Number 60

February 10, 2020 § Leave a comment

As I write this, I am well into my 60th year, and here in America I will have completed my 60th in another month. In some cultures you are the age of the year you are living so currently I am 61, as in my 61st year. It doesn’t sound so smart at 61, but if you were just born, you wouldn’t say your baby is in its zeroth year. It is in its first year of life, so one. Seems simple enough.

By this logic I am in my sixty first year on this planet, and will soon embark on the sixty second. Semantics. So, where am I? Good question. I am a little over weight, but it is winter, and Spring is around the corner. I was lucky enough to squeeze in two backpacking trips this past December, both made possible by global warming, or perhaps by the vagaries of seasonal and yearly weather fluctuations that this year produced a relatively mild December that allowed a group of friends to enjoy a weekend in the woods with temps in the 30’s and 40’s. These same conditions extended well into the month so that when I returned to woods during the Holiday season, I was again treated to temps that rarely dipped below freezing after the first night.

It was a slow start on the bike this year. Separation from my wife of many years meant I did not join her in Aruba, and so did not spend a winter week on the bike in warm temperatures as i did the previous year in Thailand. Last winter had its share of polar vortexes, as well as just temperatures that were below my threshold for cold weather riding. Point? Well, it was a slow start, and though I am sixty, I still like to ride as fast as I am able. To that end, some of my younger friends organized and started the Hour of Power “race” on Saturday mornings. The original venue, Sandy Hook, was actually a nice location, but racing Sandy Hook roads on a weekend, even early in the morning was a recipe for death, as there are always northern shitfucks who want to get there early, and when they see a bunch of knuckleheads on bikes in their way, they just simply ignore, and drive through. Who needs that? So we moved the event to the Bell Works complex, which I feel was genius, because for every 10 cars at Sandy Hook there is 0 at Bell Works. Win.

As I sit here, I have a lot on my plate for 2020. I registered for all of the Kermesse sports Spring fling rides this year, AND for the first time I signed up for Ride The Rockies in June. Reason? Well, I am backpacking in the Weninuche Wilderness in September which starts out of Durango, and RTR starts and finishes in Durango this year. Coincidence? Maybe, but I might as well exploit the most of it, so I signed up for RTR. What is the worst that can happen? Nothing. So, RTR is an almost 500 mile week on the bike, and then I will be taking friends into the Weminuche for a week+. This is going to be a fantastic week. Why do you think? Well, because when we depart the Durango-Silverton train at Elk Creek, we will be starting our adventure at almost 9000′ of elevation. From there, it is only up.

The plans? Glad you asked. We are going to stroll leisurely in clockwise fashion up to the Continential Divide Trail, which as aptly named traverses the Continental Divide from the Canadian Border to the Mexican Border. We, will traverse just a small portion of this, but I want to straddle the divide again, and have one foot in the Atlantic Basin, and one foot in the Pacific Basin once again. I would like to make water that will populate both the great Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and I want to know that feeling again to be on that divide. Last time I was there was for the Triple ByPass ride, and prior to that was my Cross Country ride in 81.

So, hike the CDT for a ways, and then work our way south, and then west over Columbine Pass and into The Chicago Basin. That is the point of this entire adventure. The Chicago Basin. What can you do from this basin? Well, if it is your desire to stand upon at least one summit that is more than 14,000 feet above the elevation of the sea, then Chicago Basin is where you want to be. From there you have access to not one, and not two, and even not three, but four, yes four. Did I say four? I certainly did. Four peaks that jut into the sky more than 14,000 feet above the level of the sea. And they are paired in such a way that, if we convinced ourselves we are younger, then with an early pearly start, we might be able to bag more than one in a a day.

Reality check. I would be happy, out of the four, if I could stand upon one of them, but for now, let this man, in his 61st year on this planet, dream of bagging four 14ers on this trip. To date, my highest point above sea level was Kings Peak in Utah a few years back, achieved with my good friend Larry Taylor Butler.

My plans, there is that word again, is to get the crew moving early. What is early you might ask? Early is 3 or 4 am wake-up. Pack a day bag, and head out ASAP. No fucking around with breakfast. Don headlamps, and head up the trail. Hike at night? It’s not as dangerous as it sounds when you are hiking out of a valley. Along cliffs? Dangerous. The plan would be to reach Twin Lakes at day break. Why is that important? Well, that time of year we are talking 6am to 6:30 so that means we will have almost 7-8 hours of daylight to accomplish our goals before any afternoon weather develops. I don’t, and will not lead a group of old men into high elevations and into thunder storms, so my plan is to get up there early and give us the most opportunity to knock out one fourteener, and if luck and strength are with us, then two.

Finally at 60 I completed my second Colonoscopy in two years. That’s right, I went through all that trouble only to find that I “wasn’t clean enough”, so I had to repeat the procedure the following, this, year. This year I was determined to get it right. I think the problem the previous year was two fold. You know how in the store there is liquid plumber, and then there is industrial strength liquid plumber? As if to imply that a bunch 1970’s Chevy Suburban assembly line, always on a bender, rough diet and all, bluest of blue collar industrial men, can’t create a shit plug, that this stronger Liquid Plumber can’t root out and fix. Well, the first year I had LP, and this year they gave me ISLP. The second was a time change, which mean when I dosed my intake of the lovely purple industrial strength liquid plumber it wasn’t bedtime, so it was easier to be awake, and let good ole number 2 take its course. The first time around I dosed early evening, and when I tried to sleep, there just wasn’t enough urge to de-clench and get out of bed. Net result is I was clean enough, and I got my Colonoscopy walking papers for another five years. Win!

My other big win at 60 was my heart stress and echo tests. I assured my GP that I was, and have been, a pretty active aerobic cyclist, and that if anyone’s heart was in good shape, it was probably mine. “Better to be safe!!” and so I let them schedule me. The reality is I think they own the equipment, and so in this age of managed health care charge codes, they needed charge codes to pay for that equipment. Let’s go Bernie!! The day came, and we started with the Stress Test which, if you are unfamiliar let me describe for you. They wire you up with sensors in many key sensor locations with surface sensors, and hook you into a machine, and then put you on a treadmill, where you are expected to walk until your heart rate exceeds something like 120 bpm. As you may suspect, with a resting HR of the high 40’s, it was going to take some doing, to get my heart beating that fast. They can adjust two things in the treadmill: the speed, and the angle of inclination. We started flat and my HR settled in at 65 bpm and stayed there. The technician increased the speed, and it moved to 68. The doctor said “Give him some incline” and it jump to 73. “Give him some more speed and incline” and soon I was walking along at 90. They let me sit there for awhile, and then told me “You must be an athlete, because 99% of the people would have been done long ago” and I confirmed I was a cyclist who was pretty active already, and I hiked a lot in the woods, and this wasn’t going to cut it. Remember Princess Bride when Prince Humerdink has Westley on The Machine which sucks life from its victims, and at the end of the scene, Humperdink gives Westley the full thrust of it’s might? Well, the doctor told the technician to give me maximum speed and maximum incline, and if that didn’t do it, then the test was fucked. Well that was enough because my HR started to climb as I was forced into my quickest gait to stay on the treadmill, while walking up the steep rise, and soon my HR crossed 100, and then 105, 110, 115 and finally the magic goal of 120, and the doctor ordered, “Shut it down before we suck too many years out of this client!”.

The echo test was a lot less dramatic. In that test they are basically using ultra-sound to image the heart and see that all its pieces appear to be functioning correctly. The image is color coded so that blood flow in one direction is one color, and in the other a different one, and they check all the valves, and I guess the machine has a way to measure/estimate volume etc. and other vital statistics, and before I knew the test was over. Technicians see enough of these on a daily basis that they know when something goes well or not, but of course, they aren’t allowed to say, because they aren’t doctors, and that is why the doctors get the bigger salary. Doc came in, looked at the results, and deemed me ready and able to make 70 for sure!

There is one thing I do feel, and that is the weight, and the strain on my knees. I would be in a lot better shape if I lost about 20 pounds. 25 would be ideal. The amount of extra work that is necessary to get that weight off the ground cannot be overstated. My flexibility is lacking, and that affects my ability to get off the ground. “Why are you on the ground?” you might ask. It isn’t my choicest place to be, but when I backpack, I sleep on the ground. If there is something to do under the sinks, then I am on the ground. When I paint at my Dad’s I have been sleeping on a blowup mattress which is where? On the ground. I say this all as I sit here eating Baba Ganoush with pita bread, and drinking a Cherry Bomb Imperial Stout. The Baba Ganoush isn’t so bad, but the beer has to go if I have any chance at this. I may even have to look into a gym and start working with a personal trainer to get concentrated workouts on areas where I need more work.

Aside from all that, I am not doing all that bad. Other than some Saw Palmetto, which a friend recommended as an herbal remedy to handle Prostate issues, I don’t take a single prescribed, or over the counter medicine. That section of the “What ails ya?” questionnaire at the Dr’s office is always blank for me. Sure, I will take Ibuprofen before a long hike, or maybe even a long bike ride, but that is it.

I have a month and a half of 60 left, and then I will be 61. As I have stated, I have a big ride in Colorado in June, and I have two friends who have asked for help training for their big rides in their 61st years. Cliff signed up for half of the Southern PAC Tour, and Terry and his wife signed on for the mountains of the Tour De France this summer. Both need lots of miles on climbs, so we will be making many trips to Harriman Bear Mountain this Spring, and many trips to the top of Bear on each trip. Today was an above freezing morning, so I made arrangements, and got out the door at 7:20 and met Cliff for an almost 50 mile ride. Since I haven’t been on the bike since early January, it was nice to know I could get those miles in. On the other hand, I was running on empty for the last few miles home. So, “Miles to go before I rest.”

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