I’ve mentioned before how much I loved ‘60’s television! The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, Bob’s Burgers….,.if it were not for the 60’s success of The Flintstones and The Jetsons in a highly competitive and burgeoning primetime television market, the former shows may never have existed.
Television’s role in marketing and product development is intrinsically embedded in sponsorship, of course. A bit more than 50 years ago, Flintstones chewable vitamins made their appearance, capitalizing on the success of the animated series, which had been cancelled, but was booming in the syndication market. The vitamins were a huge hit with parents who were interested in promoting and preserving the health of their children. Vitamins historically tasted and looked bad. These vitamins were colorful, shaped like the characters and other items from the show, and supposedly tasted a bit more like candy. My parents started buying them and we were expected to take them. I never liked the taste, but didn’t dare ignore the directive. Once I moved out of the house as a teenager, I experimented with other “adult” vitamins, but came to the conclusion that the only thing these vitamins did was create expensive and colored urine! So, I saved my money and just relied on a diet that provided the basic nutrients.
So why am I writing about all of this now? For the half dozen or so of you who actually read this blog, you may have noticed my last post was two months ago. This post is as a direct result of yet another life lesson learned in the absence of my beloved spouse that resulted in a serious medical issue which caused that gap.
When last I posted in late February, I had just purchased my ticket for a one-way Amtrak excursion to Seattle, WA for May 28th. I reserved a spot for myself and a bike, in order to fulfill yet another promise made to my love the week before she passed over two years ago. I have written before of our plans to complete a bike ride across the Northern Tier of the United States over the course of the summer they year I was supposed to retire from the classroom – supposed to be this year. My tickets were purchased, my maps had been purchased, my route and itinerary were completed, and our kids had purchased my tent for me as an early birthday present….I was ready to go! After my last post I began to make plans to update the bike I had wanted to take, and entered discussions with my mechanic. After some back and forth, it became clear that I was in need of a dedicated touring bike rather than an adaptation of my cyclo-cross bike. So I conducted some research and went on a hunt to procure a good used one. More on this in my next post, but I did indeed find one and in early March began to train for my summer ride.
The route I was going to take required a shade over 4300 miles. If I was going to complete it in time to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean on her birthday (that was our original plan), it was going to require me to pedal a metric century (62 miles) or longer six days a week from June 1st through August 12th. Now, I’ve done SEVERAL such rides over the years since my bariatric bypass. Going into this year I had completed 10 rides of 300k (186 miles) or more in a single day, 10 rides of between 200 and 300k in a single day, 55 rides of 100 to 125 miles in a single day, and over 200 rides of between 62 miles and 100 miles in a day. Very rarely, however, had I posted more than 10 metric centuries or better in a single month. So it was time to train and build my endurance.
My previous record for mileage in the month of February was 506 miles. In spite of Ginger’s death and my subsequent bout with depression which is always present around the anniversary of her passing, memorial service, and Valentine’s day, I still managed to set a new PR in February by grinding out 585 miles, so I felt my previous record for March (which was 580 miles) was not only going to be easily beatable if the weather held, but would be crushed if I was successful and persistent in my training program.
My routine was to go out every day…usually in the afternoons…with as much weight as I could carry. After I managed to procure my new (to me) touring bike and have it updated, I used it with full pack on every ride.
Of course, as everyone knows, the coronavirus began to cast a dark shadow all over the nation, and one of the hardest hit areas has been Michigan, where as of this morning, we have had over 29,000 confirmed cases and over 2900 deaths. For me, I was not concerned as 1. I live alone, B. I pedal alone, III. I buy my groceries a month at a time, d. I never travel anywhere or receive visitors. Since our governor issued very early on an executive order that placed us on an effective “lockdown,” my biggest fear was disruption in training and potential cancellation of my plans because, at the time, Seattle was the initial virus hotspot in the US. However, our governor did state that we are allowed to leave our homes for individual, and appropriately socially distanced exercise. So my riding was not interrupted.
To get to the heart of the matter, I logged over 1215 miles in the month of March, easily crushing my old record. No, I did not ride every day. There were some days that were simply too dangerous to be on even deserted roads due to very high winds, poor visibility conditions, etc. Those conditions would have also resulted in my not riding while on my trip. I simply do not pedal when sustained winds are 25mph or higher because bicycles act more like sails and can easily carry you into harm’s way. Similarly, despite all of my lights, poor visibility due to fog or misty rain makes it difficult for motorists (increasingly distracted these days) to see you with enough distance and lead time to do anything about it.
The biggest result of March was that I crossed 2000 miles for the year far earlier than I ever have. However, as the month and my riding wore on, some very dark and dramatic changes were taking place in my aging body. By mid-month, I was noticing that my exercise induced endorphins (see earlier posts) were simply not lasting as long. Whereas a metric century would produce enough endorphins to keep my mood stabilized for a few days in the past, by the end of March the exercise high would wear off within a few hours of when I climbed off my bike. I began to experience sleep issues, joint pain that was not explained by bike fit, pretty severe depression from events that would not have caused such a negative reaction in the past, exceptionally high amount of lethargy, etc. To further complicate matters, my diet was suffering because I ran out of my stockpile of Scotch Ale in early February and could not find an adequate resupply. The result of this, of course, was that I began to regurgitate my dinners….every night.
As a former nurse (health care professionals make the WORST patients, BTW) and a pretty educated person who has always prided himself on knowing his body fairly well, I attributed the joint pain and lethargy to the dramatic uptick in training. From April 1st of 2019 to March 31st of 2020, I had logged 11,101 miles, and more than doubled the amount of riding from February to March. The reduced efficacy of the exercise induced endorphins I attributed to social isolation, the tremendous jump in mileage (similar to increase in tolerance levels for addicts), etc. It was the sleep issues that were beginning to get to me…inability to fall asleep and remain asleep for more than five hours each night.
Fortunately, my sister is a licensed Nurse Practitioner. She works at a local hospital and spends her lunch hours at my house three days each week. This almost ended as a result of our governor’s orders, but she IS my health care provider as well as my sister, and she was able to make a case to come and see me based on her concerns for my health. She noticed a decline in my mental acuity, as well as a more haggard look. We discussed my thoughts and she made some suggestions, one of which was adding glucosamine to my morning medications to prevent gout attacks. This eventually all but alleviated the joint pain. My mental processes, however, continued to decline, as did my appetite when I could not replace my Scotch Ale.
Finally, at the beginning of April, she asked me how many, and what kind, of other vitamins I was taking besides the glucosamine. When I responded none, her jaw quite literally dropped…like Rosie’s from The Jetsons.
When I underwent bariatric bypass in 2011, it was explained to me that I would have to take multivitamins, especially high doses of Vitamin D, for the rest of my life due to my body’s new lack of the ability to absorb and process the nutrients I would be taking in. My wife had always been a believer in vitamins…she had a history of slight iron deficiency, and between pregnancies and wanting to set a good example for the girls – who were, by now, part of the “Flintstones kids…ten million strong and growing,” (you’re welcome for that ear worm!) – she had taken multivitamins for years. Again, I hadn’t since high school. Although I still believed that the vitamins were only resulting in expensive and colored urine, I took them out of deference to my surgeon and her. We took them at the same time each morning.
The last few months of her life, my focus was on her needs, deductibles, and copays. Her vitamins had been replaced by far more expensive meds and a pretty strict regimen. I ran out of my vitamins. She lost the ability to be responsible enough to remember to take her own meds, let alone mine. I didn’t replace my supply, and frankly forgot about them. Still, I may have been okay, except for the dramatic upturn in mileage over the last year. In just a few days I will begin my 61st trip around the sun….not replacing nutrients as they are depleted causes serious issues at any age, but they accelerate in the aging process. All of my symptoms…ALL OF THEM…were easily explained by a severe deficiency in Vitamins D, B6, and B12. So I began with a massive dose of these…and am just the last day or two starting to feel normal. The first symptom to clear was sleep…followed by lethargy….and now depression has begun to lift. How could I have not diagnosed it immediately? How could I have been so educated, and yet so stupid?
About mid-March, the virus had become a full grown pandemic and I received notice from Amtrak that they had suspended service to Seattle, the original hotspot. I called, wondering whether I should cancel my ticket and explained my plans. I was informed that the situation was under control and they hoped to be up and running again by the end of April. Sound familiar? Slowly as the virus took hold, not only here in Michigan, but elsewhere, I began to seriously doubt my ability to keep my promise…not just because of my own physical decline, but due to the rolling shutdowns around the country. State and national parks were closing. Churches were closing. Restaurants were closing for dine in purposes. Where would I camp? Where would I shower? Where would I eat? Would I be able to obtain bike service if a particular state decided bicycle services were “non-essential?” For the record, I believe this was our own governor’s most idiotic move. In a time when you are cancelling public transportation due to fear of spreading a contagion, often the only transport left to workers in cities is via bicycle. If that isn’t essential, I don’t know what is!
Regardless, the decision was taken out of my hands two weeks ago, as I received a full refund from Amtrak for my ticket. Today, Michigan has yet to hit its peak, while Washington has turned the curve. However, word is now being issued that several states along my proposed route that had resisted efforts to order isolation are seeing their cases take significant upward swings. Looks like I’ll be touring my state this summer on a variety of day trips, as the governor expects we won’t begin our downturn until late June.
Meanwhile, one of my favorite Scotch Ales finally went into barrels at the end of February. It is brewed by a restaurant in the tiny town of Lawton, MI, and is called Weirdo With A Beardo…a 9.75% ABV Wee Heavy. Restaurants here are allowed to issue take-out only, so a few weeks ago I stopped by for lunch and a half barrel to go! Digestion issues are now settled as well! Even better, the master brewer there tweaked his recipe a bit and now the beer has some serious malt presence – rich caramels – and a full, creamy feel to the palate. Ooooooo, so good!
It is snowing again here today…for the fifth day in a row. For the first time in almost two weeks, the wind is less than 10mph, but it is only 32 degrees. Tomorrow is projected warmer, but those 15-20mph winds return for a week long engagement. This will be a big week for me as I turn 60, and, of course, our 37th anniversary would have been this week as well….it will be our third since her passing. Fortunately, I am on the mend and I plan on crossing some milestones and catching my limited readership up on other developments of the last two months. I understand I was posting about once a week, but this week, I anticipate catching up with a few posts.
Be careful out there. Take the proper precautions like hand-washing. Take your masks. And take your vitamins. They are more important than you know!