Big Ed says Goodbye

Ed Kohler, aka ‘Big Ed’ is moving to Idaho. The Stockton Bicycle Club is really going to miss him. And those of us who found shelter from the wind riding on his wheel will especially miss him.

Big Ed Says Goodbye

Big Ed is a big guy. He is very fit and can churn away with lots of power for a long time, especially on flat terrain.  So he always had some devoted followers, especially when the ride pointed into the wind.

Ed is a retired Stockton Police Officer, and he is a friendly, outgoing and no nonsense kind of guy. Just a really dependable and strong character. He has been a good friend and riding companion of mine and I was always glad to see him at the start of a ride. I wasn’t alone; Big Ed had a lot of friends.

Lyle Liden hosted a good bye ride, and all the Tuesday/Thursday riders who could attend were there. Ed made a very nice speech, mentioning how much he had enjoyed riding with SBC and all the good times and good friends he had enjoyed interacting with over the years.

He did tell the story of his first club ride, and I recount it because it is typical experience: it certainly was for me my first time. Big Ed had been a bicycle patrol officer, and he came to his SBC club ride thinking he was pretty fit and a  pretty good rider. He was surprised by the difficulty of the hills and the pace of some of the riders, and he was really dragging off the back towards the ride’s end. He says that I stayed behind to escort him home. I don’t remember this, but I know I have done something similar more than once when new riders get dropped. Big Ed quickly became much stronger and better in the hills. These days when the ride is on flat ground I’m the one struggling to hold his wheel. And now that wheel is off to Idaho.

The Club is really going to miss you Big Ed. We wish you all the best in your new home. If/When you come back to visit your kids come join us for a ride. We’ll be happy to see you again!

 

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Rain or ‘serious’ threat of rain cancels…

That phrase is at the very top of our club’s monthly ride schedule. Today’s planned club ride is from Livermore up Mines Road to the Junction, and then possibly up to Mount Hamilton. Looking at the forecast and considering that this ride goes up into some major hills where the odds are it will be colder and wetter than on the valley floor, I’m going to stay home. I certainly think the subject line above describes today’s weather.

Mount Hamilton Last Monday: Not much Better Today

We are enjoying a wonderfully wet and snowy winter in California, with a snow pack well above historical averages. For one year at least we can forget about drought stories in the news. Reservoirs are nearly full and the foothills are green. But several of our club rides have been washed out and our cycling season is off to a slow start. Stoker really does not like cold or wet conditions, so she is in hibernation. My miles are down too. And if I can believe my power meter and heart rate monitor, so is my fitness.

All this wet weather has me reminiscing about the times I have been forced to ride in the rain. I usually try to follow the advice in the subject line, but even so I have been drenched on a number of occasions. There have been some memorable ones: descending the Col des Arivis in 2007 (it was wet in 2018 too, but not as bad). The ‘Waterfall Ride’ though Salt Springs Valley on Hunt Road way back in 2004: It rained so hard that cascading water rolled small stones across the pavement. And last year Stoker and I got soaked riding from Malaucene to Brantes. We even lost our brakes going down a steep and very wet road and I had to drag my foot on the pavement and run the bike onto a soft shoulder to slow us down. No crash and all was well: I’m going to keep lighting those candles and offer a brief prayer for safe cycling every day in France this year.

2007 Drenching in France: Descent to Follow

But I think the most memorable, and potentially dangerous ‘rain event’ was the ‘Ebbets Pass Epic’ back in  late June 2008. The weather forecast for that day was “Chance of a few scattered late afternoon thundershowers NORTH OF I 80. Since Ebbets Pass is well south of that we decided to ride, and the morning weather in Bear Valley was quite warm as we started off. I put a very light wind jacket in my jersey pocket, but I didn’t expect to use it.

Brake Adjustment in Brantes: The Deluge Follows

We rode to Markleville without any trouble, but as we started back up the east side of the pass the wind picked up and the clouds closed in and we got hit by a few drops, but there was nothing major until past Silver Creek Campground (elevation 7,000). Beyond this the rain started, and at about 7700 feet, it started to rain for real. There was thunder and lightning and very gusty winds to contend with. And I still had almost 30 minutes of pedaling to get to the summit!

At the 8000 ft sign, the rain started to sting on my bare arms. It wasn’t hail, since there were no stones on the pavement, but I am pretty sure it was freezing rain or sleet. I had my wind jacket in my jersey pocket, and I wasn’t a bit cold as long as I was climbing, so I left the jacket off, hoping the rain would stop and I could put in on at the top to keep me warm on the descent.

There is a lake at about the 8400 ft level, and here I really started to get scared. It was pouring, it was windy, I was soaked and I could barely see. It was so dark that the cars that passed had their headlights on, and I still had to climb these 6-11% gradients for another 10 minutes or so. Gary Colburn  told me that when he went through here it was so bad he had to stop.

I finally got to the summit at 8700 ft. It was still raining, the wind was whipping around, and it was getting colder. My bike computer said it was 51 degrees and I was soaking wet. BRR! I heard thunder and saw lightning. In front of me were 5 miles of  downhill road averaging 6.6% with steep pitches of over 12%. The pavement was wet and very slick with a glaze of fine sand and grit that I had noticed earlier on the dry climb up Ebbets. I remember thinking that I would have to be careful of that dry sand on the road during the descent, but the wet version was much worse. I was as frightened as I have ever been on a bike.

I could have waited at the top for the weather to clear, but there was no sign of that happening, so I decided to start down before I got hypothermia. It was still raining hard, and windy, and I had to  brake nearly continuously just to  try to keep upright. I made it down to Hermit Valley (eventually) without crashing.  The air was slightly warmer down at 7000 ft.  But when  I stopped at the bench to retrieve the bottle of water I left there earlier, thinking I might need it in the afternoon heat (hah!), I was shivering hard.

The climb up Pacific Grade cured my shivering, and the rain stopped, so I started to think I was going to survive. I was soaking wet and covered in road grit when I finally reached the Bear Valley Store. But safe and grateful for that. This is before I started going to France and lighting prayer candles for safe cycling, but I’m going to give them credit anyway.

So today I stayed home, did a short ride to Linden before any potential afternoon showers, and eliminated any possible rainy ride survival stories. I don’t know if any club members went to Livermore, but I suspect not. The weather really did look like a ‘serious threat’.

 

 

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Tilting at Windmills…

Patterson Pass Summit.

and Strava segments.

Yesterday’s club ride started in Tracy and journeyed through the Altamont hills to the Livermore Valley.  Our club rides here a couple of times each year, but in 20 years of club riding this was only the second time I had joined in. After yesterday I am wondering why I have stayed away.

15 riders showed up at the start, which kind of surprised me. I expected a smaller group. I was completely unsure of the route, but Eric Typpo knew his way through the streets of Tracy and guided us.

There are three roads from Tracy to the Livermore Valley (besides I  580, which is not bicycle friendly. Or bicycle legal either). Corral Hollow, Patterson Pass, and Old Altamont (with or without Flynn Road). After some discussion we opted for Patterson Pass over to Livermore, and Old Altamont on the return. I really did not want to do Corral Hollow; there is a lot of traffic on weekends heading to Carnegie RV Park.

We rolled out through the streets of Tracy, mostly on wide and safe bike lanes, then out into the countryside. We could see the hills on our left, and before long we were on the climb. Patterson Pass is 3.9 miles long and climbs over 1,100 feet. Strava says the average gradient is 5% and that it is a Category 2 Climb. What Strava doesn’t tell you is that the climb is very uneven and the gradient bounces between 2% and 10%, with a few short dips to keep the average down. Strava also doesn’t tell you that the steepest part is at the top.  The last 1/3rd mile averages 11%.. And as I neared the summit my Garmin  displayed 17% for almost a minute. It might not be that steep but it sure felt like it.

Patterson Pass is a Strava segment, a stretch of road where these amazing GPS devices record your time and power and heart rate and you can compare your effort to other riders and your past efforts. I decided to ride the climb pretty hard, and I did. 24:59, averaging 233 watts and 143 bpm heart rate. On the steep part I hit 476 watts and a gasping 159 bpm. According to Strava I had the fastest time of our group yesterday, but I was trying hard and I’m sure Eric and Ilia and Jeff could have gone faster if they wanted to. But I am comparing my effort to my physiology and I’m pretty happy with the result.

Of course the climb did not end the ride. We descended to Downtown Livermore, which was hopping on a beautiful Saturday noontime. We had coffee and munchies, and discussed the return route. 10 of us opted for Flynn Road, which added about 2 miles and an extra 600 feet of climbing. Although most of the ride was calm, the Altamont is notoriously windy, and there was enough breeze that some of the wind turbines were spinning. And what wind there was blew in our faces on most of the Flynn Road climb. I had never done this road, so I did not know what to expect. Liem and Ilia set a hard tempo and I stayed with them, usually behind in the draft of the headwind, although I did get out front a bit to help. They finished ahead of me on this one by about 10 seconds and I was pretty gassed at the top.

Flynn Road Strava data: 2.2 miles, 520 feet up, 4% and Category 4. I averaged 217 watts and 136 bpm for 15:21. Not bad, 40 miles into the ride with 3,000 feet of climbing in my legs.

The rest of the ride was almost all downhill and then flat on the run back into Tracy. But some ‘troublemakers’ decided to push the pace, so I was forced to pedal hard with weary legs or get dropped and get lost on unfamiliar streets. I hung on and arrived back at the start without wandering around or pulling out my phone for directions.

Final stats: 54 miles, 3,100 feet of climbing and 3:34 riding time.

The Altamont can be brutally hot in the summer, foggy and cold in the winter, and horribly windy all year. Why do you think the windmills are there? But yesterday it was none of those, and I’m really glad I decided to go. Good roads, good company and reasonably good legs made for a great day.

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The Logo is a No-Go…

The Stockton Bicycle Club has a new club jersey. A BIG THANK YOU to Greg Lozaga, who shepherded the project through the design, ordering and distribution phases. He did a tremendous amount of work and thanks to him we have a fresh and stylish club kit.

And what I discovered was that sometimes good intentions can be misunderstood.

My Favorite Touring Company

When the jersey was being designed the club was looking for sponsors who would pay a nominal sum to have their logo displayed. I had what I thought was the brilliant idea to put the logo of my favorite bicycle touring company, 44 | 5 Cycling Tours, on the jersey. I thought that the 44 | 5 logo was really simple and classy and a little bit exotic and would be a good addition to ‘sponsors row’ on the back of the new jersey. 44 | 5 gets its name from the latitude and longitude of Mont Ventoux, and if you ever want to do guided rides or tours in Southern France you should check them out. Isn’t that a clever logo and wouldn’t it look good on any club’s jersey? I had no idea this would cause a controversy.

When it was proposed and later discussed at the annual club meeting reaction was, well to put it, umm strong.

Some club members reacted as if I was proposing to put a Confederate Flag with the caption ” Make America Great Again!” on the jersey. There were loud objections and threatened boycotts. As soon as I realized that this was going to be an issue I hastily withdrew my proposal and made meek nice noises to all concerned.

In retrospect I find the whole incident entertaining and somewhat perplexing.

First Rider with the New Jersey. Moi!

All of this took place during walnut season when I spend my days counting nuts and not attending club rides or functions. I did not attend the club meeting where this was discussed and perhaps my idea would have been better served if I had pitched it and answered any questions myself.

Some of the comments and objections were made publicly on Facebook, so I feel comfortable sharing them here.

Objection #1: 44 | 5 is located in France.

This is true. I was unaware that jersey sponsors must have a local connection.

Objection #2: Members may not purchase space on the jersey

I did not know this was the case. In fact, members have purchased space on the jersey to promote their own businesses. But apparently there were objections to a member (me) purchasing space to promote someone else’s business.

Objection #3: Few club members have interest in traveling to France

This one is not really accurate. There are 14 current and former club members who have been clients of 44 | 5, most of us more than once. Since our  paid club membership only adds up to 60 or so, 14 clients might be considered more than ‘few’.

And by far my favorite: Objection #4: 44 | 5 is a ‘bourgeoisie’ touring company.   ‘Bourgeoisie’ can mean ‘middle class’ but in the Marxist context it means the capitalist class who own most of society’s wealth and means of production.

Now it is true that bicycle touring in Europe is not cheap, especially if the touring company uses 3 and 4 star accommodations and feeds you in nice restaurants. 44 | 5 certainly does that, even though they are not the most expensive touring company by any means.

Overall, I think my suggestion didn’t come across as I had hoped and the club lost an opportunity to include the logo of a great touring company on our new kit.

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Testing, Testing…Part 2

On January 2, I went to AthletiCamps ( https://www.athleticamps.com/) in Folsom for  VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold testing. Bruce Hendler is the owner of AthletiCamps, and I was looking forward to seeing him again after following his business on Facebook for years.

The Curves Shifted Left: Lower Power in 2019

Back in 2004, I signed up for a 3 day training camp with Bruce. He had just started AthletiCamps and this was one of his first events. There were about 7 of us staying at a hotel in Rocklin. Back then Bruce didn’t have his own testing equipment, so we spent the first day doing testing at the UCD Sports Medicine Clinic in Sacramento. After a year of training since my 2003 VO2 test,  my weight was down and my power was up and I felt really happy about the 2004 result. For the next two days we did rides on the road with some intervals and SFR’s (big gear weight training on the bike) and discussed a training program tailored for each of us to improve.

Fast forward to 2019: Bruce has his own testing equipment and a really nice space in Folsom. Plenty of room, nice lighting, and a shower to clean up after sweating through a test. It is great to see him still in business and he provides a really good service for athletes (and me). He offers coaching, sophisticated bike fitting, and performance testing.

With that background, it is time to compare Rich age 62 in January 2019 with Rich age 48 in July 2004:

I’m Fatter: 

My weight was 169.6 lbs. compared to 164 lbs. back in 2004.  And my body fat% has ballooned to 20% from 15%. Looking at myself in the mirror I have a hard time believing these percentages are right. But I do have the ‘Avansino thighs’ from my Italian nonna’s family. They are pretty large and it isn’t all muscle either.

I can probably get down to 168 lbs. with a little effort. More riding in the spring and into summer should do the trick. But I think 164 lbs. is an impossible target, and an unnecessary one. From a health standpoint my weight is fine, but from a performance cycling standpoint I’m above optimal. Bruce put my ‘ideal’ cycling weight at 159 lbs., which is out of the question unless society collapses and there are food (and wine) shortages.

My Maximum Heart Rate has declined:

In 2004 my heart rate got to 173 beats per minute (bpm) at the end of my VO2 test. Last week I only reached 163 bpm. There is an old approximation of Maximum Heart Rate as ‘220 minus your age’. This is a terribly inaccurate estimate, which is part of the reason I wanted to do the testing. But there is no question that for most of us, our maximum heart rate declines as we age. I’m 14 years older and I’ve ‘lost’ about 10 beats.

My Power at key thresholds has declined:

Power at VO2 Max: 2004 was 325 watts, 2019 was 300 watts (-7.7%). Power at Ventilatory Threshold: 2004 was 270 watts, 2019 was 237 watts (-12.2%). My Lactate Threshold in 2005 was 240 watts, and now it is 215 watts (-10.4%).

I realize I’ve risked losing most of my readers by writing about all this technical jargon and doing numerical comparisons.  But for those who are still here…

Conclusions:

The major conclusion I draw is that I need to evaluate my riding a little differently. The training zones I established back in 2004/05 are a little too high and no longer appropriate. My engine is not quite as big. So instead of thinking I should be able to do 260 watts for an hour if I ride all out, I need to dial my expectation back to 235 watts or so. My 20 minute FTP test (sorry, more jargon) is probably going to be 270 watts or lower, compared to 290.

Testing can’t turn back the clock or make you younger, but it can tell you where you are and help you set reasonable targets. As Bruce told me at the during the consultation he provides after the testing, “There is room for improvement”. Whether I make the effort or not is up to me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Testing, Testing…Part 1

2019 is here, and it marks a 20 year anniversary of sorts for me. In March of 1999 I had my annual physical, and I hit the scale at 190 lbs. That was a high for me and a kind of wake up call. Soon after that I started riding with the Stockton Bicycle club. On my first ride in the hills, I got dropped and was hopelessly far behind. I remember going home and telling Stoker (who was 7 years away from getting that nickname) that the 5 other riders on the ride were very nice, but they were much stronger than me. I told her there was no chance I could ever ride with them. I simply was not strong enough.

Me in 2001: Before Dr. Testa

But on my second club ride the route was much flatter, and there was a bigger group with a few riders that I could at least see in front of me. I got dropped by everyone, including Shig, who was in his early 80’s at the time. Gary Johnson was very nice to me and encouraged me to come back for more rides. So I did, on and off over the next 4 years. I got better and lost some weight, down to 177 lbs.by March 2003. Then I took a step that changed my cycling life forever. I went to see Dr. Max Testa for a VO2 test.

I was already riding with a heart rate monitor and was constantly surprised that other riders had much higher heart rates than I did. They would say they got into the 180 bpm range, and I never saw anything much over 150. Since most of them were also much stronger than me, I was wondered what I was doing wrong and why I couldn’t get higher heart rates.

The UCD Sports Medicine Clinic in Sacramento offered VO2 Max testing to anyone who wanted to pay for it. So I made an appointment and was delighted to find that Max Testa himself did the test and post test consultation.

I was pretty happy with my 177 lb. weight, but I was in for a shock. After doing a caliper test to measure body fat, Dr. Testa said I should lose another 10 lbs. I hadn’t weighed less than 170 lbs. since high school!

Jan.2, 2019: VO2 Max Testing Fun

After that we did the test. A VO2 test is a test to exhaustion. They put a breathing tube in your mouth and pinch your nose so they can measure how much oxygen your lungs can deliver to your muscles. The test typically starts at 100 watts (higher for elite athletes, which I’m not) and goes up 25 watts every minute until you can’t do any more. It isn’t much fun if you do it right and really push through the last couple of levels. You finish gasping and with your heart pounding hard and fast in your chest.

What I learned from the test was that my maximum heart rate was only 170, and that my anaerobic threshold was only 156 bpm. Dr. Testa gave me a set of workouts to do based on this test. When he suggested I do 5 minute intervals over 156 bpm I thought to myself that was impossible: from riding with a monitor I felt anything over 150 for more that a few seconds was all out.

But guess what; it turned out I could do those workouts. It took time and they were hard and not much fun, but I started to get much better on the bike. I was keeping up with people who used to drop me. And with all the added cycling intensity and a few eating modifications I dropped those 10 lbs. down to 167 by July 2004. I’ve stayed in the 165-170 lb. range ever since.

So to kick off my 20th year of serious cycling I decided to repeat the VO2 test and do a lactate test as well.  I had the tests on January 2. I thought the comparison with my 48 year old self might be interesting and enlightening. And it was. I’ll share the results in my next post.

 

 

 

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Not this year…

I retired from full time employment in 2007. Since that year I have had plenty of chances to ride my bikes (all 4 of them, including the tandem). During those 11 years I have averaged 8,600 cycling miles per annum, with a high year of 9,200 and a low of 8,200. I put more miles on my bikes than I do on my Honda Element!

I consider 8,000 miles a kind of floor and I always expect to reach that total unless I have health problems of some sort. Well I am happy to report that my health is good, but my mileage total is ailing a bit. I’m at just under 6,700 for 2018.

I’m behind pace for a couple of reasons. I had a very busy walnut season: 30 straight days of 9 to 12 hours ‘counting nuts’. This put me about 300 miles behind last year. I also lost a week with a summer cold which I acquired at a most unfortunate time: 10 days before I headed off to the Alps. I recovered well enough to feel good when I got to France, and ride the rental I ‘liked so much’. I’m still irritated at Air France for misplacing the Tarmac.

With over 7 weeks in the year left it might be possible to get to 8,000, but Stoker and I are going to do some travelling to non cycling destinations. I looked at the calendar and counted 32 opportunities for me to ride between now and New Year’s Day. So I would have to ride 41 miles on each of those days to make it. And if I took any days off or got rained out (which we all should hope happens a lot, and soon) I would have to do even longer rides to catch up. It isn’t going to happen.

My friend Bennie could do it. We don’t call him ‘lonerider’ for nothing. He spends a lot of time on his bike, more than almost anyone. Thus he finds himself riding alone a lot: few of his riding friends want to spend that many hours in the saddle. His other nickname is ‘long rider’ and he racks up some incredible totals. He once rode over 4,000 miles in ONE MONTH! Over 130 miles a day, everyday. One year he did something like 120 ‘centuries’, i.e. one hundred (or more ) miles in one day. But his annual total that still stuns me is that in one year he ascended over 1,200,000 feet (1.2 million feet?!) on his bicycle. That is the equivalent of 345 cycling trips up Mount Diablo in a single year.

But I’m not Bennie, so I’ll keep to my normal winter schedule of 150 to 190 miles each week when Stoker and I are home and when it isn’t raining. I sure hope I get rained out a lot, and starting soon. That should get me to over 7,500, a post retirement low. Wait until next year…

The Numbers Add Up, But They Don't Add Up to Much!

 

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No Puedo Hablar….

…but I suppose I had better learn.

Que es esto?

I have an orange tree in front of my house that the SJ County Ag Department likes to use for an insect trap. Sometime almost every year I get a knock on my door and a nice employee asks if they can put the trap in my tree, and I am happy to comply. We always converse in English.

Since I am now busy counting nuts (see older posts for an explanation) this time I missed the trap placing person’s recent visit. But they were nice enough to leave an informative paper on my front door to tell me what they had done and if I had any questions whom to contact. At least I suppose that is what it did. It was in Spanish. And there was no English version.

If you live in California you are certainly used to seeing Spanish and English side by side everywhere. My bank has more signs in Spanish on the walls than English versions. Drive into Stockton on Waterloo Road and you will see billboards and business signs that are entirely in Spanish with no English necessary. The highest rated TV station in Los Angeles broadcasts in Spanish. You get the idea: California isn’t quite Canada, which has two official languages. But in parts of our state English is definitely a second language.

I have assumed until now that while official government communications may be printed in multilingual versions, an English script would always be available. Apparently the Ag Department has concluded otherwise and considers the Spanish version sufficient for official government communications.

I am very much out of touch with the political currents in our Golden State. But rather than get angry, I see the humor in the silliness. And when an government entity adopts a “Spanish first and only” approach to documents, silliness abounds.

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How Low Can You Go…

…and not faint?

Walnut season is here, which means I un-retire for six weeks and take a sabbatical from doing Stockton Bicycle Club rides. But I don’t stop riding entirely, I just squeeze in spins whenever work allows. Shorter rides to be sure, but I do some focused interval training so that when the season ends around November 1 I haven’t lost much fitness and can get back to my typical 4 rides a week with my fellow club riders.

No Wonder I Felt Dizzy: Post Ride Blood Pressure Reading

After working Saturday morning, I went out for an afternoon solo spin. I did a 40 mile big loop from my house to Clements, then north to Peltier Road and back into Lockeford and then home. I was riding at a pretty quick pace (for me anyway), and I was feeling really good. It was a lovely afternoon, warm but not hot, and with very little wind.

After 28 miles, I got stung by a wasp or something. This has happened several times over the years and is a hazard of cycling. I’ve had stings/bites on my bare pate, on the bridge of my nose, above my eyebrows and on the tip of my index finger. But this bug got me somewhere new: up ‘high on the thigh’. Specifically on the inside of my right thigh about a foot above my kneecap and about 2 inches from what would have been a really bad situation. Think of the part of your body where you would least like to have a stinger lodge, and you’ll get the idea. This was a close call.

But that is all it was. After the initial pain I was able to keep riding and I was still feeling good. I rolled through Lockeford and onto the wonderful new pavement on Jack Tone Road between Brandt and Kettleman Roads. But when I reached Harney Lane, a mere 5 miles from home, I started to feel less well. My neck was really hurting me and I was feeling much weaker. I kept up my good pace until I reached Eight Mile Road. Then I pressed ‘End Ride’ on my Garmin to preserve my fairly decent time for the 38 miles, and allowed myself to ride the last 2.5 miles home at a very easy pace.

My heart rate went down right away, but I was still feeling weak and my neck was hurting even more. And I was beginning to recognize the signs of something that has happened to me before. When I finally got home and got off the bike I felt dizzy, and there seemed to be a shimmering bright light along with a narrowing field of vision.

If this had been the first time this happened to me, I would have been slightly panicked. As it was, I simply laid down and put my feet above my head. I took my blood pressure just to confirm what I already knew: It had dropped low enough to cause me problems.

As I said, this has happened to me before. Most recently in 2017 in France after a long and hilly tandem ride. That time was much worse: I really scared Stoker and our guide John and I guess I must have looked terrible. This time after about 30 minutes my vision was normal and the dizziness was gone. I took a nap and woke up feeling fine.

I have high blood pressure which I control with medication and cycling. Sometimes the combination works too well. When I go on week long trips where I am doing long rides with lots of climbing every day, I do not take medication (with my doctor’s blessing). And I bring my blood pressure monitor so I can confirm that my readings stay normal. I could get off the meds completely if I would just ride 5 hours a day, every day, the way we did in the Alps. Since that is not possible, I’m going to have to keep taking pills and turning pedals to keep my blood pressure at a healthy level. And when the combination over corrects remember to lay down and put my feet up!

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Air France Apologizes..

"Rush" and "Priority": Did Not Happen! But AF Paid for the Rental Bike.

For the 15th  time. All of them read from a script and insincere.

In my last blog I wrote about how my bike and I went to Europe but never got together. The Tarmac spent the trip in various airport luggage handling areas before being returned to Brumby Road 4 days after I got home.

I filed a claim form. I wanted a cash payment of $1,000. I paid AF a $150 extra luggage fee to fly the bike with me. I had to spend $350 on a mediocre rental bike. And I wanted $500 in compensation for ‘loss of use’. In cash, not in a travel voucher.

Today Delta Airlines (who apparently handle AF baggage issues in the US) contacted me. They are going to refund the $350 rental fee in cash. They are going to give me a $500 travel voucher than I may or may not be able to use. And incredibly, they are not going to refund the $150 fee I paid to put the bike on the plane. Extra bag fees are not refundable if your bags are delivered to you eventually, even if you never see them while on the trip.  I’m surprised AF didn’t try to bill me another $150 to ship the bike back to California!

So I really didn’t get what I wanted. And I’m afraid I did not react well to the 15th insincere apology. I called AF twice a day in France and daily at home until the bike reached me, and every call ended with the agent reading the same “we’re sorry”. They aren’t.

What to do in the future? I am planning future cycling journeys to Europe. Stoker and I are planning another May in Malaucene. And all 6 of the riders on the Northern Alps Tour I just returned from are planning an adventure in the Dolomites in August 2019. I’m going to want to bring my bike. And I will try to do so. But I’m going to be very nervous and I’ll keep my shoes and pedals with me in my carry on bag. Maybe my saddle too.

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