Book Club · fitness · monthly check in · winter

Checking in for December and 2021 in general, looking ahead to 2022

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post and that is not a very good sign. I usually write for the blog quickly and cheerfully.

I don’t think I’ve felt as apprehensive about a new year in a very long time. I want to be hopeful and positive about better post pandemic times ahead. But I’m also frightened that they won’t be better. Even wishing people a happy new year felt sketchy. I mean, I did it. But I felt like I should knock on wood after or something.

I also know I should feel lucky for how wonderful the lives we have are in the global and historical scheme of things.

Add climate change and increasingly polarized politics, fueled by racism and misogny, to the mix of things I’m worried about and I just want to throw the blankets over my head and emerge in spring.

It’s been a very hard year. Sometimes I confess I’m tempted by this kind of message about how I feel about it but that’s not quite right either.

Bitmoji Sam putting out the trash that was 2021

I also don’t want to ignore the month and year that was. Time might be a bit blurry but it has its own significance. Someone joked on Twitter today, “Today is March 674, 2020.” And truly there are ways in which it feels like time has stood still. But I’m resisting that way of thinking partly because I watch my adult children growing and changing through these difficult times. They have a lot to teach me.

I have enjoyed an awful lot of things relevant to the blog–like very long trail rides and weekends away bike camping, canoe trips, and most recently yurt camping with my eldest child. I’ve missed people and parties and travel, but this year, unlike 2020 I at least got to spend time with my adult kids.

We looked at last year’s holiday pics and laughed. I couldn’t even remember what we did. It turns out we exchanged food and gifts in the backyard on the 24th and opened them on Zoom together the next day.

On the left, is Christmas 2020. Here we are wearing our holiday oodies (joke gift meant to keep us warm while meeting outside–they’ve actually been getting a lot of wear) in two separate bubbles, Guelph child and me on the left and the London sibling bubble on the right. On the right, Christmas 2021, is Christmas dinner, missing Susan who is taking the photo, but includes all three kids and me and my mother actually eating a meal together.

We gathered over the holidays as a fully vaccinated family and rapid tested on Christmas Eve. We know that’s not perfect but we’re a small group. We were going for multiple layers of imperfect protection, the swiss cheese model as they’ve been calling it.

Although my December posts have also often served as year end reflections, I’m not sure I have it in me this year.

I did have one good thought about winter’s very short days though. While we were yurt camping, I realized the urgency we felt about getting out and about in the daylight hours. If you’re biking in the morning and hiking in the afternoon and it’s starting to get dark just after 4 pm, that doesn’t leave a lot of time. It’s the one upside of short days, time in the light feels precious and special.

Bruce National Park Yurt Camping

I wondered about using the same approach to thinking about life during the pandemic. It’s reduced in various ways but maybe that means we focus in and enjoy what we do have. I did love bike camping this summer. I might plan for some more bike camping trips. I’ve always wanted take a cycling holiday in PEI and on the Gaspé Peninsula. Even if we don’t get to travel as much in the future, there’s an awful lot to love right here. Right? Right.

A few people in the blog community have talked about 2022 as the year of smaller pleasures.

Let’s officially make 2022 the year of tiny pleasures, says one woman to another while walking through the woods in the snow

Planning for the year ahead, will definitely include bike trips and canoe trips.

What else to report in planning for 2022?

My word of the year is integrity. I’ve been feeling the need to be grounded in my values and be less swayed by crises and the currents of popular opinion.

I’ve signed up for 30 days of Yoga with Adriene. I’ve approached it different ways in different years. Sometimes doing the class for that day whenever I’d normally do some yoga. Sometimes I’ve done the whole 30 days but spread out over many more.

I completed my 2021 distance challenge–see I did it!–and I might aim for higher next year. We’ll see.

Sam’s Strava Year in Review

I’ve signed up again for 222 workouts in 2022–but I’m going to need to work on variety. It can’t all be Zwifting and dog walks and YWA. With the gyms closed again, I’m going to need to get back to lifting and other forms of strength training. We’ve got lots of resistance bands, and a TRX, and even a kettle bell. I just need to pick them up occasionally. Come spring there might be some backyard personal training but there are months to go before then.

Not so much fitness related as mental health and overall well being related, I’ve signed up again for the Goodreads Challenge, pledging to read 25 books in 2022. You pick the number. I met my goal of 24 in 2021. My first book of 2022 is The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, which I’m loving. I’m happier when I make space in my life to read fiction.

My knee still hurts, both knees now, a lot. But all non-emergency surgeries are on hold again in Ontario due to the pandemic and I am going to not think too much about knee surgery. I’m going to try to do what I can to make peace with the knees I have, more knee physio and definitely more riding.

Happy New Year all! (And knock on wood.) I’m sorry these aren’t rosier or more upbeat messages but that’s where I am. I did get to have a lovely Christmas with the kids and a fun and relaxing New Year with Sarah and friends at her family farm. Life is good even if I am not riding my bike in Florida as planned.

Jeff is enjoying the Florida Keys and you can read about his adventures here.

Escapade in Marathon, Florida.
fitness · injury · monthly check in

Sam is Checking in for September 2021: Goodbye Snipe, Hello Zwift, and More Knee Sadness

September is the month where some activities end and others begin.

One that’s ending is sailboat racing. Bye Snipe! Water levels depending there may be a Turkey Regatta but I don’t think our schedules will fit it in. But we did race in the Snipe Nationals and ended the race feeling inspired to get better and be more competitive. That felt significant.

Here’s the official report here. And my blog post about our race is here.

Here’s photos from the Snipe Nationals:

September was also our last canoe camping trip of the season. It felt like we were sneaking in one last weekend in Algonquin. It was cold. It was wet. But it was also glorious. The fall colours were beautiful. We also saw a moose! But now we are drying out and putting away the canoe, paddles, etc until next spring.

September feels like a transitional month because while we are scrambling to sneak in some last outdoor bike rides, sail boat races, and canoe trips, it’s also the month that we are back to Zwift.

I’m just over halfway through Zwift Academy Road 2021. It feels good to making decent progress this time through. Last year was a little dicey!

I’m back to racing Thursday night team time trials with TFC on Team Phantom and I’m also captaining another TFC team, Team Dynamite, in the Tuesday night Zwift Racing League (ZRL) series.

We still have four spots available if you’re a category D rider looking for some company and competition and lots of laughs. Drop me a line! I’m racing in the mixed category and we’re a North American team, participating in the 730 pm EST time slot. I’ll blog about trying to organize a Zwift team/herd cats later, I’m sure.

Our first race was last night on Watopia’s Waistband. It’s a good distance, for me, just under 30 km, and relatively flat. It was a TTT and we needed four riders to compete. We started out with 6 but two people had technical difficulties and didn’t make it either into, or out of, the start pen. Our team of four was me, two other Phantom regulars, and a new person. It all went relatively smoothly with one team member keeping us in line (thanks Keith!) and another rider taking the majority of the turns at the front (thanks Jack!). Results won’t be posted until tomorrow but I’m not much fussed. Really it’s about improving over the season and coming together as a team. We’ll get there.

I’ve also rejoined the gym! More on that later too but the short version is “thanks vaccine mandates!”

I started these monthly updates because of impending knee replacement surgery. Turns out it’s not so ‘impending’ thanks to covid in addition to the usual wait times in my part of the world. I met with the surgeon and did the pre-op check up in August of 2019. Two years have passed since then. On the one hand, it’s not such a big deal. I can ride my bike and walk Cheddar in the neighbourhood. On the other, I’m in pain everyday, and waking during the night with knee pain. It doesn’t let up even though I am working around it. I plan my trips up and downstairs carefully. I miss long dog hikes and even walks around the city. I was thinking that stay-at-home pandemic time wouldn’t be a bad time to be recovering from knee replacement but it looks like the world will be wide open for travel and I’ll still be waiting. Grrr.

birthday · fitness · monthly check in

Sam is Checking in for August 2021

August 2021 is looking more like August 2020 than I might like in terms of the pandemic. As a result the pause on my gym membership continues until January 2022.

August is also the month when we start to lose the evening light and activities that depend on the light come to an end. The evenings are getting dark early for outdoor riding. No more weeknight Snipe racing either.

Racing on Guelph Lake, photo by Guelph Community Boating Club

It’s not all bad news. I did just order a new fancy wheel off bike trainer from Speed River Bicycles and I’m about to sign up for Zwift Academy Road. I’ll blog more about that later.

August is also the month the blog celebrates its birthday. Happy 9th Birthday blog! (We’re also coming up to our 5000th post. Wowza!)

August is also my birthday month.

I turn 57 on Tuesday. Friends tease me about the multi-event birthday celebrations but with family scattered and with conflicting schedules, I tend to celebrate my birthday with friends and family over a few days.

Here’s photos from Celebration #1, with Gavin in Guelph.

Celebration #2 involved riding 57 km with friends and family.

It was a stinking hot day (heat alert!) but we did it. Actually almost 60 km for my 57th birthday. There are no rules for birthday rides in my opinion but I’m glad we managed the distance given the weather. Phew!

There’s more celebrating yet to come on my actual birthday, August 31st, including an afternoon mammogram. Wish me luck.

fitness · monthly check in

Sam is Checking in for July

I don’t have a lot to say. July was a mostly happy blur. I mean summer had a slow start what with all the pandemic restrictions on activities and gatherings but when it got going, whoosh!

So for this month I’m just checking in with comics and memes.

How July began:

I’ve been suffering a bit with knee pain and yeah, this about captures it.

And then it was August 1, which has special meaning among academic friends. As a friend posted on social media, “Happy “I Didn’t Get Nearly Enough Done This Summer” Day, for all those who celebrate.”

I’ll be over here working and weeping and trying to get everything done.

And in the context of covid, it definitely felt like this!

fitness · monthly check in

Sam is checking in for April, with good news and bad news

Last month’s check-in was all about sad knee surgery news.

Luckily, it’s spring and so even during the pandemic it’s not all sad. Sarah and I did get out for our first road ride of the year. On April 10th, Saturday afternoon, we did the Tour de Guelph 50 km route. We liked it so much we’re going to do it again. It’s all country roads, not very much traffic, and beautiful rolling hills.

Our ride on Strava with an image of our bikes

We’ve registered for the Tour de Guelph, a local charity bike ride, chosen that for our route, and talked our friend David into coming along too.

Yes, I miss the crowds and the community but I’m riding anyway because it’s a cause that matters, more than ever in these times. Tour de Guelph supports Guelph General Hospital and other local charities. You can sponsor me here and Sarah here.

What’s the new covid friendly format? “Once again, we’re welcoming new and past riders to register, fundraise, and complete one of our Tour de Guelph routes, or any route of your own preference. Enjoy your ride any day starting Friday, June 4th and by Sunday, June 27th and in compliance with the current safety recommendation on the day of your ride.”

We haven’t picked a date yet but one weekend day in June we’ll go out, ride that fun 50 km, take lots of pics for social media, and BBQ in the backyard after.

So getting out on the road bike was April’s good news. The bad news was that I got sick for a full week. I even had to appoint an Acting Dean for a day. (Don’t worry. Not covid. I was tested twice.) Weirdly there are still serious stomach bugs around. I spent a night in the emergency department after getting severely dehydrated and passing out. The nurses and doctors were lovely. They were glad I came. They did all the heart workups and various other tests, declared me mostly suffering from dehydration and pumped me back up with fluids before sending me home. And I’m fine now. But boy, that wasn’t fun.

Recently I blogged about recovery rides, but last week was all “recovering” rides, as in recovering from illness. While sick I didn’t ride at all and I had a full week off the bike. I went to bed early, started re-watching the Sopranos, and lived on a diet of dry toast, apple sauce, and Gatorade. I’m getting better slowly and felt like doing some things but I wasn’t ready to get back to racing right away. Instead, while recovering, I gave one of the Zwift workouts for new parents a go. I’ve written about them before, see here. “It’s a workout collection consisting of shorter workouts for expectant moms, new parents, or any riders who are looking for “a less intense, yet still motivating, workout.” This one was called Sleepless, which feels about right at 30 minutes.

In addition to that I’ve been doing the HERD Wacky Wednesday and the DIRT family values ride on Tuesday. These are some of the best group rides on Zwift, I think. Friday I worked my way up to racing but just finished two laps out of four. Then on the following Thursday I rode the team time trial staying with the gang for two of three laps. I felt strong (until all of a sudden I didn’t) and I got a PR on that particular course.

Anyway, I’m almost back to normal and I’m looking forward to a)more Zwift racing and b)some leisurely outdoor rides (nowhere too far or too fast with our hospitals in the state of overwhelm that they’re in.) And I’m hoping May is a better month all round. ❤ ♥💕

fitness · monthly check in

Sam is checking in for March (late, because sad)

This post is delayed due to bad knee news and sadness writing about it. I seriously couldn’t even face thinking about it and I certainly didn’t want to write about it. But the news has kind of settled now and I’m doing okay.

Regular readers will know that these monthly check in posts have focused on my knee and getting ready for total knee replacement surgery.

In general, I’m a big fan of Canadian healthcare. I don’t mind waiting for non-urgent care. I’m pretty stoical about most things. But it no longer feels okay to be waiting for knee surgery.

Here’s Sam and her knees and her bike before all the talk of surgery even began. Photo by Ruthless Images.

I saw the sports medicine doctor who first referred me for surgery the other day, for the first time since June 2019. I saw the surgeon in person in August 2019 and we made plans. We talked about December 2020. That was a long time away then but I figured it would give me time to lose weight (recommended for easier recovery) and I could plan to take time off and have an acting dean in place for my medical leave.

Since then, August 2019, radio silence. Nothing. Nada. I emailed a few times. I phoned a few times. I read articles about the hospital in question putting all non-urgent surgery due to Covid. There were, for a time, weekly headlines about the hospital having covid outbreaks on surgical floors and about surgery cancellations.

So just a few weeks ago I gave in and reached out to the referring doctor. They took what seemed like dozens of x-rays of both knees. The diagnosis is unchanged–end stage osteoarthritis in both knees. There’s nothing there–no cartilage–just bone grinding on bone in both knees which feels about as good as that sounds.

The sports medicine doctor asked me what’s changed since we talked about my knees almost two years ago now. Well, the big bad news is that it’s now both knees. It’s no longer clear on some days which is the bad knee. They’re both bad. I used to tag blog posts about this issue Sam’s left knee. Sadly I need a new tag, simply Sam’s knees.

Better is that I’m walking okay. Not very far and not very fast. But I’m walking. I take Cheddar out two or three days a week and we can toddle around for 2 to 3 km without too much pain and suffering. (Don’t worry. He gets lots of walks. Other people walk him too.) And of course, I’m riding my bike lots.

The doctor said I could start again and get on a waitlist somewhere else. But I’m loathe to do that.

He said that the student athletes have been able to get surgeries right through covid. Seniors, however, were put off and now they have a backlog of frail, elderly patients who can’t walk around their house or get groceries. I’m in the middle. I’m not a 19 year old varsity athlete needing ACL reconstruction after injury. I’m not an 80 year old who can’t walk either. I’m just a 56 year old recreational athlete who wants to be able to go on longer walks (and snowshoe, and cross country ski, and skate) and not be in pain everyday.

I want to be able to go and do some of New Zealand’s Great Walks. More urgently, I’d like to be able to walk to work sometimes. I’d like to sleep through the night without knee pain. I’d like to take less ibuprofen.

In the meantime, I’ll be here, doing endless knee physio exercises and riding my bike. There are worse things than delayed surgery that have happened as a result of covid. No one in my house is sick. No one died. Some of us are even partially vaccinated now. As bad as things are in Ontario right now, I see the finish line and even though I’ll be limping over it, I’m excited to have the pandemic’s end in sight.

fitness · monthly check in · sleep

Sam is Checking In for February 2021!

Red flowers, Photo by Chandan Chaurasia on Unsplash

The months are weirdly flying by. I’m excited about spring and making plans for outdoor summer things–bike ride weekends, canoe trips, Snipe racing. I feel like I’ve got a focus now for all my fitness efforts that goes beyond mental health and beyond the thinking that exercise is one of the few fun things left that I can do. I’m in training for an active outdoor summer, doing fun things with family and friends. And I am so looking forward to that.

Fitness successes of February include getting my Tron on Zwift, having my Concept 2 erg arrive, appreciating the snow and the sunshine, and giving hourly movement a go.

It wasn’t all success though. There were some fitness struggles too. The big one is slack of sleep. Work got way too busy and I’m behind on sleep. I’m moving lots but not bringing the same energy to it that I once did. March I’ve decided will be different. I’m making sleep promises to myself.

I’ve already declared myself the Queen of the pandemic naps. But a year in, I’m finding it’s not enough.

I’m sure I’ll feel better when the days get longer, when the sun shines more, when I can be outside with colleagues, family, and friends but right now I am feeling pretty tired and I’m dragging myself through some of my days. Work is hard and I miss so many people. Bah.

I’ve noticed, thanks to my Garmin watch, that I am sleeping less and less, like often 6 hours a night. I’m pretty hardwired to sleep 8 hours a night. That gap is too big to make up with naps.

Again, I’m not sure why I can know something is true–sleep and spending time outside make me happy–but I can still struggle to do it. I need remind myself that it helps a lot with my performance on the bike as well as my happiness and well being. See Is Sleep the Most Underrated Hack for Performance Enhancement?

Looking ahead to March I’ll likely get to experience my first outdoor ride on my road bike–that’s usually a March thing and some more dog hikes with family and friends and work colleagues. All good!

Cheddar says stop working and get outside!

221 in 2021 · fitness · monthly check in · Zwift

Sam is checking in for January!

I keep telling myself that January will have been the hardest of the pandemic winter months. I’m not sure that’s right but it felt hard. For the first time in a few years I didn’t fly or drive south with my bike for a week. I’ve had a run of very lovely wintertime breaks. In years past I’ve gone to Florida 2020 and 2019, Arizona in 2015 and 2010, and South Carolina for bike club training camp also in 2015.

Here we are:

image
Top of the hill with Coach Chris and friends

This year instead there’s been a lot of Zwifting–so much Zwifting–806.6 km worth to be precise. My first pandemic Zwifting goal way back last spring was 100 km a week and then I upped it to 160 km this fall and now I’m averaging just over 200 km a week. Whee! Between that and Yoga With Adriene it’s a busy month fitness wise.

Outside has been dark and cold and windy and icy. Sarah and I got in a couple of long, happy fat bike rides and I’m hoping for lots more in February. Depending on how my knee holds up I’m hoping to get out the snow shoes at the farm in February too. We did have a yurt reservation at a provincial park for winter camping and some actual vacation but that’s now cancelled in light of Ontario’s ‘stay at home” orders.

“As of January 21, campground and backcountry campsites and roofed accommodations (including cabins, yurts and cottages) at Ontario Parks will be closed during the current provincial restriction period in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and support Ontario’s stay-at-home order.”

I get it. You can’t both stay at home and go winter camping. But still…

At work we’re making plans for summer and fall and that makes me hopeful. Sarah and I will make a bunch of summer camping reservations in hopes of spending time in Algonquin with the canoe. I’m also looking forward to a summer of local bike rides and Snipe racing.

How are you getting through the winter? What are you hoping for in the spring and summer?

No photo description available.

fall · fitness · monthly check in

Sam is checking in for November

November is officially my least favorite month of the year. It’s dark by late afternoon.

Today the sun sets, according to Google, at 4:46 pm.

There’s no snow yet to play in. It feels like possibilities are shutting down at the best of times. Add a pandemic and increasing lockdown like restrictions to that, especially ‘celebrate the holidays only with the people in your immediate household‘ to the mix and I was more worried about November than usual.

The good news? I made it. There were some very good days in there too. It wasn’t all a trudge.

Maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit

What helped?

I did daily gratitude posts.

I sat in front of my SAD lamp at breakfast

I got out of the house most days during daylight hours.

I did a lot of riding my bike in Zwift and Yoga with Adriene. I even graduated from Zwift Academy.

It helped that my bad knee has been behaving mostly and that riding helps keep my knee in line. Cheddar and I have been on some pretty long walks. Sometimes I’m not sure if it is feeling better or if I’m getting used to the pain. Either way, I’ll take it.

Cheddar relaxing after a walk

It’s a good thing that my knee is doing well. Given that hospitals are being kept busy with covid-19 patients, my knee replacement surgery is likely to be put off for awhile. University Hospital in London, Ontario which is where my surgery is to take place is currently battling covid-19 outbreaks on almost all of its floors including orthopedic surgery.

My best guess for when the surgery was to take place was December but that doesn’t seem likely now. I’m checking in with doctors next week to find out.

Dark trees without leaves against a cloudy sky

Side note: It was even hard to find November like photos. There are lots of fall colour photos of brilliant red and yellow leaves. There are lots of winter photos of woods in the snow and sunshine. Grey November with bare branches against the grey? Not so much. But in the right mood it’s got its own stark beauty. Doing okay in the rest of my life meant I had the emotional space, even with the pandemic, to see that.

I’m ending November less nervous about the next one, especially since things are looking good for the worst effects of the pandemic to be over.

Here’s my happy dance in anticipation of sun and snow and the gradual end of the pandemic!

fitness · monthly check in · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Sam’s monthly check in: September was busy!

As usual, September is a blur. That’s true in both non pandemic and pandemic times. I’ve been a student, then graduate student, then Professor, now also Dean. September is always a blur for me.

This one was especially busy with lots of time with students, in my role as Dean and Professor, both physically distanced on campus and virtually on Teams/Zoom. The university is a hectic place as we carry on mostly remotely. So many meetings!

We’re also busy navigating our slow and cautious return to campus as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic begins which will likely mean drawing back, restricting our activities further, and staying at home much more than usual this winter. There’ll be no warm weather biking for me in January. In a recent post Cate asked what we’ve been doing to nourish our soul, given that we are heading into a tough winter.

Well, I spent September working hard, but also riding my bike, visiting with family outdoors, taking care of some basic needs (haircut and dentist) and reading fiction. I’ve been trying to appreciate fall for what it is, rather than worrying about what’s to come. Less anticipatory sadness more now is all we have. Thanks Nicole!

Sarah and I have been spending more time at the farm in Prince Edward County. That means loops around Big Island and racing the Osprey Nest to Osprey Nest Strava segment we created.

I’ve also started working on campus, one day a week. That means I’m bike commuting again, which I’ve missed.

Left; Sam wearing her pink sparkly helmet and her Art Gallery of Guelph Begging Bear mask.
Right: Pink Brompton leaning on rock outside campus building

Here’s my office on campus, my outdoor office hours, and an empty (usually bustling) student plaza.

Despite being busy I’m still riding lots (for me). I might make 5000 km this year.

I’m loving Yoga With Adriene’s PE series for young people. That’s where my yoga attention span is these days. And we’re going to push backyard personal training as far as we can into the winter months.

I’m trying to think like a Norwegian about winter: “ People in Svalbard (at 78 deg north) had a more positive mindset than the people in Tromsø (69 deg north), who took a more optimistic view than people in Oslo (60 deg north). In other words, the positive wintertime mindset is most common where it’s most needed. These positive attitudes were apparent in Leibowitz’s casual conversations; indeed, she says that many of her friends struggled to understand why you would not enjoy winter. They embraced the possibility of skiing or hiking in the mountains, and savoured the chance to practice koselig – a Norwegian version of Denmark’s hygge – which might involve snuggling under blankets with a warm drink in the candlelight. Far from dwindling in the dark, Tromsø’s community flourished in the long polar night. “There is this interaction between the culture that you’re part of, and the mentality or mindset that grows out of it,” says Prof Joar Vittersø, Leibowitz’s collaborator at the Arctic University of Tromsø.”