Folks have been asking for the story of what has been going on this past couple of weeks with my health and ability to do the ride, as I’ve indicated that the whole thing almost didn’t happen. Here’s the whole story and some news about the route. I wrote it overnight on the flight to Orlando just a few days ago.
So how did we get here, with me on a plane to Florida arriving just two short days before my beach2beach trip is supposed to start? I’ve not addressed the situation in a post to this point because, even as late as midweek, the outcome was seriously in doubt.
Things all started the second day of my cardio stress test- the day I was put on the treadmill. All was well until my heart rate reached 135, then it all went, as Sir Terry Pratchett so eloquently put it, pear-shaped.
My oxygen saturation level, which is normally a marginally OK 94% and which had stayed in the 90s up to that point, dropped all at once to 85%. My muscles, which were not getting any properly oxygenated blood, basically rebelled and more or less stopped working. My brain did the same, and I became disoriented. My doc, the amazing and gifted Natalie Beyeler, stopped the test at that point and, after giving me a shot of something through the IV port, helped me off the treadmill and on to a gurney, where I slowly returned to an acceptable heart rhythm and O-sat level. The day concluded with a return to the machine that measured gamma ray emission to determine heart function. I would learn later on that my heart works pretty good for being an almost 64 year old guy who has abused and neglected his body in countless ways over the years. Dr. Beyeler ordered me at the conclusion of the stress test to undergo three separate pulmonary function tests, which were scheduled for Wednesday of last week.
I was a little sore that evening when I went to the Alaska Club to ride the stationary bike for an hour, so I took a couple of newly purchased Ibuprofen before going. “Vitamin I” works wonders for muscle aches and I finished the session without incident.
The next day, a Friday, I was sore again, so I took another dose of Ibuprofen before riding. Tthat was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, to turn a phrase. I was very shaky over the weekend and missed daily exercising for the first time in almost a month. I felt dizzy and lightheaded. On Tuesday of last week I stood back up quickly after bending over at the waist and found I could not control my legs, which were jerking. My wife drove me to the emergency room, where it was determined that I was dehydrated and that my creatinine and other kidney levels were elevated. I was hydrated through an IV and felt much better. When I appeared to be fully stabilized I was sent home.
The next day I felt well enough to do the pulmonary function tests and resume working out. A day later I accompanied my wife to an appointment with her doctor and was just sitting and listening in when, at the appointment’s conclusion, my wife asked a nurse who was in the room if she would take my blood pressure. Heather, who knows me better than anyone else on the planet, thought I looked peaked and pale. The BP reading, after several attempts to obtain it, was 60/40. That was not good. I was taken by wheelchair to the urgent care offices downstairs from Heather’s doc and from there was transported by an EMS ambulance back to our local hospital’s emergency room.
At the ER it was quickly determined that I was severely dehydrated and that various bad kidney levels were through the roof. I was in the initial stages of renal failure. As a result, I was admitted to the hospital to be rehydrated, undergo various tests and be monitored. I spent Thursday and Friday night a week ago there, having IV bag after IV bag of fluid run through me. I felt like cra… well, you know. I was also pretty depressed, as I thought b2b at that point was toast.
The Hospitalist, Dr. Lutz, by Saturday had figured things out. He told me that, because of my diet efforts resulting in significant weight loss coupled with the daily moderately strenuous levels of exercise, my Azor medication should have been cut back, as it was pushing blood pressure down harder than I needed it to. The excess Azor levels also conflicted with the Ibuprofen in a way that had a direct impact on my kidneys. I contributed to that problem by drinking lots of plain water but no electrolyte. This all came together to create a “perfect storm” situation that sent me to the hospital in what the docs described in medical terms as “bad shape.”
The Azor and a couple of other meds were withheld during my hospital stay in order to flush them from my system and allow my kidneys a clear shot at recovery. By Saturday afternoon that had happened and I was discharged by Dr. Lutz with stern instructions to stay away from Ibuptofen altogether and a prescription for Azor at half the former strength. He also discontinued Niaspan and Torsemide. My Vitamin D has also been cut back as I’m getting plenty (heh! It’s inescapable) of sun.
On Monday of this week I was back in Dr. Beyeler’s office to check out the results of the pulmonary function tests plus a fasting complete blood panel taken that morning along with Dr. Lutz’s six page discharge summary. The only thing on my mind, of course, was “could I still do an epic bike trip?” To heck with all the medical stuff. I just wanted to ride a very long, long way.
I came, though, with a plan “B.” There is no transcontinental route without an elevation somewhere of eight or nine thousand feet in the west. The b2b route I had planned had a 9,600 foot plus elevation at Togwotee Pass in Wyoming, plus Teton Pass just west of Jackson, which is a bit more than 1,000 feet lower in elevation but which has an approach that is akin to bicycling about 3,000 feet up a vertical wall… Well, I’m exaggerating a bit but, again, you know what I mean. I looked had at the southern route , which skirts the border with Mexico from El Paso, Texas west to San Diego, California. Nope. Serious elevation gains and steep grades that way as well. Plus the Southwestern deserts from Texas on in late summer. Uggh. Given the results of my stress test, I was seriously concerned about my ability, even after several thousand miles of cycling, to ride across the United States from east to west on any route. But what about south to north?
Key West is most of two weeks from Jacksonville on a bike at a slow, steady pace. Florida and the coastal plain and barrier islands for the the north are pretty much as flat as the proverbial parking lot. So let’s cross the U.S. from south to north along the coast and see what hills we run into. No hill higher than 400 feet? Check. More or less flat for a long, long way from the start? Check. Of epic length? Check.
Thus the beach 2 beach two route was born. I threw in some extra miles in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, mainly because I could, but also because the coastline in the Maritime Provinces is drop dead gorgeous, and particularly in the fall. Also, as it turns out, Halifax, Nova Scotia is far less expensive to return to Alaska from than anywhere in Maine. Around the same length as the b2b trans-con route? About 4,000 miles, check. And the “beach 2 beach” meme? Well, you can’t ride along the Atlantic Coast for 60 days or so and not see a beach most every day. So while it’s not Atlantic Beach to Pacific Beach…
I’m a sucker for symmetry
…I think beach 2 beach still works just fine. So check and double check- the Atlantic Coast b2b route is born. And, come to think of it, I’m still riding across the United States. Just not in the east-west direction most people associate with that kind of trip.
Bonus check. Heather felt sorry for me because I had to change my plans and told me if this ride went as planned I could ride the original east to west b2b route next year. Whoa!
This post has gotten very long so I’ll wrap up quickly. With Dr. Beyeler on the phone, her equally fantastic ANP Debbie Chabot, Heather, Heather’s mother Frankie and I worked out a daily ride plan involving regular BP, BPM and O-sat monitoring and reporting, specific hydration and nutrition goals, along with adoption of the Atlantic Coast route. A further requirement was that all this needed to be blessed by a cardiologist. If she or he said no, b2b was over for the duration.
On Wednesday of this week I saw Dr. Thomas at the Alaska Heart Institute in the hospital’s professional building. When Dr. Thomas walked in the room my heart sank. He looked like a triathlete. I imagined what was going through his mind- here is this old, fat guy sitting in my office who’s lost a few pounds and now he thinks he’s Lance Armstrong.
Didn’t happen. Dr. Thomas, who had quite obviously read the rapidly accumulating sheaf of paperwork generated by my issues over the past few weeks listened to me describe in detail my daily plan and the Atlantic Coast route. He confirmed that the Azor had been reduced and that other changes had been made, then said, in effect, go have a good time.
And so here I am an hour out of Orlando at 4:00 in the morning. I have all my gear less what was sent straight to the ZenCog bike shop in a duffel bag that fits in the overhead plus a camera bag and a b2b flag (with a tiny frog pennant under it) made by my loving (and slightly frog-happy) wife. Other than being assaulted earlier in the flight by a drunk in the row behind me…ahh, but that’s a story for another day. Life is good. I’ll pick up my bike this afternoon.
I’m ready to ride.
Yes I am! I’ll give you a link to RidewithGPS later today so that you can look at the new route in minute detail. I’d love feedback from my Atlantic Coastal friends. I’m off to ZenCog now to see if a last part has come in.
Thanks so much for stopping by.