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.

On the Water - Sea Kayaking Photographs

 A friend of mine, Jon Sharlin, who is a phenomenal photographer has just released a new book of live action photographs.

A number of shots have shown up on the RIC/KA Sea Kayaking site over the past few years.

If you are interested check it out at:

Sunday, November 08, 2020

It was so bad it was good?

 I have missed paddling.

The last few months something has always gotten in the way. Some times the thing in the way was just inertia to be honest. COVID travel restrictions and anxiety keep me close to home and the only real paddling options are flat, not so clean water. It is hard to get up the energy to pack up the kayak when you know that a good portion of your time will be tied up in getting the gear packed and unpacked and repacked and unpacked and when the most exciting thing you'll see is duck and the most challenging obstacle is going to be a frustrating wind that is blowing at just the wrong angle.

Taking one of the bikes out is an easier option.

This morning I decided I was going to get in the kayak. I packed up the truck, dug out some paddling clothes, and drove over to the local boat launch figuring that this late in the season it would pretty quiet. It was packed. I found one spot that could accommodate the truck and I almost lost it while getting the kayak off the roof. The parking space barely had enough room for me to open the doors; the kayak had to come off before I parked.

While sitting on the back of the truck putting on my water shoes, I felt a nice pain shoot from hip across my lower back. I could walk mostly straight, and bend over if I took my time. I decided that if I could pack up the kayak and get into it, I was OK to paddle on some flat water...

As I settled the kayak into the water, I spotted a sign mentioning dangerous algae blooms. The water didn't smell, there were no visible signs of algae, and a lot of other people on the water. I wasn't going in the water. I cautiously ignored the sign and set off.

My plan was to do a little warm up paddle and then practice boat control for a while. I wanted to work on figure eights, bow and stern rudders, and some lateral movement.

Once I was in the kayak, my back felt good. I could get decent rotation without pain while doing a quick forward stroke. As I loosened up and started working on the control strokes it continued to feel good.

All in all I was feeling pretty good and having a good time. The reverse figure eights took a little time to get sorted out. I needed to play around with the edges to figure out which ones worked best, but once I got it even those felt good. I know the Aires is a cheat when it comes to making maneuvering look impressive, but it does take some skill to get it to do the right things at the right time.

After playing around with the turns, I started working on latter movements with draw strokes. Things started off great. Then I started upping the ante and putting more edge on the boat during skulling draws and experimenting with which edge worked best.

Next thing I know I'm upside down in murky water and don't have my paddle in rolling position. Instead of talking the time to settle myself, get into position, and just do the roll, I panicked and pulled the loop. I'm now floating in cold water about a 50-75 yds from shore with nobody to do an assisted rescue. Without taking the time to think about what gear I have on hand (a paddle float and a pump sitting in my cockpit), I just start swimming and dragging the kayak towards land... Then I realize how cold I am and remember the toxic algae warning...

I finally got close enough to shore so I could stand, empty the cockpit, and get back in the kayak.

Fortunately, the air was warmer than the water. Once back in the kayak I started to warm back up as I made a bee line for the boat ramp.

Unfortunately, the waiting line for the ramp was three power boats and a couple of SUPs long.

I couldn't just float around waiting for the line to clear, so I went back to practicing. It was the only way to stay warm. My back had started to tighten back up, but things still went pretty well. Overall, I was pretty happy with how I did.

I only took about 20 minutes for the ramp to clear enough to allow me to get off the water. Dusk was closing in and the temperature was dropping.

I am glad that I had invested in Hullivators because it made getting the kayak loaded much faster. OK the Hullivators were the only reason I could even get the kayak on the truck. There was no way my back was going to put up with lifting a kayak much further than waist height.

I am also glad that I spent the extra money on a tree row truck. It made changing into dry, warm clothes much easier. The parking lot was way to open and busy to change outside and my back was not going to do the contortions required for changing in a normal sized car.

It was possibly one of the worst days paddling I have ever had. Nearly freezing in toxic water because I couldn't keep my wits about me was not a proud moment.

Yet, it was a day that I got to paddle. That has a magical way of making me feel better....

Friday, September 18, 2020

We Got a COVID Puppy

After much searching, we got a miniature Australian Labordoodle named Ziggy.

He is very cute and very rambunctious. He should be a fun addition to the family.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The ocean, the road, and the trail

 The other day as I was slogging up one of the many hills around my house on my road bike I began pondering why I do this to myself.... I like road biking despite the monotony and the pain, but why?

My default thought pattern in these deep philosophical moments is to try to relate my question to kayaking.

I like road biking because it is like kayaking - long stretches of time time where your body is doing mostly monotonous motions without really thinking too much about it.

But that is not really true. There is plenty of thinking and presence that goes into kayaking. One must always be scanning the ocean, feeling the water move, and being ready for surprises.

For the most part road biking is pretty thoughtless. Sure you need to adjust for hills and watch out for pot holes. However, shifting becomes pretty automatic and the roads I ride are pretty good. It is really just time for zoning out while legs spin.

Then I thought kayaking was more like mountain biking. You are always reacting to the terrain; always thinking and adjusting.

But that is also not really true either. Kayaking is not quite as white knuckled as mountain biking. There is a lot more flow and space to breath.

As I crested the hill, my lungs heaving and my legs burning (I may not have shifted as smartly as I could have), I gave up trying to figure it all out.

Kayaking is the perfect combination of zen and adrenaline; you have space to breath and just feel the motion of the paddle through the water and the thrills of waves and constantly changing conditions.

Road biking gives me the zen without the adrenaline. It is all space to think and feel the burn of spinning the peddles.

Mountain biking gives me the rush and active body thinking. It is all about being aware, reacting, and feeling the bike move.

I'll take the kayak over the bikes every time, but options are always good - particularly since COVID has limited my access to the ocean but not the roads or the trails.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

One More Camping Trip

 H decided that we needed at least one more "real" vacation this summer. For H, a "real" vacation involves not being at our house. I on the other hand am perfectly happy. during a pandemic, to consider anytime I do not have to work for an extended period of time a "real" vacation. Leaving the safety of our neighborhood for an extended period of time to stay in the vicinity of a bunch of strangers who could possibly pass along a deadly pathogen just by breathing near you is not my idea of a "real" vacation.

Knowing that both H and K needed some time away from home doing something that seemed reasonably close to normal, I put aside my crazy as best I could and went along for the ride....

This particular trip was to Salisbury State Reservation and involved camping with some close friends who have a child around K's age. Both facts raised my anxiety since I rememberer Salisbury as a place of rampant partying and I knew that we were going to be eating with other people and that K would be playing, unsupervised, with another 10 year old. I had to keep my rational brain firmly in the driver's seat on this one. Our friends have been following good safety procedures all spring and summer; we were going to be outside the whole time, and K is pretty good about remembering her mask and keeping physical distance. We were not doing anything high risk.

One of the hardest things, for me, about this whole COVID thing is that it makes me question everything I do that involves other people. I have never been a huge fan of crowds and was always slightly suspicious of most other people. Now I just see everyone, even people I like, as possible threats. It is not that I worry about anyone being malicious or stupid or anything other than just plain human. I know that they could be sick and contagious without even knowing it. I, despite my neurotic avoidance of other people and any place that is not super low risk, could be patient zero.

Anyway, the forecast for the trip was pretty bleak. There was a chance of thunderstorms or rain the entire time we were scheduled to be camping. The forecast was not enough to dissuade the ladies - well not H. I think K was kept in the dark about the weather until it was too late for her to complain.

We, of course, got a late start. Partly it was me dragging my feat and partly it was H doing twenty things at once and K being ten. We did get to the campsite in time to get our tent and the screen tent secured before it started raining the first time....

We spent a good 30-40 minutes sitting in the car as is poured rain and occasionally boomed. We did take a drive around the camp area so I could keep the AC going. I was not going to sit in a hot, humid truck...

During the storm our friends developed a puddle under their tent which was seeping through the floor. It was trapped between their ground cover and the tent floor... Once the rain stopped, we surveyed our tent to discover a similar situation. While the ladies made dinner and the kids cruised about the camp ground, the men dug out trenches to redirect water away from the tents and to make sure there were not any spots where puddles would form. Fortunately their was cider to be drank...

I want to say food prep was being done to my safety standards, but I cannot control everything... Mask were mostly worn during cooking and definitely during serving. Nobody shared utensils or plates. Some people shared apps, but that was just a step outside my comfort zone. I did my best to keep 6' away from everyone without looking antisocial....

Then it started pouring again.... So, it was back to the trucks for another stretch. This time we drove over to the boat launch where we could see the lightning across the shore. The second set of showers were shorted and we let the kids get out and run around in parking lot before dragging them off to bed.

K wanted to sleep in the car because it might thunder again. She was totally freaked about getting hit by lightning. In fact, she wasn't even sure the car was safe enough.... I cannot say I wasn't considering the sleeping in the car thing myself - it would make the eventual run to the truck easier....

We made it through the night without any more thunder. It may have rained, but we were all too tired to care.

The forecast for the second day had changed for the better. It looked like it would be mostly sunny until thunder showers moved in around dinner time.... H was lucky the forecast changed because if it was going to be more rain, I was taking my toys home.... I was working very hard to keep things together and another day of making sprints to the truck was just not going to happen without me melting down like one of the ten year olds...

Not that the plan for the day was anything to write home about. We were planning on spending the day sitting on the beach... with signs posted warning against strong rip currents.

We showed the kids the eddy line near the rocks and told them to stay away. We watched as two rescue boats on the far shore dragged a couple of kids out of the currents. Then we settled into an anxious routine of chatting and checking on the kids. We had to make sure they were not drowning or getting too close to other people.

It was not a bad day. I was outside near the water chatting with friends. (I was a little sad that I did not have my kayak because the currents were ripe for playing...) The kids enjoyed themselves digging in the sand and frolicking in the water. I could almost forget that there was a risk of death lurking about in the air.

When we heard the thunder rolling in, we quickly packed up and headed back to our camp sites to begin sheltering in the cars...

Fortunately, nothing much materialized and we were able to enjoy a nice dinner and a campfire with friends. Enjoy in this case is sort of a loaded word since I was anxious about people keeping proper distance since masks are impossible when eating and drinking. A non-small number of ciders did help moderate my anxiety in the moment.

I do know that my anxiety is not rational. My rational brain, and the facts on the ground, all point to our activities being extremely low risk. We were with people we know and trust and we were outdoors. None of us have any conditions that put us at high risk for complications.

Rationality does not always win....

On the last morning I was a model of packing efficiency. I think I had the entire site down and in the truck in just around an hour.

The kids were off scouring the campground looking for painted rocks and climbing trees. They had masks on when they left and convinced myself that they would just keep them on... The park actually had painted rocks scattered around the area for kids to find and post photos with. It was the idea. We made the kids wear masks in the photos.

I just focused on getting structures down and packed into the truck. It was the nicest weather of the three days we had. There was a slight breeze and sunny skies - and a looming threat of rain that was far away. I was on a mission to get back to my safety bubble and begin my 14 day countdown....

After a quick stop at the beach to see the ocean one more time and have K suffer a post vacation, hanger meltdown... and some greasy fried seafood and ice cream which cured the meltdown.

K and H got their annual lobster - at sale price.

Both the seafood place and the ice cream place had excellent distancing protocols in place, well spaced outdoor seating and full mask compliance. I actually felt reasonably OK about eating there.

The trip was relaxing-ish. The girls enjoyed getting out of the house and seeing some friends and having a somewhat normal couple of days. Their mental health definitely improved.

I had moments of relaxation that were tainted by crushing anxiety. It was nice to see friends and do some normalish things for a change. But there was always the voice in my head....

I cannot wait for science to make this pandemic thing at least more known and manageable.

I would wish for my anxiety to magically go away, but that is like wishing oneself away.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Good Friends and the Ocean

The most excellent TM read one of my blog posts about not getting on the ocean and decided to sacrifice a day of his vacation to make sure I got at least one ocean paddle in this season.

Most of my reasons for not getting out on the ocean have been more about my being neurotic about the COVID. I avoid groups and getting close to people outside of my direct family at all costs. While I do go out for bike rides, those are solo excursions that pose relatively low risk of major injury. I can also wear a mask the whole time.

Sea kayaking is not something I do solo except on very rare occasions. The ocean can be a harsh mistress. I don't really think staying masked the whole time is possible given that there is going to be spray and your face just gets wet. I also worry that in the case of rescues there is no way to keep distance and a high probability of someone inadvertently blowing a bunch of droplets in your face.

Rationally, I know that being outside, in the sun, with an ocean breeze in a 16' kayak with a paddle that requires a good 4' radius is something even the most conservative epidemiologist would consider minimal risk. I also know that the chances of needing to do a rescue with most of the people I paddle with is pretty slim. We are all pretty good.

Rational doesn't always win out in these decisions though.....

To help get me out on the water Tim set aside a day of his vacation to paddle with just me. He figured, correctly, that paddling with just one other person, who I completely trust, would be on the edge of my comfort zone. I still had some anxiety about the long drive and what about my coffee for the return trip or bathroom breaks. What if the ramp was busy.... What if the conditions were more than I was ready to handle.... What if....

The afternoon before, I dawdled in packing up. Anxiety still gnawed at my enthusiasm. As I packed up, I developed a plan to alleviate some of my anxiety. I would pack an extra iced coffee, extra water, and extra snacks in a cooler to eliminate the need stop on the way home. I considered brining our portable loo to ensure I could stay entirely self contained while transiting, but decided that was too much and I didn't want to have to deal with waste disposal.

H did poke a little fun at my plans. She has been enjoying Starbucks cold brew all summer and thinks avoiding the largely contactless is a little crazy. She isn't entirely wrong... However, I have learned to do without over the shutdown. Why spend on Starbucks when our home made coffee is just as good?

Once I finally got to Weatherill, I started to relax. I was still a little skittish and very conscious about staying masked up. However, TM's jovial presence and the ocean smell instantly lowered my anxiety level. We packed up our kayaks and carried them down to the water wearing masks which was odd. TM took his off before launching, but I needed to be well off shore before taking mine off. Knowing that ocean paddling with a mask on was not only a little crazy but likely dangerous, I had prepared ahead to safely store my mask on the water. I brought a zip lock bag and stored it in the little cockpit hatch; it was safe, dry, and close by if needed.

It didn't take long for being on the water to work its magic. I mostly forgot that our country is burning around us between the pandemic and the racial tension boiling over across the country. The flow of the paddle through the water, the salty smell of the air, and the gentle rocking of the waves are better than any drug.

We didn't do anything super exciting. We paddled from Weatherill, around Beavertail and then north along the Jamestown coast. The conditions were super mellow. I needed to pay attention, but not too much. It was perfect.

We lunched at one of the little pocket beaches which was surprisingly relaxing. I was barely bothered about not being masked. We were outside and there was a nice breeze. I didn't even freak out when a group of people showed up on the hill asking if we were finishing up... We were.

As we ate, we watched rain storms march steadily towards us from Narragansett and heard a few rumbles. It was nothing to worry about, but definitely time to start planning our exit.

It looked like things might be clearing up when we got back to Weatherill, so I decided to stay in the kayak and play a bit. I was going to try rolling, but the water was a little low as was my confidence... Instead I practiced my reverse figure eights. I did OK. There was a wind that kept pushing me around a little and making some of the turns hard. It was good practice on switching edges, remembering paddle placement, and just general boat feel.

This was also the first time I had my new paddle in salt water, so I was excited to see what it would do. As expected from the previous fresh water outings, it was awesome. I felt very confident with it. I had plenty of forward power and felt secure with the bracing. My less than ergonomic home office set up has not done wonders for my wrists, and they were a little sore. I'm certain, however, that they were less sore than they would have been after dragging a giant lollipop through the water...

The clear skies didn't last long. As we were loading the boats on the cars it started to rain and before I could finish up it was pouring. Fortunately, I had not changed into dry clothes before loading the boat.

When Tim asked about stopping for coffee, I was so chill from the paddling that I almost said yes. The rain, sadly, made it impossible. I'm still not ready to sit inside a coffee shop and I did have an ice cold coffee sitting in the back of my truck along with my extra water and snacks.

The rain did help me appreciate our monster Subaru just a little bit more. It is big enough to comfortably change clothes in the back. I just pulled up the privacy shades, slipped out of my wet clothes, toweled off, and slipped on my dry clothes. It was luxurious to change in a large dry space, grab my driving goodies, then slip into the driver's seat.

This was possibly the best day of 2020 so far....

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Camping in a Pandemic

 H needed a change of scenery and was not willing to completely give up on summer vacations, so she scheduled us for a camping trip in New Hampshire. It was one of the few states that didn't have strict 14 day quarantine policies to enter. It also was on the list of states that would not force us to quarantine for 14 days upon return. We were not going to spend 4 weeks locked up in our house for 4 nights sleeping on the ground. I need my daily walk or bike ride. H needs to get out for an occasional curbside pick-up. Bug needs to go to gymnastics.

I was not really comfortable spending any time in a crowded campground or staying anywhere other than my comfy COVID free bedroom. Sure outside is safer than inside and keeping space from other humans is pretty easy when camping, I just was not really prepared to spend time surrounded by strangers.

When we got the to the site, I stayed masked the entire time I was setting up camp and monitoring our neighbors for any signs of wandering over or coughing.... I think the girls were laughing at me.

Once dinner rolled around I did take the mask off. I began to feel pretty confident that our site was isolated enough that no COVID was going to waft our way. I wasn't entirely relaxed.

The next day, I spent most of the day at the site or biking. I did ride up the to pool with Kenzie. The other people were doing the right things and keeping good space. Of course none of them were wearing masks. I vacated as soon as H showed up and went off in search of the kayak launch.

The second day was kayak day. Danforth Bay is fresh water, fairly flat, but there was plenty of space to cover. The weather was also in my favor. It was warm, but not too sunny with a nice breeze.

The most nerve wracking part of the trip was putting in and taking out. The ramp was small and people kept traipsing through the launch area to get from the beach to the fishing spot. Of course there was not a mask in site - except mine.

Once on the water, I felt much more comfortable. I kept my mask on mostly because I wasn't sure what else to do with it. The paddling was more about relaxation and distance than adrenaline. I worked on my forward stroke and practiced some basic boat handling skills.

I also stared in awe at all the party boats overflowing with unmasked people and the huge houses full of unmasked people. There was even a full summer camp with what looked like a 100 kids all marching around and playing games with no masks. It felt like I had left 2020 for 2019. Either that or people just were ignoring the public health crisis unfolding around them.

Regardless I stayed well off shore and avoided any and all boats that wandered into my path. I figured between the distance, the sun, the breeze, and my mask I was safe.

Even with the slight stress of COVID I was able to enjoy a few hours out on the water. It wasn't sea kayaking, but it was kayaking.

Of course when I got back Bug wanted to hang at the beach and H had spent all day watching her already...

There were only two or three other parties at the beach and they were staying mostly separate. The problem was that they were big groups, with adults enjoying adult beverages, kids wandering about, and zero masks. It was uncomfortable, but I managed to find a low traffic area. Bug wanted me closer to the water, but was willing to take what she got.

One group was by far the most interesting. There were eight adults and ten kids under the age of 8. All of the adults were drinking freely and the kids were everywhere. The adult conversation was mostly about how hard it was to keep the kids from playing too close to their friends and why teachers should stop being babies and get back to doing their jobs....

I was happy to call it quits and get back to our site when dinner was ready.

Packing up was easy and the most pleasant camp breakdown ever. I was more than ready to leave and return to my safe little bubble. H and K enjoyed the getting out of the house for a few days, so it was worth the stress. I also enjoyed not staring at the same four walls, but am not sure that it was worth it for me.

I am privileged enough to live in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood with wide streets that are pleasant to walk. I have easy access to plenty of great biking and several decent, not crowded, fresh water launches. In other words, I have all the recreation I need close to home in environments I have a lot of control over. For right now, that seems pretty vacation-like for me.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hitting the Trails

 I had a rough day and the road bike was being repaired. I broke a spoke and was waiting for a neighborhood repair guy to get it patched up. He was only running about a week for minor jobs while the bike shops were taking up to two weeks....

Anyway, I needed to get out. I had been avoiding the mountain bike for several reasons including the fact that most of the trails near my house are pretty narrow single track and my knack for getting hurt when I ride. I am also out of practice which makes me more prone to doing stupid things.

I had no choice but to take my chances. It was a coolish night and I waited until dinner time figuring the trails would be mostly empty. I was mostly right.

I masked up and made sure I had my orange lenses on. They don't fog up quite as much for some reason and killing myself on an obstacle I didn't see seemed dumber than killing my killing myself on an obstacle I saw and still tried....

The first part of the trails near my house are a 1/4 mile road ride away, so I figured I make use of my front fork lock and give myself a bit of a break before taking on the trails.

The first section of trails is fairly rugged single track that starts off with a steep hill. I always try and never succeed in climbing it. I either get scared that I'm going to flip backwards or my rear tire spins out. From the top of the hill, there is a steep narrow run along a ridge that ends in a sharp turn. I was feeling tense the entire ride and reconsidering the wisdom of my choice. I could surely blow off some steam with a nice little walk around the hood...

The bike felt extra poundy and reactive which I chalked up to nerves and lack of saddle time.

Once off the ridge the trail winds through some thick woods, across a short, narrow bridge, and into a rocky area. The bridge was nerve wracking. I had to force myself to look across the bridge and not at it. All I could imagine was missing the mark by a fraction, hitting the handle bars and ending up in a pile.

Once over the bridge the rest of the section was fairly easy. There were plenty of rocks and the front end was jumping all over the place. The trail was reasonably wide and nothing looked like it would cause too much damage if I went down...

After about a mile until the first rider passed me. I was at a rode crossing and we both were wearing masks and keeping space. He even called out to alert me to his approach. It was all very pleasant and confidence inspiring.

After the road crossing, the trail stays pretty narrow and winds through the woods and up a hill before another road crossing. This section is nice because it is not too technical. There are some roots, but nothing big. The only tricky parts are knowing which turn takes you to the road instead of the dead end and a small rock wall. The rock wall is your sign that you took the correct turn. I mostly cruised through this section. The hill took its toll on my legs and the rock wall wasn't pretty, but I felt good.

After the second road crossing, the trail is super smooth. I winds through a nice marshy area covered by a wide bridge and ends up in a forested area with some minor obstacles. There is one particularly narrow twist between three trees with a ton of roots. I nearly bought it because the front tire was bouncing all over the place. I managed to keep the bike on the right line.

Once I crossed the third road, I started running into people. The first part of this section of trails is a wide fire road that is very popular with walkers, runners, ect. The first group of people I saw was easy to avoid. They were just beyond a side trail that I was not planning on taking because it is reasonably technical. However, my fear of people outweighed my fear of injuring myself on the bike, so I took the side trail.

The side trail was not as rough as I remembered, but it wasn't a fire road. There were plenty of roots, rocks, and sharp turns.

When I popped back onto the fire road, I noticed that there was still a group of walkers just up a head of where I wanted to go, so I took another side trail that shoots along a small ridge line. Other than that it has steep drops on each side of the trail, it is smooth and straight. I was able to cruise and was certain I would pop back out ahead of the walkers.

I was right about the walkers; they were definitely behind me when I got back onto the fire road. However, right in my path were two fat, white, middle age guys riding full suspension e-bikes. Of course they weren't masked and were riding side by side taking up the entire trail.

WTF. I'm all for people of all shapes and sizes getting some exercise. I don't even really have too many issues with e-bikes (although I'm not sold on the need for full suspension ones) because they do get more people biking. I do have problems with a couple of over privileged idiots ignoring both public health guidelines and basic trail etiquette.

They didn't move into a single file line so we could both use the trail. I had to pull off to the side and watch them silently cruise by under full e-power.

The rest of the ride was pure cruising. The trails were wide and groomed all the way to where I popped out of the woods. I did, briefly, consider the water tower trail as a I cruised past but wasn't in the mood to push my luck. The bike had been jittery the whole ride and the cut backs and incline felt like a step too far.

Once out of the woods, I had a mile ride back home on the streets that includes a big hill. To make the ride easier, I decided to lock out the front fork. When my thumb reached for the button, it couldn't push it in. I checked what was going on figuring that I had snapped the cable or something. Nope - the fork had been locked out for my entire ride....

I felt silly but also a little bit better about how much trouble I was having riding the rougher sections of trails.

The ride home was an uphill slog. The hill is long and steep. It is perfect for getting the thighs burning and the great pumping.

Aside from the idiot pair, I was really impressed with how much care my fellow trail mates were taking to keep COVID at bay. It was nice to get on the trails in a way that felt safe and did wonders for my mental health. Now I feel like I have one more outlet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Getting on the Water and Fire

I cannot believe it has been a month since my last post. Time in quarantine blurs and starts becoming abstract. The only things that keeps me semi-rooted are the days I have meetings. The long days are not helping either - not that I would prefer short days; they would be as disorienting and miserable.

The last month has had some nice highs.
The biking has gotten more frequent and easier. The high intensity cardio creates a great high and makes sleeping better. Is it just me or has the months of staying home screwed up sleep schedules?
I even got out on the mountain bike once. One of Bug's friends wanted to do a physically distant play activity and her Dad thought trail riding would be fun. Bug jumped at the idea. It was a nice day and she misses actually seeing her friends without a screen. I was less than thrilled since it triggered all my anxieties: How do I get Bug to wear her mask all the time? What if someone falls? What if the trails were jammed full of the unmasked? For the sake of the child's mental health, I did what I felt was a realistic accounting of the risks and decided it was within a rational person's risk profile: the other family has been following all the guidelines, our network of peeps has not had an active case, none of us are high risk, we would be outdoors, biking forces some distance, and I was mostly certain the other parent wouldn't pick trails that were technical or likely to be busy. It turned out to be fun even though I got a flat tire as we were heading home. It still felt like I had to reset my two week clock...
We started having physically distant play dates with gymnastics friends before the bike ride. We limited it to two other girls who bring their own equipment. The yard was measured to mark off space.
Now we are letting Bug back into the gym for practices. There were meetings and forms and discussions and more reviews of policies and skipping a week to let other parents be lab rats before we decided that the risks were with in tolerable limits. She still has to bring a raft load of her own equipment and shower immediately upon returning. The kids are kept distant, the coaches are all masked, and there are no skills that requiring spotting. Still it is better than nothing.
Some people think we are crazy for taking any kind of risk, but at what point does the mental health risks outweigh the viral risk? I guess if it were just me, I would stay locked in the house most days except for the occasional bike ride. Fortunately for the world, most people are not me.
Another highlight was our new fire pit. We got a BioLight fire pit. So far it has been awesome!!! It has a battery powered fan to increase airflow. It keeps the smoke down and makes lighting it super easy. The other cool thing is that its sides are all mesh, so it looks like the fire is floating in the air. Sitting by a fire with a cool cider or two is living.
I also, finally, got the boat on the water.
I was hoping to go on Sunday, but some food poisoning got in the way. That was less than fun. H spent an hour or so expelling food from both ends. Bug, who normally freaks out when people are sick, went to the edge. She refused to even come in the house until there was no other option. It was pouring rain and sitting in the truck was getting hot. Once in the house. she hid in the basement. To mollify child, and some of my own, anxiety I sanitized the whole house while also trying to take care of H and Bug. Fortunately, once whatever food that needed out was out, H recovered quickly. Again, I feel like the two week clock has reset.
Anyway, since it was so nice out today and the boat was on the truck already, I decided to head out to the Charles and go for a paddle. The put in was pretty empty, so there were no issues with distancing even though I still wore a mask. Being on the water was nice. It was different too. I still need to acclimate to the new paddle. I still think it was a great purchase and it feels great- just different. There were other people on the river and instead of being glad to see each other, we all did our best to stay out of each others way. I was also paddling kayak designed for playing on the ocean on a flat, calm river in the midst of a half urban landscape. I think I had my expectations ramped up to 11 and only got an 8. An eight is great and I am definitely going again, but this time with more realistic expectations.
I will paddle on the sea before the summer is out!!!

Monday, May 25, 2020

No Time Off

For most of the past week, things have been pretty normal (if you call being trapped in your house, only interacting with other people via screens, and wearing face masks outside normal.) Routines are wonderful things and we have finally hit upon a basic routine.

Child has regularly scheduled online classes and daily assigned school work to complete along with some other basic expectations like getting some exercise, maintaining personal hygiene, and cleaning up after herself. (Yes, she does fight against the unbearable amount of toil that her unimaginably horrible, "the worst, most rude" parents ask of her.)
H has finally started just excepting that her job is basically just punching a clock to meet requirements since one really cannot do much one on one counseling when students don't show up, parents stay in the room, and there are no "classroom" issues to really address. (Yes, there are still periods of angst about being a total failure because one of her colleagues has much needier students who do show up for sessions and another one is a type A childfree busy body.)
Aside from running interference, doing 24/7 tech and emotional support, and trying to keep child focused o doing school work, my job is still the same clock punching, frustrating slog to provide tools to over privileged worker bees who toil away making it easier for the 1% to suck the 99% dry while using the least amount of the 9% possible. (Yes, the facts of my job and my general sentiment that the world should be more fair do cause some inner turmoil. However, I am at heart a very practical misanthrope who is willing to do what is necessary to stay in the 9%. I also take solace in the fact that my wife's work does actually help make the world a better place and that my child's skill set also tend to lean in that direction even if developmentally she is still in the "world exists for my pleasure" phase.)
Friday, however, I was near to murder. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed to start. Then during one of of our corporate rah, rah sessions, one of the biggies made some comment about how great it is that during this time of crisis we have been busier than ever and that it was great that none of our employees hadn't taken any time off. That lit my short fuse. No time off, really!!! Sure nobody has taken any vacation time; there is no place to vacation!!! We are all in varying states of house arrest!!! Time off though....
If you have a school aged, or younger, child at home you are either not working a full work day or not sleeping much. I don't take at least an hour or two off everyday to help child troubleshoot a Google meeting or some worksheet her teacher scanned into a Google doc and didn't put in text fields to answer or help her to hunker down and get something done or listen to her complain about missing her friends or fighting with her when she insists that a worksheet calling for full sentences is complete when she provided one word answers. And let's not forget all the time I don't take off doing tech support or emotional support for my wife who has to completely relearn her job. Seriously, the only people not taking time off are childless, have live-in full time childcare, have miracle children who don't require help with school, or are just plain neglecting their kids.
Maybe with high school kids, or college kids, or adult live at home kids it is is different story. They are either mostly adults or at least capable of being adults if they choose. You can probably just let them do their thing most of the time. But I'm sure that even they require attention more that we are all trapped in our houses together.
Maybe what I really needed to hear was not rah, rah everything is awesome, but a sincere recognition that we are all doing a good job during a difficult time; that we are somehow managing and that our corporate overlords recognize this.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Getting Out and Meltdowns

As this drags into a third month and the realities of canceled summer camps, vacations, and the very real possibility of schools not reopening in the fall starts becoming inescapable instead of some worse case scenario that one can pretend will never happen, the house has gotten more tense and more predictable. It may sound like a contradiction, but we are starting to slide into a schedule. The schedule does include some periods of crying, yelling, stomping, and other behaviors that signal on going emotional strain and possible issues that require intervention, but the episodes are getting predictable. I can generally sense when they are coming and have started picking up patterns in how they play out.
Predictable and tolerable are different things. There are many days, when I watch the clock on my work day tick away as I coax my child to do mathwork or figure out what to do with herself in the absence of a screen, or talk my wife off a ledge, that I reach the end of my tether. Usually, it is work that suffers, but work is really the lowest priority (other than that it pays for the privileges of having a nice house, health, safe access to food...) Work has always been little more for me than a means to end; it pays for the things that matter.
My patience for my coworkers has never been a strength, but I used to have some reserves to make it functional. Now there are more days where it is a liability.  Also, the general amount of work I am producing has dropped. I do have the benefit of knowing where many of the bodies are buried which buys me a little leeway. Hopefully it is enough leeway so I can continue to pay for the things that matter.
I actually got to the point this week where I just needed to get away so bad that I pulled the road bike out of the garage and hit the streets. I was so frazzled that besides what has become normalized behavior, like wearing a mask, didn't even cross my mind. It was nice to just ride until my lungs burned and my legs felt like jello. I didn't even care that the Garmin told me that I had likely overdone things....
The roads were not empty, but the few other riders all did their best to keep distance. The experience gave me a glimmer of hope. It feel like at least one thing that reenergizes me is doable.
Hitting the trails still feels out of reach because there is no way to be distant on single track. Kayaking, at least until the water warms up some more, is still a no go because H worries about accidents.
Road cycling is doable and better than just plodding around my generic suburban neighborhood with the other mask wearing zombies.
So, things are looking up-ish.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Week 8 or is it 9?

We were watching the school districts update on home schooling expectations and the assistant superintendent said that school has been closed for 8 weeks, are not opening for the remainder of the school year, and that they may or may not open in the fall, but they definitely will have a plan, a backup plan, and a contingency plan.
I knew it had been a while, but I thought it was like 6 weeks or 10 weeks. I have lost track of time. Everyday is just another day. Somedays I shower; somedays I don't. Most days I exercise, meditate and have at least one internal melt down.
I have largely lost patience with the small child on more than one occasion.
I get that things for her are hard. School through a screen sort of sucks. Log into a Google page, watch some videos, do some worksheets, rinse, wash repeat. Oh and the expectations keep changing. At first it was just a few review things, then it was class meetings and daily review work, now there are daily zoom classes, and new material. Virtual playdates in Roblox and Zoom gymnastics also sort of suck. She is not exactly anxiety free, imbued with a strong internal sense of self, an overpowering urge to read, or super amounts of focus. She is an energetic, extroverted nine year old with a strong need to control things and a strong need for external attention.
I am an introverted, emotionally dead, ball of anxiety with a surplus of focus, who has spent years working through a screen. Unfortunately, I also have a bad habit of procrastinating which does not set a good example for the child.
The better half's job has also been getting more and more demanding, so she has less time and energy for child as well....
It is basically a spiraling mess. Child knows we are distracted and have to get things done. She either demands help on everything, avoids work by doing the absolute easiest things for which she can get credit, yells and pouts when things are hard and we try to help, or she hides out in her room playing Roblox and watching TikTok. She avoids messaging friends who do not play the games she likes on Roblox, because making small talk and expressing interest in others is hard when you spend most of the time worrying about what your friends are thinking of you.
It not only child that is spiraling. My tolerance for anything has worn very thin. I have to censor every e-mail I send and count to ten before responding to most questions....
Spending 24/7 in the same 1500 square foot house is not always good for an introvert. Walks through a deserted neighborhood wearing a homemade mask and avoiding the few people you do see hiding behind masks on is not exactly rejuvenating....

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is always a slightly complicated holiday. We all have complicated relationships with out parents.

The quarantine makes it more complicated.
Bug did many nice things for H today. She made a cake and followed an actual recipe. It turned out a bit Nailed It. She also made a frozen yoghurt root beer float and planned a girl's night sleep over. It was a nice break in the storm. But is only a break in the storm; Monday will bring new battles....
For H things were a bit more complicated. Her mother is in the final stages of dementia and just stares at the walls. H not been able to see her in weeks and her nursing home has an active COVID outbreak. At least in the past we could stop by, deliver a card, brush her hair, and say hi.
For all the mothers out their keep on fighting the fight; we all need you whether we admit it or not.

Saturday, April 25, 2020


I got the COVID antibody test back and it was negative. I have not been exposed, as far as the test can tell, to the virus.

The results do come with a very long list of warnings. Like that it can take up to 5 days post exposure for antibodies to show up in the test. That is not a big deal for me personally since I've spent most of the last month more than six feet away from pretty much everything....
While I though that a positive result may have made me feel better, after reading the caveats that come with the test I'm pretty sure I would have spiraled. It doesn't mean that you are immune; it just indicates that you have been exposed. I would have spent the next two weeks waiting for the worst....
Now I'm just back at my baseline state of perpetual low grade fear.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Quarantine Week ?

My mood lately has been generally less bleak with bouts of extremely bleak and extremely anxious.

The news about not reopening schools was, while not unexpected, still hard to take. The kid misses seeing her peeps and, despite her protestations, likes the structure and challenges school presents. We like, despite loving her deeply, not having to manage her full time while also getting our own jobs done.
The school announcement also made it clear that summer vacation plans are in jeopardy.
Will there be summer camps? The kid is desperately looking forward to spending a week doing gymnastics at overnight camp and always looks forwards to her two weeks of farm adventures.
Will Santa's Village, the AMC huts, or any campgrounds open? Will they lift restrictions on trail use? Will mountain biking clubs start up trips again? Will kayaking trips get scheduled?
The curve will come down, but when and what will it take for things to restart? Maybe kayaking with close friends who you can be certain are not carriers will be OK since kayaking is mostly socially distant, except in emergencies. Maybe beaches will stay closed?
Maybe summer will be fine and schools will start up in the fall and things will go back to mostly normal with occasional quarantines and official contact tracing as opposed to the sorts that Google and Apple already do....
Maybe the recent studies that are showing that the infection rate is way higher than expected, and therefore the mortality rate is way lower than expected, will turn out to be true. Couple that with the studies showing that people are showing some sort of lasting immunity means that herd immunity is closer than we think. Then all will be fine.
Maybe of course they are bunk since the tests are not reliable. Or maybe it does not matter what the mortality rate is since it does make a decent number of people very, very sick while leaving way more  people to be Typhoid Mary.

I also read an article saying that the most difficult thing about treating this thing is that by the time most people show up in the hospital they are in critical condition without even knowing it. The O2 levels are so depleted and their lungs so clogged that they should be very sick, but because of how the virus does its damage the patient's body is not reacting in the expected ways. Apparently we feel short of breath when too much CO2 builds up in our blood, not when the O2 gets low and COVID allows your lungs to shed CO2 just fine while blocking the O2 from getting into the blood stream.
Super fun time there for a hypochondriac. Now I think I am likely sitting on deaths door with no way to know. I did do a very hard interval ride on the trainer after reading that article just to prove that I could. The fact that I felt tired and a little high afterwards was worrying, but some water and TV sorted that out. I also did a fairly strenuous walk the following day and my VO2 Max is improving, so that calmed my nerves a bit.
And then night time comes and the monsters in the closet come out....

The most stressful thing I've done in weeks was today. I actually ventured out of the house to see my doctor. It was a routine check-up that was scheduled months ago - and that I had rescheduled once already - and was seriously planning on rescheduling again. H said getting out would do me some good.... I'm not convinced she was right, but I did go.... I brought plenty of disinfectant and wore a face mask when outside of the car. Other than the office staff, I was never within six feet of anyone. The office staff all wore masks - as did I - and reminded me that they only see one patient at a time, wipe down everything between visits, and do not see anyone with any symptoms.... Made me feel better at the time. Sitting here typing this now, I'm not so sure it really helped that much.
I feel like the two week clock is completely reset.
Anyway, he said my lungs sounded good. My blood pressure was fine. My temp was normal. I need to lose 5-10 lbs. He was glad to hear that quarantining and general anxiety had upped my exercise routine although he wished that I was doing more exercise for less crazy reasons....
He also had me take an anti-body test to see if I have had the dreaded COVID. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Do I want to know I've been exposed and likely recovered? I'm not sure if that would make feel better or worse. Logically, it should make me feel better knowing that I'm unlikely to get sick from this thing. However, it is likely to just make me anxious because I know I've been exposed and will be waiting to get sick. Or what happens if I test negative? Then I have to continue living in fear of getting it and possibly being one of the unlucky ones.... Although, in general I do tend to only get minor symptoms from colds, so I probably do have to worry too much.

Yes we are the lucky ones with homes, secure jobs that afford us the luxury of food delivery, and good health insurance and good health. Still we are not doing great.... The kid nearly missed a dance class and an online meeting because the adults spaced on time. It is getting harder and harder to remember what day of the week it is. The kid spends too much time in front of a screen before we notice and then we overcorrect.

Today the kid did an awesome job getting her shit done with minimal adult supervision because I was trying not to have an anxiety attack while driving to the doctor's office and H had full day of meetings. Then, because we all spent all of our collective emotional energy in the morning, bed time was a disaster.

We are the lucky ones. Pray for the ones who are not as lucky....

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Quarantine Week 4+

Last week was the roughest yet.
Somehow I keep thinking I will slip into a routine and adjust to the new normal. It is not true.
Thursday and Friday were black days. I was angry and on edge both days for no particular reason. I couldn't even find my way to get some movement. I was actually too angry, or craving control, to allow myself to exercise. The stairs pissed me off; the thought of sitting on the damn stationery bike with barely working gears disgusted me; walking around our deserted neighborhood wearing a mask like it was the god damn zombie apocalypse depressed me.
H had spent the week stressing about getting groceries. We finally got a curbside pick-up scheduled for Sunday, but it was curbside and we needed to make sure we stocked up enough for two weeks. There were times I just didn't care if we even had food; I just wanted to stop hearing about getting food. It probably didn't help that we were digging into the left over food in the back of the freezer for dinners...
My work sucked. I was spending more time fixing a tiny bug in an obsolete installer and answering inane e-mails than I was getting new work done. That was in the small bursts of time I had to actually work between H's meetings, Bug's incessant need for attention, and the less than occasional flare ups.
H is still trying to find her legs doing her job remotely. Her job really does not lend itself to being "remote". There are privacy issues; privacy and internet are oxymorons. There is managing parents expectations when every school district is doing something different, there is no central leadership, and no end date in site.
Bug is actually starting to adjust to home schooling, but it is still a struggle for her. She is not a sit quietly and do work person. She is move around and do stuff person. She is capable of great things but like most people would rather not paddle up stream into the wind without knowing there is a payoff. She misses her friends even though she talks to them and virtually plays with them as much as possible. She gets too much screen time and rebels at our attempts to restrict her and get her to do things IRL. She does not get enough space to make mistakes without us being around to notice and, without us, with the best intentions, trying to use them as teaching moments.
The weekend was better. I did actually leave to house for walks. It was depressing, but the sun was nice.
Getting food was strange. All the information on the available says food is safe, but we still spent an inordinate amount of effort decontaminating it. Having some more food in the house is nice.
This week has not been much better. The rain on Monday was depressing and work was interminable. Then we found out that our early summer camping destination was postponing registrations again. Bug's summer camps sent out notices about how they are hoping to still run programs, but are putting all sorts of restrictions in place.
Tuesday I forced myself on the bike which was the right thing to do. I at least slept better.
In short, the longer this drags on, the more it is grating on me. Yet there is no end in site. Maybe we can stop being trapped in the house before June, but all models point to a repeat lock down in the Fall. In between, there is still no telling who is carrying the apocalypse and we'll get to witness the devastation our months of lock down has wrought.
Still we soldier on....

Monday, April 06, 2020

Quarantine Week 3

This was a rough week. It would have been a rough week even without a global pandemic trapping us  our houses and throwing all of our lives into turmoil.

The weather was dreary and work was a slog of learning new things that are unlikely to see the light of day or even be noticed.
Waltham's school system has started providing more structured learning. Bug meets with her class twice a week. Her teachers are providing some writing prompts and other activities. Next week they will be ramping that up by starting to do some actual instruction and providing work packets. This is a small blessing. Bug puts up less of a struggle when the work comes from her teachers. It also means less time we have to spend coming up with activities for her do. She actually admitted today that she misses school.
Her dance school is doing weekly lessons which also helps. It gives her at least one hour of structured exercise a week. One of the Mom's from her gymnastics team is also setting up some get togethers for the girls. Friday night they spent nearly two hours doing gymnastics and stuff over Zoom. Yesterday she spent like an hour doing gymnastics over some other video chat thing with another friend.
There are still constant struggles about the technology. She chafes at the fact that we don't let her access technology during what would normally be school time. She gets pissed when we limit her time on Tic Tok and Roblox. She doesn't like it when we try to coach her on social etiquette on phone calls.
Most of it is normal kid stuff. It is just that much more intense since her world is so small now. We normally wouldn't listen in on her conversations with friends, but now instead of happening at school they happen in the kitchen. We have an open floor plan....
The craziest part of it all is that I often have to be the peacemaker. Yes I am the most mentally unstable person in the house, the one with an actual, diagnosed anxiety disorder that requires medication; I'm the loner of the family who actually requires alone time to function well; I'm by far one of the most misanthropic, inpatient, and emotionally stunted people I know; I'm the guy at work that people don't talk to for fear of setting me off. Yet in my house, I am the one who cools situations down. The one who lets the child vent until her overheated emotional system cools back down to normal nine year old levels of rationality while trying to remind her that we are not evil and that she is not the worst child ever born and reminds the wife that she is doing a good job and letting her vent until she returns to a much more mature state of rationality while attempting to remind her that part of the reason the child picks on her so much is that she knows how much her mother loves her.
Let us not forget that I am also the one who is the most germ phobic and prone to health based hysteria..... After my experience trying to go for a walk last week, I was less than enthusiastic about attempting walks this week. Fortunately the rain, general gloom, and seemingly incessant demands between my job, H's job, and child, kept me inside for the most part. The creaky old bike is holding up pretty well. It only has two functioning gears, but we work with what we've got. I also discovered that pacing up and down the basement stairs for 30 minutes at a brisk pace is quite a workout.
I did actually go outside for walks twice this weekend. We stuck to the streets and steered very wide of all people. I will be wearing a face mask from now on and have been very consistent about changing my clothes when I come back into the house, putting the contaminated clothes in the laundry, and immediately showering. H thinks it is a little crazy, and I am not going to attempt to say it is, but we do what we need to stay sane. It also forces me to shower. Before yesterday, I am not certain when the last time I showered. It is also not really creating more laundry since I also am not sure how often I change my clothes anymore.
I found that doing calendar in the morning with Bug is a challenge. When everyday is an inside day, it becomes hard to remember what day it is....
We only had to venture out once last week to pick up some prescriptions. I made H disinfect all of the bottles and did, briefly, consider if taking the pills was worth the risk. None of them are for life threatening conditions - well maybe the anxiety is a life threatening condition I'm just not sure whose life would be threatened.
Deliveries and take out food are stressful as well. H does a heroic job of disinfecting things before they come into the house. Non-food packages sit for at least a day before being opened. Food packages are unloaded in dedicated spots, all items are thoroughly washed, and then placed in holding. Takeout food must be hot food and transferred from the delivery packages into clean plates with exacting care and then microwaved for at least 45 seconds before being consumed.
I have to give credit to my poor wife who takes the brunt of the child's wrath, is doing most of the shopping and cooking, and tries to meet my decontamination standards all while trying to figure out how to do her job remotely and using entirely unfamiliar digital tools. She is a direct service provider for special education students - not exactly a job that lends itself to "remote" delivery. Like every teacher in the state/country/world she is trying to relearn how to do her job on the fly under ever changing guidelines with no clear game in site. People all hope that schools will reopen before summer, but nobody knows if that is even realistic. At this point nobody knows if any summer camps will open, or if school can start in the fall.
She also has to deal with an elderly parent in a nursing home whom she cannot visit and whom she cannot call on the phone. She too is a people person and while doing Zoom hangouts with friends and Zoom meetings and texting and Facebook help, it is not the same as seeing people in the flesh.
I know that we will get through this and science will find treatments that make this disease less deadly and eventually even find a vaccine. I know we will all eventually adjust to a new normal. I know we will all get back to kayaking, hiking, camping, and mountain biking. We will see our friends and families again without needing a screen.
It will take time to get through the the darkness. Some good leadership would help. We are fortunate to live in a state with a Governor who understands this and can provide it. We are fortunate to live in a city with a Mayor that understands thins and can provide it. I have given up hope that the "leaders" we have elected to the Federal government either understand or are capable of providing leadership and feel for those who are not fortunate enough to have local leaders to guide them.
I thank all of the people: doctors, nurses, EMTs, fire people, police officers, public health officials, food service workers, scientists, public servant who toil away in obscurity to make sure things continue to run despite the darkness and chaos from the top.
Hopefully, when the sun comes out again and the dust clears we will learn from this and demand more from those whom we empower to lead our country.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Quarantine Week 2

So we have made it two weeks largely isolated from the rest of the world without killing each other or showing any signs of plague. There have been several close calls on both fronts. Small child, as small children are want to do, put up several good fights about why it is unfair that she needs to do school work when her friends aren't, why restricting her time on electronics is cruel to the point of torture, and why it is actually healthier to stay up until one is actually tired. Every sniffle, cough, twinge of sore throat, or chest twinge has set off alarm bells.
Last week H had a lot of flexibility to maintain structure while I continued to slave away for the man from the confines of my bunker. This week H's work was trying to figure out what distance learning looks like when kids are out of school for at least six weeks. We struggled to keep some semblance of structure with just one kid. I cannot imagine how people are managing with multiple children.
OK, I do know how some manage it based on frequency of calls, texts, and other pings Bug got through out the day. It is amazing how connected todays kids can be. For a child who needs social contact, the internet is a small blessing. There are virtual playdates in Roblox and FaceTime lego challenges and Google Duo make up parties and Messenger Kids games and virtual classroom meetups. It is crazy. It can also make small child crazy. There have been a few nights where disconnecting her triggers something akin to coming down from a high. It was like she was going through detox....
I cannot say that all the connectivity would have changed my life at all or improves it in anyway. I am actually much happier working away from the office. All the noise and drop in distractions and constant cleaning was crazy making. The virtual connectivity options are nice because they can be muted and otherwise managed.
I'm still exercising like a fool. The overcast weather forced me onto a creaky old exercise bike. 30-40 minutes maintaining 130-140bpm is a great way to get the stress out. Of course when I'm breathing heavy afterwards, I do freak out a little bit.
I'll be totally honest and say that it is not just the clouds and rain that is keeping me inside. On Sunday, H wanted to get us out of the house and we went to a nearby beach. We were able to maintain way more the 6 feet from any other people, but it totally stressed me out. On the one nice day this week, I did go for a walk. I started out on the streets in my neighborhood and was able to keep far, far away from others. The roads are wide and not busy, so crossing to avoid people was easy. Then I hit a part of the walk that was in the woods and of course, the trail was packed with people. I got way off trail to avoid people the first few times. Then I just gave up.
My crazy got the best of me...
We have also had to deal with grocery acquisition without going to stores. We did find a local store that has a great curb-side pick up and have managed to get other stuff from Amazon. H goes to great lengths to ensure that everything is properly decontaminated. OK, I probably, make her do way more than necessary.
I keep reminding myself of Anna's big song in Frozen II: "Just do the next right thing"
I keep eyes on the next immediate thing. I exercise. I meditate. I focus on the people I love.
I do not look at the news. H has even cut down on Facebook. It is all too scary and depressing.
This will pass and things will work out. I am still hoping that summer happens and we can all get back to paddling and biking and camping and hanging out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Quarantine Week 1

I've been in social isolation since last Wednesday. My kid had a stomachache, which was probably nerves; I WFH on Thursday; Friday they closed the schools for three weeks.... Or more likely until May or September.

Aside from some seasonal allergies and anxiety induced crazy, we are all fine.
We are taking our temperatures like 100 times a day, washing our hands every 10 minuets, and sanitizing everything regularly for at least the next week to make sure we stay fine. 2-14 days is what the current information says is incubation time.
Maybe then my health focused anxiety will lessen. I can turn feeling short of breath and tired from a killer mountain bike ride and turn it into a cardiac issue without any cause. My doctor, despite his best judgment, had me take a stress test (with imaging) to mollify my fear of impending cardiac doom and I'm still not 100% sure I won't just drop after a hard workout.....
One way I deal with this is to push myself a little just to prove to myself that I am OK. So if I'm nervous that I am going to keel over, I will go for a bike ride or a long walk figuring I will either prove myself right or prove myself wrong. Neither option is really good. Proving myself right means, at a minimum, a hospital visit. Proving myself wrong just makes me feel bad and doesn't really prove anything.
The current health scare has me doing similarly silly things. I was feeling a little tired and tight chested this morning after sitting on the cramped little couch in my office typing on my cramped little laptop doing some tedious work thing to help the rich stay rich by testing some publishing platform that is glitzy but that our team is unprepared to use because they still think people read books on the web, so I decided to brave the damp, chilly air and go for a two mile power walk on some of the biggest hills in my hood. (I kept at least 6 feet from all other human beings.) What did I prove to myself.... That I can walk 2 miles; that it is hard to do given that I usually do not walk that far up that many hills; that physical exertion makes one breath heavy..... On the plus side, if I keep it up walking up steep hills for several miles will just get easier and easier and if hiking season doesn't get canceled I'll be more than ready for our multi-day Hut Hike.
We have all also cut down news consumption to once a day. At least I have and H says she has. H does look at Facebook more than is probably healthy. (I think the simple act of logging in to Facebook is unhealthy, so I'm not a good gauge.)
Aside from being generally crazy, the house is running as smoothly as can be expected.
H is doing her best to keep child on a schedule that involves school work, creative endeavors, and problem solving. Child keeps trying to sneak in FaceTime and iMessage chats with her friends or TikToK time. It is the age old struggle - just now we cannot offload the majority of it to the underpaid and under appreciated teachers who are typically on the front lines.
We are fortunate to have access to countless online resources and two college educated adults. Child is also fortunate that she has so many ways to stay in touch with her friends. (Not that I can understand the need; I've muted the chat rooms at work because I prefer the quiet.) She has been having a daily Lego Challenge playdate with one friend over FaceTime. We also have incredibly dedicated teachers who are sending out regular online assignments and links to resources.
I cannot imagine how hard this is for families without access to technology, the ability for both parents to work from home, or the ability to put good food on the table everyday. Our school system is providing two squares a day for families in need. The local Y is running daily programs for parents who truly need daycare for their children.
For now, I am counting my blessings and hoping that the storm will pass with the least damage possible. Hopefully in a month we can all come out of our burrows and get on with life as normalish.
Stay safe and as sane as possible.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Pool Play

My luck with pool sessions this season has been pretty bad. Nearly everyone has fallen on the same day as a gymnastics competition.
Don't get me wrong, I love watching my daughter and her friends compete; they are amazing athletes.
Still a little bit of water time does have a certain restorative power that sitting in a gym cannot match.
Fortunately, this weekend the rolling session and the competition fell on different days!!! Saturday was spent doing gymnastics stuff (competitions can be an all day affair despite the fact the each kid only spends a couple of minutes doing stuff). Sunday got to be pool party time!!!
It was also the first time I was going to get to see how rolling with the new Kalleq. It was a very exciting time.
I started off just getting a feel for the paddle by maneuvering around the pool, doing some sculling draws, and some sculling for support. Then I took the plunge... It wasn't the prettiest roll, but I ended right side up. The Kalleq has a surprising amount of power when rolling - more than any of the wooden sticks I've used - yet feels very light. I can usually feel it in my shoulders when I power my way through a roll, but with the Kalleq.
I did get some very good pointers about watching my paddle tip while rolling. I also got reminded to keep my head down. Once I started doing that, things went much smoother.
Once upon a time, I was a pretty balanced roller. Once upon a time, I paddled three times a week. Now I definitely have a strong side and a weak side. Fortunately, all the practice that I used to do means that I can stay relatively calm under water and switch sides in a pinch.
The Kalleq even made me confident enough to try rolling without extending the blade like a Euro paddler. It was surprisingly effective. I think I got like 95% of the rolls I tried. It was a little weird because I could feel the back side of the paddle bumping against the hull.
Tim M. tried out the Kalleq for awhile as well. He seemed OK with it.
While he used the Kalleq, I tried to do some rolls with my trusty Lendal.... It was far less rewarding then I had hoped... I struggled to get the angle of the blade correct. I did manage a few rolls, but none that made me feel confident that I could do it in the wild. (It is a good thing I didn't consider that I may not be able to roll with the Lendal during the Gales....)
I also did some re-entry and rolls which are always a good thing to have in the back pocket.
Watching some of the regulars did make me a little jealous. The Tims and Gary have bombproof rolls that mostly look effortless. One of the Tims was even doing rolls with half a paddle after doing a rat swim to get the paddle.
Then I remembered why I don't paddle three times a week anymore; I have an awesome wife and kid at home. The bombproof roll can wait until the kid turns into a teenager who is too embarrassed to hang out with her dad.
After the pool Tim M. and I grabbed coffee. It was nice to catch up and unwind.
I returned home energized and looking forward to summer.