Friday, January 28, 2011

Toddler and Tiaras

It's on Netflix, Watch Instantly. I found myself rooting for Kaleigh (pronounced Kay-lee) for the Grand Supreme in the Little Miss Georgia pageant. 

Seriously, what's the matter with me?

Fighting Weight

In other news, I weighed 150.5 on January 21, 2010. This morning I weighed 143.5 on January 28, 2011. Before January 15th (my surgery date), my LT 2x20 test was equivalent to my best 2x20 in April 2010.

Why am I blogging about this? Well, during times that suck, you have to look at the positive instead of moan and groan about what ifs that you can't control. I'm just looking at some facts. How far I've come keeps me going and looking forward to seeing what I'm capable of today.

Every day is better than the last.

Becoming a Triathlete

So, during my healing process, I'm basically becoming a triathlete. I wouldn't be surprised if Zoot called me, given my rigorous schedule--doctor approved.

My day consists of my swim of soaking my feet in the hot tub for 10-15 minutes, then a 25 minute spin on the trainer at about 60watt average, and then a 45-60 minute walk with the dog. I'll repeat the intense spin in the evening, too, as the cycling is my best leg by far.

Oh and I practice various poses while on the bike. It's a bit uncomfortable in my stomach to grab my handlebars so I hold on to the the nose or the back of the saddle, or I'll reach up and grab the open garage door at the seams (like I'm rock climbing) to take all weight and pressure off my stomach.

I mix it up by listening to various stations on Pandora, almost torturous stations like Mr. Mister or Simple Minds radio just to make me smile to see what they'll throw at me. Yesterday I heard several Mike and the Mechanics songs, a Genesis song, and what I think was Belinda Carlisle.

Needless to say, I'm exhausted by my routine. No, that's a lie.But at least I've been able to get some more computer, ASDFJKL;, work in. Typey, type, type.

My next destination is team camp--Feb 17--followed by races in Merced. Then I'll go back to Seattle early March until San Dimas and Redlands later in the month. The goal is to start to get the blood flowing since I've been two weeks off the bike. Good thing I put in so much work for the past several months. I'll need it to bounce back from all this.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hospital Adventures: Part 4

Perhaps I shouldn't have looked so smug with my cup of coffee and fashionable binder in my last post because the next day began my 5-day hospital stay in Tucson.

I know, these hospital visits are starting to parody the Rocky movies. The collarbone/concussion was the first and will never be forgotten just like Apollo Creed. Then you were surprised at the tumor sequel but were still entertained by the twists and turns and moved by the ending of me becoming the Heavyweight Tumor Champion of the World. And then the hernia sequel made you groan, but somehow, just like Mr. T did in Rocky 3, it kept you interested. But alas! When you thought you had had enough, I threw in the Ivan Drago of bowel obstructions, which somehow still moved and kept the interest of the audience. I assure you, however, if there is a part five hospital visit, I'll spare you and won't bother to blog about it, just like no one should have ever paid to see Rocky fight Tommy Gunn in Rocky V.

Anyway, back to my hospital story. I flew back to Tucson an hour or so after posting and didn't feel very well. I was very bloated and just tired. That night I woke up around midnight because I couldn't get comfortable. Lying on either side hurt and I felt short of breath when I tried sleeping on my back. I immediately took some more Tylenol and tossed and turned until 2:30 a.m. when I decided to take an oxycodone. That knocked me out until 5:30 a.m. when I woke up because I just couldn't get comfortable. The symptoms worsened and at 8:30 a.m. I was nauseated and sweating, running to the bathroom to vomit, which actually provided about 30 minutes of relief until the nauseated, shortness of breath cycle would begin again. Oh and every time I would heave, it felt like my belly stitches would tear, leaving my stomach throbbing afterwards.

This cycle continued like clockwork, so I called my doctor in Seattle and she told me to go to the ER right away. I asked her if she would vouch for me that going to the ER was necessary if the insurance company refused payment, and she seemed astounded that I would ask such a question. She said, "Um, shortness of breath, vomiting--this is an emergency. You can't not go to the ER because you're afraid it won't be covered." Being a doctor, she must not have to fight much with her insurance on what's covered and not covered. Oh health's disturbing how aware I've become of the details of coverage since buying my own individual plan.

When I got to the ER, I sat in my pajamas in the waiting room, with my head over a trashcan while family members of other patients watched some terrible lip sync game show with the volume cranked up really high. I still remember this terrible singer, bleating "Oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know...." which may have actually been worse than the pain I was in at the time.

The next two hours (I think of it as the 2 years before I got morphine and anti-nausea medicine.) must have been the most terrible hours of my life thus far because in addition to the nausea/vomit/stitches tearing cycle, it also involved them shoving an NG tube up my nose and down my throat. This tube must have been at least two feet long. When the tube entered my nasal cavity, it burned like when you go swimming and water gets in your nose, and then the tube sliding down my throat felt like swallowing a piece of Dorito with sharp edges (oh Doritos--I miss you good friend.) but instead of the Dorito going into your stomach, it just stays lodged in your throat, leaving you just swallowing in pain trying to remove it. I remember crying and saying out loud, "I have to leave this tube in over night?!!! I can't make it 10 minutes!" But quickly I realized any anxiety and crying only made my body and throat tense up and made it worse. It was so weird how thoughts of "distress tolerance" and "acceptance" started becoming louder in my mind, slowly overtaking my whimpering and negativity. Or it could have been the morphine. Probably a mixture of both.
My transformation into an elephant
Anyway, to make a long hospital visit short, I ended up having a bowel obstruction and/or an ileus. No, this was not caused by me riding the trainer the day before. The doctor said that sometimes when healing, scar tissue latches onto the bowels and creates a kink and other times after abdominal surgery, especially, the bowels just shut down. It's like they go on strike. I imagined them as union workers, with picket signs, tired of long hours of digesting the 4,000+ calorie diet I generally eat. But instead of marching, they're squatting with their signs blocking the passage way for the food to pass--kind of like how the truckers went on strike and blocked roads when gas prices went way up.

I ended up keeping the NG tube in for three days. The purpose of the tube was to give my bowels a break by sucking out all the acid in my stomach. This also prevented my symptoms of nausea and shortness of breath from reappearing. What was happening was that all the CO2 in my abdominal cavity from my previous surgery (they fill your abdomen with CO2 when they perform laparoscopic surgeries) plus all the acid and gas from my bowel obstruction was rising and filling my chest, creating a massive amount of pressure on my diaphragm. For me it felt like that shortness of breath you get if you're punched in the stomach, but the feeling didn't go away (well, unless I vomited).

I also wasn't allowed to eat or drink until Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. I was so excited for my first meal of lemon jello. In the meantime, I was busy trying to figure out how many calories were in an 1000mL IV bag made of 5% dextrose...

Feast Fit for a Queen

And then once I was able to have a bowel movement and also eat Saltines without puking, I was able to go home, which was Monday afternoon.
I'm into the Andy Dufresne "Freedom from Shawshank" poses
Now back in my host house in Tucson, I'm taking it easy for a few days with long walks. The bloating has gone down significantly from where it was, but I still have a ways to go before it goes back to normal, especially around my bullet holes.
Updated belly with Man Hands

Here are some musings/events of note during my stay.

Why does the hospital food have high fructose corn syrup in it? The orange sherbet and so called healthy "Mighty Shake" both had high fructose corn syrup as the second or third ingredient. The hospital had signs all around that said "Get healthy and fit for the new year." You would think at a place of health, the food would actually be a little less processed and healthy? I think we need a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution intervention.

It's sort of fun to wake up and pee in a portable toilet. I felt like a queen who couldn't be bothered to walk the 10 steps to the bathroom. It was also difficult to stretch the IV machine that far.
Portable Throne

The stay was made much easier by the company of my boyfriend and nurse. I remember watching him sleep and thinking of Rudyard Kipling's "The Elephant's Child" in Just So Stories. Does he look at me and wonder why he as a stubby nose instead of a trunk like mine?

Sleepy nurse
Then I would go back to watching "I Used to Be Fat" and "Jerseylicious" on MTV. I kept staring at the screen while watching Jerseylicious and thinking, "Do these women with orange faces and circus-like hoop earrings really think they're attractive?" But they probably would think the same about me, so whatever...

Snooki from Jersey Shore
I must have looked insane pushing my IV while walking around the parking lot and sidewalk in my hospital gown and slippers--especially at night when all you could see was the green glow from the machine. (I was supposed to go on walks to get my bowels moving.) Dean (my nurse) and I were stopped twice by staff (one in a soccer mom mini-van) who called security because they thought we were were trying to escape from the hospital. Really? It's not like it's a prison or a high-security mental ward.

Attractive Self-Photo

Oh and, of course, I also took mental notes on what events were and were not blog worthy :) So there you have it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Coffee and Binders

My coach has been texting me to check up on me. Today on the schedule it is a 30-minute trainer ride to flush the nutrients through my legs. I'm glad I don't have to do anything else because it's pretty uncomfortable to put my hands on the bars. I sort of felt like Bob Dole, not knowing what to do with my hands if I can't put them on the bar. I opted to switch out the pen for the coffee cup.

It felt really good though to just flop over the pedals. Now I'm heading back to Tucson to flop over the pedals in the warmth. Stay tuned for Binder Adventures...oh where will I go in my Binder??? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pale Rider

Day one without oxycodone. That's a big step.

Saturday I was walking around after surgery, back and forth down the hallway. I thought--wow! This surgery was EASY. The nurse tried to give me some pain medicine to take before I went home and I said, "Nay, Nurse! I'm drug-free!" She called my doctor, who told her I was probably still jacked from some of the pain medicine pumped through my veins during the surgery and strongly advised I take the medicine. I compromised and took one of the recommended two pills, scoffed at the wheelchair, and then starting whistling Dixie, practically skipping to the car.

Then...three hours later...oh god! Oh god! Oh god! "Give me my "Pirin" tablets!" I was screaming like Nathan Lane in The Birdcage.

"Agador, hand me my Pirin tablets!"

I took another oxycodone and passed out. And then woke up in the middle of the night, took another pill and proceeded to sleep again. Sunday I started taking halfsies and added ibuprofen and now Monday, I'm on Tylenol and ibuprofen, walking around a bit (45 minutes/mile pace) in my girdle just to try to avoid bed sores and not feel like the half-ton woman who needs to be cut out of her house. It's hard going from 4 hours of exercise a day to not leaving the bed.

But don't worry, friends, it will be several days before I even consider getting back on the bicycle. I have to be able to see my feet first. Right now my belly is so swollen I can only see the tips of my toenails :( I'm wearing this binder around my waist, which makes me feel like I just got a tummy tuck and am waiting for my reveal. Yeah, something like that--except my reveal will bare a tummy with a zipper and now updated bullet holes. I like to think of myself like Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider, with six wounds in my stomach instead of my back.

Gosh, I'm going to be hot when I'm 50. Stay tuned.

Bullet Holes and Zipper

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Abs of Mesh

It's a new year--why not start it out with one of my favorite things, right?! Surgery!

Yes, with all this reality TV I've been watching, I've decided to get abdominal implants. I won it on Bridalplasty. Yes, it's a real show, but no, I'm not getting cosmetic plastic surgery. I am, however, getting surgery on Saturday.

And it goes like this...

There once was a girl who dreamed of killer abs. She rode and lifted and rode and lifted and watched what she ate every other day or so until her craving for ice cream kicked in on the third day. Anyway, then one dehydrated morning, she looked in the mirror and said, hey I'm getting ripped! Then a few days later she looked in the mirror and said, man I'm bloated. Must be all that ice cream. So she let it go for a few days and then showed her roommate who said, that looks weird. She looked in the mirror and it looked like this:

And then the girl was worried and thought, oh no! Another tumor! WTF? Why can't I be normal? And then she decided to ask her doctor, WebMD, who suggested it may be a hernia. But the pictures on the Google image searches were so horrifying that the girl thought she should probably go see an expert. So, she asked an expert and they said:

Men on Film weigh in on the lump
But the girl thought the men were just jealous of her 2 upper abs so she decided to fly to Seattle to see a real expert,  who poked and prodded and said, yep, that's a hernia, gave her a hug, and sent her off to see Dr. White in the exam room with a candlestick (Professor Plum was outside). Dr. White then confirmed, yes, it's a hernia, explained her recommended procedure (recovery time 1-3 days before cardio can resume--hizzah!), and offered to give her abs of mesh... STEEL! But I opted for carbon fiber (and to continue this post in the first person).

Even so, I expect to look like this after Saturday (minus the "package" and such) and I plan to pose like this before every race. Rawwwr!


AND the best part is that it's a new year and a new deductible of $1000!!! YAY! And then 80/20 for the first $5,000 and then it's FREE for January because February is when my short term insurance plan ends and my new individual plan begins with a new deductible of $1000. So basically, to be insured, after you pay $2,000, everything is free...for this month because then my deductible starts over. So after this surgery, maybe I'll go after He-Man's quad implants next or whatever else I can squeeze into this month.

Oh some days I miss that old life when I had a steady paycheck and benefits and all that stuff. Maybe I would be thinking about buying my own Castle of Greyskull. But only on those days when my doctor tells me I could really benefit from some mesh abs to hold my intestines in.

Anyway, I'll be sure to get some pre-op photos of me in the waiting room. I'll tell the staff hello and probably opt out of the anal suppositories this time. (Fooled me once, shame on you....)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Carrie Bradshaw on Cycling

And now for a Carrie Bradshaw moment...
Oh my god! I love shoes! No, that's not what I was referring to. I was just thinking about how I post so many insightful thoughts on my blog, stuff that NO ONE has ever talked about before. And this next post, well, it felt like another INCREDIBLE deep, original thought, in the same way Carrie Bradshaw would inform the world that "relationships are tough" or "the grass is always greener..." etc. So as a newbie pro cyclist, I'm discovering all these things that other pros have known for years and years. So here's another thought.

When cycling for a career, it mirrors many of the elements of my former office job. I've made a list to properly compare the two.

1. Morning Routine
My morning routine hasn't changed much from when I had to travel into the office. I still wake up, have my coffee, pack my lunch (bottles of potion, bars that are cut open for easy access), pack my bag (jersey pockets, tune bike) dress according to the weather and the day's ride (if I'm climbing I'll add extra clothes for the descent in the same way if I had a meeting in the office I would take a shower or perhaps brush my hair). Applying my makeup has been replaced with applying chamois cream and sunblock. And, of course, just as before I will stall and delay, surf the web, etc. until the last minute when I have to get out the door in order to be to work on time. Regardless, I would never NOT show up and I always do my best to get there on time. Same with the bike--I would never miss a workout, or if I did, I would have a great reason like, I broke my foot, my bike was stolen (comparable to a work laptop being stolen) or I was in the hospital having a tumor removed.

2. There Are Good Days and Bad Days and the Middle Stuff Is Generally Boring.
Thinking back to my office job, I would look forward to days where I might have a fun meeting or a creative project to work on or if I had worked long and hard on a project and wanted to showcase my work in a presentation. Depending on my energy level, sometimes I would look forward to challenging days because they brought a huge sense of accomplishment. Same with the bike. Many days I don't want to get on the bike (especially when those days involve workouts including words like "2x20" or "test" or "till exhaustion" and I'll hem and haw and dream up all these grand schemes on how to turn these workouts into adventures and plan the route and then change the route for these workouts and then end up doing the originally planned route.) At work, I used to use my paycheck or bonus as motivation---definitely not anymore. I used to also be motivated in the office by the idea of praise or how embarrassing it would be to present anything less than my best. These are definitely the same motivational factors for me on the bike. I keep imagining myself succeeding and that gets me through a workout. On those really hard moments where my eyes are rolling behind my head from exhaustion, I imagine how disappointing it would be to look at my data at home and be lower than my target goal and try to push through those final moments.
And then as soon as these days over, I ride home with a sense of accomplishment or disappointment depending on how the day went. Oh but, of course, there are those days when I can't wait to test. Yes, those days. These days generally happen after a recovery week or when I'm feeling skinny and tan and don't have any saddlesores. Oh and when I try on my pants and for a split second think my femurs have grown, but in actuality the length of my pants have shrunk from a hot dryer. Regardless of the day, just like office work, when I'm home and someone says, how was your ride? My answers usually are "Good" "Sucked" or "OK."

Carrie Bradshaw having a bad day...

...which looks very similar to Tom Hanks having a bad day in Money Pit.

3. Some Coworkers Are Better than Others...
I can remember having to put on my headphones often in the office on hard days so I could get my work done on time. Otherwise, I might be distracted (or entertained) by my coworkers. Some coworkers are better to work with on certain projects than others. I'm finding the same thing on the bike. I have some friends that have to go to the bathroom every hour so I ride with them on my recovery days when stopping doesn't matter and I just want to enjoy their company. (Btw, I've been training my bladder to go once every four hours. There are times when I think OH GOD! and try to find a nice spot to go, but then if I stop thinking about it and shift a little on the bike, the urge goes away. It works! Try it!)
I only ride on group rides when I don't have to worry about averaging my rode in Zone 3 or I can be confident that my rotation of drafting will put me in that zone--like when riding with Jamie Stangeland who knows no speed but faster than you--or behind some of the pro riders here in Tucson, or on the Rocket Ride in Seattle, Shootout in Tucson, etc.--you know, rides that I can be assured I'll be dropped in short order and I can maintain my zone 3 on my own.  Regardless the point is that I treat my workouts like deadlines and I only have so much time to complete the work. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and just as I would spend hours making my work perfect, I try to complete my workouts the same way and like to control the ride when I can. (If I were designing a city, I would have the roads and traffic lights built to accommodate a variety of different workouts. Long gradual incline without lights for 2x20s. Steep hill like Norway hill for 5 minute efforts, etc. Oh and all roads would be smooooth and buttery.)

Carrie and her coworkers laughing about Samantha's new STD and deciding where to go to buy something to celebrate.

(When I was re-reading this blog, I thought Thank god this is number four. This is a long blog.)
4. TGIM Thank God It's Monday...
Just like I would look forward to the weekend in the office, I look forward to my day off on Monday. During the week, much of the light hours are spent on the bike, sometimes 5-6 hours, sometimes my evenings are spent at the gym or toting my bike around for a repair, so it's nice to have a day where I don't have any bike obligations.
I usually spend my Mondays catching up on office work to make some money, making a meal plan for the week, and catching up on loose ends that I have been putting off during the week because all I wanted to do was sleep and eat in the evenings. Or writing this blog. I know, I live quite an EXCITING life here in Tucson. Eat, ride, eat, work, sleep. Repeat, Repeat.

5. Passion of the Bike.
I guess one thing that hasn't changed is my passion for my job. It's just been switched. Regardless of good days or bad days, I still am passionate about what I do. I used to be passionate about being an instructional designer. I would spend much time researching and seeing what others are doing, taking on projects and analyzing games to try to incorporate the best strategies into design. I spent my free time thinking about ideas and would spend a lot of extra time in the office to troubleshoot my designs and get it right. I'm definitely still interested in instructional design, but my passion has switched to cycling. I spend my free time researching training, reading about nutrition, successes of other cyclists, analyzing my data, and planning for my next ride. I look at trends in my performance, average watts versus heart rate. It's fun for me. It's my new life. I want to know everything about it and be the best cyclist I can be. I want to have a job that is rewarding beyond the paycheck and keeps me getting up every morning, ready to go to work.
And so far, I'm pleased I feel that way about cycling, at least in Stage 1--the off season. Stage 2 begins in late February until October--race season! There may be another Carrie Bradshaw "Life is not always what it seems"  update to destroy the innocence of this blog in just a few short months. I'll just look back and remember the days when I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. I guess that's called the off season.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Everybody's Working for the Weekends...

I, however, am working for Monday--because that's my day off the bike! YAY!

Only four more days in this build week, and then it's TGIM, y'all!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sponsor of the Month Award

I decided with the new year I would have a sponsor of the month award--or a sponsor of this month award. So many people have helped me out while here in Tucson and when I was in Seattle and everywhere, so by providing this award, I don't want to discount their services. And the award is really just an embarrassing blog post anyway, so many of you probably wouldn't want it.

However, I wanted to give special thanks out to my friend Christy who has been an extra generous sponsor. I met Christy from a friend of a friend of a friend in November. She heard I was a cyclist looking for a space to live and contacted me. I didn't know Christy so I went ahead with my plan to rent a space for cheap from ANOTHER generous cyclist--yes, the cycling community is great. During the last month, I got to know Christy through coffee, yoga, Christmas party, and cycling dates, and felt comfortable enough to take her offer to house me.
Winner of Sponsor of the Month

So, this month I moved to Marana and live with Christy rent free until I leave Tucson, which may be in April. I am struggling to make ends meet, so taking rent off of my list of bills while in Tucson is a HUGE relief. Christy is also the owner of the gym membership card--as you may have read about in my previous posts.

So a big thanks to Christy and her generosity...and her hot tub....

Hot tub with recovery drink after long ride. Is hot tubbing good for you after a ride?
...and her espresso machine...and her cute dog, Neza. (Hopefully, someday I can be as helpful to Christy as Neza is--bringing in that mail and all.)
Neza bringing in the newspaper

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Move This!

I just completed the last ride of the week before my rest day tomorrow--I'm looking forward to it more than I looked forward to prom as a teen (and I LOVED prom). This is the biggest week I've ever ridden--miles combined with intensity and I'm dead, well at least slightly comatose. Anyway, my goal was to keep my ride at tempo pace and after about two hours I began the groans and sighs process that you only do when you ride alone--god forbid! I would never look like a pouty pants on a group ride with acquaintances and strangers. I always keep my Joe Cool persona--but replace the braces with pieces of energy bar stuck in my teeth and dried salt and spit all around my mouth. Hottest rider of the year award....

Anyway I digress.

The point is that in a moment of weakness, I was grabbing for anything that would help me get through this last ride and I came up with the grand idea to switch Pandora to Technotronic radio. The first song had me smiling and thinking about my favorite teacher, Miss Gunn (who was our gym teacher at the time) and running laps in gym class in elementary school. The rest of the ride flew by--sort of--until the last 20 minutes or so when the Geez Louise's came out (again, never a groan I would say out loud if anyone else was around).

So, here's to you, Miss Gunn. Enjoy.

American Coyotes

I've recently discovered that Tucson is a hot wintering spot for celebrity coyotes seen on documentaries such as American Coyote--but not so much Coyote Ugly. I've seen four coyotes now. One trotting down the sidewalk next to my house as I was leaving. Of course, I was immediately fascinated by this coyote heading towards McDonalds, so I creeped behind him like any paparazzi would, fumbling for my phone to take a picture.

Here are the results. I think I have a shot at National Geographic.

Copyright Jennifer Wheeler All Rights Reserved

Copyright Jennifer Wheeler All Rights Reserved

Now then, see if you can find the coyote in this shot.

Where's Waldo?--Desert Edition

John Redcorn
Many of these coyote sightings have come after long hours on the bike with little food or water (like only a few thousand calories worth). According to John Redcorn, my Arlen spiritual advisor, perhaps this is my vision quest and the coyote is my spiritual animal rather than the wolf. However, if I have any say, I'd like to stick with the wolf as it's much more majestic.