel

Ice Crusted Back Wheel

That made the ride the longest since my stroke. By a mile and a half. My next longest ride was 7.03 miles back in December. As I rolled to a stop in the parking lot of a tiny, but crazy-busy grocery store, I’d gone 8.54 miles.

I had the reserves and strength to pushed on, but it was coming up on 2 pm and the sun still sets quite early. I hadn’t a clue where I might would like to have gone from there either. Not to mention my only meal had been breakfast consisting of about a cup of strawberry yoghurt at 6 am. Hungry doesn’t even scratch the surface to describe the void in my midsection.

I called Jens to let him know where to get us and stripped down the trike as much as I could while still leaving me somewhere to sit. The hubby arrived very quickly and took charge of Loke while I got started on loading up. When I tried brushing some of the snow away, he told me not to ruin my mittens – the tarp would catch the melt. Awwww. Isn’t he sweet?

Awwww. Trike go bye-bye...

Awwww. Trike go bye-bye…

We talked about what to have for dinner when we stopped at the storage to put the trike back. Loke looked a bit forlorn to see it go away. Clearly 8.54 miles wasn’t enough for him, tender foot or not!

Jens and I decided on Thai food for dinner. The anticipation made it possible for me to eat just a couple clementines to save most of my calories for Pad Thai with incredibly tasty spring rolls from a restaurant Jens discovered a couple months ago. Might be the best Thai in town. Being so crazy hungry made it taste even better.

It was a perfect ending to what had turned out to be a really great day. Admittedly, I had my doubts when my fingers felt like they were being twisted off with pliers, but it had become wonderful. I had conquered temperatures ranging from 23 -32 F and a near constant 12-15 mph wind’s chill. My best mileage since the stroke and for 2015. All topped off with tasty food.

Turns out today might have been slightly better for a ride, but my legs lodged protests on the short walk I took with Loke this morning. 32 F at 8 am and utterly, utterly calm. The sun has since come out and things are starting to melt a bit. That might have made things more slippery. Not going to let that diminish yesterday’s fun and accomplishment though!

Oh! And DING! Post 250!!

Best Ride of the Year!
January 22, 2015, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Day Rides

Okay, so only the second ride of the year, but still!

Just a few days after my last post, winter came rampaging back. First it was a dusting of about an inch of snow followed by temps into the teens and even a couple days of single digits! The snow made the tired, old scenery stunning, but once it hits 25 F or colder I just can’t deal with those temps. Then it warmed again, but before all the ice could clear the way for summer type tires, we had a major snow fall. I’m talking 6 inches or more.

Since then it’s been mostly wintery. A day comes along and starts turning things to slush, but not enough to clear the paths for my unstudded trike. Tuesday, after looking at the forecast with more snow and temperatures at least hovering close to freezing, I decided to give up on expecting clear paths. Off Loke and I went to the storage for me to work at swapping tires.

It took 3 hours over 2 days, but I did it. The rear tire wasn’t nearly as hellish a task as I expected. Only the 2nd Circle of Hell instead of the 6th or 7th I braced myself for. Jens actually wanted me to go for a ride right away yesterday. After two days of muscle aches from walking to and from the storage and wrestling with tires while sitting on a cold cement floor, I just didn’t have it in me.

There was actually a very valid reason for Jens to want me to ride. Other than to spare him an extra walk with Loke. He wanted me to test the gears ASAP so I’d know if the trike needed to go to the shop south of Stockholm before the weekend. Most every time I’ve combated with the rear tires of either of my trikes, I’ve managed to skew the gears. Today should have been out too as it was laundry day.

My absolutely wonderful mother-in-law came to help with the washing. Bless her. She heard about the muscle fatigue that makes everything a challenge. She’s arranged to come help with the chore every other week. I help of course, but I think my current limitations thanks to my medications cramp her style. So when she sweetly insisted that she finish the last of the laundry solo, I relented after asking ‘Are you SURE?’ about a dozen times. If she wasn’t so kind a person, she probably would have thrown the bottle of fabric softener at me to chase me off.

Not even noon, I got ready to go for a ride. Loke was a bit anxious about being left until I put the harness on him. Then off to the storage we went.

I had my doubts about the ride as I put the seat back on the trike and piled gloves, hat, helmet and cycle shoes onto the seat to be pushed out to the parking lot. My arms and legs hated me just for that little task. I could only imagine how hard it would be on my legs to push through fluffy white stuff with these big knobby tires. I was committed.

Once the trike was out of the storage came the challenge of changing shoes. I didn’t want to try walking the trike out through all the snow in my cycle shoes as that turns treacherous quick. Snow packs into rock hard ice around the cleat which gets slippery.

It turned out to be difficult to get overshoes, cycle shoes and footwarmer batteries all settled while sitting on the trike. I managed for one foot. Then I simply sat in the snow to do the left foot. Loke wasn’t impressed with the time I took. He sighed, woofed and stomped his feet at me.

Finally got my feet snug. I dusted the snow off the seat and clipped in. Loke immediately started hopping like a mad dog. It had been 20 days since our last outing.

After we made it up the last little slope of the parking lot, me pushing as even my studded tire couldn’t grip, we were off. Snow flakes peppered my face as Loke did his level best to pull us into running speed. I of course, kept him jogging as much as I could while he shot me little irritated glances.

First true snow ride in 2 years! :D

First true snow ride in 2 years! 😀

Unconvinced I was up for much of a ride, we took a left turn toward the swim hall when I’d normally take a right for a portion of the River Loop even when planning to go downtown. That surprised Loke, but gave him even more oomph to be running. We bumped over snow and ice at a good clip along side the football fields.

My target was the American Food Store. Jens wanted some seeded bagels that Charles has brought in and it feels nice to have a goal for local rides. The most direct route to there is maybe 2.5 miles round trip. I took a slightly more circuitous route on the way there.

I was surprised by how un-painful the ride seemed to be. No screaming hip. My thighs and calves weren’t violently protesting. I felt surprisingly good. The best I’ve felt doing anything exercise like since the whole stroke episode back in November. Completely unexpected to feel so awesome what with snow and studded tires adding huge amounts of roll resistance.

Charles’ wife was checking on a large delivery pallet outside the door when I rolled to a stop at the shop. We chatted briefly about the weather and the delivery before I asked how Charles was doing. She smiled and said he was inside. I almost fainted. We’d actually managed to cross paths?

It was great to see him and I had a lovely time chatting with him and his wife, catching him up. Tore has been telling about what’s been up with me, but it can be nice hearing it directly. In spite of the fact I was wearing several layers, including my fluffy, heavy wool, he said, ‘You’ve lost weight! You look great!’. That was so wonderful to hear! Was very nice to reconnect.

The ride back to the storage was fairly direct. Loke still had plenty of oomph to help up the gentle climb away from downtown. We rolled to a stop at the storage unit with 3.3 miles under the tires and paws.

Loke did great in spite of his mystery ailment and I felt pretty good too.

Yep! Loke’s still been having the same issue I mentioned in the last post. Tests have all come back normal though he did show some very small traces of a bacteria. There shouldn’t be enough to cause him problems and he doesn’t have all the symptoms, so it’s hard to know. Steena (the vet) called a specialist and is waiting to hear back for advice or if the specialist thinks they should see Loke.

At least we have gotten the symptoms a bit under control. We swapped Loke from kibble to baked chicken for a while which helped somewhat. Then we finally managed to get him a few blocks of the reindeer butcher scraps packaged as dog food. That’s helped him immensely. I don’t think it’s cured the problem, but simply made the symptoms more manageable.

I think he’ll be going to the vet tomorrow though. He’s got one of those infections on his foot. The first one in quite a long while. Just need to get it taken care of. I hope he’s not become allergic to reindeer now! That would be very inconvenient!


Let 2015 Begin!
January 3, 2015, 8:37 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Well, we had a few days of proper Swedish winter. A bit less than a week, but still it was lovely to have a landscape softened and altered by a couple inches of snow.

Then about 4 days ago, the cold snap broke and we again were back above freezing even over night. All that beautiful white quickly vanished, finished off by a rather steady morning rain yesterday.

Upon seeing that there was no lingering ice, I decided to attempt a ride. First things first though, I had to fix a tire. A couple weeks ago, we moved my old Trice Q from it’s place under the purpose built kitchen table to the storage. Upon dropping it off, I found the left front tire on my Sprint utterly flat. Baffling as it was fine when last parked there and still had plenty of air when I went to get my mittens from the trike’s bags during the cold snap. Not moved an inch and yet gone spontaneously flat? Wierd.

So, I left Loke at home with Jens and wandered off to go wrestle with the tire, wondering how uncomfortable it was going to be with my sore muscles.

Turned out I was having one of my ‘better’ days. Still uncomfortable with muscle pain, but manageable. My back wasn’t thrilled with sitting on the floor trying to lever off the tire with the wheel still attached to the trike propped up on a shaky box. I love the stopping power of the disc brakes, but they complicate things when one tries to remove wheels.

Task done, I thought there was still strength left in me to manage dragging on a couple layers of wool and cycle clothes and heading out for a very leisurely outing.

Even if I felt great, it still would have been a slower ride. Loke’s been a bit under the weather.

It started a few weeks ago. Loke got to where he didn’t really want to eat his kibble. He’d drool and beg for our food, but his would just sit in the dish for most of a day before he’d grudgingly eat a few bites. I figured he was just being stubborn and holding out for the doggie equivalent of candy for supper.

Then the other unpleasant symptom kicked in, requiring us to run out the door every few hours, even through the night. I was baffled as I didn’t think he’d gotten into anything to cause tummy upset. His energy was still high and he’d still beg for people food. Then he stopped drinking water, which took a half a day or so for Jens and I to realize.

Then on a Saturday morning, our fuzzy dynamo was out of juice. He didn’t even want chicken and it had been over 18 hours since he’d taken a drink. On a walk, he plodded lethargically behind me. Not sniffing or showing any attention to his surroundings, just head low and plodding.

That was it. Weekend visits costing up to 30% more or not, I took him to the vet as soon as they opened. They were kind enough to fit us in. Steena listened to the description, recommended x-rays to check for something that could be causing intestinal distress. When those came back clear except for indications of some inflammation, she drew blood to check his liver, pancreas, and blood counts. All normal. Then she kept him for a few hours to rehydrate him.

When we went to pick him that evening, Loke was much more like himself. High energy and even gobbling down his kibble like an industrial vacuum. Steena recommended we feed him small portions often and try alternating with chicken which is one of the few things he’s not allergic to. Loke was great for a few days. Then the disinterest in his kibble returned, which could be the same problem or perhaps he’s figured out chicken is next. Who knows.

His energy has been a tiny bit lower. So, I called Steena yesterday to ask that she send off what blood she still has for other tests she suggested. B12 and Folic Acid. She asked that I collect samples of Loke’s (ahem) leavings to be checked for parasites that might be hiding.

So, that’s the husky I took out for the first ride of the year. The first ride in 3 weeks to the day actually. His energy was a bit on the low side, perhaps 80% of normal which meant that I didn’t have to fight him to keep his pace slower.

I think he enjoyed it actually. Interested in his surroundings as he jogged along. To my surprise, I didn’t feel too bad either. My body wasn’t happy with the exertion, but it’s protests were merely uncomfortable rather than unbearable. The rain clouds had mostly cleared by the time I’d clipped in. Ambient temperature was 44 F, but my feet (without the footwarmers) agreed with my Garmin’s display of 36 F in the brisk winds for most of the way. Windchill, gotta love it.

Those winds cleared the skies amazingly well. By the time we were rolling along beside the river past the log exercise park, the clouds were pushed back from the southwest so the low sun could shine on us. We’ve already gained 15 minutes of time since December 21st (winter solstice). I think the ‘noon’ angle of the sun has increased by a couple degrees so far. For the next week or so, it seems to be increasing by about .3 degree. Like the increase of day length, the noon angle will climb at an accelerated rate. Makes me giddy to think of. Soon, we’ll be gaining as much as 7 minutes of extra daylight each and every 24 hour cycle. Yay!

The river still had ice on it, but it looked fragile with a gloss of water atop it left by the rain. To think a few days previous, I saw human foot prints criss-crossing it around downtown. Crazy people.

I kept the loop to our shorter one. The windchill was getting uncomfortable on my toes and with Loke a bit under the weather as well as our first ride in 3 weeks, I didn’t want to push things. We rolled to a stop at the storage with 4.33 miles.

Welcome 2015! We have begun.