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.
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.
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.
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. ❤ ♥💕
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.
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.
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.
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’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!
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:
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.”
Now it’s the end of June. What happened to those months? Geesh.
The great pandemic pause. I think today is day 106 of the state of emergency in Ontario.
Some things in my life are chugging along and other things seem on hold. I haven’t been keeping up with my academic research and writing. Zoom academic administration, chairing video conference meetings in a period of crisis, takes a lot of time and energy.
For the first time, I’m having attention span issues. I pick up books and I put them down. I start writing things and then I stop. I feel like I’m waiting for something to happen, for something to be decided, but it’s not clear what.
Interestingly general fitness is going fine. I’m working out lots. It helps with stress and I get to work out with my son for company. I’m racing my bike on Zwift and getting in some yoga though not as much as I’d like.
I’d been writing the monthly updates for awhile now. I liked writing them. But what’s to update in the great pause? Except it’s now clearer than ever that we’re in this strange state for a long time. It’s not a pause. I have friends starting big new jobs. Friends moving across the country. Friends having babies. In the middle of the pandemic life goes on.
We’re emerging a bit here in Ontario. I’m still working from home but I’ve been out riding my bike and having friends visit in the backyard. I’m nervous about what fall and winter will bring so I’m making sure I get out some now while we can.
“Focus” seems an ironic word choice during the pandemic. It’s so hard to do.
I’m back on it though. Trying. The good thing is my knee is doing mostly okay. I carried laundry up steps this morning without pain. If I go early enough I can even take Cheddar for longer walks. Riding lots seems to help.
First, the February good news. I’m counting down the days to spring. I’m loving the added evening light. There are days when it’s clear spring is happening soon.
Also, February contains Valentine’s Day. And that’s a good thing.
The rest of February is a mixed bag of feelings.
With my knee surgery within the year, I’ve been trying to push myself. I want to be in the best shape possible before it’s all knee rehab all the time. I’ve been watching another athletic friend go through the work that’s required in recovery and that was her goal. Go into surgery in fighting form. (Go Patty!) That’s my focus for the year.
My knee and knee surgery isn’t really bad or good. It just is.
But it’s also a challenge in that there a lot of things I just can’t do. Have I mentioned how much I miss running? Aikido? Soccer? CrossFit? Blerg. Yawn.
Here’s a green belt Aikido selfie from four years ago.
But focusing on what I can do…
Mostly it’s strength training, yoga, and Zwift these days with the odd dog walk thrown in for good measure. There’s also a lot of tedious knee physio. That’s not a bad combo but by temperament I’m a Jill of All Sports.
It’s also a lot of balancing. Workout hard, let my knee recover. Gentle exercise, hard thing, rest. Repeat. I’m edgy about it. I want to bite peoples’ heads off when they say, listen to your body. (Sorry friends!) Our bodies don’t have singular messages. They don’t speak with one voice. My heart and lungs want to push harder. My knee says slow down. My strong core is ready for anything but again the knee doesn’t like quick, unexpected movements on unstable ground. Okay, so maybe I should just listen to my knee since that’s my focus for the year. But my knee isn’t always the most helpful voice. My knee says, nothing hurts on the sofa. Grab a book! We can wait for surgery with a backlog of unread fiction and pots of tea. Lots of Netflix to catch up on.
Also, for the first time since this whole knee falling apart thing began I’m self conscious exercising in public. I’m noticing my incapacity more and feeling embarrassed. I shouldn’t have that attitude. I wouldn’t have it if others had the same disability. And then I get angry at myself for being so self-judgey. That’s not a very good mood cycle.
When I do Modo Yoga in the studio now I’m very conscious of my limitations. There are things I just can’t do no matter how modified. That’s you, hero pose. I can manage tree and eagle with my right leg as the sole leg but not the left. I imagine I can see people looking and wondering what’s up.
This month I went to my favorite lunch hour fitness class at work, the full hour TRX class plus a “playground” add on that’s like calisthenics. The regular instructor was away and instead we did a Tabata style thing with circuits and partners and there were a couple of things–like sprinting for 40 seconds and jumping jacks for 40 seconds–that I just couldn’t do. I felt rotten and I nearly left the class. Instead, I told the instructor about my knee and I did planks instead. I’m glad I stayed even though my abs are sore.
As you can tell even my mood has taken a hit. I’ve become crankypants Sam. This is not normal for me. My mellow disposition is somewhat legendary. It’s part of what makes me a good academic leader. I’m hard to ruffle and cheerful and generous by nature. I don’t work at it. It’s how I wake up. It’s who I am. But I’ve been realizing lately that it takes a certain amount of exercise to keep me that way. As other people have been counting up to some really big numbers in the 220 in 2020 group, I’m having to workout less than usual to keep up with knee issues and recovery.
Also, it’s been extra busy at work. If January feels like it lasted forever, February is the month that flew by.
Also, unlike January when I did a lot of riding, February has been all indoor riding. I think that’s been part of the mood issue. My plan is to get back on my bike and make some plans for summer riding.
So Sarah and I got out for some fat bike riding on the weekend. That was fun!
Sarah, Joh, and I have registered for the Ride for Heart. It’s 75 km pretty early in the season. We’re really looking forward to it.