Sunday, March 28, 2021

Dinning with the Vaccinated

My in-laws are fully vaccinated. To celebrate they decided a family dinner was in order.

After a year of wearing masks everywhere and only eating with H and Bug, it was weird. They seemed perfectly comfortable, but then again they are vaccinated. We are no danger to them. For at least some period of time the vaccine means their chances of getting gravely ill are close to zero.

But could they be a danger to us? The jury is still out on that question. The preliminary data seems good, and they are not really mingling with the general population. We also are one dose into our vaccinations which give us some protection.

How close do you sit? When do you put your mask after eating? Do you mask up as soon as you finish? Or do you wait? Do you eat quickly? Do you stay for coffee?

I guess this is how things will be for a while as we readjust to mingling. Everyone will be a little awkward and a little unsure. Eventually, we will get used to seeing people inside without a mask again. We will share meals with family and friends without thinking too much about it.

At least I hope that is true.

The Greenway

I decided today would be a good day to loop the Western Greenway. The weather was pleasant and I needed a good ride to clear my head. I set out on what I think of as the reverse loop. I usually head from my house, past Our Ladies, behind the soccer fields, and then across to the big woods. Today, I went down towards the Y, the high school, and out to the Payne Estate.

The section from my house down to the high school is a tricky ride. It is mostly downhill, so it is not physically taxing. However, it is very rocky and twisty. Riding it is sort of like the old joke about the roller coaster; I was scared the whole time, but loved it. It is still early in the season so I am still getting my legs under me and my nerve up. I probably took things too slow which probably made it harder to navigate.

Swinging up past the high school and into the Payne Estate is a nice climb. Not too steep or technical. The only real issue is that I don't know the trail and spent a lot of time looking for the signs.

The ride down Forest St. is pretty boring. Lock the front forks and shift into a nice cruising gear....

Once back in the woods, I headed around the water tower hill and out to rock meadow. I made sure to take a bunch of the side trails on the way down.

The loop around rock meadow is always a nice gentle ride. The only hard part was having to keep pulling up my mask. It is still cool enough that my glasses fog up when I keep it on.

Once across the bridge and back into the woods I went the opposite way back to the parkway as I took on the way in. Again I looked for as many side trails as I could. It was a good time.

The other side of the parkway is a familiar ride for me although going backwards does change it up.

I forgot how challenging the ride up from Our Lady's is when going up hill. It was made even more difficult because there were a lot of hikers out on that section of trail. Momentum is your friend...

The Greenway is a great resource and I am lucky to have such easy access to it.

Maybe next time I'll go the right way round.

Monday, March 22, 2021

On the Trails at Last

 Ah the glories of early, probably short lived, Spring weather!! I took advantage of the sun and warmth to get the Mt. Bike out of the garage and hit the trails.

I've been hitting the indoor trainer pretty consistently, so I assumed I'd be in good shape for a real ride. Oh was I wrong.

Strange how riding on a stationary bike, spinning at a reasonably consistent cadence with a predictably smooth resistance curve does not map to riding on rutty, rock strewn, muddy paths on changing terrain. I forgot how much work, and how much fun, it is to control the bike and make rapid adjustments for hills or rough patches.

Yes, there are $1000 "smart" trainers that can simulate more dynamic riding conditions, but I doubt they can do justice to actual riding.

Anyway, I don't have $1000 dollars to spend trying to turn my basement into a virtual reality theater. I'm much happier to keep my basement a basement, so that I am always motivated to get outside.

I am sore and the ride was shorter than planned, but it was glorious to be outside again.


Like just about everybody, it feels like I have been locked in my house for the last year. (It is not true - I spent plenty of time outside.)

I have, however, avoided shopping of any kind for nearly a year. The last time I was inside a store was probably September and I was totally freaked out the entire time despite the fact that there were less than 10 people in the place. It didn't help that it was not my choice to be in the store - we had gone apple picking and Kenzie wandered into the store...
This means that poor H has been doing all of the shopping - she even picked up my new M1 MacBook Air for me because I was too scared to go into the Apple Store. I won't even pick up take out if the place does not offer curb-side pick-up. I even made K go into Chipotle by herself to pick up her take out order....
In some respects (so I like to tell myself) this is just smart. The CDC says to avoid crowded indoor spaces and that is what I am doing.
It, however, is a little pathologic in my case. I still have issues eating take out food....
Two weeks ago, I tired to get a little adventurous and pick up Starbucks. Just a quick in and out after ordering on the mobile app. I was thwarted in my efforts by Starbucks new Curbside Pick-Up service.
This weekend, I finally broke down and went into a store.
My glasses have been broken for weeks. One of the arms is barely hanging on and the frames desperately need replacing.
I tried to call the shop where I got the frames to see if I could drop them off for a repair or just get a new pair ordered. The repair would leave me blind for two weeks and my prescription is too old to use for ordering new glasses, and the frames I have are discontinued...
I was going to have to go and get an eye exam and pick out new frames.
K just got new glasses at the MyEyeDoctor in Belmont and she and H gave it high marks. The said they both felt very comfortable and that they were following all of the safety protocols. So, I reluctantly made an appointment.
It was a very strange feeling. I have been to doctor's offices during COVID, but my doctor has at most two patients in the office at a time. This place has three optometrists seeing patients plus a full retail section. In total I saw maybe 10 people in the building (all double masked) and almost as many air purifiers, but it was still very weird.
I did adjust. The workers were all very professional and kept appropriate distance. The spaces were not crowded and did I mention the masks and the air purifiers.
I was able to make it through the appointment and pick out new glasses without a panic attack or a delayed freak out which is a minor miracle. I actually felt pretty good about the whole experience.
It was so freeing that I volunteered to make a run to the local vitamin shop to pick up stuff. This is not a busy place and is also full of masked sales people, a plethora of air purifiers, and a small number of customers. Still it was progress.
My comfort zone was pushed a little on the way home, when I stopped at our favorite food truck to order take out. Fortunately I was the only customer in line and they offered contactless payment via my watch.
Who knows, maybe by summer I will be able to venture out to a grocery store.....
For now I'll take the small victories and hope that I make it through the next 10 days without a delayed freak out session....

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Garmin Fenix 6X

 I am a sucker for fitness tracking despite the fact that it can feed into my hypochondriac tendencies.

Knowing my heart rate and stress level on a minute by minute basis is both interesting and terrifying. It is even more terrifying when I get a spurious elevated heart rate alarm. Usually, the alert is because I there is water on between the sensor and my arm or I am wearing the watch too loosely. OHR sensors are finicky buggers no matter how good they are reported to be.

Just before COVID closed down the world and stories of sudden pulse OX reading sending people into ERs never to return, Garmin released it new 6 line of the Fenix which included a built in pulse OX sensor as a standard feature. The line also has a bunch of other tweaks like a better screen, longer battery life, the new body battery metric, and a few other things.

If I am being totally honest, none of these were a good reason to upgrade from my trusty Fenix 3X. It still was getting solid battery life, had all the mapping features I needed, and did a great job at all of the basic stuff like step counting and route tracking.

It was a combination of pulse OX and a misguided sense that shopping therapy would ease the malaise of COVID spring that spurred my decision to upgrade. A large REI divided also helped.

The pulse OX feature also gave me pause. Would that information be helpful or just propel me into a spiral of fruitless doom checking and panic?

Since having the watch since April, I can say that the pulse OX feature is an interesting gimmick. I have mine set just to track it during sleep and if I want to do spot checks. It is not a medical grade pulse OX measurement and from many reviews it seems to be about 1-2% lower than a medical grade instrument. Like the OHR, the accuracy depends on a lot of factors including skin color, light conditions, movement, tightness of the watch band, movement, and sleeping positions.

What I have learned from it is that I probably don't have sleep apnea since my pulse OX reading is pretty steady over night with only a few occasional drops to the low 90s. I do occasionally check during the day, and it is reassuring to see that it is always 95% or better. I imagine that if I got reading in the 70-80% range I would worry, but I imagine I would know I was sick well before then.

Aside from the pulse OX feature, I do like the watch better than my old 3X. The UI is better designed and the bigger, brighter screen is nice on my aging eyes. Other nice, but not game changing, features are improved sleep tracking, the body battery, and the fact that I now get a VO2 max reading during walking activities.

I used to have to adjust wake and sleep times constantly with the 3X, but with the 6X I never need to bother. It is also cool to see how sleep stages, respiration rates, and pulse OX vary over the course of sleep. Again, more interesting that useful.

The body battery feature is a new composite metric that I don't fully understand. Basically, it is supposed to be a reflection of how much energy you have. It fluctuates based on stress (measured by HRV), heart rate, activity level, and a bunch of crazy math I will never understand. It seems relatively accurate in reflecting how I feel. Sometimes it seems low compared to how I feel until I try to go do something active. If the watch reading is low, I invariably bonk way sooner than I would have expected based on how I felt. Is this just me being susceptible to suggestion or a true reflection of my bodies energy reserves? I would love to believe that I am smart enough not to listed to a watch....

The VO2 max from walks is, according to Garmin, is not as reliable as the measure you would get from a run or a bike ride with power meters. Since I loathe running and refuse to spend the money on power meters, it is the reading I have. It was nice to watch the metric improve over the COVID summer when my only outlets for stress were long walks, longer bike rides, and the occasional shred through the local trails. Sadly, now that the COVID winter is settling in and opportunities for riding and walking have gone down, the metric is also trending downward.

The one really nice feature is Garmin Pay support. Being able to use the watch as a touch-less payment form has been great. Yes, I can use my phone as well. However, the watch is right on my wrist and doesn't require me to stare at the phone. Also, the watch is easier to wash and has almost no chance of being pressed against my face.

The Fenix is more expensive and way less sexy than an Apple Watch. The Fenix, unlike the Apple Watch, has multi-day battery life. With daily hour long bike rides, I was getting five days between charges. Now that I am not using the GPS as often I go more like 7 or eight days between charges.

The Fenix also connects to all the bike sensors I already own and feed all the data back into the Garmin ecosystem to which I am tied. There is also Apple Health integration, but it is not the best.

The Fenix is also, as far as I can tell, far more durable than an Apple Watch. I am not sure I would wear an Apple Watch sea kayaking or use it on a multi-day hike or expect an Apple Watch to survive a nasty mountain biking crash. The Fenix feels like it can take pretty much anything I can throw it at.

Am I happy with the purchase? I am not unhappy with the purchase. I could have stuck with my old Fenix until the battery gave out and been satisfied with it. The 6X is a nice, but not earth shattering, upgrade.