Terii’s Cycling Babble


I Waved The White Flag…
December 6, 2015, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

What had started out as a soft goal, somehow turned into a wade-into-battle, hard slog. A fair helping of stubbornness on my part with a leavening of determined and persistent encouragement from my husband. He’s worried that if I don’t make it, I will end the year with a burden of regret and disappointment.

A fair bit has happened since my last post.

After the last rough ride on the 19th, I took a rest. Saturday, November 21st, I set out and hoped to escape from the penned in feeling that doing the same loops over and over and over has inflicted. I had a loop of 30+ miles plotted where I’d head out toward Storvreta, looping south in the direction of Funbo before coming back to Vaksala for the normal leg through there back home. I was doing it because of Jens’ assurances that he’d drop everything and come get Loke when he tired and would go out again to get me if it turned out I decided I couldn’t make it. No complaints.

Here comes the sun!

Here comes the sun!

Just love the light. Missing snow though

Yes, that is frost on the fence.

He’s very good about keeping those promises so, out the door I went. I didn’t get to leave quite as early as I had hoped. I’d planned for about 7:30, half an hour or so before sunrise. Instead, it was a bit after 8 am just as the sun was coming up.

Loke was thrilled. He hopped and yodeled. Of course, the moment I picked up my iPhone it all stopped. He just stood looking at me hopefully. Not sure if he’s camera shy or just knows that if something resembling me taking a photo means we’re not going to move at that moment.

It promised to be a pretty day, though cold. The thermometer at the window said it was about 28 F. That’s deceptive as it’s always warmer in the city and registers warmer still with heat seeping from the walls of the building. I was going to be heading out into the mostly wide-open countryside. Nothing to stop the wind and, even without windchill, about 3-5 degrees colder in winter.

As we headed through our end of Uppsala, past the mosque, and onward north on Vattholma Road, I watched the temperature readout on my Garmin drop. 22 F, 20 F.

I couldn’t stop grinning. With just the fairing and shoe-covers, my feet were snug and toasty. Too toasty it turned out. They got sweaty. At first it wasn’t much of a problem as we continued.

Might be my coldest ride ever.

Might be my coldest ride ever.

The temperature finally bottomed out at 16 F. Even with damp socks, it didn’t impact my feet right away. I felt pretty good. Not too cold and, except for the feet, not too warm. Loke was a furry powerhouse. He jogged along brisk and strong, helping the trike along quite a bit which I appreciated since I was working with those chunky studs.

Pretty even if it should be snowy

Pretty even if it should be snowy

Then something tipped the balance between comfortable and not. Maybe the wind shifted and my speed wasn’t enough to compensate for it coming behind the fairing, so my feet chilled. I’d hoped the footwarmers would be unnecessary. At first it had appeared so, but clearly not. A couple miles outside of Storvreta, it went from uncomfortable to painful. I gritted my teeth, determined to push on to the village at the very least.

Less than 8.5 miles, I had to call it quits. So much for the grand design of 30+ miles for the day which would have been a huge triumph toward the best year ever.

I parked outside the little grocery store in Storvreta where Jens had picked me up last year after a wonderfully, if very windy and harsh, snowy ride.

Loke was so disappointed. So was I for that matter, even as I stood in the heated entry way of the grocery where I stomped my feet and wiggled toes in hopes of easing the ‘twisted off with pliers’ feeling.

The weather continued to be cold, but gorgeously clear. I could have gone out again on Sunday, November 22nd though after how things had gone pear-shaped the previous day, I hesitated to tackle it with 23 F temps. Another task called. I went out in search of wool socks. The ones I’d worn the day before had been standard cotton/poly blend. Not known for moisture wicking or holding warmth when damp.

The problem being it’s hard to find ones that aren’t so thick it’s like wrapping one’s feet in a duvet. The fitting tolerance in my shoes is so small that big, puffy socks constrict the flow of blood. Warm blood bringing heat to my toes and they chill, wool or not. If my feet had enough room to not feel squeezed, the shoes would be too long and put the pressure of the pedals at my tip-toes which causes all sorts of unpleasantness. I have enough of that.

I found a few options that had possibilities. One pair were even very cheap.

Monday, November 23rd, out we went on a river loop to test the socks. The inexpensive ones, which had felt fairly thin, seemed to puff up as soon as they went on. At least they were still thinner than most and I decided to try it.

It was a bit cloudier than it had been on ‘Sock Hunting Day’, but still reported to be about 23 F. Loke was an enthusiastic power assist once more. The Garmin temperature display only dipped to 20 F.

Frozen!

Frozen!

We came down the big hill to the river where I stopped to stare in astonishment. The dark surface of water was frozen clear across! The weather had been cold for several days, but that’s a lot of water. Even if it wasn’t flowing fast at this time of year, it does flow. It had never crossed my mind that all that moving liquid could have chilled enough to let a skin of ice form across it.

Cathedral in the dying light.

Cathedral in the dying light.

Frustratingly, the socks weren’t perfect. Even with fairing and shoe-covers combined to wool, the chill crept in toward the end of the hour. Still an accomplishment in my book that it took that long. In year’s past I would have been good making it 15 minutes even if I’d had foot warmers.

I conceded defeat and promised myself that the footwarmer batteries would be plugged in.

As I came by the Fyris swimhall, sitting right by the river, I spotted three boy frolicking on the ice. Looking about 10 years old, they should have known better. The fact the thin frozen skin held up under their weight was surprising. They stayed close to the bank, about a yard, but from hard experience, I know that would be at least chest deep on them as they plunged not just through ice and water, but a lattice of decaying tree branches as well.

I called out a warning, but they just yelled rude things back and kept on. I wondered if I was going to be hearing about tragedy on the next morning’s news.

Me, Loke and chilly toes arrived back at the storage with 8.09 miles.

Imagining it as snow...

Imagining it as snow…

Masochist that I am, out we went the very next day. The weather had undergone a radical change overnight. The clouds which had been building up through the evening of November 23rd, had thickened further and started sending down a spitting, misty drizzle with temperatures in the low 30’s. It was just cold enough to keep the frost on the overpasses from freezing even with the moisture blowing from the leaden clouds.

From freeze to slush

From freeze to slush

The river wasn’t able to withstand the assault though. The thin skin of ice which had locked the water away just the day before had turned into little flotillas of slush drifting with the current.

It was a miserable ride. Tired legs, my right knee and hip were painful with every pedal turn, it was a bit breezy and, of course, the soft rain that intensified enough to leave me damp. I was well layered in wool which kept me from chilling, but still not a pleasant experience. The good news for that temperature though was that I didn’t need the footwarmers. The fairing did a surprisingly good job of keeping my feet dry too.

My determination to make the miles pushed me out on a longer ride. We headed south to come back up into Uppsala hard along the river on the 12-14 mile loop. 14.48 miles this time.

Loke came home and slept for about an hour. He harassed Jens as soon as the hubby got home from work. Just unstoppable.

November 25th was a rest day. Absolutely necessary.

Pre-dawn. First of the year actually.

Pre-dawn. First of the year actually.

The 26th, I girded for battle early. Loke was out of kibble. Though I had the front studded tires, the lack of snow made me brave. As I’d done the previous two times, Loke’s next bag of kibble was coming home via trike-pulled trailer.

Jens needed the car so he dropped us off at the storage. As it was not even 7:30 am, the sun was only a faint promise of the night sky changing from inky black to deep twilight blue.

The early start seemed to give Loke a particular boost of enthusiasm. Maybe it was the novelty of dark clad scenery. He was all for running as fast as he could if had let him. I think that would be about 15 mph nowadays.

We set out on a standard River Loop, me aiming to finish up at the apartment where we’d wait until about 9:30 or so to give other shops to open. I didn’t think I’d do shopping, but never hurts to have the option.

Grainy iPhone image of foggy field

Grainy iPhone image of foggy field

Light strewn bridge

Light strewn bridge

By the time we emerged from the industrial area and had views across the field, a fog had rolled in. The clouds hung low, hiding the steeple tops of the Uppsala Cathedral. Along the river, the bridge across the water between the swimhall and parking lot had been strewn with lights for the coming Christmas season.

With 4.6 miles right at the start of the day, we stopped at the apartment for about an hour. It gave us both a chance to have breakfast and let it settle before rolling out again.

Cat and Ram

Cat and Ram

Cat and rabbits

Cat and rabbits

On the previous ride through Uppsala, I had discovered a little surprise about one of parks along the railway. I’d already known about the bronze statues of the ram and Shetland pony, but I’d spotted a couple others.

Though it was marked as pedestrian only, I took the little gravel path about 10 yards over. Much to Loke’s annoyance, we went slowly out of respect for any foot traffic that might come along. Also I stopped for photos of each clusters of statues.

It was a veritable petting zoo of bronze. A number of cats, some rabbits and the bronze ram of course. I had to laugh at 3 bronze rats perched on the granite verge between lawn and path.

Finding those animals made me explore the continuation of the park on the other side of the big road, where the pony stands. Alas, there were no more. The pony is all by itself.

The Garmin temp display showed about 32 F. Still one of the warmer days I’d ridden through recently. I still used the footwarmers at one point because my feet got chilly. On the first setting, my feet felt perfectly fine when they would have needed 3 before. Rather, one foot felt perfect, the other began to feel cold after about 5 minutes. A quick glance showed it had turned off. I turned it back on.

2 minutes later, there was no change and I checked it again. Off. Aggravating to say the least. It probably indicated that the rechargeable battery was now dead.

The clouds retreat!

The clouds retreat!

The chill in the foot never made it to the uncomfortable levels. Once at the vet clinic, I bought the dog food and told them about the scare Loke had given us with the tumor. Then I also popped into the working dog shop under the vet’s to hunt for some treats to bribe Loke into the car. They had one bag left of buffalo cubes.

As I left the clinic to go join the river back into the heart of Uppsala, the clouds started to show little gaps of blue here and there. After about 3 miles more, an edge of the cloud mass had rolled back, retreating to the south.

Though the sky became utterly cloudless over head, the lack of sun remained. The angle of it at this time of year is so low that if there are any clouds on the southern horizon, it remains hidden.

Hello? Sun, are you there?

Hello? Sun, are you there?

Kind of frustrating to look up and see clear blue and yet it still feels murky because there’s no sunlight.

As I rolled along the river, Jens called to let me know he was on his way home early. Did I want to just meet up at the storage if our timing was right? At first I told him no because I thought I’d make it home about 40 minutes before he did.

As I reached Uppsala downtown, the last of the clouds cleared away and the sun finally spilled from the heavens. I was only graced with snippets of it because of the buildings clustered around the streets. Frustrating really. I was tiring and the mood boost of sunlight would have done me a world of good.

11-26 f Finally Sun altI failed to account for how those last few miles with 17 lbs of dog food would take their toll and slow me so significantly. When I realized Jens and I would be getting home within 15 minutes of each other, I called back to tell him to just get us from the storage.

The last 2 miles were slow, even with Loke trying to help. My knee ached and my hip hurt most of all. At least I finally did get a little of the sunshine as the last of the distance passed beneath wheels and paws.

After tucking the trike away, the wait for Jens was less than 5 minutes. Fairly perfect timing as far as I was concerned.

19.43 miles for the day’s total. 17 miles of that was more than I’d needed for the week. It knocked off a sizable amount of required miles for the following weeks. I was going to need less than 30 miles over the next 5 weeks.

Friday, November 27th, had to be a rest day. The 19+ miles, 9 of it with the dog food loaded trailer, had left me utterly drained and limping around. I was about to settle in for a blog post, but it was derailed. We were sitting quietly in our sleepy weekend wake-up. Suddenly Loke yelped. I looked over at him, but he was simply standing there. I called him to me and there was no limp. Checked his feet and moved his legs around. No reaction.

Shrugging figuratively, I turned back to start something else. About an hour later, he yelped again.

The rest of the day was spent dealing with vets. First went to our normal vet, but they were so busy they couldn’t fit us in. So, off we went to the animal hospital. When Loke went to jump in the car for the 2nd time, he gave a very pained howl and finally favored his right hind leg.

Without an appointment, I sat and waited for 3 hours. The benches just killed me as I waited for a vet to come along. My hip in particular turned into fire. When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I withdrew our check in and left.

A dreary miserable day.

A dreary miserable day.

Saturday morning started out silent. With the deadline looming for the new week, I pushed myself out the door… solo. It was a miserable day. Gray and spitting rain, above freezing, but not by much. My legs were weak and knees and aching.

Pure stubbornness pushed me on and for some bizarre reason, I decided to do the Ulva/Gamla Uppsala loop which is about 12-14 miles depending on what I add. There was no fun in it. No joy. I was simply turning the pedals to get the miles.

It was also a test of the footwarmer battery. It had sat plugged in for 24 hours all by itself to see if it would take a charge. It worked just fine much to my relief.

14.62 miles when I put the trike back in the storage. Once home, I called the vet clinic to make an appointment for Monday as Loke had yelped a few times during the day.

It was about 3:30 pm. The receptionist said if I could get there by 4, they could see him right away. Off we flew.

Poor Loke. The nice vet pulled, poked and contorted him to check the range of motion. He absolutely did not react. We even wrestled him onto his back on the X-ray table to get images of his hips in a couple positions. All of it inconclusive. She could only guess what might be making him yelp and all of them had the same treatment. A course of anti-inflammatory medications and 2 weeks of strict rest. Very short, slow walks, no running and no jumping.

Snow! Well, slush at least

Snow! Well, slush at least

Not the easiest thing to inflict on a fit husky who thinks he’s still 4 years old. The meds helped. That very evening he went into a frenzy of whirling and spinning that made me want to pull my hair.

The night of the 29th or early hours of the 30th, the unexpected happened. Things had been quite warm for a few days, so it was completely unexpected to find a bit of snow on the grass when I woke up.

My trike only had studded tires on the front, but with everything apparently melting so rapidly I expected that it would be gone before noon.

How wrong I was. Just hours later it started to solidify when the temp started to drop. Before noon I had to dig my studded Icebug boots out of the closet to be able to walk Loke without falling on my rump.

That slush turned to ice complicated things. I needed my rear tire changed to something that could grab ice to propel me. I was feeling much to battered to struggle with the swap. My hip especially was painful. Sitting sprawl-legged on floor would not have been a good thing.

Sun and snow

Sun and snow

Tuesday, December 1st, I started feeling the push to get those miles done before the week ran out yet the ice remained. Jens, flew into action to help. He was going to the train station at around 10:00 am. He encouraged me to call the cycle shop to see if they fit me in for the tire swap. Only 100 kr and saves me a lot of discomfort. Of course they could!

Half an hour after dropping the trike off, they texted me it was ready. I hurriedly dressed for the mid-30 F temps before going to get the trike. Getting ready to ride without looking like I was doing so was a bit of a trick. Loke was already fitful and occasionally nuts even after just a few days of his enforced rest.

Bobby was nice enough to help me lift it into the car.

When I got back to the garage and everything reassembled, plenty of day light remained to get a river loop in. The trike skidded and slipped a bit, but it went forward.

So much nicer than bare, plowed mud!

So much nicer than bare, plowed mud!

It was so very hard. The third studded tire tackling the chunky ice was harsh on legs that already felt weak and painful. Still I pushed on for roughly 8 miles on the River Loop.

This is more like it! More would be better, but still happy!

This is more like it! More would be better, but still happy!

At least it was pretty. Though there was less than an inch of snow, it was enough to have somewhat transformed the landscape and gave a brighter aspect to the weak winter sun.

I still feel like I’d been beaten when I was done. Walking just between the storage and where I parked the car was like staggering the last miles of a marathon. The rides, even with rest days between, were just killing me what with the studded tires, paths choked with gravel and rough ice. I hated it. I hated how much pedaling hurt; my knee, my hip, my feet. Even pretty scenery failed to make the rides enjoyable.

Thursday, December 3rd rushed up and I was still a fair bit short of the miles I needed for the week. I did not want to ride. The muscles in my legs were leaden with fatigue and so much hurt. So many of the rides over the weeks had been struggles in pain.

Snow all gone

Snow all gone

My dissatisfaction reached new heights on the 3rd. I felt angry at the necessity, sullen and downright resentful. The emotions were very much identical to those I experienced when I had a crappy job that tore away bits of my soul with every shift I had to crawl into. A bit less intense perhaps, but otherwise the same.

I needed miles to end the week, so out I went, miserable or no.

Like the previous 4 or more rides, it was hard. Every yard gained was a fight. My cadence and speed both were way down. Originally, the plan was to ride through Uppsala, perhaps stopping at the American food store. Before a mile had passed beneath the wheels, I’d changed my mind. It was going to be the Ulva/Gamla Uppsala loop again.

The reason for the change was simple. Gravel. I would have chose the same if the snow and ice hadn’t practically evaporated overnight during the 2nd and the 3rd. On the 3rd, it was in the upper 30’s to low 40’s. The cycle roads/paths through the city were choked with all the gravel thrown down to offer traction on the ice. The roads and lanes through the countryside, on the other hand, were practically gravel free. Perhaps a pebble here or there, but mostly flat if wet asphalt for most of the way.

Countryside won.

Nothing says Swedish winter like budding leaves

Nothing says Swedish winter like budding leaves

The warmness of the day was disconcerting for December. Out by Ulva mill, I was in for a shock. As I pushed up the hill from the mill stream, a butterfly fluttered by. A BUTTERFLY in DECEMBER. Seriously! I started looking for flowers pushing up, but found none. I felt sorry for the pretty little insect. By the end of the ride, I saw another one and a few may flies besides.

Fluttering warm season insects weren’t the only surprises. As I came the final stretch by some hedges, I noticed buds on many of them and even a few leaves.

The 15.67 miles gave me about 2 miles more than I needed. I finished the week and had knocked down the requirement for the next weeks to below 27.

In spite of the accomplishment, I felt no joy of it. No sense of accomplishment. It had been slow, barely walking speed at times, and everything from my hips down was a fiery pain. I had maybe time for one day of rest before slogging it out again. It just wasn’t enough and I was starting to hate the trike.

Through that evening, I wrestled with my emotions. It wasn’t working. The goal of 1225 was supposed to have been a soft goal. Yet here it felt like I was killing myself by inches for it. Teaching myself to hate what I was supposed to love.

I abruptly announced to Jens, ‘I give up. I’m throwing in the towel or waving the white flag and letting the goal go.’

No sooner than the words were out of my mouth than a deep breath of relief filled my lungs. A heavy weight had been lifted and stress and anxiety evaporated.

December 4th and 5th, I relaxed. I focused on Loke’s short walks and working on this post among other things. Everything except for the trike.

Today, still relaxing, I decided to go for a short ride. No minimum mileage or ticking down distance for the week toward the ultimate goal. Just go out, get moving enough to stave off the neuromuscular pain that appears to rear its ugly head if I go too long without riding.

It was wonderful! My legs felt strong even pushing with all three studded tires and over gravel. No pain. My hip felt great, my knees fluid and free of discomfort. The winds were wild, 25-30 mph with even higher gusts and they drove a fine moisture like the mist from a spray bottle. It didn’t matter. It was crazy warm, perhaps even a new record high for December 6th at about 56 F when I started. I didn’t even have my thin wool on. Just my summer weight cycle clothes. The joy crept back without the pain to chase it away. Even when the mist became a driving rain, stinging like needles where the wind flung it into my face, it was bliss.

I made good time and since it felt so great over the first 3 miles, I headed for downtown Uppsala and popped into the American food store. I arrived back at the storage with 11.8 miles.

Giving up that goal was the best thing I could have done. This is still my 2nd best year ever. Impressive when one considers I had a stroke just a year ago.

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