The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Wow, has this week sucked

When I ate lunch on Sunday, my gallbladder contracted to help digest some of the cheese in my salad. A tiny piece of calcium was already lodged in my biliary duct, however, preventing bile from getting out. My gallbladder persevered. It pushed. It shuddered mightily against the stone. It had me doubled over in agony and Anne rushing me to Evanston Hospital.

All of this on its own would have caused enough pain to last a decade if the gallbladder had simply given up and allowed the stone to wiggle its way back inside like most gallstones do. No, this stone, and six or seven of its smaller siblings, actually managed to get all the way through the biliary duct, lacerating it in the process. By Tuesday morning my gallbladder had turned "gangrenous," according to one of the surgeons who removed it Tuesday afternoon.

I'm finally home, with four painful holes in my belly and a bottle of Vicodin to munch on. I've missed Anne, Parker, my house, and yes, my blog. I'm going to miss the North Shore and Apple Cider centuries, too.

That hurts almost as much as the exploding gallbladder. Moreover, the surgeon pointed out that moderate weight loss combined with increasing carbohydrate consumption and physical activity—i.e., training for a century ride—can all trigger gallstones in the first place. So it's possible that not only did the gallstones render all my training this summer moot, but the training itself may have caused them. Sigh.

At least I can never have gallstones again. And I have a great defense the next time someone accuses me of having a lot of gall.

I'll probably get back to full strength by mid-October, just in time to plop a trainer in the living room. This will enable moderate training throughout the winter, which will keep me in decent shape. Without a major event to train for, and with a reduced ability to digest fatty foods, I expect to complete my weight-loss goal just in time to chow down on holiday foods.

So while my gallbladder's untimely demise seriously hurt my fitness goals for 2006, it should have no effect on my goals for 2007 and beyond, which include more centuries and, ultimately, RAGBRAI.

But still, this week has sucked.

Two quick hits

First, I just put a major project to bed. It was my first time out doing litigation support, meaning I wrote software to crunch a whole bunch (= about a billion) of numbers for a law firm who represent a large (= about 350,000) class of plaintiffs. They got the results just now, so unless the defendant chooses not to settle and I get subpoenaed, I believe I'm done.

Second, at least one petty little man on the South Shore Line apparently doesn't "get" the whole idea of bikes on a train:

A day trip to South Bend ended up costing a Lincoln Park man $150 in cab fare after a South Shore Line crew member told him he would have to get his bicycle off the train.
What startled Alan Forester, 34, was that he had taken the South Shore Line to South Bend earlier in the day Sunday and no one said anything to him about his bike. Even more puzzling, he said he had followed the bicycle policy that he read on the railroad's Web site.

I had a similar problem about two years ago, when, after bonking on a very long ride, I attempted to board a Union Pacific North Line train at Highland Park, and got turned away by a conductor who thought my bungee cord was too short. (I think I may have told him at least I had a bungee cord, but we won't go there right now.)

The CTA largely gets it right. All CTA buses have bike racks. This means people can get out of their cars and save the environment by biking without worrying they'll be stranded because of weather or traffic. Why is Metra so opposed to the idea?

Biking the way it ought to be

Yesterday I posted that even a bad ride on my new bike is better than a good ride on my old bike. Today I had a good ride on the new bike, and boy, it's a very good thing.

As you can see from my biking stats (at least as of this writing), I set eight personal records today, including one that stood for more than 21 years. There's a stretch of Sheridan Road that has a 14 m (45 ft) drop and a nice, straight, stopsign-free flat after it, where today I got my bike up to 53.4 km/h (33.2 mph), breaking my old record of 52.0 km/h (32.3 mph) set (probably on the same hill) in May 1985.

Yes, I live in a place where a 14-meter drop is the biggest hill around.

Anyway, I'm very pleased with today's ride, and I'm excited about doing 120 km (75 mi) on the Katy Trail next weekend, and then 161 km (100 mi) on the North Shore Century in three weeks. And I promise to have bike photos tomorrow or Tuesday.

More about the new bike

First, I promise to take some photos today. Possibly I can convince Anne to take an action shot or two, which I will post, forgetting for a moment that no one—I mean, no one—can possibly avoid looking like a total dork while wearing bike gear.

Second, I've revised and moved my biking stats page. I thought it was only fair to split off my old bike's records into their own table, because my new bike is so much faster it just wouldn't be fair. Case in point: yesterday, I did 40 km (25 mi) along the lakefront, but I wasn't feeling great. It was warm and humid, I was tired, I hadn't eaten very well, there were children and dogs on the bike path, and I had a couple of minor issues with the bike (trouble clipping in, chain slipping off inner chainring, etc.).

Even with all that working against me, I bested my previous 40 km record by more than four and a half minutes. In other words, a bad ride on my new bike was 5% faster than the best comparable ride on my old bike.

As you can see from the chart, though, comparing Wednesday's OK ride to the previous records shows an 8% improvement over 5 km (3 mi) and an 11% improvement over one hour.

Finally, on the chart you may notice my spot-speed record of 52 km/h (32.3 mph), which I set in May 1985. Yes, in 21 years I haven't managed to make a bicycle go faster than that. Well, watch this space, because today I intend to break that record.

Ate my Wheaties this morning

It's not every day that I set five personal records (PRs). This morning I rode 40 km (24.9 mi) in 1:29:19, beating my old PR (set Tuesday) by 2:29. The other PRs are in my expanded PR table on braverman.org.

I attribute my increasing performance this season to three things: first, plain and simple, I'm riding more: 17.3 km (10.7 mi) per day on average (including days off) against 14.6 km (9.1 mi) the previous three seasons. Here's what I've done since June 13th:

The little blue dots go against the right-hand scale and represent kilometers ridden on each day. The yellow line goes against the left-hand scale and represents a moving 7-day average.

The second boost is that I'm eating much better than I used to, and timing it better as well. I have to thank Monique Ryan, the sports nutritionist whose office is across the atrium from mine.

Finally, I found another great book by champion biker Marla Streb. If you're interested in seriously training for a Century, I recommend you pick up both books today:

Minor changes to my personal site

This will interest just about no one but those people who, out of blind love for me, set braverman.org as their home page. I've made a minor change to it, adding my biking stats. To save you the click-through, here they are:

  2006 All-time
Day (km) 61.3 Jul 15 117.9 2005 Sep 18
15km sprint 33:42 Jul 21 33:42 2006 Jul 21
20km 45:42 Jul 21 43:32 2005 Jul 2
1 hour (km) 25.1 Jul 19 26.4 2004 Aug 13
Speed (km/h) 42.1 Jul 12 49.0 2003 Jul 22
Season (km) 496.3 Jul 21 1212.1 2005 Oct 4
Convert km to miles
Last ride: July 21, 20.0 km

Oh, and a friend pointed out that today is Senator Paul Wellstone's birthday. He would have been 62.