Terii’s Cycling Babble


Every Now And Again –
January 30, 2018, 6:56 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Well, I’m not exactly tearing up the roads, but I am getting out every now and again. 4 rides for the month so far for a whopping total of 13.48 miles. So, 3 rides since my last post. Might get out again today.

Loke has had some improvements and a setback since the last post.

After my first ride in 2018, the weather did that thing again where it got silly warm (for Swedish January), bringing rain with it. Naturally, the snow we had was washed away and not by the manageable soft misty drizzle. Nope. Full on rain that would have punched right through the wool to let cold water trickle over skin.

Then it happened! WINTER!! Properly cold temps for Sweden, though ironically southern Mississippi colder still, and an honest to goodness snowfall! I was gleeful! Never mind the snow came with gale force winds, so it left some places practically snow free while piling up in other places. It was _snow_ and the forecast said it was going to be cold enough for it to stick around for days. Not hours or a day at most.

Part of me really wanted to get out and ride in it straight away, insane blasting winds or not. One thing kept me from doing just that. Loke.

Every year for the past few, between the months of December and February, the skin infection breaks out between Loke’s toes. With the crazy resistance to antibiotics, bordering on becoming a super-bug, it needs careful handling in a desperate attempt to avoid said antibiotics. It seemed each time he went out into the snow, the infection became worse. So, I had to keep his outings short, which meant, no riding with him. Unfortunately, he’s been so crazy full of energy and excitement with the appearance of a proper Swedish winter, that there was no way I could go out without him unless I wanted to come back home to a lynch mob outside the door with a howling husky in the apartment.

So, we stuck with walkies. Not even proper ‘get out and enjoy the snow’ walkies, but short things to get Loke out to do his business.

The hard work looked as if it was paying off and Loke’s skin started to look better, so on January 19th I decided to head out for a ride especially with Jens home if something went wrong.

It was kinda cloudy as I started the arduous task of pulling on the layers needed for sub-20’s F. It was complicated by this big white furball that kept getting in my way no matter which direction I turned. My poor Jens had to freeze a bit as I threw open the balcony door while pulling on the layers so I didn’t keel over from heat-stroke before getting out the door.

I was amazed when we stepped out to see bits of blue in between puffs of clouds. As we rolled out from the apartment, it was obvious the skies were clearing! Snow AND sun?! It made my hamster track almost magical! Loke was absolutely crazed with glee, his elderly self dragging at the trike as best he could, tongue flopping in a happy husky grin. The skies were almost flawlessly clear before we even finished the first half mile.

It wasn’t a long ride. Just 2.33 miles. The shortest of my ‘loops’ really. I was stressing about Loke’s paw and a bit worried he might have another seizure since he’d had one the previous night. I’ve lost SO much fitness and gained weight while fighting this cold and the weather which makes riding harder, combined with the chunky studded tires and the tense effort of keeping my feet on the platform pedals.

In spite of that laundry list of ‘ugh’, it did feel good to get out and ride. The sunshine, the tracks of hares and squirrels in the snow. The wondrous transformation of the humdrum landscape of my hamster tracks. Loke was the most settled he’d been in days and the feet didn’t look any worse for the wear! Whew. A win all around.

Even with such a short ride, I was happy with it and planned to start riding more often.

Nope! Multiple wrenches went into the works of those plans. First was the weather. The forecast for our below freezing (and lingering snow) days took an abrupt change. A pleasant one if you can believe it!

First, another load of snow came through. 33 F and 4 inches dropped and was amazingly fluffy instead of wet at those temperatures. With the clouds holding back the sun, it didn’t have a chance to melt and overnight, it got cold. Seriously cold. Instead of temps in the mid-upper 20’s F in the forecast, we had a true Arctic blast come through. I’m talking single-digits-during-the-day cold. The altered forecast claimed that it was going to stay cold for about a week. A taste of real winter like those first 4 or so when I made Sweden my new home.

The icing on that snowy cake? Every morning, a freezing fog would creep through, adding layers and layers of delicate hoarfrost to every bare tree limb. Even the edges of random things. With the air so still, that frosting was never shaken loose so it kept layering up.

I wasn’t even going to attempt riding in those conditions. My rides are so short it would have taken me longer to pull on the necessary layers. Ridiculous. 4 layers for 3 miles?

Still, Loke’s feet were looking better so I whimsically decided to go out and enjoy it. Walking requires far less layers than riding the trike, so I dressed as I would to ride in 30 F and stepped out into 10 F weather. We hopped into the car for a quick trip to Wiks castle.

Freezing fog on the way to Wiks.

As pretty as the frost and snow were around the neighborhood, it was unparalleled to what awaited out in the countryside to the west. Firstly, the fog in town tended to disappear about an hour after sunrise. About 5 miles out, the fog still lingered in patches, drifting across the snowy fields and threading through the wooded patches.

Wow. Just… wow.

Snowy, frosty, delight!

I was kicking myself for not bringing my Canon, but I knew walking with Loke and juggling the phone camera was going to be enough of a nightmare. Trying to manage the big camera with him hyper and excited to be away from home? A broken camera waiting to happen.

I took the drive easy once we were on the smaller roads. I wanted to enjoy the scenery. I even pulled over to let cars coming up behind us pass rather than deal with them crawling up the tailpipe and trying to push us.

I know I generally try to post rides and Loke updates, but this is not the first time I’ve shared something spectacular that had even less to do with cycling than Wiks draped in the magical cloak of winter. I have ridden here a number of times after all.

I wasn’t sure how much of the walk I was going to be able to pull off. Much to my surprise, even in 5 F temps, I did the 1.6 mile loop and didn’t feel too bad. Color me shocked. Loke was the crazed 4 year old husky who kited around at the end of his leash I had completely expected.

The drive back to the apartment left me with a heavy disappointment. There was a little nature reserve Loke and I discovered on a ride around Hammarskog manor years ago. Just a pond of a few acres with a bit of land surrounding it. Old trees, gorgeous mossy rocks, and a reedy little plot of water where ducks and other birds who need pools or rivers would gather. Many a happy summer day we spent there with Jens and sometimes his family, grilling and enjoying the peace and wildlife.

It was horribly transformed. The parking area had been doubled in size and there were cars crammed along the narrow little road making it hazardous. That tiny nature reserve had over 150 people packed into it. The reeds were gone and the pond had been dredged to make a big circular ring around the central area, all of which had been plowed clear of snow. It had been turned into an outdoor skating rink! Just broke my heart to see a place of such beauty and fond memories degraded and ruined for the nature that is there. There are plenty of lakes and man-made rinks that they really didn’t need to wreck the pond.

The photo I used to frame the title of the blog was actually taken at that nature reserve.

The next day after that outing, came the setback to Loke’s feet. Instead of plodding around the local streets for his walkies, I took him to Gamla Uppsala.

It turned into a wrestling match of epic proportions. In a spot where one would never expect a chunk of bread, Loke found just that. He had his jaws locked tight, tongue working to swallow what he could without letting me get the upper hand to get his mouth open. He tried wriggling away and we wound up on the ground. Anyone seeing us would have thought I was trying to kill him. I managed to get his teeth apart and scooped out as much as I could, but I could feel a few bits slipping down his throat.

The only thing I can figure is someone pitched out big bits of baguettes to feed the birds and a crow or jackdaw had been making off with one of them, only to drop and lose it in the snow.

I was so furious! His feet had been looking almost normal and I knew what this was going to do to them. Another obstacle to riding or long walks with him which would make him crazy. Worse, perhaps even a hospital visit if it distressed his intestines too much.

Apparently, I got enough of it away from him that the impact to his gut was minimal. Just a bit of upset. The next day, his feet looked like raw meat again though. I had reduced the number of treatments to his foot from 3 times a day to 1. We went back to 3 times.

The gorgeous weather broke on the night of the 24th, heading back to above freezing temps and dropped another 4-6 inches of snow. Sometime after about 2 am, snow became rain and all that white stuff just disappeared within hours of it coming down, taking the previous snow with it.

Thanks to the warmer temps and some slight improvement in Loke’s foot, I decided to take him for a trike run the next morning. Most of it was out of pity for the fact he was bouncing off the walls. I hoped that the fact much of the snow was already gone and that it wasn’t so cold would be more tolerable to his feet.

It was 45 F when Jens dropped us off for a short 3 mile jaunt in the cloudy, windy, pre-dawn. I didn’t dare risk more. It would gut me if I did that and found it had turned Loke’s paws into raw meat.

The improvement to his feet remained minimal, so I made an appointment with the vet. Part of me wondered if I should have been making an appointment with the dermatology clinic in Stockholm, but it can take months.

Then Facebook actually did me a favor. It reminded me of the visit with the dermatologist last year and her diagnosis that what other vets had called and treated as a simple infection was more subtle and complicated. His main issue was actually a rash or skin irritation like hives which broke the skin barrier and infections were a secondary problem. Deal with the skin irritation while keeping the skin clean and it should clear up.

I had completely forgotten that diagnosis. So, when I saw Franz later that morning, I mentioned that. After a quick look, he decided it was probably the same exact thing as the dermatologist had said in January 2017. He gave me some topical cortisone to deal with the inflammation and told me to just wash his feet with the antiseptic every other day. You know. It’s working! With less frequent treatments. Amazing what a little cortisone spray can accomplish.

So, thank you Facebook for the, ‘On this Day – X years ago’ function! Maybe, if Loke is still with us, it will remind me of this in January 2019 if the pattern of outbreak continues. It’s probably hazel pollen that caused the initial outbreak at the beginning of January. Thanks to the freakishly warm weather the hazel bushes/trees apparently began blooming on January 5th, same as the last few years. The bread incident just set it back.

*sigh* I have a dog allergic to HAZEL pollen and live in Sweden. Admittedly, he’s allergic to a lot more than that, but still.

The next ride was on January 29th, and Weather Word for that day – Miserable.

 

Frost Wiks walk and a slushy Wiks Walk. Just a few days difference.

All the walking I’d been doing of late, my body at last told me in no uncertain terms that I needed a break. Especially after the walk with Jens which about broke me down completely. Here I’d been feeling pretty proud about my Wiks walks and then I about dropped into a puddle of slush on one.

It was almost balmy, mid 30’s yesterday. Misty drizzle giving a haze to the neighborhood. So very dark though. Even as it came up on lunch, it still had an almost twilight murk. After I had lunch, I gave up on the hope it would get brighter and started dressing for mid-20’s F. “At least it’s not raining,” I told myself. Loke was a bit excited as I clipped the leash and stepped out –

Only to find myself in a bizarre deluge of big clumps of slush. It looked a lot like snow flakes, but they fell like anvils and landed with soggy ‘splats’. Now I can deal with snow. A light misty drizzle, I can handle. Splatting slush? I was a breath away from turning back inside. Only Loke’s pitiful eyes and hopeful tail wag pushed me out.

I had plenty of wool on my top, but my legs were woefully under layered for that level of wet. Still, I humored the elderly husky and got ready to roll out. Thankfully the slushfall only lasted about 5 minutes. Just enough to get me shivering with cold legs. Most of the rest of the ride was precipitation free or spates of the misty drizzle I don’t mind. The 33 F ambient temp dropped to a windchill between 27.5 and 28.5. I didn’t really even need gloves for it, oddly.

Had a bit of a spook with a highly aggressive Irish Setter. His owner, a wisp of a woman in her 60’s almost lost her footing and went down which would have been a disaster. The dog was almost too much for her to control.

I briefly toyed with the idea of adding the out-n-back along the northern stretch of the river, but the cold and just the ‘meh’ of pushing on in such dreariness on a hamster track sapped any motivation. I found it rather fitting as I rode back toward home, that even the ducks looked miserable at the river side by the wet, gray weather.

Loke seemed happy though with a tad under 4 miles. I like keeping the old guy happy as I can.

So, that’s everything caught up. I’ll probably ride again today as it snowed overnight. It’s too warm to stick for long, but maybe I can still get a few miles in it. Even a soggy dusting of snow brightens the landscape!

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The Cold That Wouldn’t Die
January 14, 2018, 6:29 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

The plans of mice and men. I seem to throw that phrase out quite a bit it feels.

So, after my 6 mile ride on December 18th, I held on to my glorious plans of getting enough miles to bump 2017 from ‘Worst Mileage Year’ to ‘Second Worst Mileage Year’ at least. Just needed 15 miles or so for that. I could do that in 12 days. Surely. Right?

Oh, how the world conspired against me. First of course was the weather. It either hit bitterly cold while I had tasks and chores to do or it was warm enough to rain and not the tolerable misty sort. I watched the days ticked down, convinced I’d get a break. I remained fairly optimistic when Jens called to cheerfully say that he’d done it! He had apparently escaped Las Vegas without a cold and would be home on schedule.

Then came the frenzy of activity once he was back with matinee movies and lunch with his parents, both of which meant I didn’t have time to squeeze in extra miles. As we were at the mall with the movie theater, Jens complained about his throat hurting just 16 hours or so after his flight had touched down. Roughly 24 hours after he spoke those ill-fated words, my throat started to hurt as we were having lunch with his parents.

I went through the phase of where the throat feels as if a ball of needles had gotten stuck and coated with battery acid. Then the sneezing with sinus aches. Then the coughing. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a cold with such horrible, unrelenting, debilitating coughs. Railroad spikes through my skull. Fits of it left me curled into miserable little balls, gasping and whimpering. A few times, I honestly wondered if I was going to cough my way into another stroke.

Jens was pretty miserable with the cold too, but he didn’t have the brutal cough I did. He was very sweet and took care of me and even all the walkies with Loke right through his own illness. The days kept marching on as days will and the cough lingered and lingered. I’ve been known to ride even with a hacking cold, but the fever that kept popping up stopped any ideas of me doing that. Well, that and the image of me having one of the bad fits that felt like my head was going to implode or explode, forcing me to curl up on the ground beside my trike. A week.. and still I coughed.

The vague hope that I could finish 2017 with a ride, even if it would still leave me 15 miles short, and start 2018 with another, was crushed as the cough went on and on.

Finally, I started to feel a bit better and we had a brutal cold snap. Almost a week of temps in the low teens during the day and single digits at night. Every time I went out in it, the cough, manageable in warm rooms, wracked me every time I went out in the bitter chill and took a few breaths of that frigid, dry air. Sad really and not just because it kept me from rolling, but because it kept me from doing anything except the absolute shortest walks with Loke on the absolutely most GORGEOUS days we’ve had in MONTHS.

This is just right outside the apartment. Birches and blue sky.

The mornings during those days of Arctic temps would start off with sub-freezing fog before the sunrise. Then it would blow away to flawless blue skies and every single limb of the winter-bare trees were sheathed in gleaming, pure white ice.  Those trees, made so beautiful by pre-dawn freezing mist, completely made up for the utter lack of snow. I itched to drive out of Wiks castle with Loke and my camera to take pictures of it in all its glory. But, no. The cough.

Then the weather made a bounce back to the warmer range, hovering right at the threshhold of freezing and thawing. We even had a bit of snow. The beauty of the frosted trees actually survived it for a bit, even made more stunning when soft, light snow fell and was snared by the delicate ice crystals. It added ‘lift’ to the amount of white on the limbs.

By this time of course, we were over a week into the New Year. With the warmer temps that didn’t trigger coughing, one would think I could get out for a ride and photos, yes? Nope!

We were getting our refrigerator replaced and apartment heaters fixed, which both became scheduled right when I was physically able to go out and enjoy the gift that winter had finally given us. Even with gray skies, the trees and dusting of snow were so very lovely. Yet, I remained penned up for 3 days, waiting for repair and delivery men.

I kept an eye on the forecast during this ridiculous taunting of fate. It promised that Saturday, January 13th, though gray, would be hovering right around the freezing mark but no rain. Saturday, there would be no deliveries or repairs to wait on.

The weather was just as promised. About 33 F and gray skies like flat, un-reflective lead. After getting Starbucks for the hubby, I came home and started getting ready to ride. It took a while. During the time I was sick, I managed to wash laundry, but not fold it. Clothes are scattered in disarray all over the place, hiding the location of my heavy woolens. I’ve been putting a dent in it, but not enough to find my snuggly layers. After wandering and searching through the various nooks and crannies, I gave up and resorted to… *shudder* cotton. Track pants over my mid-weight (and easy-to-spot bright pink) thermals, a zipper hoodie and a oversized sloppy sweater. I knew if it rained I’d instantly turn into a block of ice with cotton, but I was hoping the forecast was right.

Loke seemed incredulous as I made the final preparations. Phone, check. Garmin, check. Harnessed husky, check.

I felt I was taking a risk on bringing Loke for a run. Back on the 11th, I heard a noise and my heart dropped into my feet. Licking. Loke was licking and before I even looked, I was certain he was licking a foot. He’s been naughty and gotten into a few things he shouldn’t. The most common symptom of his allergies the past few years has actually been intestinal upset rather than skin infections. Well, not this time. I’ve been treating it and it looked like it was working. The skin didn’t look too bad, so I decided to bring him with me. He probably would have chewed through the walls if I tried to leave him at home any way. Poor puppy has been fed up with walkies.

So, out the door we went. While I was relieved to finally be going for the first ride of 2018, it wasn’t without trepidation. I was pretty sure it was going to be a pitiful 2 miles and something I’d struggle over every inch of. So much fitness lost and such.

Loke was raring to go and we rolled out. Much to my surprise, as the first mile rolled away, I didn’t feel nearly as bad as anticipated. I expected to cough quite a bit brought on by the chill air and deeper breaths from the exercise, but no. I actually felt pretty good. We rolled off along the ‘back’ way to come through the wooded patch of the frisbee golf course. Came up to the steep hill on that path with it’s ice and gravel and cranked up it just fine.

My furball was so happy. He tried to run as much as possible.

I did notice one thing though, which I’ve been seeing signs of in other areas of his life. Loke wasn’t as strong as he used to be. Energy? God yes. Buckets of it. Stamina? Oh, yes. Strength? Not so much any more.

I still kept the ride short, not wanting to overdo it and set myself back into a worse state of the cold. It was 4 miles which was still 1 or 2 miles more than I thought it would be. With the last half mile, I really felt the ride in my legs and was actually panting some as I came in, having pushed a bit. It didn’t feel like suffering though. It felt like, exercising toward improvement.

Loke just paced around and harassed Jens. 4 miles? Pfft. Not even a scratch in the surface of his energy.

I immediately treated Loke’s foot again. It didn’t look any worse for wear, so still seemed on the road for improvement. Of course, later in the evening, Jens and I were watching the original Predator. Gun fire and grenade launchers banging through the apartment as Loke was laying in his bed in bedroom, completely out of sight. I suddenly sat up. Jens gave me a baffled look as I flung myself out of the chair, “What’s wrong?”

“Loke’s licking his foot.”

Of course, my hubby looked dubious. Surely I couldn’t have heard the soft, sneaky sounds of our husky licking his foot during a firefight scene from Predator on our surround sound. Somehow, that’s exactly what I did. I slapped more antiseptic on his foot and then taped a sock over it.

This infection really worries me. The last time Loke needed antibiotics, it was some rare, hard to find kind because the bacteria has become resistant to the more common sorts. It’s sort of the ‘last resort’ antibiotics. If we can’t beat this with topical washes and antiseptics, there’s no telling if antibiotics will even work again. That scares me. I’ve often thought it was going to be a race between what would take Loke first. Old age or a super-bug eating his feet to the bone. My bets were leaning toward the super-bug. There have been times I wasn’t even sure if he was going to make it to 12 years old.

I’ve actually been feeling guilty about Loke the past 8-10 months or so. He was doing good back in 2016 when we had our best mileage ever with the trike. He was fit. He was strong. Enter 2017 when my hip finally yanked the frequency of my cycling to almost a standstill. Then there was Lyme Disease and problems with my feet. Days and sometimes weeks would pass without rides and when they did come, they weren’t 8, 10, 20, 30 miles. They were 2 miles. Or 5 miles. Through it all, he’s lost muscle and strength, something which seems to have drastically accelerated since Christmas. Maybe. Just maybe, if I’d cycled more, he’d still be strong as well as energetic and with unstoppable stamina.

I know a lot of my not-cycling last year couldn’t be helped, but it still doesn’t stop me from feeling hard on myself about it for Loke’s sake. Now, he’s older and with his allergy issues, it’s harder for him to bounce back. Hard to get muscle back on him. Just… hard.

Hey! I managed to get him to officially be an ‘old man’. That’s something I wasn’t sure would happen if you’d asked me about it when he was 8 years old.