Turn the Page to 2021

bike trip odometer reset to zero

The first day of the year …. a day that no matter what we did activity-wise in the last 365 days, the slate is wiped clean. Back to zero. The grind starts again.

I’ll be starting my year with doctor-advised rest to let my body heal. I’ve managed to create an overuse injury that needs time and variety to heal and allow for future bike adventures.

But I can’t help but start imagining what I’m hoping this year will bring.

photo by Dave Kraus, Kraus Grafik

Personal

This year will be transformative. My youngest child is expected to graduate from high school and head off to college, meaning it will just be my husband and I and the dogs in a few short months. Younger Me, sitting in the hospital after birthing her first child, could only dream of the day when her house and time would be her own again. I blinked, time happened, and the house doesn’t need to be this big anymore. We’re looking forward to helping our youngest get settled into the start of their adult life.

I start a new job on Monday, one that I am very excited for and see myself growing with over the next few years or so. Professional growth is vital to my mental well-being.

Continue with therapy to build and maintain healthy boundaries and explore areas that need some work.

more time with other bad ass women doing bad ass things

Active Plans

WALKING & HIKING – I plan to continue with daily walks as long as I am able to work from home. My senior dogs definitely appreciate that as well. Fresh air and all the smells. I picked up some trekking poles so I can get out and hike more without destroying my hips and knees.

YOGA – I started this year with a 10 minute meditation on Om and rededicating myself to a regular yoga practice. I’m not as disciplined when it’s home-based practice and I certainly look forward to when my studio can open back up. But I realize yoga is a huge part of my life that I miss. As I get older, my body also needs gentle stretching to stay limber and flexible.

BIKEPACKING – My arsenal of bikepacking gear is in good shape, so I’m planning to do more overnights/weekends and two longer trips:

* local overnights to various parks and forests in the Hudson Valley
* Brace Mountain & Beartown (3 days) in the tri-state area
* Roundabout Brattleboro (3 days) with some girlfriends, targeting June (pending vaccinations being readily available)
* Taste the Catskills (3 days) triple century is a strong Maybe
* Green Mountain Gravel Growler or VTXL (5 days) with my adventure partner (pending vaccinations being readily available)

2018 Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder ft. 26mm gravel tires in 65 miles of sloppy mud

GRAVEL EVENTS – I’m also keeping an eye on gravel events. Given covid’s unchecked community spread, I won’t be able to run the Frozen Apple again this year unless we do it late in the season. I signed up for Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder in May to have something to look forward to. But I’m also trying to keep it flexible because if 2020 taught us anything, it’s be ready to change plans.


I’m not sure yet if I want to target a bike goal this year other than having as much fun as possible. I love mountain biking and have been getting better in the last couple years, tackling terrain I previously was scared to think about. I enjoy riding on new roads and meeting up with friends to explore. I barely touch my road bike, but it’s super fun to ride because it’s titanium with carbon wheels so it flies.

Maybe it’s OK to just say I’m going to ride when I want and do other stuff when I want and find balance.

We have the whole year ahead of us … let’s make it a good one. See you out there.

Shortest Day of the Longest Year

real talk from a really long year

2020, am I right?

This year has been cray on top of the previous three years of political cray here in the US. At this point I’m pretty sure the Hadron Collider shuttled us into an alternate reality that we’re only now able to escape.

I’m sitting here two weeks from starting a new job, enjoying a few days off before becoming the New Kid At Work again. But wait, didn’t you just start a new job right as the pandemic unfolded? Yes, yes I did. Life is too short to waste time trying to please those who won’t appreciate it.

Despite the cray, it was still a pretty decent year. Instead of my usual bike pics, I’m going to share some of my favorite memes from the year because WHY NOT. For bike pics, check my Instagram.

January

We started the New Year back home in Colorado with family and friends. I continue to cherish spending the time together before the world seemed to fall apart. I celebrated Chinese New Year with my coworkers at a local Chinese restaurant. Laura, are you sure you want to go to a Chinese restaurant? You aren’t worried about coronavirus? Yes, I’m sure. I’m confident it won’t be an issue. I started a “training” series for those who wanted to ride my latest bike event brainchild, The Frozen Apple.

February

February involved more gravel riding, my youngest kid being featured in the school district art show, and a questionably-advised brewery and distillery trip with friends. Swag for the Frozen Apple arrived and I spent a lot of time ironing out details and getting volunteers.

March

March saw our world upended. I still can’t believe my goodbye happy hour was at a bar and we all hung out inside, laughing and talking and hugging multiple times. The simple joys of The Before Times. I then started a new job just across the bridge from NYC and 4 days later was advised to work from home for the foreseeable future. Westchester and NYS shut down. It was really scary to live in the epicenter county of a viral outbreak. So much panic buying at the grocery store. Then came the deep paycuts, reconfiguring our budget, and spending hours on hold trying to talk to a rep about mortgage payment relief. Finally see my GI doc. My youngest kid got to have the first Quarantine Birthday.

We end up canceling the Frozen Apple due to the president declaring a National Emergency.

April

April brought warmer weather and solo bike rides to help manage the stress and anxiety of Pandemic Times. Mask mandates begin and thing start to feel safer – but the grocery stores are still broadcasting an odd mix of 80s pop music and “During these trying times ….” messages. Feeling thankful we bought a huge set of toilet paper and paper towels when they were plentiful.

May

More solo gravel rides and I’m hitting my stride – seeing a big jump in speed and endurance. All signs point to an amazing bike year and I’m averaging over 100 feet of climbing per mile ridden. I buy myself a smartwatch to monitor my body metrics because it sounds interesting. My girlfriends and I lament not being able to have a Girls Bike Camping Weekend. I start to incorporate one other person on bike rides, and only mountain biking rides because it’s much easier to stay socially distant in the woods.

I’m also apparently in need of my gallbladder to be removed. So I bow out of a redux of Taste the Catskills.

June

June is a big pile of nothing. Elective surgeries had just started resuming within the last week or so so I’m thankful for the timing of having my gallbladder removed. I should write a post about that experience because there’s a lot that I thought I understood but really didn’t. Main take-away: Laparoscopic surgery is still major surgery. Next time, maybe take more than 3 days off work to recover. I rest, read, and walk the dogs. Celebrated another Quarantine Birthday for my oldest kid.

July

Ah yes, Birthday Month! Technically I’m allowed to bike again, but I keep it mellow and stop when my insides start to feel Not Great. I discover I still need to stay on a reduced fat diet (I decided to aim for 50g of fat per day because that felt ok) and add in digestive enzymes, which help tremendously. My oldest comes over for a long weekend visit. I turn 43.

August

Decide I’m officially IN for the Green Mountain Gravel Growler, a bikepacking trip my friend and I had been planning all year to do. A tropical storm knocks out our power so I have to go into the office to work for a day. It’s the weirdest feeling even though only a few others are there and the whole office has been rearranged to be socially distant and masks required when not at your desk. Work stress on top of everyday stress and anxiety are building up and my usual mechanisms aren’t working. I end up having an anxiety attack, signing up for therapy, and talking to my doctor about a low dose of SSRI.

I get my life back with therapy and Lexapro.

September

Training rides and bikepacking prep. Finally get a Girls Bike Weekend in the Berkshires and it’s everything we needed it to be. We booked adjacent campsites and brought all our own stuff (no sharing anything). We rode gravel and had campfires and talked. It felt magically to spend time with friends I love.

Green Mountain Gravel Growler pushed me to my limits and even though I had to push myself to the very end of my physical abilities, I have zero regrets and look forward to another week-long trip next year. I learned some valuable lessons and have some amazing stories to tell.

October

October started great – I recovered from my deep glycogen deficit and did some low-key rides with one or two others. I’m driving home one evening from running errands and notice a kitten in the road that looks like it may have been clipped by a car. So I stop and move it to the side of the road … and it bites me.

Cue a massively infected finger, several calls with the Dept of Health, and a mandate to go get a rabies vaccine. PEAK 2020: Potential for Death by Kitten.

I decide I don’t want to be working in the dining room anymore so we convert my middle kid’s room to an office. I redecorate with bike-themed posters. Pete and I celebrate 23 years of marriage. I decide my bike goal for this year is to average 100 feet of climbing per mile ridden.

November

I’m no political junkie but hot damn, this election was a roller coaster and I’m pleased with the outcome. I’m ready to get back to hating my elected officials a normal amount.

A rare warm November day meant I could meet up with my best bike girlfriends for a mixed terrain gravel ride upstate. I went solo camping with my senior beagle and had to cut it short because it was too cold for him. I rode bikes as much as I could.

December

As the year comes to a close, the long sleeve thermal jerseys come out, the days are too short, and it feels like time has been a raging river and slow as molasses. January and February feel so far away. But I have hope that with the covid vaccines being rolled out, we will have a shot to get back to mostly normal by this time next year.

I say mostly normal because this year has allowed space to refocus on what’s important. Suspending the things we distract ourselves with forces us to reckon with who we are, what we believe, and what we stand for.

My 70 year old dad got covid this month. He’s still not out of the woods yet but we are thankful he’s been able to ride it out at home so far.

A seemingly minor mountain biking injury blows up into a chronic knee issue so I have to abort my climbing-per-mile goal at an average of 99.4 feet of climbing per mile ridden. I’m not disappointed – this year is teaching me to be at peace with Good Enough (or Close Enough).

As I unwind myself from my current work obligations and prepare to engage in learning a new corporate culture and team, I am thankful for many things:

* Front-line employees and first responders
* The privilege to work from home
* My family
* Friends who also take the virus very seriously
* that this year is almost over

I’m still thinking of my bike goals for next year. To be sure they involve more bikepacking trips and hopefully time with friends and family again. And my middle kid will be celebrating his Quarantine Birthday later this month.

Until next year, keep the rubber side down and see you out there.

My So-Called Life, Pandemic Edition

Adapting to a slower pace of life

It feels like it’s been a year, but it’s only been three weeks since my last blog post. Days feel like weeks; weeks like months; weekends are gone in a blink. The mental and emotional trauma is real. So I wait patiently and try to focus on things that are going well. Forced happiness is detrimental but so is wallowing in anxiety and despair.

Sleep issues are real – where I used to be out cold for 8-9 hours within minutes of hitting the pillow, I find myself either with insomnia at odd hours of the night or supplementing my bedtime routine with antihistamines, melatonin, or other sleep aids.

one of my kids has been a prolific painter during quarantine

I am thankful that I am not part of the dominant “forced stay-cation” (furloughed/laid off) narrative despite taking a massive blow to our finances. I am working from home, so I still have a routine to keep me focused and sane – but I am working 10 hours a day, mostly on back-to-back video calls. Video calls make it easier to be engaged and connected to my coworkers. The hilarious thing is, the introverted software developers are the first to turn on their cameras. I’ve yet to have a sales person turn theirs on for the call. Fascinating sociological study waiting to happen.

My dogs are thrilled I’m home so much. I had to drive to my office the other day to rescue a few things since we won’t be back in the office until at least July at this point. I was gone for 3 hours. When I got home, my 11 year old beagle was beyond himself with happiness that I had returned to him. He jumped into my lap, whining and squealing to express his joy of my return. Separation anxiety will be real when I have to go back to commuting.

Sometimes I get really sad when I think about not being able to go camping this summer. That feels so trivial but if I don’t acknowledge it, that’s also not healthy. Better to be thrilled when the campgrounds open than to be repeatedly disappointed when they stay closed.

Sometimes I am deeply thankful that we chose to live in a suburb instead of the City. We have a house with enough rooms for all of us to spread out. We have a yard that we can sit on the patio or porch to get some fresh air. We have backroads and trails nearby that are not closed and not terribly crowded so we can recreate and social distance.

Markus and Harriet, my succulents

Weird as it sounds, I’m also deeply thankful I’ve been through a 2 week isolation before. G-d forbid anyone in our family get sick and need to isolate, not just quarantine, we can handle it because we’ve done it before.

I am thankful my children are older – teens and twenties – because they can entertain themselves, do their own online learning, or otherwise occupy themselves. I text with my kid who lives in another state so they know we are thinking of them, we love them, and are here to support them from afar. I am thankful to have two of my kids living at home so we can provide for them what they need directly.

It’s certainly a process to become comfortable with this new normal and it’s vital to do so. There isn’t a magic date when we can resume what normal used to look like and to some extent – why would we want to go back to that? Yes, I want to be able to hang out with my friends and go out to dinner and go shopping at a brick-and-mortar … but I also am Marie Kondo-ing my life. Does this serve me? Does it bring me joy? If not, thank you for the times we had; it’s not you it’s me.

Be safe and be well, friends. We’ll get through this. Eventually.

Well, that escalated quickly

our collective descent into a pandemic

“Laura, are you sure you want to go out to lunch for Chinese New Year?”

It’s late January and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading rapidly in China. My Chinese coworkers are understandably concerned that their non-Chinese coworkers will be worried about enjoying an authentic meal together to celebrate the New Year here in New York. We assured them it was not and enjoyed an amazing meal together to celebrate.

Work Fam

Three weeks later (mid-February), I had a new job offer that I could’t refuse. I had been looking casually since last September but a recruiter reached out and it was a match. I put in my mandatory 3 weeks notice (plus a few days to end on a Friday), and spent the next weeks training other staff to take on my current role. I also made sure we had a weekly “team lunch” so we could spend maximum time together. I am so glad we did. My husband and I went to the brewery to celebrate.

My guys

I started my new job on March 9, right as New York is starting to shut down due to escalating cases of COVID-19. I tell myself as long as I can get into the office to go through orientation and get my laptop, I can work from home as soon as they allow.

first day photo

March 11 my high schooler’s district shut down for a few days. I send out a notice to registered riders for the Frozen Apple that we will be taking extra precautions at the event on March 22. My oldest child was furloughed from their job.

Two days later, the president announces a national emergency and I cancel the Frozen Apple. I work from home and have been ever since.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has great information on how to take precautions and what to do if you’re sick.

The last two and a half weeks have been a surreal trip into the unknown.

Grocery stores were mobbed with people panic-buying everything in sight. There hasn’t been paper products like toilet paper and paper towels or bleach-based household cleaners and alcohol-based hand sanitizer since. It’s only been in the last week that levels of other products like meat and produce have stabilized.

My entire spring gravel event plan has been gutted, most of them moving to late summer and autumn. My girl friends and I are waiting a bit longer before we cancel out late-May bike camping weekend and our mid-June mountain biking weekend. It’s probably inevitable that we will cancel but none of us want to pull that trigger just yet.

This past week in particular has been rough. On Monday my husband was told he is taking a 35% paycut for the next 3 months, possibly longer. I narrowly avoided being furloughed/laid off and took a paycut to a flat salary that everyone in the company is getting (80% paycut). My direct boss left so now I’m scrambling to ramp up as fast as possible with zero context. It’s a good thing I am comfortable asking questions.

Pandemics are no fucking joke.

I am thankful none of us are sick with the virus. That we have enough food in the house right now. That we have a roof over our heads. That the national stimulus bill passed, which will help us navigate that our financial ends literally cannot meet for a while. That our two adult children will benefit more from the stimulus bill than we will (Gen Z deserves a break). That I still have my bikes and can ride locally.

And if we’re being real, I am only riding literally locally from my front door or within a 5 minute drive. I’m increasingly uncomfortable traveling to ride, given the spread of the virus and the levels of cavalier behavior I see among other people. I’ve been doing a lot of walking because it’s quick and easy. Yoga has gone to the wayside because I don’t have a space for it. Forgive me for not wanting to rearrange the living room. Once my mountain bike is back from the shop, I’ll probably do more mountain biking because even though there are fewer cars on the road, they are still there and even less tolerant of a bike these days.

what it feels like we need
(photo found on a Google Search)

My heart is with my friends who are first responders and medical staff – they don’t have the choice to stay home and avoid exposure. My heart aches for families who are suffering or losing loved ones to this virus. I am angry that I live in the United fucking States of America and our federal government is botching the response, allowing needless suffering and death with a shrug. We are in this TOGETHER and states should not be forced to compete for limited medical supplies.

I realize all this is temporary and at some point we will go back to “normal,” whatever that is. For now it’s nice to still be employed but have nowhere I need to go and nowhere I need to be.

Be well, friends. xoxo

2017 in a nutshell

So many blog posts that have lived in my head all year … and what a year it’s been!

January

The signs all pointed to one thing, and that was leaving my job of the past 16.5 years. It was time. This decision has colored every single facet for the rest of the year, from daily job searches to staying close to my network to multiple rounds of interviews that end up going to someone else who had that tiny bit Extra that I couldn’t bring to the table. Like U2, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

I attended the Women’s March on Washington DC with my friend Andrea, which was a tremendously powerful experience. We had no idea how massive the march was until we were at a restaurant eating a late dinner and the news was blaring from the televisions overhead. It also opened my eyes – really opened them – to the struggles of my sisters of color. Some of the speeches were really hard to hear – but I had to hear them and made a commitment to myself to be a better ally and use my privilege for the good of ALL.

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this is what democracy looks like

February

Promising job interviews didn’t pan out. There are only so many hours of the day one can devote to a job search before it becomes obsessive and anxiety-stricken, so I decided to fully embrace FUNemployment. I rode my bike – a lot. I rode my first dirt road ride and loved it. I started demoing fat bikes from my local shop because fat biking is So Much Fun. I hiked with my dog. I embarked on home maintenance projects that never seem to get done when fully employed. I re-engaged with the organizations I volunteer for.

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snow hike on my local trails

March

All this fun and productivity came to a screeching halt when I was stricken with what was thought to be the flu but turned out to be a nasty case of pneumonia followed by an even worse case of thrush caused by the powerful antibiotic and bronchodilator inhaler I used for pneumonia. Within three weeks I had been on anti-virals, anti-biotics, and anti-fungals – making me the healthiest person on the planet. haha!

(and yes, I did take a few phone interviews while in the early stages of pneumonia. Not my smartest decision but no regrets)

One of my sisters and my nephews came to visit from Texas on their spring break during a major blizzard here. I flew to see my other two sisters and my nieces in Colorado for a week over their spring break.

By the end of the month I was back home, feeling better, and back on my bike. I managed to crash into a tree while mountain biking, causing bruised rib muscles. I wouldn’t find this out until the pain in my ribs didn’t go away on one side (the side I crashed into the tree on) a few weeks later. Ended up back at urgent care after a particularly painful gravel ride and off the bike for a week to let my ribs heal.

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mountain biking my sister’s local trails

April

More biking. Day trip to Cooperstown with my husband (his current favorite brewery is there). Cleaned out the basement. I went to Vermont and rode the Muddy Onion gravel grinder with my Massachusetts friends. Attended my first Town Board meeting (local politics are what impact you the most)!

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back when my bartape was still white

May

More biking. More hiking. Second annual Girls Camping Weekend. I won’t bore you with the details but when the weather gets nice, it’s easy to have adventures every day. I also paid off my student loans after 17 years, which felt amazing.

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Girls + Camping + Mountain Biking = Happiness

June

Started with a four-day bike tour of central Pennsylvania (an annual tradition). Ended with a family trip “home” to Colorado. My husband repainted our laundry room (repayment for the countless times I’ve heard “I owe you one”). More interviews, no offers. I finally decide to change my endocrinologist to someone much more engaged with my health struggles.

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mountain biking in Colorado with a long-time friend

July

More biking. More JAM FUNdo. This year we did the full 68 mile FUNdo and it was beastly but so awesome. Really loving dirt and gravel roads more than road riding and almost as much as mountain biking, which has been a Thing this year for me.

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this year really was the Year of Dirt

August

August brought the end of my severance, end of my unemployment benefits, and the end of my sanity around not having a job yet despite batting .500 on applications-to-interviews. There’s only so much “you’re great – you’ll land somewhere soon!” one can take before starting to doubt. I keep telling myself – You ARE great. You WILL land a job soon. I play motivational videos on repeat until I feel better about the situation.

It also marked the beginning of a part-time contract role with my state bike coalition, which has been a tremendously personally rewarding experience that marries my professional skills with personal passion. I also spent some time helping a friend at his bike shop and began leading shop rides for my local shop.

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September

I went solo camping for the first time and it was awesome. Three days of doing basically what I wanted to do with no one to be responsible for but myself. I brought my mountain bike too and spent an afternoon exploring the larger park. I’m discovering that my jobless anxiety dies down when I’m not home and become obsessed with finding things to do to keep my brain occupied. Applying for lots of jobs in hopes to land something before the holidays – and raiding our retirement savings to pay living expenses. I also start in leading seasonal mountain bike rides for my local trail committee and exploring new state forests to mountain bike.

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from my solo camping trip – autumn is coming

October

Move one of my kids into their first apartment. Have my first major repair issue while mountain biking. Successfully executed the hardpack/gravel portion of my bike club’s annual fundraising ride, to great acclaim. That happens when you have a dirt route and it rains all morning – the muddier the riders come back, the happier they are. Interviews ramp up again, only to go to other candidates. It’s a cycle. Took one of my other kids on a tour of state university campuses. My Massachusetts friends came to my area and I showed them my favorite dirt roads by bike. Celebrated being married for 20 years.

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hey look – MORE DIRT ROADS!

November

Started with a long weekend in Vermont, reminding me that not everywhere is crazy expensive like the NYC metro area. Enjoyed the most amazing gingerbread pancakes and walking along Lake Champlain. Colorado friends came to visit and we spent a weekend in Philadelphia, one of my favorite cities. And as is the theme for this year – more riding bikes to stay sane.

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words to live by

December

The job search continues but postings wind down a bit due to the holidays. A few more interviews, but once again no offer. I race Ice Weasels again with my friend Karen, who is what a best bike friend should be: always up for an adventure! My middle kid is accepted to his first choice university and we order the senior yearbook with an ad in the back, “love mom and dad.” First snow means getting out the fat bike because there’s no bad weather, only bad gear choices.

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much like life, we don’t always succeed at clearing the obstacles in our path

Final Thoughts …

I look back over the year and am thankful for the Gift of Time I was given this year even though it has been fraught with uncertainty, anxiety, stress, and frustration. I’ve been home for my family more. I’ve seen both sets of my nieces twice and my nephews once – which isn’t enough considering they are all growing up ridiculously fast and I’m not local to be part of their lives more. I’ve volunteered many hours to causes I believe in. I helped build a trail in my local parks. I voted in my first local election. I’ve regained my sense of Self outside of work – I am not defined by what I do, but by who I am. it’s tremendously freeing.

And after 2.5 years of struggling with my thyroid meds, I’m finally feeling like a normal human again. We’re on my third med adjustment in as many months and getting blood drawn every 6 weeks is annoying – but the payoff is dialing in my meds so I can continue to lead a happy, healthy life without fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, or cold sensitivity.

I’m looking to 2018 to be a year of rebirth and growth. I’m looking to land a job in my field (check out my linkedin and let’s connect). I’m looking to become a certified mountain biking instructor to get more people (but especially women) comfortable on the trails. I’m looking forward to another Girls Camping Weekend, sending another kid to university, and most likely another Ride for Homes tour. I want to keep leading bike rides for my shop and my trail committee and stay involved in my community.

Until next year, ride safe my friends!

2016 and Other Thoughts

5 years ago we packed up our 3 kids and 3 dogs and left Colorado for the East Coast. December 16 is the official first day of our epic road trip with December 19 as the anniversary of closing on our new home just outside Philadelphia. And about 18 months or so ago, we moved to the lower Hudson Valley in New York.

That’s a lot of change.

This specific span of time is always a bit emotional for me, as we literally left everyone we knew and loved for the unknown. A step well outside our comfort zone.  And like moving anywhere else, there are regional idiosyncrasies that one needs to adapt to.  It was a significant culture shock going from essentially “West Coast” vibe to East Coast vibe – from school closings for a couple inches of snow to humidity to Oh That’s Why Mold/Mildew Killing Products For Your Shower Are So Common.

I mean, I still think California is my vacation destination, not Florida.

You get to know the difference between a sub, a hoagie, a hero, and a wedge. You start to have opinions on cheesesteaks and take sides in the neighborhood shop rivalries. You know the best pretzels are in Philadelphia but you have to go to New York for a decent bagel. You are very lonely in your love of Chicago-style pizza in the land of New York pizza. You develop a love/hate relationship with your local public transit system because there’s actually a robust way to get around without a car.

And for me anyway, you also know more of your region by bike than you do by car.

2016 has been a challenge for many and I felt this year was giving 2015 a run for it’s money in terms of Which Year Can Suck More. So instead of dwelling on all the negative things that happened this year, dear reader, I’d like to share with you the absolute highs that happened.

Basically, #Community. We all need it.

January – Sold my carbon road bike to fund a new bike that would be my Swiss Army Knife. Rode bikes with my friend Kate.

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Goodbye, Electric Dream Machine

 

February – Spent two weeks in Colorado with my family (I went home to help my mom through one of her chemo treatments), hiking every single day with my sisters and nieces.

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we are family … I got all my sisters with me … 

March – Picked up my new Salsa Colossal. Titanium is sublime.

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SIA. She is titanium. (and dead sexy)

We had our first visitors (family) to our New York home. They didn’t want to spend any time in the City.

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family hike

April – We had our first friend visitor to New York. Also did not want to spend time in the City.

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Friends Since Forever (at the Croton Dam)

May – Rode the 5 Boro in a pouring rain (and temps in the mid-40s) with my son.

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on the ferry the day before the ride, when the weather was sunny and in the 60s

Rode the Quad County in Pennsylvania with my friend Ken. Also in a cold rain.

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Start your day right – with Wawa!

Went bikepacking with my friend Karen and Gail.

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Best Girls Weekend in the Woods Ever

June – Ride For Homes 4-day bike tour, benefiting Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. #Community

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Although we’ve come … To the end of the road … Still I can’t Let Go … 

My oldest child graduated from high school.

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July – Five days with my dear Colorado friends who up and moved to Seattle a few years ago.

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the Mister and I on his first mountain biking ride

August – Kayaking on the Hudson with my middle child.

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paddling towards Bear Mountain

Moving our oldest kid to university.

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farewell picnic 

September – Another friend visit! (Same friend only the weather is nicer and there’s foliage!)

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Granite Knolls

October – Tent camping with my youngest in near-freezing temps.

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Perfection

Friends-cation in Cooperstown with Eric and Stephanie to sample local adult beverages and have a ridiculous amount of fun

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Grumpy Old Men Telling Kids To Get Off The Lawn

November – My parents come to visit in a new RV Trailer they purchased. We hike, bike, and go on a tour of the fourth largest maple syrup producer in the world.

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view from the top of Croton Dam

Oldest comes back for Thanksgiving Break. I am That Mom who is ridiculously excited about him coming home.

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cold and windy hike up Blue Mountain

December – Raced my first cyclocross race (on my mountain bike) with my friend Karen. Had a ridiculous amount of fun, did not finish last, and am now looking to buy cross tires for my Salsa so I have half a chance to move up to 4th from last (instead of 3rd).

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why yes, I do need some refreshment … 

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action shot! 

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handups are not a crime 

Looking forward to 2017 being a fresh start with new beginnings and a whole lot more adventures with my family and friends – and wishing you the same!

See you out on the road, in the woods, or maybe even out on the ‘cross course!

 

Real Talk

As I think back across this year, it’s been a stressful one. We sold our house (hooray!), moved to an apartment (eh!), found a new house (hooray!), moved again (two states away!), had to integrate quickly for end of the school year activities (eh!), and have been slowly unpacking and organizing/updating/painting the house. Whole weekends are devoted to Being A Real Adult and that’s never fun.

Oh, and there was that pesky thyroid cancer surgery and radioactive iodine over the summer too. I’m still working on getting my synthetic thyroid hormone balance. While I feel exceptionally thankful my cancer isn’t expected to reduce my life expectancy, I’m now working on finding a New Normal that includes a lot more down time than I’ve previously needed in my life.

No surprise, I’ve been struggling emotionally lately. Like on the verge of Stay In Bed All Day And Full-On Ugly-Cry While Listening to Sad Music and/or Watching Sad Movies. I blame a combination of work (mostly office politics, which isn’t my favorite thing to do), anxiety (impostor syndrome), and a general feeling that my life is very much Not In Balance.

Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to Thanksgiving break because it means a long weekend to relax AND Get Shit Done – but I was in a serious funk. Wednesday I finished up my holiday baking and in the evening my husband and I sat in our hot tub and talked. I know – First World Luxuries. But it didn’t help alleviate the sense of being completely overwhelmed, scattered, and not spending time on the things that matter most.

Thursday morning it was cloudy but in the upper-50s so I decided to head out for a road ride. I haven’t been on my road bike in a while and while it took some internal prodding to get out the door – but soon the pedals were spinning. For the first time ever, I decided to listen to music while I rode. I usually don’t because I like to be able to hear what’s going on around me – but I was on a paved rail-trail and used my Yurbuds, which allow the user to hear ambient sound while delivering high-quality audio. I really should invest in a high-quality single-earbud because riding with music was great.

At the end of my 32 mile ride, I felt a bit better but still anxious. It was nice to spend a few hours just zoned out, spinning.

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pastoral view from the trail

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner as a family, thanks for asking. We miss our friends all over the country and our family out West. But we are thankful to have each other, good jobs, a roof over our heads and food on the table every night.

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hello, where is my plate of delicious turkey dinner?

This morning I grabbed my mountain bike and headed over to the local park for a few hours. I am so thankful that I know about this park because it’s perfect for my level: lots of easy flowy trails but also some technical details.

I zipped around a large family enjoying a hike in the woods. I rode over a few of the smaller logs (and just walked over the larger ones). I rode over the bridge across the Parkway and continued on. I fell off a stone wall. I kept going.

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I was the only one on the trails. I stopped frequently to check the paper map I had downloaded of the trails. I stuck to loopy trails that connected easily. I powered up hills and bounced down rocky descents. I felt good.

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perfect day

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all to myself

I found a trail that ended up being a lot more technical than I expected – and I didn’t wreck. I felt like a million dollars.

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this is right before I took a trail that was full of boulders

I took a wrong turn; I doubled back until I found multiple trail blazes. I started experimenting with speed and not shockingly, momentum is your friend when you are mountain biking. I headed back to the gentler park and crushed every trail that I crashed on a few weeks back. I even took a few new trails and had to walk in a few places – but I felt amazing. I got home and took my dog on a walk.

This is exactly what I needed in my life right now. And I still have two more days to Get Shit Done: like laundry and cleaning the house and taking my car in for maintenance.

I need to figure out how to get more of this in my life on the regular.

Life if too short not to see you on the road (or the trails).

My Experience with RAI (I-131) Therapy

This post will probably be most beneficial to someone who’s recently been told they need radioactive iodine (RAI or I-131) therapy. It’s pretty dry but hopefully someone will take comfort that the process isn’t as scary as it feels.

 

The internet is riddled with horror stories (vomiting for days! disappearing taste!) and simple two-liners (“Isolation not that big of a deal! It goes quickly!”) – so it’s hard to get a sense of exactly what to expect. So I thought I’d chronicle my experience, which is probably pretty average, and hope it helps someone else who is frantically Googling what to expect and how long they have to remain isolated.

(There’s about 62,450 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. Not everyone is prescribed RAI therapy and it seems like every doctor has their own method for how to approach the process as well as how long you need to remain isolated and to what degree. What I mention below is what my nuclear medicine department at the local hospital sent me home with – by all means, please follow your own doctor’s orders!)

The process itself is very straight-forward: you will receive 2 injections of Thyrogen (unless you have a reason to need to go off your thyroid hormone replacement meds for 2-4 weeks and deal with severe hypothyroidism) in the two days before receiving your RAI therapy dose. If you are a female, you will need a blood test on the first day of Thyrogen to confirm you are not pregnant. Thyrogen has its own set of potential side effects, the most common being nausea and headaches. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive work environment and was able to work from home on the two Thyrogen days. I have a 90min commute between work and home and didn’t want to have to deal with possibly trying to get home with nausea on an hour-long train ride. Fortunately I did not experience any significant side effects although I noted I was a bit on the tired side.

The day of RAI treatment I had to get another blood test to confirm my severe hypothyroid levels (this is due to the Thyrogen injections) right before heading to the nuclear medicine department at the hospital. My hospital is one that allows you to convalesce at home (i.e., it does not admit you overnight).

I had to sign a bunch of paperwork. The nurse took me back and gave me everything I would need post-therapy, including validating my parking (how nice). This included specific written instructions for isolation, a Personal Disposal Kit (i.e., a kitchen trash bag), and a card for my wallet that confirms my I-131 therapy and that I am not a radiation hazard to the public.

Another nurse came in to talk to me about isolation – the biggest being Time and Distance. The first 3 days are the biggest concern because the radiation is literally emanating from you, not just being eliminated. He answered all of my questions and then took me back to the doctor who would administer the treatment.

My doctor had a Geiger counter on the table next to us; the pill was in a lead-lined cylinder. He explained the therapy to me again as he put on hospital gloves and used a pair of thongs to remove the pill from the cylinder. He gave it to me with a cup of water. My dose was a grey pill about the size of any other average prescription capsule. The doctor advised me to not eat anything spicy or that would upset my stomach for the next few hours to allow the I-131 to absorb into my body. He had me walk to the door of the room and back to show the amount of distance I needed to keep between myself and others for the first several days – and then sent me on my way.

In the few days before doing all this, I recommend doing the following:

* securing a beach house or lake house or other accommodations that have a private kitchen and bathroom. Convalesce in style!

* If you are like me and don’t have any of those available to you, kick your SO out of the master bedroom with attached bathroom and make it your Isolation Suite. Wash and clean everything before undergoing therapy. Yes you’ll have to rewash and clean everything again – but no one likes to wallow in filth.

* Stock up on foods you like, ginger ale (with real ginger), saltines and lemon hard candies. These help you feel moderately better and you’ll actually want to eat them. You may get nauseated for the first 3 days or so – the ginger ale and saltines will help you not feel totally wrecked and you can get some extra sleep. The hard candies are to keep your saliva production up to minimize the sore/swollen salivary glands that may happen. I chose sugar snap peas for my snack and they were super delicious! I also asked for water ice, which was also delicious.

* Find a way to keep your pet at bay. Buy a baby gate if you have to. My dog couldn’t understand why I couldn’t let him kiss me or snuggle up on my lap or sleep with me at night. It was horribly sad.

* Have young kids? Send them to Grandma’s for the week. Have older kids? Get them to make you meals and keep the dog happy. My teens were the best at making me food and leaving it at my door. They kept the dog happy. And in return they got a week of unencumbered video game time because Mom Can’t Do Anything About It.

* Cover your electronics for the first 5 days or so. A plastic sandwich bag over your smartphone is fine. You can get a keyboard cover relatively inexpensively online. Staying in touch with people through the internet or texting is a great way to keep your mind off the fact that you can’t be around anyone.

* Keep the door to your room open and the blinds drawn back if possible. This allows you to feel like you are still incorporated in family life – just make sure everyone is aware of the safety limitations.

My dose was 150 millicurries. I was told I would need to enact radiation safety protocol for 10 days – but the most stringent portions were lifted within about 3-7 days. Keep in mind radioiodine will exit the body through fluids (urine, stool, perspiration, and saliva) – water dilutes the radiation.

For the first 3-5 days and nights:

* sleep completely separate from any other family member.

* have sole use of a bathroom – toilet, shower, sink. Don’t share towels.

* keep as great a distance as possible from others, minimum of 9′ (first 3 days) to 3′ (days 4-7). No hugs, kisses, snuggles, or sex.

* do not travel by plane or mass transit and do not take prolonged car trips.

* drink a minimum of 64oz of fluids each day to encourage unabsorbed radioiodine to leave your system as quickly as possible. Pee a lot.

* use a laxative or eat high-fiber foods to encourage your digestive tract to keep things moving along and minimize any GI issues.

* Use regular plates and utensils. Wash them separately in the dishwasher (2 cycles) to reduce the chance of contaminating the rest of your family for the first 3-5 days.

For the full 10 days and nights:

* Flush the toilet 2 or 3 times after use. If you’re a dude, you have to sit to pee to avoid splashback. If you do splash, wet a tissue to clean it up and then flush the tissue.

* Wash your hands with plenty of soap and water.

* Rinse the sink, shower, and tub with plenty of water to reduce the chance of others becoming contaminated that is being excreted through your bodily fluids.

* Do not exercise for the first 7 days. Radioiodine is excreted in your sweat, which means lots of stuff would be contaminated.

* Do not have any lab tests done unless it’s an emergency through Day 7, in which case have someone call the Radiation Safety Officer at the hospital. Your blood may contain radioactive material!

* Avoid prolonged contact with pregnant women, babies and children. Their thyroids are more susceptible than adults.

* Put all of your trash into the Personal Disposal Kit. You will need to hold onto this bag in your garage until the safe disposal date, which is 75 days after your treatment dose. Write that date on the bag so you don’t accidentally toss it too soon and contaminate the garbage trucks and landfill. Eat an apple? Core goes in the PDK bag.

* wash your towels, sheets, and clothing separately and run the washer on a rinse cycle twice after the final load to minimize any potential contamination.

 

On Day 10 you will most likely get a whole body scan to see where the radioiodine was absorbed. This is a baseline to see where the potential stray thyroid cells are located. The idea is that over time the radioiodine will destroy these cells and reduce the chance of cancer recurring. It also helps to see if there is any metastatic cancer.  This is basically the beginning of a lifelong monitoring of the cancer to ensure if it comes back we can act quickly. The downside is the slight increase in secondary cancers from this treatment. Something we always have to be mindful of and enjoy the time we have and treat anything that comes up as it does.

 

I’m only on Day 7 right now and looking forward to finishing out my isolation time very soon. I miss being with my family and yelling that I love them from my room as they get ready to go to bed or leave for work is kinda sad. I ate my meals in my room for the first 5 days, which is also weird and sad. But necessary! I’d rather be alone and sad for a week than put any of my children or husband or pets at risk.

I tentatively booked a bike ride for this weekend, which I am so looking forward to. Provided the weather cooperates – see you on the road!

Edit to add: My experience included mild nausea and sleepiness for the first 3-4 days. I slept around 14 hours a day! My salivary glands at the back of my jaw became tender on Day 2 so I used hard candy to keep saliva production going and gentle massage of the area. My taste has altered slightly, as things don’t taste as fully flavorful right now. My understanding is this is temporary for the next several weeks and should return. Around Day 5 I started to feel more normal and now at Day 7 I feel mostly like myself again.

C is for Cycling … and also for Cancer

The last 10 days or so have been a doozy.

My thyroidectomy went well. After the procedure, I was in Recovery for about 6 hours – much longer than anyone else who was in the surgical unit for other procedures so I watched a lot of people come and go. A few others in Recovery weren’t pleased to see my incision and requested things to block their view of me during their recovery time. Because yeah, it did kinda look like some rando had slashed my throat and the docs had slapped surgical tape over it.

An inch or so isn’t a lot until you see it on your neck. The neck doesn’t have a lot of real estate, so it looks much bigger than you expect.

going home after surgery
going home after surgery

This past Monday was pathology results day – and when I found out that I actually had thyroid cancer.

The brain kindof freezes when you hear the C word. Of course it does. The thoughts in your brain swirl around chemo, hair loss, nausea, fatigue, the epic battle for your body and will to live. Which is why I was so thankful to hear:

“The important take-away from this conversation is that you will live a long and healthy life.”

running errands with my husband, 5 days post-op
running errands with my husband, 5 days post-op

Fun Facts:

Thyroid cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the US, with the number of cases rising each year. No one is completely sure why there is an increase in cases (better technology to identify the cancer early may be a contributing factor) but the death rate has remained low – virtually unchanged since 2002.

Risk factors include:

  • being female
  • a diet low in iodine (rare in the US)
  • exposure to radiation (radiation was used widely before the 1960s for an array of ailments; nuclear accidents; etc)
  • hereditary/genetic
  • family history (Having a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with thyroid cancer, even without a known inherited syndrome in the family, increases your risk)

There are four main types of thyroid cancer:

  • Papillary, which accounts for 70-80% of all thyroid cancers
  • Follicular/Hurthle cell, which accounts for 10-15% of thyroid cancers
  • Medullary, which accounts for 5-10% and is usually hereditary
  • Anaplastic, which accounts for less than 2% and is the most aggressive and unfortunately deadliest

Treatment for thyroid cancer includes surgery (got that out of the way!), radioactive iodine, external beam radiation, and chemotherapy. Most thyroid cancers are cured with surgery and radioactive iodine. Thyroid cancer is actually pretty great for targeted treatment such as radioactive iodine because no other cells in the body soak up iodine like the thyroid does – so the thyroid cells are killed while the rest of the body remains healthy. (pretty neat, right?)

The 5 year survival rate for anyone diagnosed with thyroid cancer today is 97% – and the 10 year survival rate for those who are younger than 45 and the cancer is localized (has not spread to other parts of the body) is 100%.

9 days post-op and got in a gentle 16 mile bike ride. it felt amazing!
9 days post-op and got in a gentle 16 mile bike ride. it felt amazing!

The good news is that I am young (under 45), relatively healthy (outside of this bump in the road), and the cancer was localized (according to my surgeon). I have my post-op follow-up in a few weeks with my surgeon and then a conversation with my new endocrinologist a few days later to discuss the appropriate next steps. I’ve started writing a list of questions for him because I tend to forget to ask while I’m at the appointment.

If I’m being totally honest, I was a bit numb after hearing my thyroid pathology came back as cancer. I immediately latched onto the positive points and rehashed those as my narrative publicly. I received a tsunami of support and messages of love from my friends and family while I tried feabily to pass it off as Not A Big Deal. The next morning though I started doing my research and started to panic. OMG this is serious, but thankfully not deadly so. I don’t even know which kind I have/had. Radioactive iodine requires an isolation period. How is that going to work? And there’s a million follow-ups while they get the dosage of levothyroxine correct plus following up to make sure the radioactive iodine worked …. what about work? We’re already swamped – I can’t be taking off time for all this!

I had to put down the internet and go busy myself with what’s really important: my family, my friends, and living life. Work is important too – I’m the primary financial contributor to our family – but I can’t work if I’m not healthy. I am incredibly thankful for the support my boss and company have given me.

Yesterday I went out for a bike ride and made some determinations:

  • Yes I have/had cancer.
  • No it doesn’t define me.
  • But it’s OK to feel like it’s a big deal – because it is. It’s a part of my life story now.

I can ask questions at my next two appointments to get more clarity on what I had and what we can do next.

I will always need to be on top of my medication and communicate with my doctors.

I will live a long and healthy life – and look forward to rebuilding my base miles and bicycling strength soon.

See you on the road!

Internet Reference Sites (in case you want to learn more!):

ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association

EndocrineWeb

American Thyroid Association

National Cancer Institute

Endocrine Diseases

American Cancer Society

Let’s play catch-up, shall we dear reader? When we last left off we were on the cusp of spring … and now we are hurtling straight into summer.

from my train ride home one evening. moment of zen
from my train ride home one evening. moment of zen

Personal Transition

We finally made the move and are now in our new home. We closed on the house just a few days after the one-year mark of when I committed to relocating with my job. After such a long and protracted transition, the entire family has settled into our new life fairly quickly. Uncertainty can take a toll on a person and strain any relationship – and we managed to pull through with relatively few emotional wounds. The house is in a lovely neighborhood about 40 miles north of the Big Apple with lots of kids. It’s not uncommon for me to get home in the evening to find my younger two kids out roaming the neighborhood with their new friends, playing until well after dark and coming home sweaty and dirty and more importantly, happy. +1 for our little family!

welcome to my backyard
welcome to my backyard

Bikey Stuff!

Having the extra time in Philly was also very nice. I was able to squeak out a few really nice rides with my friends, including an 88-mi, 5400+’ of gain ride to get lunch in St Peter’s Village that I had no business doing – but felt amazing when I finished! I haven’t felt depleted after a long, hilly ride like that in a while and it felt GREAT.  I planned to do a low-key girls-only ride to get lunch (25mi ride) but wound up with bronchitis and had to cancel all my plans for a few weekends. Then we moved ….

Andy and Ken joined me on the 88mi epic. Perfect day for a ride!
Andy and Ken joined me on the 88mi epic. Perfect day for a ride!

I rode the 5 Boro Tour again this year, this time with my friend Elizabeth. We were slotted in the first wave and what a difference that made! Yes there were still a lot of people but it was FUN. We rode the whole route together, which was surreal when I’d point out a place where the 4-lane street had been literally wall-to-wall cyclists standing around the year prior due to various levels of bicyclists trying to ride together. This year demonstrated why people do this ride year after year. I’m hoping to take my eldest son on it next year.

Elizabeth and I at the start of the 5 Boro Tour.
Elizabeth and I at the start of the 5 Boro Tour.

Up in our new area I’ve been scoping a bike route to the train station (about 12.5 miles each way; about 600′ gain to the station, 900+’ gain on the way home). I’ve seen cyclists on the roads so I know it’s possible (and Strava Global Heat Maps confirms it’s a decent route) but a few concerns that I need to work through:

1. Lots of two-lane no-shoulder roads. I’ve not been successful yet in finding alternate back-roads to use – very few roads actually connect. The roads are not terribly heavily trafficked – but there is some volume, especially at certain times. And there are a few dangerous intersections that would require I get a mirror for my glasses so I could safely navigate.

2. After about 45-60min on the bike, I have a 60 min train ride to the city. Do I feel comfortable being stinky on a train for an hour?

2a. The train station has bike lockers but refuses to rent them out. ??? So my bike would be locked to an open-air public rack. I’ve seen a few other bikes there in the morning so I know people bike to the station … but probably not as far as I’m thinking of doing.

3. Shower Situation when I get to the City. NYSC has $20 memberships and a club a few blocks from GCT; or I could check out the gym at work.

Really all just logistics – and while I am chomping at the bit to actually ride to the train station and back home, I need to work these things out before I do so. Arrive Alive!

There is a major bike path (36 miles!) with an access point fairly close to our home (a couple miles) that I can’t wait to ride and take my kids. It’s an old railroad bed so it’s fairly flat and shaded. A welcome respite from New York drivers!

Health News

I noticed a lump in my neck a few months back. I had been blowing off the feeling of swallowing behind something for a while, thinking it was a mild cold or allergies or something else. After several rounds of testing and various procedures, it turns out I have a multinodal goiter. Due to the size and number of nodules (and that it impacts my ability to swallow), I’m having a thyroidectomy in about a week. I’ve been advised to take 2 weeks to recover and at least 1 week with no exercise. So the plan is to get past surgery and recovery before throwing my leg over the top tube and getting back into the swing of things.

This past week I contracted a cold that rapidly turned into a sinus infection so I’m taking the surgical recovery period very seriously. My body is telling me I’ve been overdoing it – even though I feel like I haven’t done anything – and I need to listen if I’m going to be able to get back into running and cycling again. I have a few events planned for later in the summer that I need to begin training for – but that will wait! Even though I desperately want to just ride my bike.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon!