Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sunny Ride with my Baby Girl (Jane)

(cross-post from the Sunny Rides blog)

Updates to the Sunny Rides blog have been conspicuously absent for a few months, but not without good reason.

My main distraction:

Jane Anne, my new still-under-warranty baby girl burst on the scene in late October. Before she was even born, I purchased the Burley trailer and began practicing towing a sack of potatoes.
I probably should have dressed up the sack of potatoes with a little hat and tiny sunglasses, but I digress.

I was nervous about taking little Jane more than a few minutes from the house... I mean, what if she started crying or something?? You new parents, you know what I'm talking about, while you parents of two or more just chuckle and roll your eyes. I know what you're thinking...

And this is where I force myself into "Mom of three small children" mode as a coping mechanism. See, a mother of one infant behaves a certain way. She jumps when her kid makes the slightest noise. But a mother of THREE, now, there's a rock. She can have one kid banging pots and pans with a spoon, another eating dirt, and the third screaming for a bottle, and all she'll do as she makes her way calmly to the kitchen is pick up the dirt-eating kid and tuck him under her arm, grab a dishrag to wrap around the spoon to muffle the noise, and sing louder than the crying kid while she prepares the bottle. Mom of one gets rattled when her infant sneezes once, while mom of three snickers and mutters under her breath, "Amateur."

I told myself that if Jane cries while in the Burley, and I know she's not in any real distress, I'll just make my way calmly to the nearest stopping point, address the issue, and continue the ride. I'll have to channel a mom of three small children to do this, but it won't be too much of a stretch. I've been channeling a ten-year-old boy since I started riding mountain bikes. What's one more person?

In preparation, Jane and I took a trip first around the neighborhood, which went very well.

In the infant snuggler inside the Burley bike trailer.

Laura and Jane riding around the neighborhood.

We went around the neighborhood for ten minutes on our first outing, then it was just a matter of making longer and longer trips.

On Sunday afternoon, we bundled up well and made our way to Donny's Cafe.

Cute happy kid.

By the time we arrived, despite a few bumps in the road, Janie was fast asleep.

It occurs to me as I write this, that many of these pictures of a kid in a Burley trailer look alike, but as a new mom, I think I'm bound by contract to show you every last one of them. Oh oh!! Here's another...

So TODAY was the big day of lots of errands. First, we went to Target to pick up some photo Christmas cards...

The folks at Target were great about letting me bring my bike and trailer into the store and park it while I picked up my photo cards. Thanks Target people :)

Then we went to Donny's Cafe where we both had snacks.


After the cafe, we stopped at the bank...

Then we had one last stop to mail a CD to a friend.

Once we had all our errands done, we headed home, taking advantage of the bike path and the chance to get a little dirt under the tires.

It was a great day to be in San Diego.

The only problem we ran into was on the way home. There's this cactus called cholla that grows just about anywhere in the Southwest. This cactus is the reason that I carry pliers in my camelbak when I'm mountain biking. It tends to break off at the slightest perceived provocation and jump into your path, clinging to anything it touches, and breaking off into smaller pieces that stick to other parts of you and your bike.

This is what we came upon today, and before I knew it, I had rolled right over a small chunk that had strayed into the street. The tire of the Burley hit that bad boy and I knew immediately that I had to get it out and then get home before the tire went flat. Now I'll have to add pliers to my list of things I carry in the Burley.

We made it home with air to spare. Yay!! All in all, a great morning of work and play that I was able to share with my little girl.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tales from Interbike... riding the BMX track in 2-inch pumps

It's high time I caught up on my story-telling. Here's a highlight from the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas back in September.

It all started when I showed my Giant rep pictures from the San Diego Midnight Madness ride that I did in a business suit and clip-compatible pumps. His face lit up and his jaw fell open with an "Aaaaahh! Hahahaha!!", then abruptly he became silent, blinked, and looked up from the computer screen with a serious and expressionless face. He said he wouldn't really be impressed until I showed up like that at dirt demo.

Interbike Dirt Demo!

It would have never occurred to me, but it was brilliant. People in the "real world" don't seem to really appreciate the humor in stuff like mechanically attaching your body to your bike while wearing high-heeled pumps. It's more of an off-the-charts bizarre thing that non-bike people tend to see and just shake their heads. At Dirt Demo it would be truly amusing, and everyone would enjoy it. So, because silliness is not something you should ever keep to yourself, here are pics from the escapade.

Procuring the bike - a Spot 29er belt drive

The shoes - many thanks to Crank Brothers, who make these great pontoon cleats...

Gotta hit the trail...

I had a great ride on course #1, then had to hit the BMX track.

Any day I can ride my bike is a good day. It's a bonus when other people get a grin from it. :)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Adventure Tour to Noble Canyon

(cross-posted from the Sunny Rides blog)

In addition to coaching would-be cyclists and new bike commuters, Sunny Rides is branching out with an Adventure Tours Division!

We arrange your bike rental and make sure you have all the necessary equipment, then arrange the mountain bike or road bike adventure based on the information you provide about your style and skill level.

Last week, I took Eirik from Noway on a trip to Noble Canyon for a mountain bike adventure. He was here for work, and managed to set aside a day to go mountain biking. I gathered a group of people, because it's always more fun with a group, and we all met in Pine Valley on a Saturday morning.

We all load up in two vehicles and shuttle to the top of the ridge - another 2200 feet vertical and 20 minutes away by car. It's a very brisk 38ยบ outside at about 6000 feet elevation, and we all scramble for every piece of clothing we have brought. As I don a light jacket over the two jerseys and arm warmers I'm wearing, pull on my Buff and bandana, I comment to the boys that I feel like Heidi of the Alps, but none of them get the reference to the little Swiss orphan girl who was made to wear all her clothes for the trip up the mountain, and they probably think I'm just referring to my braids. Sigh. It's OK. I'm used to blank stares when I make obscure literary references anyway.

I had set up Eirik's bike down at the bottom of the hill, so all we have to do is make sure we all have the gear we want, lock up the cars, and hit the trail. While we're getting ready, Eirik gets a call from Norway and tells his friend he is on a bike ride in Southern California. He is suddenly a rock star.

Just before the ride.

We hit the trail, hardly taking note of the crisp air biting at our fingers and toes because the ground is tacky and the trail conditions are so good.

We get to the first of several technical sections, and I tell Eirik that it's a rocky technical section, but that if you keep to the right, it's not too bad. One of the guys cocks his head, "Are you talking about 'Widdowmaker'?" he asks.

I'd never heard that this section of the trail had any name and I shake my head, "I don't think so, it's really not that bad. You just have to keep your speed and keep your head up," I say.

I don't realize that I've just unwittingly laid down a challenge until one of the other guys (the one with pads on) says, "Well, since it's not so bad, you want to school us on how it's ridden?"

Oops. There's nothing I can do now but ride it. "Well, I don't know about schooling, but I'll show you the line I take," I tell him, and get on my bike to continue down the trail. As the trail winds back and forth and I gain speed, I pray that God will have mercy on me and that I'll be able to ride the slightly damp rocks without incident. I'm always nervous entering this section, but I usually do well, and today is no exception. I have a small bobble at the end when I look down at a root rather than at my exit, but otherwise, I ride the "Widdowmaker" clean. I stop at the end and look back at the guys, "Um, watch that root at the end."

Eirik riding down the rocky chute.

Noble Canyon is great because there is a little bit of everything - miles of singletrack, challenging rock gardens, beautiful wooded areas and open exposed areas. We chose to shuttle instead of climb because of the time required and the degree of difficulty it entails. It became clear that Eirik is a good enough rider that he would have been able to climb the Indian Creek Trail up to the Noble Canyon Trail and still have enough left over for the descent, but it's challenging (and fun) as a shuttled ride.

At the end of one particularly flowy section followed by a stream crossing, I look at Eirik's face, and he is positively beaming. "So," I comment, "it looks like you're enjoying your ride!"

Absolutely! Almost any day at Noble is a good day.

For more info on taking a bike adventure in San Diego County, please email me. We are still in the "ramp up" stages, but available for tours immediately. Whether you are here for business or pleasure, I'll work to arrange a cycling tour that fits your ability and riding style.

(Laura Drexler)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

New Baby in Da House

Jane Anne Drexler

It's been a long and arduous journey... and I've only got as far as my own front door. The journey is only beginning.

By the grace of God we have an adopted newborn in the house. Jane Anne was born on Oct 26, 2008, at about 11:30 am.

8lbs 11oz, 19"

I don't know why these are always the things that people ask. Probably because it's really all we know about her at that point. The day she is born, we go to see her in the hospital. I am reduced to sobbing tears when the birth-mother places her in my arms.

I tell the guys at work that I will come back to the shop to work if we leave the hospital early enough. When it looks like we will not be getting back early, I call the shop.

"Cisco, I just wanted to let you guys know that I won't be coming in today after all," I explained, "I'm still at the hospital."

"The hospital! What happened?" he asks. It's a legitimate question if you know me and how I tend to ride my bike.

"Nothing. The baby we're adopting was born today. We're here to see the baby," I tell him.

"Oh! A baby! Boy or girl?" he asks with excitement.

"A little girl. Jane Anne," I tell him.

"Oooohh! I little girl! Is she beautiful?" he asks expectantly.

I blink. This baby has just been smushed through the Play-Dough Fun Factory of Life and looks like... um, a newborn. What kind of question is that?

"Cisco, she's three hours old. She still looks like a semi-reconstituted prune. Ask me again in a few days, OK?"

I'm still on edge about seeing the baby, because she's technically not ours, and will be with the birth-mother and not in our custody for another week. I will be an emotional wreck for the next 24 hours, knowing that I'm expected to visit the baby again the following day, ooo and aaaah over this little child that is not mine, then detach from her at the end of the visit, knowing that anything can happen in a week while the birth-mother nurses her and cares for her. This week will be difficult for everyone.

I'm forced to re-focus, put my own angst aside, and remember that this healthy baby girl has made her debut on the planet, full of life and unexplored potential!

Here's a pic from the hospital.
The week following her birth is torturous for us. Although the birth-mother is an amazingly focused and goal-oriented individual, and is determined to give up the baby for adoption knowing that she would not be able to provide her a stable two-parent home, we must prepare ourselves for any outcome, including the birth-mother's choice to keep the baby.

According to the laws of California,
the birth-mother has thirty days to change her mind, from the day we take custody. I will be mentally preparing myself to take care of God's child, not my own, knowing she could be taken from me any time between the day I get her and about Dec 6.

Steve and I take custody of Jane on Nov 2, 2008.

Asleep in my arms.

Mr "New Dad" prepares for an afternoon nap with Janie on Monday, the day after we bring her home.

It's been almost a week, and I must say, we totally won the baby lottery. She's not fussy, but only cries when something is going on - she's hungry or wet or uncomfortable. She started to open her eyes to the world and hold her head up on Tuesday, Nov 4. It looks like she might have hazel or brown eyes.

She has long beautiful fingers - perfect for playing the cello or piano.

She hasn't started smiling yet, but it won't be long. She tends to furrow her brow in what I affectionately call her "perma-scowl," that appears on her face when her eyes are open and her newborn blurry vision can't quite make out the smudge in front of her. But we are all happy smudges, looking for the can of "scowl-be-gone."

As I tell my stories, centered around my latest adventure heroine, I realize the entire shape of my world has changed. It's been over ten paragraphs and I haven't said anything about bikes or bruises or crashing or pain. I spent the entire morning on Wednesday cleaning the house and watching the baby and feeding the baby, and planning dinner. When it occurred to me that this was how I was filling my day, I stopped short, stuck for a moment right in that moment. The remarkable thing was not that I was there, but that I was enjoying being there.

This image kinda sums it up for me:
Like the dog with the stupid grin, I've been domesticated. And it's really not too bad.

Finally in "News of the New Mom that you Just Can't Make Up" here's a morsel for you. It was 4:45am on Friday morning. I had been up with the baby since about 3:30am when she awoke hungry and I got up to nurse her (Yes, she's adopted and I'm nursing. Ah, the miracles of modern science.)

Anyhoo, she's all done, but she has the hiccups, and I can find NOTHING that will help her out. I put her on my shoulder, I walk around the room bouncing, I pat her on the back, and just when we get nice and settled down and I think she's going back to sleep... HIC!

I'm exhausted and no longer thinking straight. I've tried everything. Finally I bring her to bed with me, hoping that... I dunno, the power of my charismatic sleepwaves will overtake her and she'll fall asleep. Her hiccups awaken Steve.

"Honey, the baby has the hiccups," he tells me quietly.

"Yeah," I mutter sleepily, "I'm hoping they'll go away."

"Put her vertical," he suggests.

Not moving from my prone position, I prop the baby up vertically, as she flops over onto me with a HIC!

"Honey," Steve says, now awake, "you want me to take her?"

"Oh, would you? I just can't anymore," I mutter.

"Of course. That's what I'm here for," he says sympathetically. He takes the baby and I fall immediately to sleep.

When I awaken, I stumble into the living room where Janie and I had been a few hours before trying to deal with her hiccups. That's when I see it: the little mini paper bag I had found, and in desperation had tried to get her to breathe into to stop her hiccups. This is what they call a "facepalm moment." Somehow at 4:30 in the morning, trying to get a newborn to breathe into a tiny paper bag to cure the hiccups seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

Sleep deprived? Naw... just um, resourceful!

"Here, Janie, breathe into this." HIC! (yawn) "Trust me."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Where I've Been for Two Weeks

All the stories I tell here on the Bruise Chronicles are true, but I have refrained from telling personal stories... until now. Although I have many many acquaintances, I share the details of my life with few people. Telling a story of this depth in a public place is something of a stretch for me, but some stories are meant to be told, in the hope that they encourage others, and more than anything else, keep us all connected.

Warning: In this episode of the Bruise Chronicles, I get up-close and personal with my pregnancy difficulties and discuss medical issues and female parts. My goal is not to make anyone uncomfortable, but to relate to you my experience and hope you find encouragement. Similar to Lance's story of conquering cancer, the details are
central enough to the story to be unavoidable.

First, a big thank you to all of you who have been praying for me, who have sent me messages, and generally let me know you were concerned about me; it goes a long way. We often don't know what to say when someone is suddenly ill or distressed or in misfortune, but just a quick, "Hey, I was thinking about you the other day and thought I'd give you a call to see how you are," is often all it takes to sooth or cheer someone. Thank you to all of you who followed that impulse.

The Background: Wanting Children
Many of you know that Steve and I are planning to adopt a newborn. In fact, she's due in late October. We discussed adoption even before we were married, both of us recognizing that there are plenty of children out there who need good homes and dedicated parents. We've never felt that anything was "missing" from our lives, and never felt pressured to "produce" offspring simply because that's what people do. But as the years passed, and my statistical chances for giving birth started on the downward slope, we began making a conscious effort to have a child.

I have been dealing with endometrioma for a number of years. I don't know how long it's been there, but in the past year it has grown to the size of a 8-oz water bottle. Endometrioma is a strange condition that they don't fully understand, but briefly, it's a growth that occurs where it should not, usually near the female organs. It's non-cancerous. Sometimes it presents itself as a fluid-filled sac that adheres to healthy tissue. This is what I have. It has adhered itself to my right ovary and somewhat diminished its capacity for production. That's OK, though, because my left ovary produces eggs very well.

My doctor removed the growth laproscopically last year after it had grown to 9cm x 5cm, scraping as much of it from the right ovary as possible. And while its removal greatly relieved my pain and discomfort, the endometrial tissue which tends to regenerate had unfortunately adhered itself like a spiderweb to that right ovary, and the growth began to reappear early this year. It is now again a little larger than it was last year.

The Trip to the ER: How to get Moved to the Head of the Line
Sunday evening before Labor Day I begin having acute pains in the lower left quadrant of my back and abdomen, as if I have been pierced with a spear from back to front. I try to get the pain under control by stretching and breathing deeply. Nothing works. Every attempt to swallow pain medication results in it coming right back up again, and I am violently ill just trying to drink water. When I realize that it's been two hours, I've vomited four times, can't drink water, and am soon to dehydrate, I awake Steve and we head to Balboa Naval Medical Center ER. Just an FYI, if you ever need to get admitted immediately to an ER, but there's about twenty people already waiting there, collapsing at the registration desk, writhing in pain and then showing very visible signs of nausea are your ticket in.

The med techs peg me for kidney stones, and order the appropriate tests. After several hours, a CT scan and a sonogram, we have the word: everyone is fascinated by the largest endometrioma they've ever seen hovering over my right ovary, my kidneys are clear and look great, and my left ovary is an alarming size.

Smiling in the face of pain. Attitude is everything.
Besides, I never had a CT scan before, and it was kinda exciting.

Most likely (according to my doctor) my left ovary has become enlarged, has fallen over on itself and can't get up. If it got twisted, cutting off its blood supply, that would be the source of the acute pain. But by 6am, the sonogram reveals healthy sounds of bloodflow, and my pain is now more centrally located, not on the left. The doctors conclude that if the left ovary did experience a torsion, it has self-corrected. I am given meds for the pain and discharged from the ER late Monday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon I see my doctor (Dr L.) for a follow-up at NTC, and I tell him little has changed. I have constant pain, and my whole belly has swollen such that it hurts to wear anything but a mumu, and I'm afraid to eat. The hours of distress have thrown my body into a reactive state of tension and created ah, complications, and I fear my GI tract is slowly starting to shut down. He tells me to keep doing what I'm doing, drink plenty of fluids, and come back the next morning for blood work. I go home to the couch, a heating pad, and pain meds.

Wednesday I return to NTC for bloodwork and another examination. Dr L. sits me down to talk to me, takes a deep breath and tells me I need to go immediately to Balboa to get a thorough sonogram. He tells me that he's very concerned that the left ovary is so enlarged, and he still fears that it has twisted over on itself and has no blood supply. I see by the look in his eyes what he is telling me.

"So best case scenario," I say, "is that I have really bad gas and some inflammation, but worst case scenario, my 'good' ovary is dying and I could lose it. I could be looking at the loss of both ovaries," I tell him. This is my GYN, and also my fertility doctor. We've been working with him for over a year trying to conceive. I'm essentially asking him if he thinks the battle might be lost. It's a really big question that addresses things he seems hesitant to say.

He straightens up. I don't think he's used to women reading the cards on the table without emotion. I read the cards and then sift through the deck to see what I've missed. I hate being broadsided by things.

"Well," he seems to back away from the dire diagnosis, "I'm just saying it could be the case."

"Right. We're planning for contingencies," I say.

"Yes. I like that word. It's contingency planning." He smiles a tight-lipped smile at me, and sends me off to Balboa.

I take a deep breath as I get in the car and put my earpiece in my ear and make my phone calls. I call my mother, and three different priests, and tell them the situation. I need their prayers. I just want to be healthy, and I want peace of mind. It's times like these that I remember the scriptural verse that "the prayers of the righteous avail much", and I lament that I haven't been more diligent in my own prayer life. So I call the people who inspire me to pray more. I briefly tell them the situation, and ask for their prayers.

The Wednesday 9/3/08 Sonogram: Grabbing Hope from the Jaws of Despair
By the time I'm taken into the sonogram room, I've been waiting in the lobby for half an hour, lying on the floor because it hurts too much to sit down, tears streaming down my face in pain and frustration. As the girl prepares the sono machine, I sigh and ask myself if I'm ready to know the outcome of this test. That's when the thoughts start swirling in my head, and quite unexpectedly begin to connect and take shape and actually make sense.

The Doubts and Fears
While Steve and I, over the past ten years have not tried NOT to get pregnant, we waited quite a while to pursue any fertility treatment options. I've never regretted that decision to wait, because I know in my heart that the time was not right when I was in my 20's and early 30s. I've been far too selfish for much of my life to pour my energy into children without resentment. But now that I'm ready... is it too late?

Finding Hope
We all have a purpose. I know this.

In a letter my mom recently wrote, she said:
[Despair's] goal is to steal our joy, drag us down, and see us trampled by our own hopelessness, never to rise to the purpose God has for our lives. And make no mistake, God has a purpose for your life… all our lives have purpose. Our job it to discover that purpose… and fulfill it.
Lying on the table in the sonogram room, her words come to me, spinning around in my head with many many other thoughts. I'm adopting a baby girl at the end of October. God has somehow chosen me to be the mother of this little girl. What if... what if He's chosen more? I mean, if Steve and I have decided that we can economically and logistically raise four children, well, who am I to demand that they be my biological offspring? If God has chosen children, who, in His wisdom, would thrive under our care, who might not otherwise have a two-parent, loving home, well, who am I to close that door?

In other words, if my purpose at this point in my life is to be a mom, then there is no diagnosis, no condition, and no test result that is going to stand in the way of that purpose. Things might not always go according to the original plan, but things seldom ever do. This pain that I'm having, whatever it may be, is just a bump in the road, not necessarily a brick wall. We can work with it. It wasn't part of the plan, but we can work with it.

I laugh out loud, let the tears run down the sides of my face, and smile. It's going to be OK. No matter what the outcome, it's going to be OK. I find Peace.

I am in the sonogram room for over an hour when the tech turns up the sound, and we heard the splashing sounds of heartbeat. It seems my left ovary is being fueled after all, which is good news, but we still do not know the cause of the pain, which is the bad news. They determine my sonogram to be "inconclusive," as one can never be absolutely sure where bloodflow sounds are coming from.

Regardless, I go home encouraged, knowing that those thoughts that came to me about purpose are not thoughts you generate on your own when you're lying on your back in pain. Those thoughts are given to you as a grace from God when you are being lifted up in prayer.

Time Passes, Not Much Changes
Friday morning I return to NTC to see my doctor, who sees improvement, and tells me that since I'm improving, he will schedule surgery for Oct 1, to remove the endometrioma and with it the diminished-capacity right ovary. However, should my pain increase, I am to page him immediately.

Saturday morning I sing in a wedding, take a nap, then return to church to sing again. I'm managing the pain well and have something of an appetite. However, Sunday finds me laid low and in pain. Sunday afternoon we page my doctor, who instructs me to come in on Monday so that we can prepare for a Wednesday surgery.

I'm now mostly on a liquid diet, and have little appetite. I've lost about five pounds, that I don't really have to lose. I force myself to drink soup and eat some gluten-free cornbread. In sheer desperation for any relief from the abdominal pain, at the suggestion of my physical therapist Michelle, I go for a colonic at Living Water Rejuvenation Center. I enter the room where I see a table for me to lie down, and doing so, I see on the wall a framed image - detail from the Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo.

I stare at the picture as tears stream down my cheeks. I so need the touch of God right now! The girl who is to perform the colonic comes in and I explain my tears. She smiles and responds that she had hoped when she bought the picture that people would take courage from it, and be reminded that we all need a touch from God. Big shout out to Ciara, who was so loving and gentle throughout a somewhat delicate and disconcerting procedure.

The colonic goes a long way toward giving me some relief from my abdominal pain, which I am still convinced is caused by the enlarged tissues in my abdomen pressing on my colon, causing acute GI distress. No one suspects that there is anything more going on, partly because I'm so good at pain management, and partly because I know my body well enough to nuance what I'm doing in order to gain optimum performance from it.

The day before surgery I run errands and visit friends, then collapse on the couch at the end of the day, exhausted. Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday 9/10/08 Surgery: The Best Team I Could Hope For
I'm in good spirits. I pack my overnight bag, half-convinced that I won't even need it. The last time I had laparoscopic surgery, I was back on the bike for a 30-mile ride within six days... of course, I hadn't been reduced to a liquid diet for the two weeks prior to surgery that time.

Pre-Op. Talking to the anesthesiologists.

I dress in the little peek-a-boo smock that they give you and am led to the OR prep room where my surgical team starts to show up. I see Dr W., who is my secondary physician at the clinic. He was not scheduled to scrub in on this surgery, but he was available, and came down on his own time to be here. Wow. For a moment I simply have no words.

Through the glass of the room, I happen to see Dr P., my orthopedic surgeon who fixed my wrist a year and a half ago. I rush to the hallway and call his name. He greets me with a huge smile and a fist bump, then inspects his handiwork. I show him that I am at 100% mobility and still going strong. Pretty good for a plate and eleven screws in one tiny wrist. I'm encouraged by seeing him, and by remembering what a great team I had for my orthopedic surgery.

Back in the prep room, I speak with the anesthesiologist and tell him my concerns:
1. I tend to blow through anesthesia like it was never there
2. I always wake up nauseated
3. I always wake up with vital signs in the tank and therefore no way to relieve the pain without compromising the respiratory system (opiates depress the respiratory system)

Without hesitation he says, "Well you sound like you're an ultra-rapid metabolizer..."

"What do you mean?" I ask. I've never heard this.

"Well, there's about 10% of the population who metabolize opiates much faster than normal. Where most people would be given a dosage that would last 45 minutes or an hour, it might last you at most 15 minutes. We can work with that."

Putting in the main line.

As it happens, I see one of the anesthesiologists on my team the day after my surgery. I excitedly tell him that I felt no pain and no nausea and how it was such a beautiful thing. He tells me that indeed, I am an ultra-rapid metabolizer, and that when they went to put me under normally, within ten minutes I was coming out of it. They knew then to put me under "really deep," and I did just fine.

The waiter takes my cocktail order...

Just before they administer the "cocktails", I see Dr L., my GYN who will perform the surgery. I ask him if he would mind if I pray for him. He smiles in mild surprise, and agrees. I take his right hand, pause for a moment to gather my thoughts, and say:
May God give you clarity of thought. May he guide your hand. May He give you wisdom, and bless your decisions. Amen.
It's a powerful prayer that I have thought about for several days. With that, they administer the meds through my veins that will put me out for the next few hours.

Already groggy with the drugs, I revert to my nerdy side. My last words before I drift off into oblivion are, "Live Long and Prosper."

Post-Op: Not the surgery I was expecting
I awake from surgery in good spirits, with an overwhelming sense that everything was good. Then I overhear the nurse talking to someone about "removal of the left ovary..." and I rouse from my sleep, shaking off the fog in my brain. That's the wrong one. She must be referring to someone else.

"Um, left ovary? Who are you talking about?" I ask her.

"Oh, I was discussing your surgery with--" she begins.

I interrupt her. "But I didn't have my left ovary removed. It was the right one. It had an endometrioma..." I explain.

"No, they had to remove the left..." She continues explaining, but I stop listening. It makes no sense. I want to talk to someone else. Where's my doctor? Is my husband around?

I'm still convinced she's mistaken as she wheels my bed out of the recovery room and into the hallway headed for 4 East where I will spend the night. I see my husband and ask him to please set her straight. He speaks to me instead.

"Honey, they had to remove the left ovary. When they got in there, they found that there was nothing else they could do. It had become twisted and lost all blood supply. They said the tissue was black and necrotic. They had to remove it. In fact, they
were really shocked by its condition said they don't know how you even walked in here. Dr L. said he'd never seen anything so bad in someone who was still functional."

He paused, then reassured me, "The right ovary is in good shape; the endometrioma is still there, but Dr L. said that the pathway from the ovary to the fallopian tube is clear, and you still have a chance of becoming pregnant. Your right ovary is still healthy."

I am silent, taking all this in. My husband adds, "I'm sorry it's not the news you expected."

Choosing Not to Despair
I'm a planner. I like to know what all the contingencies are and be prepared for them. I hate surprises, and
get really thrown off my game when I'm caught off-guard. When I go on long mountain bike rides, I take a small set of pliers in case I get into cactus and need to pull splines, and a space blanket in case I get injured and need to ward off shock. I'm usually prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best. I don't deal well with unforeseen outcomes.

Going into this surgery, I never foresaw this outcome. I figured I was just constipated...

To my own surprise, I nod my head and say, "OK," in quiet acceptance of the reality in front of me that it is what it is. The peace that had comforted me on the sonogram table a week before is here again with me this afternoon. Thinking again of that moment when Peace surrounded me like a warm blanket and assured me that if my purpose at this time in my life is to be a mom, then nothing will stand in the way of that, and remembering the prayer that I said over my doctor before the surgery, in which I asked God to guide his hand and bless his decisions, once again I find Peace. With those two reassurances, how can I let myself despair?

Clinging to those two memories and moments in time, I rest my mind, knowing that, even though this might not be part of the original plan, that's OK. We can work with it. After all, nothing ever really goes according to plan. This is a bump in the road, not even a brick wall. Even if it were, brick walls are scalable.

I spend a sleepless Wednesday night in mild pain and great frustration, mostly at not being able to sleep. My body metabolizes things strangely, and even after taking an Ambien in desperation at 3am, I am still wide awake at 4am. After I am authorized morphine at about 6am, I am finally able to sleep, and awaken to a better day Thursday. I take a midday walk in the courtyard with my husband, albeit a slow one. Thursday night is much better, now that I've been authorized almost as much morphine as I want. I'm a much kinder, gentler patient when I'm on narcotics.

Just before my discharge from the hospital on Friday, I see Dr W. (who had not been scheduled to be there for my surgery, but came and scrubbed in anyway). He remarked that I looked good and was improving quickly, and wanted me to know that he and his family had been praying for me. Wow. Another wow moment. I'd never spoken to any of my doctors about faith or prayer, I'd only heard Dr L. comment from the hallway one day, "God is merciful to me..."

Thank you to all of you who have kept Steve and me in your prayers. They have truly lifted me up and sustained me.

I spent two days in the hospital trying to get all my - ahem - air ducts and plumbing operational again. Big shout-out to the angels of mercy in 4 East of Balboa Naval Hospital. Thanks for your diligence and concern.

Surprisingly, my discharge papers tell me that I may resume normal activities "as tolerated." So on Monday, lured by the idea of a bike ride with my buddies after a two-week hiatus, I show up for a ride at Donny's Cafe. When my buddies realize that I am less than a week out of surgery and that a minor organ was removed, they are less than sanguine.

"Wait. What are you doing here? What if you over-exert yourself and start bleeding internally? It's not like we can apply pressure or something. Go home. I mean, we'd love to have you come ride, but... please rest today. Come ride Friday."

Yeah. I know they're right. When you have to wear bib shorts because regular cycling shorts chafe the fresh incision at your navel, you should probably go home and rest instead.

Moving Forward at the Speed of Light... Lite Ranch Dressing, that is
It's one week today that I had my surgery, and I'm feeling pretty good. I tire more quickly than I'm used to, but I know that's just my body healing. My neighbor across the street saw me on my bike on Monday and didn't know whether to rush over and hug me in excitement that I felt well enough to ride, or rush over and beat me with a rolled-up newspaper for putting myself at risk of strain and injury so soon after surgery. She settled for hugging me and threatening the newspaper beating if I didn't rest. I have a great neighbor.

I know the hospital staff in 4 East were probably concerned with the amount of morphine I was on, and wondered if I weren't some closet junkie, but
I'm down to one pain tablet a day, and actually forget to take the Motrin I've been prescribed for inflammation. I took the 4 East team a basket of fruit and homemade banana bread in appreciation for all the great attention and care. Plus, they really need some decent food in that place.

I've received so many calls and text messages, and even a home-made e-card (she sent a photo of a homemade get-well card - how cool is that?!) from a girl I only recently met, who was kind enough to take a moment to send well-wishes my way. Some people, like the girl who shares my name and lives in Toronto, Canada, called several times before getting through, just to wish me well and tell me that people were praying for me. I feel so very rich and blessed and very humbled by all this concern. Thank you all.

The past two weeks have really reinforced to me that attitude is everything, and that there is no substitute for caring, loving people. So if you get the chance to be a caring, loving person, I don't care who you are, I guarantee you, there is someone close by who could benefit from the gift of you.

I've told this story because I know I'm not the only one who has faced endometrioma, or difficulties getting pregnant, or adoption, or disappointment. Be encouraged. Make an effort to stay connected. Choose not to despair by
dwelling on the positive things that you have control over.

For additional encouragement, everyone should read The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch.

More Adventures On and Off the Bike coming very soon. Watch this space!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Truly Exceptional Woman - Barbara Warren, Ph.D., RIP

Today the cycling community is in shock, learning that a woman who inspired us, motivated us to reach our goals, and told us that we had the power to become exceptional people, has died tragically after a bicycle crash during the Santa Barbara Triathlon on Saturday.

Here is the email I received through Big Ring Racing:
August 28th:

It is with such a heavy, heavy heart that I share with you of the passing of Barbara Warren, last night, Tuesday, August 26th, 2008. She was at peace, and she was beautiful. She will be so missed but she is with God now and her spirit will be with us all stronger than ever, guiding us.

You will feel the spirit of Barbara profoundly today, in this moment she is in our hearts and our thoughts. When the moments, and days, and months pass, and we are living our lives, she will be watching us. When you need strength, tap into the spirit of Barbara, she has an abundance to share and she shares generously and lovingly. She is a gift, she is a blessing, and it has been such a true honor to have known Barbara.

The family would appreciate 24 hours of solitude. We all want to be there for Angelika, Tom, Ingrid, and Katrin, but for now, please, lets give them the time and space that they need.

From the Associated Press
10:14 AM PDT, August 28, 2008

SANTA BARBARA -- Barbara Warren, one of the world's elite endurance athletes in her age group and one-half of a well-known pair of triathlete twins, has died after breaking her neck in a bike crash at the Santa Barbara Triathlon. She was 65.

Warren, of San Diego, died Tuesday at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital when her family told doctors to take her off a ventilator, her twin sister Angelika Drake told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Warren crashed her bike on a downhill road about halfway through the 34-mile cycling section of the race on Saturday, race director Joe Coito said.

Warren was paralyzed from the neck down and was breathing with the aid of the ventilator.

Drake said her sister told the family by blinking and nodding that she wanted to die.

"I talked to her and she nodded over and over and over again. She wanted to leave," Drake said. "No athlete would like to have a life with only their eyes talking."

Warren's two daughters and her husband Tom were also with her at the hospital when she died.

Warren won her age group in the 2003 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii. She competed in the race, the world's top triathlon, 13 times and finished in the top five in her age group eight times.

The two sisters alternated riding bikes in the Race Across America, covering 2,983 miles in less than 10 days.

Warren also competed in a seven-day race across the Sahara Desert, and finished a triple Ironman in France that included a 7.2-mile swim, 336-mile bike ride and 78.6-mile run.

Warren was well-loved among younger triathletes.

Michellie Jones, who won a triathlon silver medal in the 2000 Olympics and won the 2006 Ironman World Title, was also a twin who remembered her fondly.

"She always asked about my sister," Jones said. "She understood the bond."

Warren's twin said she lay next to her sister as she died.

"My heart and my soul are gone," Drake said. "She was everything in my life."

I'm at a loss as to how to even react to this news, but more than mourn her loss at this moment, I want to celebrate her life, and remember her impact on me and on all those who knew her.

I met Dr. Barbara when I was trying to coordinate a "Ladies Night" at the bike shop, and wanted someone to come speak to the women. I knew I wanted a woman speaker, someone who was strong and celebrated her strength, but yet who was not so much of an elite athlete that she intimidated the audience, or talked about training in such a manner that the women could not relate to her. I had no idea I could find one of the most elite female athletes in the world, who was also a professional motivational speaker, who was so personable, and loved people so much that anyone would feel comfortable asking her questions and feel a connection with her.

When I called Dr. Barbara and approached her with the idea of being our speaker at a Ladies Night, she got very excited about it, asking questions about the evening's agenda. I told her it would be for the women of my Friday Girls Ride, and anyone else who wanted to come. She then asked about my Friday Girls Ride, and I told her I had started it so that people, especially women, would have a place to learn to ride and get individual coaching with shifting and bike handling, and have no fear of being dropped. I told her the Ladies Night event would be for women only, mostly because of the fashion show, so we could model the clothing ourselves and talk about what we liked or not. The agenda would include the speaker, a fashion show, and a question/answer time, then a big ride the next day. She agreed enthusiastically to be a part of it.

Then came the part I held my breath for.

"Um, I understand you do a lot of speaking engagements. What... what do you usually charge for something like this?" I asked her, closing my eyes.

"Well," she responded, "what do you charge for your Friday Girls Ride?"

"Oh, it's free. I don't charge anything," I told her.

"Then I don't charge you anything either," she said.

"Oh, wow. That's so great!" I laughed.

"Besides," I could hear the smile in her voice, " I don't think you could afford me anyway."

We laughed, and I agreed. We discussed a few more details of the evening, then she asked if
she might bring a friend. I was so honored that she would not only want to be a part of it, but want a friend to be a part of it as well. Of course!

We exchanged emails over the next few days, working out the details of her presentation. She sent me the working title of her talk: How to reach PASSION AND GLORY as an athlete.

Ooo. I hesitated. This was a bit advanced for us. I wrote her an email with this message:

Hey Barbara,

A little more info about your audience, I think very few of them actually see themselves as "athletes" at this point. I remember being there (mentally). I had been gritting my way through triathlons, and finally even the Wildflower Half, but was still hesitant to call myself an athlete. I still saw myself as a chubby, not-so-athletic woman --about 6 years ago I wore a size 14; I am now in a 6-8, almost where I was when I was in college.

You will be speaking to a group of women, many of whom are reluctant to call themselves athletes, and some who don't even acknowledge that they are "cyclists." Your unique ability to encourage people to not only see their potential, but light a fire under their belief in their potential is what I was hoping to capture.

I wouldn't want the title to scare anyone off by thinking this talk does not pertain to her, because she doesn't race, or is not used to thinking of herself as an athlete. I hope I have stated this such that it makes sense.

I have a hard time coming up with an alternative title, however, because I don't know what you are going to say. Your book titles are pretty powerful on their own, though! Become Exceptional... The Power to Complete Your Goals... these are already tremendous. Frankly, I look forward to reading your books!

Part of me wants you to let these women know that they SHOULD think of themselves as athletes, and that even if they don't see themselves as particularly athletic, if they have chosen to become fit and strong and healthy, they already have an athlete's heart or soul. It is their right to become an athlete, and that most of the things holding them back are constraints they themselves have created.

I don't know if this is any of your philosophy, but this is what I see over and over again. This is the attitude I lived. Even after completing a half-marathon and a century ride, I still protested to people that I wasn't really an athlete, because my brain hadn't quite accepted it. The idea is still somewhat foreign to me, but the results of my life and the medals on my wall, and my "remarkable recovery time" noted by my doctors confirm that truth to me. And even after I'm in my 80s, I will cling to the words: I have the heart and soul of an athlete.

THIS is what I want to give to these women. Is this possible?

Let me know your thoughts.
She wrote me back quickly, telling me that I was a wise girl, and suggested the title: Turning into an Athlete in Heart and Soul.

Wow. Yes. That was it exactly.

Unfortunately, we were never able to have our Ladies Night, as the venue we had chosen became unavailable and the event was not a priority for the shop. I was sad that I wouldn't get to hear her speak, but took encouragement from our brief encounter nonetheless.

In every way, she seemed to approach life with such a zeal that you wondered if she hadn't faced death before, fought it off, and vowed to use every minute the best she could. Few people have that kind of passion, and it was truly exceptional and truly inspiring.

Dr. Barbara's mission in life was to encourage others to become exceptional, to overcome the obstacles that inhibit their personal achievement, and to develop strength of character that would allow them to achieve their goals. Ambition, passion, courage - these are the behaviors she cultivated in people, and these are the traits she possessed.

Thank you Dr. Barbara for
continuing to inspire me to become exceptional, for being a faithful steward of the talents that God gave you, for motivating me to use my time here on earth well, and for cheering for me and encouraging me to be a hero.

May your memory be eternal.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Midnight Madness 2008

Similar to last year, I got all dressed up for the midnight ride in my business suit and pumps. I figure if I go to the office in bike clothes most every day, it's only natural for me to go to the bike ride in office clothes.

Changing only a couple things about my outfit and equipment from last year, I swap out to Crank Brothers pedals and cleats, using pontoon cleats to make walking easier, and carry a Timbuk2 messenger bag with a spare set of bike shoes just in case I find the pumps too painful.

Always a great time, Midnight Madness is the opportunity for San Diego cyclists to come out and ride bikes in the streets and generally be silly. It's like this ride was MADE for me.

My good buddy Steve was there too, all fuzzed up in the Cookie Monster outfit.

Popeye and Olive Oyl were there...
(those are spinach cans tied to the back of the bike) was this loving couple

Dan and Steve and I go to Elephant and Castle for some food before the ride. We know we won't be getting off the ride till after 1:00 am.

For what it's worth, I don't know if Steve has done a ride in his Cookie Monster costume when he was completely sober. Just for good measure, we have a libation before the ride.

Before the ride begins, we make one last stop at the car, and there in the parking lot a girl recognizes me.

"Hey! You're here again this year!" she says cheerfully.
"Yeah! Um, I'm sorry, tell me your name?" I ask her, not recognizing her face.
"Oh, you don't know me. I saw your picture online. It's the first one that comes up when you google image search 'Midnight Madness,'" she tells me.

I'm dumbstruck. "You're kidding me."

"No, really. Wow! This is so cool! Can I take your picture?" She goes on to mention that she hopes my feet won't be hurting like the year before, and then I realize she read my Midnight Madness 2007 writeup.

Wow. This is the first person that I have no connection to, who has known who I am before actually meeting me. I should have got HER picture. I think her name was Melissa or Natalie, or something with three syllables.
Quick shoutout: Wherever you are girl, you gave me a huge smile! Thank you. Please shoot me an email if you see this.

Just before we leave the car, Steve looks up to see a girl passing by us walking her bike.

"Hey! I know you!" he calls out to her.

She hesitates, not quite knowing if the large furry bule guy is harmless or not. He sees her hesitation and laughs, "I'm Steve from UC Cyclery. I work on your bike."

She laughs and then recognizes him. She introduces herself, and when we find out that Meredith has come to ride by herself, we invite her to join us. The four of us head to the staging area.

Back at the staging area, it's pretty packed, but it's not exactly madness. The madness will start after the ride begins.

This is probably one of my favorite photos of the night. This little girl has probably been on a bike in some manner since long before she could even speak. Cycling is so natural for her, it's even a natural thing for her to put her own "baby" on the back. I love it.

Waiting for the start of the ride, I see a rather colorful couple, complete with an automatic soap bubble generator that blows bubbles into the breeze and causes a random man to stop in his tracks, sway slightly, blink, and mutter, "Woah." Woah indeed. They even have their own little disco ball.

Where do people find these things? But I suppose that could be said of my clip-in pumps.

Suddenly from the darkness, I hear my name called. I look to the direction of the sound to see a petite green fairy and a Mexican wrestler. I look at the man in the mask who evidently knows me; the only visible amount of his person that is not covered by a costume is a small space right around his eyeballs.

"Hi!" I greet him cheerily, "I have no idea who you are."

It's Peter from my Velodrome class. Cool! I know people.

The clock ticks down, and the ride begins. People are allowed through the gates in waves, so that there are not too many people jockeying for position at any one given moment.

Dan, Steve, Meredith, and I line up at the start, wait for our wave to shuffle to the front and we take off.

As we ride down Harbor Drive, I see more people I know: Jason who races for DeWalt Big Ring Racing, and Roger from Performance Bike Bonita.

A little further, we see Alison, who also races for DeWalt. We ride together and chat, making the loop around the top of Harbor Island when Allison gets a flat. She calls for her buddies who are carrying a spare tube and CO2. They hand her the supplies and I jump in to change her flat.

Once Alison's flat is changed, we continue on the route. From here on out, it is pretty quiet, but we see plenty of interesting people. Like this girl, who gave new meaning to the term "tail light."

And the "Is-this-Midnight-Madness?-This-is-SPARTA!!" guy...

I thought this fixie guy looked cool with his attention to detail in the little monkey wrench hanging off his belt and his bowling shoes...

Who knew he was also a Mexican wrestler!!

We get to end of Rosecrans where the course turns onto San Diego Ave at Old Town. We only go a couple blocks before we come upon the favorite refreshment stop...

It was remarkable to me how many bikes were parked along the side of the street. It reminded me of the Saturday morning road ride near Solana Beach and the bikes parked outside the Java Depot!

We finish the ride, turning into downtown at about 1am, just as people are stumbling out of bars. It makes for something of an advanced obstacle course, as you never know when some random person will stagger into your path. A woman struggling to stay atop her stiletto heels calls out to us in a drunken bravado, "Hey! Bicyclers! Show us your boobs! And your junk! And your..." As she thinks about what else she'd like to see, I call to her, "Um, you should get out more!" as the crowd chuckles and we glide past her in a swirl of color.

It's moments like these my husband would remind me that smart alec-y comments often get people seriously killed, and I would do best just to ride, smile, and nod.

Before the end of the night, I see Ryan and Gilbert from my Velodrome class. It shouldn't surprise me that a lot of the Velodrome folks are out here. We should all plan to ride together next year, or at least take a headcount of who to look for.

So the twenty miles in pumps wasn't as painful as I remembered, perhaps because I didn't walk so much in the shoes earlier in the evening. All of us who rode had a great time and were glad we came. Before the end of the night, we're talking about costumes for next year!

Steve (Cookie Monster) admiring my fancy cleated pumps.