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On The Road To Recovery

Regular readers of this blog have probably noticed that my usual “three reviews a week” schedule has not adhered to for the past two months and fellow-bloggers might have noticed that recently I haven’t been commenting on other blogs very much—so I think a word of explanation might be in order.

Back in February I got the flu (a genuine case of influenza, not a common cold) and it took me off my bike for three weeks. When I finally got back to riding I was a bit slower than normal, but I worked my way back up to normal speed and distance rather quickly. On Thursday, March 28, I went out for a Metric Century ride on a beautiful day—light winds, full sun, a foot of snow on the ground and temps slightly above freezing. The ride was enjoyable and I felt great when I got home. However, about four hours later I was at my office when my chest started hurting. Actually, the word “hurting” doesn’t even begin to describe the pain—it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Since I have asthma I assumed it was just an asthma attack (something I’ve not had in 12 years) and waited till the next morning to see a doctor. After a very thorough examination the doctor agreed that it was asthma and not a heart attack, so he gave me a prescription for prednisone and sent me home. Unfortunately, the prednisone did not relive my symptoms and, to make a long story short, I am still not sure what is wrong with my lungs.

For the first five weeks I couldn’t ride my bike or lift weights at all—now I am slowly getting back to riding. I’ve gone through numerous medical tests and so far the only thing we’ve found out is that my heart is in incredibly great shape (thanks to a nuclear stress test and echocardiogram). Years of cycling have paid off—my morning resting pulse rate is 50 to 52 BPM, and my morning blood pressure is averaging 104/62 (not bad for a man my age). Today I saw a pulmonologist (lung specialist) and have a few more tests scheduled. At the moment, the working theory is that back in March I contracted a serious viral lung infection and though the infection is now gone my lungs are just taking a very long time to heal.

Last week was the first time I tried to ride since this whole mess began. My first ride out on a road bike turned into a cyclocross event since the heavy rains we had in April washed out one of the roads I use. I was glad I had a lightweight bike since I had to climb down about three feet into the chasm left by the rain and then walk through a bit of mud and sand before I could climb back up to a path and carry my bike to a nearby road.

Road washed out due to heavy rains

Road washed out due to heavy rains—time for cyclocross!

By the way, the road that was washed out by the rain is the same one that was blocked a few months ago when beavers cut down several trees. After I carried my bike across the chasm an older couple carried their bikes across and rode with me for a mile or so. Thought these people were at least 15 or 20 years older than me, I won’t call them elderly—in my opinion you don’t become elderly until you stop riding your bike.

An older couple decided to join me for a little while

An older couple decided to join me for a little while

At the moment my lung capacity is very limited, so if you want to know what I feel like while riding just try this: put on a pair of nose plugs so you will be forced to breathe through your mouth, then close your lips around a straw and try to breathe through it. Yeah, it sucks. However, this past Saturday I rode through a small college campus in Wisconsin and passed a lot of the students who were riding their bikes.

Hopefully next week I will be back to writing product reviews!

 
130 Comments

Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

It is no secret that I love winter sports—what you might not know is that I have asthma, and strenuous exercise in sub-zero weather can easily put an asthmatic in the hospital. Ten years ago I couldn’t exercise outside when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees without having an asthma attack, but thanks to several different pieces of protective gear I am now able to comfortably ride in temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (the lowest recorded temperature in my area is -31F). One of the most effective pieces of cold-weather gear I own is the Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava. I’ll divide this review into two parts, first the ventilator on the face mask and then the head covering.

Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava

This balaclava has a medical-grade polyurethane ventilator that covers your mouth and nose and it mixes the warm air your expel from your lungs with fresh air from the outside—the result is that you breathe in warm, moist air (and to an asthmatic this will probably keep your lungs from getting inflamed from the cold air). This ventilator will raise the temperature of the air your breathe in from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (for example, if the air temperature is zero Fahrenheit, you should be breathing in air that is somewhere between 40 and 60 degrees). This polyurethane ventilator is both non-toxic and anti-microbial. If you head out for a bike ride in the morning in the cold and it warms up in the afternoon you can easily remove this face mask and just use the head covering.

The material that covers your face, neck and head is made of “soft-shell” Polartec Wind Pro fleece and without question this is the warmest balaclava I own (and I own a lot of balaclavas). The manufacturer claims that this product will block 95% of the wind, and in my experience they are absolutely correct. This balaclava is also longer than any other balaclava I own—it completely covers your neck and throat area. I’ve not had any problems with my glasses fogging up while wearing this balaclava. However, by the time it is cold enough to use this balaclava I wear ski goggles instead of cycling glasses (and the ski goggles I use are pretty much fog proof anyway). I’ve worn this balaclava under both cycling helmets and ski helmets without any trouble.

My only criticism of this balaclava is that the fit is a bit sloppy, i.e., it is not as form-fitting as I would like. I am of average size and this product is a bit loose on me. However, since the face mask attaches to the hood with a wide Velcro patch I can usually adjust it so that no cold air gets through to your skin.

The Talus Outdoor Technologies ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava is made in the U.S.A and retails for $80, but you can find it on Amazon.com for $56. This product comes with a one year warranty against manufacturer defects.

 
35 Comments

Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Product Reviews, Winter Cycling

 

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