Terii’s Cycling Babble

Up and Down
July 21, 2016, 7:18 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Things have been a bit rough.

One main issue has been my ability to walk.

When I first had the stroke, it about killed me to walk just 100 yards. On the trike, I’d gone from being able to do 30 miles without much trouble to barely 3 miles. But the cycling seemed to help and I did get stronger and stronger over the months. Could cycle better, though not quite as well as pre-stroke and even my walking improved. For a while, I even felt pretty normal.

Well, now walking has become difficult again. Cycling, thankfully, has remained a sort of refuge, but I can’t just live on my trike. It just feels like there’s no strength in my body when walking for more than 50 meters/yards or so. It just bleeds away and I start staggering and feeling as if my legs are about to collapse. Pain all through my legs, shoulders and arms. Jens tells me that I sound like I’m gasping for air when it’s bad. I didn’t really notice because the world narrows down to one foot in front of the other and pushing through the pain. I’ve not gone to the doctor for it because they were about as helpful as a kick to the head when I saw them about it during the first few months after the stroke.

So, another issue came up, one I went to the health ward for. The Dr. was very nice and made a referral to a specialist for what I came for as it completely baffled her. Then she decided to listen to my heart and lungs.

Well, she heard a murmur. I’ve never had any doctor ever mention a murmur. Ever. She asked how I’ve been feeling when I try to do things. Breathless? Weak? Suddenly my current issues sounded less like post stroke issues and more like a possible heart thing, particularly with Jens’ comment about me sounding like I’m struggling to breathe. Cue anxiety.

Naturally, she wants blood tests. Getting blood out of my arms or hands is kinda like trying to get out of a stone. She also referred me to get an ultrasound done soon.

I asked if I can keep riding. She asked how I felt while I’m doing it. When I answered that it was like nothing was wrong, she encouraged me to keep it up. A blessing.

Came back home, a bit down. Then she called later and asked if I could come back for an EKG. I did. That at least was normal. It helped.

I was still in a deep funk. Jens has been supportive and kind about it.

So, I woke Saturday, July 9th, planning to ride kind early. It was hard to shake the ‘down’ mood from the heart worries and I ended up bogged down a bit. I had only managed to dress before Jens came staggering out of the bedroom in ‘Cofffeeeee’ zombie mode. He offered to drive me. He even offered that we load the trike and he take me somewhere a little further out for ground I’ve at least not been on in a while. I was kinda ‘meh’ about it. Felt like too much trouble, especially with there still being doubts about Loke.

The medication has helped him a bit. He’s got a bit more zip, tries to pull more, doesn’t mind jumping into the car again. I don’t want to push him too fast or too far until I’m sure.

My wonderful hubby than encouraged me to just pick a direction and ride if I didn’t want to worry about loading the trike for drop off. He’d come get Loke when needed and then I could ride on solo. When I tired, he’d come get me and trike as well. No complaints.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted to do it. Admittedly, cycling has almost felt more like a chore of late. Going very slow and very short because of Loke. Over the same ground again and again. Then of course, the fact I do use the trike for errands a lot such as getting fruit from the produce market. The main thing turning it into a chore is being focused on the mileage I need to ‘beat’ months.

I told Jens I’d think about and let him know when I decided. It would be on the fly though, deciding at key turns whether I’d take a left to do the River Loop or a right to head out into the country side. I did make a token effort at the start to plan for more than a River Loop and left without the trailer.

After 4 days of the anti-inflammation medication, Loke fairly perky. He didn’t exactly try to run, but he wanted to go faster than than 7 mph. Quite an improvement over the 4-5 mph range.

I realized that I’d forgotten water, my RoadID bracelet, and my phone. So, I looped back by the apartment to correct that. Then we set off on the start of the River Loop route.

I don’t know what it is, but when we roll out from the apartment, Loke goes nuts. He pulls like mad and just wants to go, go, GO! Then on the far end of our street, he saw a miniature schnauzer. Maybe he thought it was a hare or something because he had every inch of tether pulled out of the spring.

As summer. Loke serving as a seed transport.

As summer. Loke serving as a seed transport.

The furball slowed down after the first mile, he settled back into a pace between 5-6 mph.

Having set out on the River Loop to start, limited my ‘pick a direction’ a little. I decided to head for Börje church. That would give me about 6 different routes to chose from with distances between 12 miles to over 20 miles. All those that used to be my ‘short’ loops.

Loke’s pacing was… mixed. Sometimes he wanted to zip along at over 7 mph though I did my best to restrict him to 6 mph. Then he’d suddenly drop to 3 mph. Mostly it seemed to be while climbing hills.

Simple beauty of a road-side morning glory.

Simple beauty of a road-side morning glory.

At about mile 4, I called Jens to see what he thought. Loke wasn’t limping, just slow, so we decided I should walk him along a little more since we both knew he’d have energy enough to bounce around the apartment and harass Jens.

It was warming up at a fair pace as we rolled on. It wasn’t exactly hot and Loke wasn’t affected much. I decided that Jens would be getting Loke at Börje church regardless. It would give him about 7 miles thanks to my doubling back to the apartment at the start to get the water and such.

I stopped a few times to offer the fuzzy water, but he refused it every time.

The temperature had been about 68 F at the start of the ride. Thin, cobweb like clouds ‘softened’ the sun a little which lessened its impact as the temperature rose into the 78 F range.

After a few miles, I stopped to put socks on Loke. Got them on and rolled out. He limped quite badly on his front legs. I swapped to another pair on his front, but still he limped. I’m not sure why. I checked the paws and they looked fine. Perhaps it was some display of arthritis in his ‘wrists’. He was sore there once when I took him to the vet for limping though most of the pain then had been from a shoulder injury when he’d fallen.

Love country roads.

Love country roads.

The slow pace, concern about Loke, and the fact that the first few miles on Old Börje Road is hamster-track status left me feeling rather indifferent, even bored. I made an effort to focus on flowers and birdsong. The way the sun played with the colors of grass, grain, and trees. As we came up to the cross-roads, I was feeling strong, if bored. I won against the urge to turn left or right to shorten my ride and skip Börje church and pushed on straight.

It confused Loke for a moment, but then he perked up a bit. So did I. It’s been quite a few months since I’ve gone down the road toward what is the first church I ever rode to with my trike. Well, the first one out in the countryside. Gamla Uppsala church at the burial mounds is the true ‘I rode to this church’ church, but since it’s practically next door, it hardly seems to count. I’d been walking past it for months with Loke after all.

Just a few hundred yards past the cross-roads, there’s a little farmstead that has a rather attractive barn at the roadside. It even looks more than a century old. As we were coming past it, up a bit of an incline, something grabbed Loke’s attention. Following his gaze, I spotted a hare. It looked a little small, so probably one of this year’s babies. The critter panicked and instead of running back into the wheat, it bolted onto the road in front of us.

Tree stump artwork

Tree stump artwork

Loke was in instant frenzy. All his weight, and then some, was thrust into the harness, paws scrabbling on the pavement with determined force to get that hare. Rather than continuing into the field on the other side of the road, it ran along the edge of the ditch, taunting the husky. Finally, after about 100 yards, it bolted into a hedgerow. Loke still pulled furiously, scanning the roadside for another 100 yards or so.

I stubbornly continued on at about 6 mph and Loke finally settled again once we were approaching the roll down to the little elementary school just before the church.

There was a little point of interest at the school. A tree had apparently been cut down at the road’s edge some time ago. Rather than just leave a boring stump or grind it out. They made a bit of artwork out of it.

And then we were there. I parked us under one of the apple trees at the edge of the parking lot and called the hubby. Then I just sat there, doing Swedish lessons on my phone.

Old building at the vicarage at Börje church

Old building at the vicarage at Börje church

Jens arrived and in the car Loke went. As the car pulled away, all I could see were huge, wide husky eyes looking at me through the window. The dismay in them left me feeling more than a little guilty. But Loke’s been so slow, I don’t want to break him and it was getting warmer.

I sipped some water, wrestled the trike around and headed out. I came down the short hill where the road whips around the church (where I flipped my Trice on ice once). At the last moment, I went straight instead of taking the right turn that would take me to the Old Farm and Altuna church. I was going to make a stab at heading toward Vänge and maybe even back to the garage. Easily over 20 miles which I’ve not done in quite a while.

I've not been here in YEARS!

I’ve not been here in YEARS!

As I pushed on westward, following a road I’ve not traveled in years, the dark mood that had clung to me since the doctor uttered ‘heart murmur’ fell away in bits and pieces. I mean, the sun was shining and while it was getting warm, it didn’t seem to be affecting me much. Larks and other birds were singing their hearts out. There were flowers bobbing their pedals in the breeze.

I'm telling ya, I love these country roads!

I’m telling ya, I love these country roads!

A big contributor to my improved mood I think was the sudden realization of how much stronger I am after having spent so many rides dragging that water. I mentioned breeze, but it was actually a pretty stiff wind, but I hardly seemed to feel it. Hills, while they slowed me down, I was still faster on them than I ever remember being even before the stroke.

There was part of the road that I remembered being incredibly boring. Stubby little trees, perfectly straight, no real scenery. I found it and it was on an incline. Fortunately not a very steep climb and I just rolled my way up at a (for me) brisk pace. There was even a delightful distraction. A man was out walking his dog in that ‘out in the middle of nowhere’ stretch. And what a dog! A gorgeous Rhodesian Ridgeback. A handsome boy. He was very fit and lean without losing any muscularity. He wasn’t your run-of-the-mill big, male Rhodie though. He would probably be banned from dog shows because of his color. Instead of a random shade of rusty red, he was more the color of Swedish milk chocolate with just the barest hint of red. He also completely lacked the bit of white on chest or toes that many Rhodies have. Jaw droppingly beautiful.

That makes two ‘non-standard’ Rhodies that I’ve seen. Just a few days ago, I passed one who didn’t have the distinctive ridge. A lovely girl who was surprisingly friendly to random strangers.

The hawk after it soared back to the heavens

The hawk after it soared back to the heavens

I finally came out of the boring stretch at the top of the hill. As I took a moment to take a photo and put my camera away, a hawk abruptly swooped out of the trees on the right of the road, across the pavement and then banked into a climb over the field on the left. Sadly, I couldn’t fumble my camera out for a good shot of it. It was no more than 10 feet over the asphalt and less than 30 feet away as it crossed.

One indifferent and one curious. Better than terrified of my weird cycle.

One indifferent and one curious. Better than terrified of my weird cycle.

I felt a bit excited as I came dashing down the hill to make the left turn toward Vänge. It’s been years since I’ve rolled over this ground, solo or otherwise. Definitely off the hamster tracks though not fresh ground exactly.

It was a couple miles of what felt like a lot of uphill, and therefore, slow while completely without shade. I’m faster on hills, but that doesn’t mean I’m fast. I really did feel a bit like a turkey stretched out on a roasting pan under the broiler element of an oven.

Oddly, it didn’t feel nearly as harsh as in the past when I’d feel faint and perhaps even dangerously overheated. Those days when I’d curse the fact that every pair of tights I could find was black. Always black. I suppose it could be as simple as no longer being restricted to only black tights, but I don’t think so.

Blessed shade however brief.

Blessed shade however brief.

As I neared the turn toward a lovely nature reserve called Fiby, I was quite glad I’d sent Loke home. The temperature continued to climb into an uncomfortable range. Every patch of shade, however brief, was a relief. That heat evaporated my guilt at sending Loke home right along with every bit of water I gulped.

It wasn’t so bad as to make things utterly miserable, but cooler temps would have been far preferable. The scenery and enjoying the feeling of strength and stamina was more than enough to counter that level of discomfort. I had plenty of water, no husky to worry about heat-stroking, and could still go as slow as I wished.

Photo does no justice to flowers in the wheat.

Photo does no justice to flowers in the wheat.

Between Fiby nature reserve and the little village of Vänge, there’s huge stretches of fields, generally planted with wheat all the times I’ve been through there. This was no exception. Once, I rode through there and the wheat was yellow, the trees were green, and there were purplish blue flowers mingled with the golden stalks of grain. The flowers were there again.

I’m not 100% certain, but I think the blossoms are cornflowers. If so, it makes me even happier to see them as they’ve been on the brink of extinction thanks to herbicides. Yet, here I find them and in several places over the years.

It was downright broiling as I came into Vänge. Enough that I toyed with the idea of calling it quits. The sun felt so harsh and my Garmin was displaying temps of about 88 F. I rolled to a stop at what I think is the only shop in Vänge, dashing in to grab a cold drink.

Pretty flowers by cycle way. Maybe an orchid?

Pretty flowers by cycle way. Maybe an orchid?

I didn’t stay stopped to drink it. I actually rolled along in the heat, sipping as I went.

Just on the edges of the village, I came upon a couple walking their dog. One of the biggest Newfoundland’s I’ve ever seen. I felt so bad for him in the heat, him being covered in long, dense, black fur. He was 7 years old, which is quite aged for a Newfie. He was only too glad to flop down while we talked. They were disappointed to not have the chance to meet Loke, but made ‘oh, he’s pretty’ noises over the photo I showed them. After about 20 minutes, I said my farewells so they could get their furry old man out of the heat.

Not even the hottest. Hit almost 94 F ten minutes later.

Not even the hottest. Hit almost 94 F ten minutes later.

That stretch of the cycle way beside the 72 between Vänge and Läby church is pretty fun thanks to the hills. The climbs, of course, aren’t that delightful, particularly at over 90 F. Even in that heat they weren’t as bad as they used to be thanks to the water dragging, but the long descents are a blast especially since I could let the trike go at max speed. The wind was delicious against heated skin.

Gave me a start.

Gave me a start.

Something offered me a bit of a startle on that first mile south of Vänge. Rolling along, suddenly a shape of an animal seemed to leap out of the grass. I screeched to a halt in shock and then laughed. An animal yes, but a crude cement cast of a dog.

My laughter muted as I took a photo of it and then looked at the surroundings. Was it a prank or some bit of whimsy that someone had placed there? Or something sadder? Perhaps a memorial of a beloved pet from someone walking with their dog, perhaps off leash or slipped loose, that had strayed into traffic and been hit?

Through the ride since the beginning, the density of clouds had been gradually increasing. First, thin little cobwebs that barely took the edge off the sun. Then a clump of cloud here or there in shades of brilliant white and pale gray. Then more clumps and bigger with the gray in them getting darker and darker until the undersides were a blue-gray color like fine slate, heavy with threat of rain.

Please, please, PLEASE, rain!

Please, please, PLEASE, rain!

Oh, how I wanted that rain. I wished fervently for a soft, cooling cascade to come drifting in veils from those clouds.

They mocked me as I pushed on from Läby church toward the shops around Stenhägen. Off in the distance west and north of Uppsala, I could see streamers of rain. Where I rolled though, not so much as a drop and not even fortunate enough to have cloud shadow around me. Just sun.

I resisted the urge to stop at the big grocery as I rolled through the shopping area. Also resisted the call of of a frozen lemonade from Burger King.

My energy and strength was flagging as I pushed by the new apartment complex and darted across the street to join the cycle roads through a patch of woods there. It’s one of Loke’s favorite stretches through there. A green corridor through the trees. He’d love it even more if it wasn’t paved, but smooth packed dirt and pine needles, but still. It’s not my favorite, though it is nice. It almost begs to be taken a speed with the curves and relative flatness of the terrain. The opportunity is ruined by the upthrusts of roots under the asphalt that make unpleasant obstacles to speed.

Rain!! The cloud spirits answered!

Rain!! The cloud spirits answered!

I was just rolling into the welcome shade of the trees when I felt it. A drop of rain. Then another. In moments I was speckled and it was wonderful. As I continued onward through the trees, it intensified. It was bordering on a downpour as I emerged from the wooded patch into the little residential area.

Overkill by the cloud spirits. I'll take it over 90+ F temps!

Overkill by the cloud spirits. I’ll take it over 90+ F temps!

The brief time I’d been under the dense canopy of trees, 15 minutes or so, the clumps of clouds had converged into a mass. There was a dark ceiling of them overhead and dense streamers of rain extending down. About halfway through the tangle of tiny streets lined with houses sitting side-by-side, the bottom fell out. Rain came down in buckets. Barrels even. In moments, my clothing, hair, and skin went from damp to soaked through.

I had a panicked moment when I realized that I didn’t have the rain cover on my camera bag. I’m not accustomed to bringing my Canon so much thanks to the near constant hamster track rides. I stopped to wrestle it on. Thankfully, it hadn’t yet soaked through the layers of padding to the camera.

For a Swedish rain, it was almost warm. At least there was no hail or sleet mixed in with it. The temperature did a 30 degree drop which made things a bit chilly with being so drenched. My speed and strength made a return as I powered on toward the edges of downtown Uppsala along one of the new ‘fast cycle routes’

It wasn’t really a passing rain. The deluge lingered on and kept me soaked as I rolled back to the apartment because Jens was tending to a few things and didn’t have time to pick me up from the garage.

24.67 miles from the time I rolled away to the garage to when I parked at the apartment. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve gone so far. The next closest one I can be sure of is one of the rides looping through Nåntuna which is in the 20 mile range.

A few hours later, I dressed in dry cycle clothes and went out again to drop the trike off at the garage for an extra 2.31 miles.

The day had started pretty sour, but after the the last 17 miles or so of the longer ride, my mood had brightened considerably. The heavy malaise had lifted as if washed away by the rain. Feeling the results of my water dragging in terms of faster and stronger up hills helped as did the scenery that I’ve not seen in years.

I really need those moments off the hamster tracks.


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