Thursday, May 25, 2017

Back to summer

 The seasons change constantly in the Rocky Mountains. For all those days of summer we had in February, we enjoyed our fair share of wintry days in May. I mostly dread summer and didn't want it to end, but last week's three feet of snow disappeared as rapidly as it came. 

There were three days over the weekend when everything was a mess. Luckily we plowed the road on Friday, so by Saturday at least that was available for running — albeit through many puddles and shoe-sucking mud. Beat wanted to venture onto the trails, but shin deep slush was too strong a demotivater. We only made it about 200 yards, and I was the one who cried uncle.

 Trail conditions were significantly better on Sunday, so we ran the Walker Ranch loop. There was still plenty of slushy, splashy fun to soak the shoes.

 I was in the midst of what I've come to think of as a "bad week," experiencing similar symptoms to my winter struggles — labored breathing, feeling tapped out at a low heart rate (140s), and also feeling more off balance than normal. There were also a few other symptoms unrelated to exercise — a rash across both shins reappeared for the first time in months, I woke up several times in the night, and my thoughts became fuzzier.

I know many of these symptoms could be "poor recovery," but it felt like I might be hyperthyroid again. When I asked a physician friend how likely it was to swing between too much and too little thyroid hormone on a weekly basis, she theorized that my body was just adjusting to new normals after being hyperthyroid for so long. It still feels as though I fluctuate between the symptoms of two extremes — one week I feel sleepy and cold and my hair falls out, and the next I'm having trouble breathing again. Always between the two are increasingly longer strings of "good days," where I feel much closer to my "old normal." I'm certainly not the only one on this kind of rollercoaster — I've found many such discussions online. Most of those people talk about fine-tuning medications, nailing down "triggers" — mostly food- and allergy-related — and removing stressors to avoid the downswings.

 Avoiding stressors — I recognize that I can and possibly should dial back my efforts during "bad weeks." In a way, I already do, since my breathing prevents me from pushing myself, and motivation tends to decrease as well. I still carry the "so be it" mindset that I forged during the winter, when I didn't quite know what was wrong with my body. Whatever it was affected the activities that bring me joy, but these activities didn't seem to make it any worse. I decided I was going to live my life through it, rather than around it. This still holds if "it" is thyroid disease. All of the medical evidence shows that my hormone levels have been consistently dropping and I'm in a healthy place right now. If the rest of my body takes more time to catch up, or even if it there's always these types of fluctuations, so be it.

 By Monday, as though by magic, I was already feeling better. This came after a night of poor sleep (also increasingly more rare), when I woke up at sunrise. (Which happens at 5:30 a.m. this time of year. Too early. Bah, summer.) There was a lovely skiff of new snow on the hillsides. It looked like snowline dropped to 8,000 feet overnight.

 I set out for a run toward Bear Peak, and it was a little too soon for that trail. Through the burn, a few more trees had fallen down, and I lost the trail amid slushy drifts that were occasionally thigh deep. On the way down, I wrenched my left ankle in the melted space underneath a concrete snow drift. It wasn't injured in any way, just sore, which made me grumpy. It didn't require hobbling, but I lost my desire. Any ambitions to make up for all those shorter snow days with a "long run" faded, and I turned around and mostly walked home.

For good measure I rested on Tuesday, and set out on Wednesday for a ride into town. One thing that summer always reignites is a strong desire to explore new places, which means longer and longer rides if I set out from home. I suppose if I can make the time, there's nothing wrong with this. The rear tire on my mountain bike developed a bubble. Rather than risk tire failure, I borrowed the fat bike that I rode to Nome, which is technically Beat's bike. The Eriksen had an unfamiliar handlebar setup and a saddle that I strongly dislike, but it felt right to be reunited with this bike. I never had a chance to ride "Erik" in Alaska this year, and I'd missed him. The temperature had warmed to 80 degrees, and there was a fierce downslope wind generating violent gusts. I was being tossed all over the road; eventually I just had to creep along the switchbacking descents, and then creep forward because much of the uphill riding was due west. Well, I chose this.

My body felt strong, which never fails to be an empowering sensation after these brief downturns. The 80-degree temps felt comfortable (A nice change from feeling overheated while running through the slush on Sunday, when it was sprinkling rain and the temperature was much cooler.) The wind buffeted me around, which was oddly motivating, like a boxer egging on his opponent. Without too much effort, I pedaled upward through the gales, eventually climbing onto a network of closed forest roads. There are so many of these roads in Colorado that I'd love to spend a summer exploring, if only I had the strength and the time — they're always rocky and steep, and this time of year they're little more than rutted stream beds. I hoped to sniff out a link to the West Mag trails and Eldora, but the snow was still unworkably deep above 9,000 feet. I trudged along for a half hour while closely watching the time (because I hoped to reach Boulder by 5 p.m.) My feet were numb and the icy snow cut my shins, which were still raw from the now-faded rash. Time moved too quickly, and I was getting nowhere. Finally, I conceded. "This probably isn't the best choice."

So I turned around, in time to catch a glimpse of the tiniest train approaching Rollinsville. It was 5:30 by the time I rolled into the Google parking lot, which would make this a 6.5-hour ride, 57 miles, 6,500 feet of climbing. That's about how far I need to roam to visit entirely new places now. With luck that will keep expanding. With more luck I'll continue to be up for such wanderings, even when I can't be as fast as strong as I think I should be. It's still my best way to live.


  1. I'm going next week to get my free T3 and TSH checked. Def having symptoms. Did you know taking Biotin can skew results? I started taking it to alleviate the brittle nails and hair issues I am having from hypo and it really helps, but you have to stop a few days before testing. Oh man, I am sounding like an old lady discussing my health issues. You still ride and run way far.

    1. Ha! I'm glad you're willing to discuss this. I've found a lot of helpful tips from reading about others' experiences online. Recently I ordered a Selenium Sulfide shampoo to smear on my rashes — haven't received it yet, but it would be amazing if it works. The little symptoms add up and they do make life a little more miserable. I hope your symptoms resolve soon!

  2. Just wanted to say that I love your blog and wanted you to know that I like this new blog format much better. The previous one didn't display well on my laptop.

    1. Thanks Maureen. I tried to get away from looking like a "Blogger blog," but I agree it didn't work. Still tinkering with it this weekend. :)

    2. Thanks for bringing back the "older/newer" links. Makes catching up much easier!

      One (very) minor thing: When you hover over your wonderful pictures, they get whiter and kind of fuzzy. I know it's to indicate I can click to enlarge, but the little hand does that, too. Not hard to keep the cursor over on the edge, but maybe there's a check-box you'll run across for that.

      Spring in the Rockies can be exciting! Since it's so dry earlier, the eastern slopes often get more snow in March, April and May than the rest of the winter.


  3. Like the newest look of your blog, the icons along the top, the photo thumbnails!


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