Monday, April 25, 2011

vicariously bicycle to work!

I'm not sick with strep throat/eye anymore!!! Horray!

Today I did an easy 20 minutes on my trainer, in the safety of my dining room.

But, wow, being sick last week really took it out of me. I am still feeling tired and have a bit of a cough. It's always unnerving to be winded so quickly during a ride, of any kind!

While I've been out of service for repairs, I did some bicycle repairs. I replaced my chain, which was stretched out and starting to skip, trued a wonky couple of spots on my wheels, and cleaned and regreased everything. A clean bike is so satisfying, and I can't wait to get riding again for real.

The other thing that came out of my fever last week was my new brilliant workplace fundraising idea for my Get Your Guts In Gear New York Ride.

Here's the pitch that was approved by the admins at work:

"Car commuter guilt keeping you down? Ride your bicycle to work... Vicariously! Only 1$ per day! You will receive a guilt-free conscience and a stylish,  'I [vicariously] biked to work today!' sign for your door!"

Is it rediculous enough to actually work???

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Because I haven't been up to a whole lot this week due to illness, I thought I'd share something that made me smile:

robo-rainbow from mudlevel on Vimeo.

In upcoming posts I hope to talk about a few more serious things:
1. Have you ever read an article about how Crohn's is more prevalent in places with street lights? Or refridgeration? As to imply that those things are the cause of Crohn's...? Well, there may be some legitimacy to that linkage, but it is unlikely to be a causal relationship! This is where I get epidemiology geeky... stay tuned!

2. Low Dose Naltrexone. Exciting stuff in very preliminary results. I hope to do a breif literature review, and discuss what the current findings mean, in the hopes of making some sense of it all. I intend follow the further research on Naltrexone, and other clincal trials, as results are published (or maybe pre-published).

3. Nutritional deficiencies and endurance sports. The facts explained in detail, and why you should know these things if you have IBD.

Oh yeah, and... I really want to make speed videos of some of my favorite routes!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Out of commission for a few days...

Sadly, I've been missing the spring weather for a few days, and have been quarantined at home with strep throat/eye. Ugggg!!!

This is one of the major downsides of taking drugs like methotrexate (typically a chemotherapy drug). When I get sick, I get really sick. The quick reason why is that these drugs are cytotoxic, and make your white blood cells unable to function properly. Methotrexate is a folic acid inhibitor, which prevents cellular metabolism (mitochondia) from functioning properly.

Back to sleeping and trying to not infect anyone else,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Just a short 50 mile ride... and thoughts on replacing lytes.

Ok, ok... so I confess, I'm really terrible at sticking to the limits I set on myself for an easy day. I was planning on just doing 20-30 relatively flat miles today, given that yesterday I did a grueling hill hammer-fest... and got hit by cars.

But... it was sunny out... and one mile led to another, and soon I was 50 something miles in and seriously bonking because I had only brought a pocket full of gummy bears and a mini banana. Baaaaddddd idea. And, really really stupid... Sometimes when it comes to biking, I can be like an addict fiending for the next mile, or like a glutenous small child binging on candy. And, both of those analogies end with somebody (me) getting hurt or sick.

One thing I have learned about endurance activity while gutless, is that I have to stay ahead of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and hypoglycemia. And, I have to be vigilant about it. Even if I think I'm fine, I still need to drink water/electrolyte mix and eat a gummy bear every 10 minutes after the first hour to stay on track. This means that there *is* a set end time; when I run out of carbs and lytes.
After that, it all goes downhill in very fast and out of control way. So far, I've been fortunate enough to have not had any real injuries from pushing too far, but I have reached the point of seizing from electrolyte derangement. Not a good time, trust me on this one!

Just from having an ileostomy, a person can lose 1-2 littres of water a day! Without excercise! Now, think about how much water you need to drink to replace that PLUS what you are losing from sweat. And, add back in the electrolytes that your body doesn't absorb from all of those two litters of water that you aren't absorbing because you don't have the guts to make it happen.  In addition to an extra disolvable electrolyte drink mix tablet, I also take salt and electrolyte tablets with me whenever I'm going out on a long ride, or kayaking, or hiking. That way, even if I run out of sports drink, I am able to quickly replace electrolytes even if I can only find water on my route. I have found that my mental clarity and general physical function improves dramatically after taking the salt +lytes tablet, which reaffirms that that truly was the problem.
What is a salt tablet? You can get them perscribed, which is how I originally got turned onto them, or you can find similar items at sports stores (they are called things like, "endurolytes" and salt is their number one ingrediant, with potassium somewhere near second). It was actually my gastroenterologist who suggested I start using them, not a sports medicine doc. He remarked that I appeared to be in great shape and asked how the biking was going, to which I answered that I was becoming frustrated with what at that time I was describing as an intensified , accelerated sort of bonking. He gave me an Rx for something called Thermotabs, which are normally given to people with autonomic (central nervous system) dysfunction, not athletes with malabsorption issues! But, they worked! They probably even saved my life a couple of times when I was way out in the middle of nowhere; giving me just enough ability to recover to make it back to a place where I was able to more fully rehydrate and replenish glycogen stores.

But, the bottom line is that I need to learn to have better self control. Even if it is sunny and the miles roll by easily, there is a time to stop. Having a medical issue is certainly not on my mind much of the time, especially when I'm riding, but there are some things that I have to take a lot more seriously than I used to.

Back to drinking my electrolyte solution,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day of hills and cobblestones, and cobblestone hills, and getting hit by cars

Yes, that's right! Today was a (mostly) happy day of hills!

I love hills. Love love love them. Seriously. They are inspiring, I like the way they each have a personality, and I think they feel great. I love to climb. And, this is a lucky thing given that I live in Pittsburgh, the city with the steepest legal paved road in the country.

Just in case you don't believe that Pittsburgers consider our hills serious business and a matter of pride:

But, even if I didn't love hill climbing, they still serve a purpose. Where else in an urban area can a person really go all out and peddle to their max? It's hard to find an area with enough space and no traffic lights without going outside of the city. With a reasonably light road bike, sometimes it's hard to feel like I'm peddling at all in the city. And then, a hill is a very welcome excuse to put out some effort!

So, today, my ride plan was to head towards a known big hill and go up it, and then pick my route by looking for the next visible big hill and going up it, and repeat. It worked out well. I had a ~2 hour serendipedous hill-fest, with some light rain followed by a lot of sunshine, and some great sunset views from the tops of those peaks.

And, then there was the getting hit by cars... luckily, both were very low speed. One was a car that realized a little two late that it was turning into me, and then basically just tapped me hard enough (while I was climbing as a low speed) to knock me over. This car was very apologetic and concerned. And, given that she did stop before really hitting me, and apologized profusely, I forgave and reassured her that I was fine - which I was. At that point, the endorphins had started kicking in and I was in that overwhelmingly giddy sunny-day cycling place that makes me unable to do much else but smile and remark on how beautiful the world is. I think maybe the big grin as I was toppling over unnerved the driver. Maybe that is why she was so concerned, thinking, "Goodness, what is wrong with that spandex-clad, strange little man who keeps on maniacly smiling at me and seems to be attached to his bicycle!?"

Car number two was not so innocent or kind. In fact, he saw my flashing, reflective, bright orange blur of a person on bike and began to accelerate straight into me. I swear he even made eye contact. Luckily, I was only two feet in front of him, so he didn't have much time to accelerate. His girlfriend (who had been pointing at me) started screaming when I went partially under the front bumper. Again, no real damage done. I pulled myself up off of the ground, but didn't move from in front of the car despite the drivers trying to get me to move so he could go on with his trip. I wanted to be sure that there was no real damage to my bike before I let him drive off. I think my bike is fine, everything was moving properly when I looked it over at the scene of the incident - it seemed a little creaky riding afterwards, but that might just be because I was listening for it.
What I didn't start to feel until afterwards was the point of impact; my left lower leg and ankle. I have a bit of a bruise just starting to come up, but nothing too serious. It will probably just be sore for a few days. I also sliced my knee open on the edge of their front licence plate holder on my way down.

The damage:

apparently it's quite difficult to take a picture of your own legs without having them look disembodied

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I survived the TSA

Ok, so this is a bit off topic, but I thought I'd mention that I did successfully make my way through the TSA in Pittsburgh, JFK, and Prague a couple of weeks ago when I flew to a scientific meeting.

I was TERRIFIED of being hassled, or inappropriately searched, due to my ostomy or the kit (including scissors and adhesive, paste, etc) in my carry on backpack. But... they were more interested in scanning my laptop than me!

This was my first major expedition since surgery, and honestly the idea of being in a foreign land with a very different food and alphabet, was a bit intimidating.  (What would the plumbing be like!? What if I had an issue with my supplies?!) Over the past nearly two years, dealing with my ostomy and dietary restrictions had become effortless and mundane. But, take away a refridgerator and personal, well-stocked bathroom cabinet, and that's a different story!

Or, is it? It turns out that it isn't a big deal at all.

Worldwide, food is still food. Most places have yogurt, or bread, or rice, if you can't eat anything else. And, importantly, clean, running water is still clean, running water... even if the fixtures look funny to you.

Now that I've done it once, I feel much more confident about my next big trip! Actually, I realized all of this and felt much more confident by my second day.

Just for the heck of it, here are some photos of what I was up to when I wasn't at the meeting:

An beautiful little chapel found off a trail through the park neighboring the palace. Yes, it really was this picturesque almost everywhere.

I climbed a very very tall tower to get this view... if I were a monk, this tower is where I would spend my time reading.

Fantastic graffiti found on a hike.

this sign could mean.... anything!

Another view in the other direction, with the zoom on max to try to capture the Charles bridge.

A view from one of the far city limits that I hiked to after the conference.

ps - I should note that I did bring a physician's note stating the medical necessity of my scissors, paste and adhesive on the plane.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


This is my official first post!

As an introduction, I thought I'd post some profound thoughts on what it means to be an active person with a chronic illness. Or, what it means to be a guy  in my late 20's with a body that is now notably different from other guys my age, since having ileostomy surgery two years ago. Or, perhaps about how I really hope that this blog provides inspiration for other people who are struggling with GI illnesses, and all of the complications that come with nutritional deficiencies, or who are trying to adjust to a life after major illness.  Or, perhaps it will be a place where I can connect with other people like me?

I'm sure that all of those posts will happen in the near future...

... but, first, I'm going for a bike ride!

Say goodbye to the winter trainer! Hello, Spring!