Scattered blizzards rolled through Juneau for most of the day - near-white-outs followed by squinting windows of sunlight. I drove to the gym with a high-intensity workout in mind. I've been using my quality time at the gym to catch up on back issues of the New Yorker and read "Desert Solitaire" for the fifth time (but only the second in the 2000s.) In a sign of improvement, I couldn't focus enough to read today ... seeing red spots and streaks of white ... the colors of strength, returning.
After 97 minutes and 1,353 estimated calories burned (yeah, right), I drove home feeling tired but unfulfilled. A rolling white-out filled the air with static and dissipated as quickly as it arrived, and to the south, the Channel shimmered beneath patches of blue sky. The temperature seemed to climb by the minute. I walked toward my house, weight firmly pressed on both feet, and wondered if this was my window. I've been plotting my return to the outdoors for a week now. It will be a while still before I can hike, ski or snowboard ... sadly, all of the activities I had planned to engage in with more fervor once winter cycling season was over. But cycling, where feet are off the ground and don't do much of anything anyway, is actually an ideal activity for a bad foot.
I broached the subject with my doctor yesterday. She regarded the idea in her semi-disapproving way but said as long as I monitored myself for infection or any kind of rapid changes, I could probably do the things I felt comfortable doing, but I should start slow. I'm in wait-and-see mode with any long-term damage, and there's little I can do but wait for my cells to do their thing; my only job is to keep my foot warm, keep it dry, keep it clean, keep it circulating, and avoid doing anything that causes pain. Check.
I ate lunch and prepped my armor - one loose, moisture-wicking nylon sock, one vapor barrier sock, one heavy duty super thick wool sock, my open-toe walking sandal and a brand new pair of NEOS Explorer overboots that I just bought from Geoff. I'm in general not a huge NEOS fan. (Before someone comments about how NEOS could have saved me on Flathorn Lake, I just want to reaffirm that they wouldn't have. My own system was waterproof to my shins and very water-resistant up to my knees, but I punched through the ice into open water at least as deep as my hips, and likely deeper.) But, really, NEOS are good footwear for keeping the toes warm when it's 20 below; they're also good footwear for keeping frostbitten toes warm when it's 40 degrees and partly cloudy with scattered snow showers.
I thought an hourlong ride sounded reasonable. I took Pugsley because he's my only bike in full working order right now. The first pedal strokes up the Douglas Highway were strange - at once dully familiar and exhilarating. The sucker hole in the clouds opened wider and full-spectrum sunlight poured onto the street. I glanced up at the afternoon sun, much higher in the sky than I remember it being. "This is a good thing, getting out," I told myself. "You need vitamin D to grow new skin. Or is that bone?"
Most of the ride passed by semi-consciously, the way you can sometimes drive to the store and have no memory of how you got there. I had a lot of energy in the reserves, but mentally I held back quite a bit, and ended up slipping into autodrive. Strong but tentative. Baby steps. As it turns out, the ride was a pretty good circulation jog. I felt great afterward. When I sit in my office desk for too long, I get "dead foot" feeling, which makes me nervous. And in my experience so far, the only way to return to healthy tingling is to stand up and move. And what better place to move around than where I belong, outside?
I'm not yet ready to just go ahead and start churning out hill intervals and centuries, but I'm more optimistic now that I'll get there in the time I need to be there. Baby steps toward summer. A good way to start out spring.