The Long Voyage Pt. II

Sometimes that trip we take ends unexpectedly. Last year’s post sets the stage.

I’ll never know for sure, if it weren’t for that bent derailleur, might’ve just finished in ’21. Other than the early rain and later muddy B-roads, weather wasn’t a factor. I flubbed the execution.

Impulsively flipped the bird driving by that same Loves truck stop yesterday on my return from Lincoln. It’s just off Nebraska Highway 2, near Syracuse. A visceral reaction. Nothing against them. It’s what happened there. The emotions are still raw, one year later.

Which may help explain why I signed up again. Made a plan and caught a couple bugs, including corona in February. Both relatively mild. Slowed me down some. Before we get into what happened next, let’s go back still further…

In February ’06 a GI bleed continued for several days and required hospitalization. About when the doctor started discussing transfusions, it stopped. Afterwards, the diagnosis was diverticulitis. Not a particularly severe condition, managed with diet.

It could have been worse. A wake-up call. I made the necessary changes along with an increasing amount of exercise, particularly aerobic. Over the intervening period were tweaks to lifestyle. Taking the foot off the gas pedal. Achieving a work-life balance.

Back to last February, bleeding again. Fortunately, not as severe. No hospitals. It didn’t stop.

We’re not going into the details and you’re welcome. What I’ll share, the diagnosis is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). There’s no cure. It’s managed with medication. The goal’s remission. No consensus on the cause or how to get (and stay) in remission. There are strong indications that it’s autoimmune. Meaning nobody knows for sure. We’re left with guesses and playing the odds.

Despite this lack of conclusive scientific evidence pointing to any particular cause, drastic changes were made to diet. Most of the stuff I loved to eat and drink were off limits. Moving toward plants, less meat. No problem. This part’s overdue. It can be turned positive.

What’s up for grabs is riding and was advised to stop. The doctor can’t make me, but It’d be unwise to do otherwise. It’s also tricky. It might be alright to ride like a normal person, say twenty-five miles a day. That’s not how I roll.

One of the meds tamped the symptoms. Would be great if it weren’t prednisone, which isn’t a viable long-term option. Gradually, the dosage was reduced and stopped in early July. No relapse. In remission? Was given the green light to return to normal activities.

Not in time for Unbound, the first Saturday after Memorial day. Had to defer that entry and volunteered instead. A gratifying experience and made up for the disappointment. It’s now summertime, no more riding restrictions and enough time for a credible shot at Long Voyage on August 19th.

Then the mishaps. Hit the deck twice the first couple weeks of July, about ten days apart. Cracked number six, bruises and scrapes. Thought maybe a broken tooth and another rib. Nothing serious. Healed up and resumed training. Lost another month and it’s only three weeks until the event. Should be tapering, not ramping up.

I was determined to give it a go anyway. Be a good test. What’s the worst that can happen? Probably a lot. Call it defiance or stupidity. Was talked out of it by both wife and coach. Neither thought it a good idea. I relented. On the last day to make changes at Gravel Worlds, I dropped to the 150 mile course.

Arrived at Lincoln early last Thursday. Did the shakeouts. Hung out at the venue during the day and rested at night. On Saturday the weather was gorgeous and so was the course. I completed the sandy roller coaster in thirteen hours and some change. Held steady until the end and it was pretty awesome. Made some friends and caught up with old ones. Inspired by hearing all of their stories of redemption and courage.

This story isn’t exactly that. It was a great ride and included a nice finish. Good enough for now. Redemption can wait.

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