My religious attitude towards regular updates of my blog has been cast aside. You’ll have to take my word for it that I continue to punish myself physically and psychologically through running.

Today I wanted to take a bit of your time to tell a story. About a year ago, while giving me a massage, my girlfriend discovered a rather large lump in my upper right back. It was right underneath a tattoo I’d had done about a year prior to that. Here’s my tattoo. It’s awesome. Bonus points if you can identify the image in the comments field.

Anyway, so the lump was a bit disturbing, because it was about the size of a baseball. On the bright side, when I moved my shoulder blade, it would make my tattoo move, so I had a neat new parlour trick.

I went to a walk-in clinic, because really, who the hell has a family doctor anymore (btw, if anyone can refer me to a GP who is taking patients in Burnaby or Vancouver, I’d be much obliged…). Walk-in clinic doctor advised me that it was really no big deal, just leave it. I said I’d kind of like to get a better answer than that, and was able to persuade her that I should be referred for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound technician said I had a Lipoma, basically a mass of fatty cells that just randomly shows up in certain people, and while it may not be aesthetically pleasing, is not really a big deal. I went back to the clinic. Lo and behold the doctor who saw me last was no longer at the clinic, so I saw a different doctor. Again, the story was, no biggie, it’s a lipoma, just deal buddy. I advised the doctor that I really didn’t want to have a giant lump on my back, and I’d like a referral to a plastic surgeon to see about having it removed. While I was told I’d probably have to pay for it out of my pocket, I was given the referral.

I’ll keep  a long story short by saying it took about 3 FUCKING MONTHS before I finally got in to see the surgeon. He immediately said “I don’t mean to alarm you, but we should really make sure that’s not cancer” and advised me that my state sponsored health care coverage would certainly cover me for having a lump of that size removed. You know, just in case it turned out to be cancer, or became cancer, or that sort of thing.

Again, to keep a long story short, it took about 3 FUCKING MORE MONTHS before I finally got the MRI scheduled. Apparently these cancer doctors run a pretty tight ship because between finally being in touch with their office and getting the MRI, it was about a week or two, and I saw the doctor another week or so after that.

Now, to digress, the biggest concern I expressed to anyone to this point in the story was that having the lump removed was going to bugger up my tattoo. It may be the case that I was slightly understating my concern about my health.

So I go see the cancer doctor, MRI results in hand. First thing he says after I take off my shirt is “Iron Maiden fan?” “Yes, yes sir I am,” I replied. Then he tells me that I have a well differentiated liposarcoma. He told me that I should definitely have it removed. He said it might take a while, but that I should really be quite happy that I am not at the top of the surgery priority list.

Of course I made a point of asking him if we could do this without wrecking the tattoo, and he said he was pretty confident he could find a way.

I mistakenly understood my diagnosis to be “not cancer”, but digging around on the internet, turns out it actually is cancer, just a form that hasn’t metastasized and is unlikely to.

I scheduled my surgery for July 13. That would be Friday the 13th of July. Go figure, there were some available spots for surgery that day. I should mention here that Friday the 13th is actually kind of a lucky day for me. It’s the day my marriage ended, and the day I was called to the bar. I was thrilled to continue this lucky streak of Fridays the 13th.

In the weeks leading up to the surgery I made a conscious decision to push myself with some interval training. I set new PRs for Hill 1 and Track A. My theory was that if I could build up some muscle mass before I had to spend a week or so lying around doing not much of anything, my increased metabolism would keep my weight under control.

So I had the surgery a week ago. Before I went under, the cancer doctor told me that he was going to look at the tumour after it was removed, and if it was entirely benign he wouldn’t need to see me again, but otherwise I should schedule an appointment to come back and see him.

Then they knocked me out, I woke up about an hour and a half later, and I went home.

So on tuesday I phoned the cancer doctor to see whether he wanted to see me again. I can happily announce that he has no further interest in me.

I’m recovering quite well. Since the doctor cut through a bunch of muscles in my back and sewed them back together again, I’m a little sore, but nothing that I can’t manage with an occasional painkiller or 5. My range of motion is coming back nicely.

Today I went for my first run since the surgery. A little under 4.5k. It went pretty well, probably on account of my taking it very easy. Perhaps by coincidence, or perhaps by design, my weight hasn’t really fluctuated much during the week I’ve spent laying around feeling sorry for myself, eating junk food, and playing video games. in fact, I’m a couple pounds closer to my target of 225lbs, perhaps on account of having the lump of fat cut out of my back?

Anyway, if you were waiting to the end of this story for some moral about how great it is to be alive, or how this series of events has changed my perspective on life, I have very little to offer you. All I will say is that spending the last year with the niggling threat of a life threatening disease always in the back of my mind has probably been a lot more stressful than I’ve let on to anyone, even those closest to me. Being able to let that go finally is a relief of the highest order.

What I do have to offer is the wonderful news that my tattoo has survived without a mark. I’ll post some pictures once the bandages have come off.

Oh, and one last thing, while I still fucking hate running, I’m pretty fucking happy that I’m healthy enough to do it.

Day 4 started out innocently enough, we packed our stuff back into the rental car (remember the misfortune with my vehicle on Day 2?) strapped the bikes onto the bike rack, and went to Girlfriend’s Aunt’s place for another free meal cooked by someone other than us.

While we were there, i discovered that Girlfriend’s Aunt and her partner John were avid cyclists. In fact, John has a cycling blog, www.kelownacycling.ca. Among other things he is putting together maps to get people to various trailheads throughout the okanagan. I complimented him on this goal, because I had found it particularly challenging to map out cycling routes when planning our trip. Anyway, anytime you are considering cycling in the okanagan, I highly recommend his blog. It’s a great and growing resource.

We ate a wonderful meal of home made crepes and strawberries with whipped cream. Aunt number two and her husband also joined us. After breakfast and some good conversation, we headed home.

In a more perfect world, that would be where this post ended. But because this trip contained more than its share of shit luck, it’s not over yet. So we’re driving Highway 97c which takes us back through Merritt, and to the lower mainland. We’re driving for about 10 minutes when something in the rearview mirror grabs my attention. I’m not really sure what I’ve seen at first. Then I look a bit closer in the rearview, and say “Oh fuck! Your mom’s bike!” to Girlfriend, who had borrowed her mom’s bike for our trip.

Now, you might think randomly shouting out “Oh fuck! Your mom’s bike!” is kind of a strange thing to do. However, it’s not so random when you’ve said it almost immediately after your girlfriend’s mom’s bike has launched off the back of your rental car at 110km/hr, bounced along the highway, and only avoided causing a more serious accident through… wait… pure good fortune.

Having never been in this particular situation before, I took a few moments to figure out exactly how to respond to this. Do I pull the vehicle over onto the very narrow paved shoulder, and run back onto the highway to retrieve the bike? Do I just keep going (because, really, is the bike going to be worth salvaging at this point)?

After some indecision, I settled on throwing the hazard lights on, sprinting down the paved shoulder, watching a jackass in a BMW nearly crash into the rental vehicle with girlfriend in it because he was a douchebag, and run into the middle of the highway, waving my arms frantically to encourage drivers to go around the bicycle (and person) in the middle of the road. I grabbed the bike, and then ran back up the hill to the car.

I was optimistic that the only real damage was a completely ruined saddle, brake cables that had been ripped completely off the bike, a front derailleur that was either bent or just shifted a little, and a blown tire.

Turns out that was overly optimistic, because both wheels proved to be fragged too, which more or less made the bike a total write off.

In the past, believe it or not, I’ve been with girls who would respond quite poorly to a situation like this, given I was the one who affixed the bicycle to the rack. On days, or rather trips, like this, I have to say I quite appreciate a girl who can absorb the situation without saying something like “I’m going to stab you”.

Anyhow, she took it quite well, all things considered. Though she did decide about five minutes after the bike incident not to join me in my return trip to retrieve my vehicle from Penticton. But that’s another story.

So this trip is well and in the books while I’m writing, but fuck it, I can still talk about it. The third day of our trip really didn’t involve much in the way of biking. Come to think of it neither did the fourth.

Oh, wait, I was going to commence this post with a grand reveal of where our trip took us, because I know you’ve all just been dying to find out this mysterious location that’s five hours drive from Vancouver, has an arid climate (except for when I’m there), and a broad array of wineries. If you guessed the okanagan, you were right! Congratulations for not being stupid (apologies to those who aren’t familiar with B.C. geography).

Day 1 had us biking from Penticton to Okanagan Falls and back. Day 2 was supposed to take us from Oliver to Osoyoos, but on account of our bailing on the bikes after an hour on account of the storm clouds, it took us from Oliver to Oliver. Or from Church and State to Burrowing Owl and back, if you prefer to measure it in wineries. And I should add, speaking of Church and State, that in retrospect, and after having consumed a bottle of their Pinot Noir, I can say with some confidence that I did not purchase enough of their wine.

Right, so, back to Day 3. We lazed around a bit in the morning, then drove to Kelowna. We stopped off at Little Straw Winery for lunch. I didn’t take any pictures of it. If I had they would have gone here:

I purchased a bottle of their Cuvee Noir, which they insisted I should either place upside down in my box, or lay on its side. Being skeptical of everything in this world, I don’t think there is actually anything to this. Not really knowing very much about wine, I listened to them in any event. Oh, and lunch was good, though several weeks having passed since I ate it, I really don’t remember what I had anymore. Pretty sure it involved some sort of grilled chicken.

Next stop was Mount Boucherie, which had a $15 bottle of Gamay Noir that I was itching to taste. Turns out it was not spectacular, but was certainly worth the $15. I have to say overall on the trip, I tried a few Gamays, and with the exception of Hillside Estate, I wasn’t really impressed with any of them. Particularly disappointing was Desert Hills in Oliver, largely because I’d had their Gamay in the past, and quite enjoyed it. I’m wondering if the weather was bad for those grapes for the vintages we were tasting (yeah, I seriously just said that, and totally meant it.)

Speaking of disappointing Gamays, I have also generally enjoyed the Sandhill Gamay, and insisted to Girlfriend that we had to stop by their tasting room so that I could get one. Yep, add that one to the list of watery Gamays. But we did fortuitously stumble upon a 25% off sale for all of their wines. I have no idea why there was a wine sale, but I have a strict policy about not looking gift horses in the mouth, so I picked up a bottle of their Two, a small lot wine, for less than $25.

We then went to visit Girlfriend’s dad and step-mother (notably not wicked) at their time share in Kelowna. We ate another great meal, which included both halibut and steak, and was only made better by the fact it was both free and cooked by someone other than us.

Just for fun, here’s a picture of the weather we’d mostly experienced on the trip:

And here’s the weather that was coming in just in time for us to leave:

Sigh.

Day 2 of drinking and biking was full of drama and high adventure. It began with lightning warnings in the forecast, which is really ideal when one plans on riding around outside on a piece of metal. Bearing in mind the lightning warnings, when we saw a hint of sun earlier in the morning we decided to make a prompt start to the day.

On our drive to the start point of our bike excursion for the day, just as we were chatting about how cost efficient our trip had been so far, we encountered vehicle trouble that resulted in a fairly prompt determination that my van would have to stay in the as yet undisclosed location which we were visiting for about a week before it would be ready to come home. That was super convenient since we planned on being in town for another 2-3 days.

Next stop was a rental car agency, since we had no other means of getting around (except our bikes, but they’re not great for carrying large quantities of wine on. Or traveling distances that take five hours by car). Anyway, so much for cost efficiency. Oh, and I get to make a return trip in a week! Awesome!

When we got to the start point for the bike trip, we discovered beautiful clear skies ahead of us. And massive dark storm clouds behind us:

Undaunted, we decided to try and outride the clouds, and went on with drinking and biking. This was a strategy doomed to failure. We were on a ridge looking down into the valley. The plan was to bike along the ridge, visiting the wineries along the way, then come down into the valley to visit the wineries there. In short, it was a loop, which meant inevitably we’d be biking back into the rain.

We made it to our fourth winery of the day when we decided to stop for lunch:

Given the rapidly approaching black storm clouds of doom:

and the lightning warnings, we decided around this point that biking back to the rental vehicle would be prudent. The wind was again challenging, largely on account of our having to bike directly into it. The rain was just starting to fall when we got back to the car. We never did see the lightning.

In all we got in about an hour of riding before giving up for the warm, dry, non-windy inside of the vehicle. We hit up the wineries we’d rode to earlier, bought some more bottles, and then hit up a couple of new ones by car. On the way back we stopped at the wineries we’d biked to the day before to pick up the bottles we liked.

By the end of the day, I was the proud owner of 24 bottles of wine, and girlfriend was rounding out her third case of 12. All in all, vehicle trouble and weather aside, Day 2 was a rousing success. We celebrated by having a lovely dinner of wine, cheese, bread, and meat:

Then we walked down to the Local restaurant (that’s not a typo) for dessert: berry creme brulee, mason jar tiramisu, port, and coffee with Amarula cream.

Yesterday was our first day on our bikes. For those who haven’t been following along, my girlfriend and I are on a trip built largely around the riding of bicycles and the drinking of wine, in a needlessly secret location.

We picked June to visit the generally arid destination because we didn’t want to find ourselves biking in 40 degree weather. We did not pick June in the desert on account of our intense desire to get rained on and buffeted by heavy winds. That was just the gravy I guess, cause it’s what happened.

We spent about 4 hours on the bikes yesterday. That doesn’t count the wine tasting breaks, of which there were 4. The rain didn’t start until after the first one. The wind didn’t start threatening to knock us off our bikes until after the third.

You know the wind is bad when you start struggling to bike downhill. You know you hate the wind when you’re biking uphill (and you already hate hills) and the wind is blowing into your face, making the already hated uphill biking that much more difficult. I think that was around the point I heard my girlfriend yell “this isn’t fun anymore!”

Anyway, we persevered. Neither of us is really even sore today. Today’s forecast calls for about an hour of sun, which we are going to try and catch. Wish us luck.

(I know I promised pictures. They’ll come, don’t worry.)

Well, I see that it’s been more than two weeks since I posted. I have no explanation other than to say I must have come to the conclusion during that time that I had other more important things that required my attention, including running (which I still hate), than writing for you lot. Don’t worry, you’ll get over it.

For the first time since I started running in January I’ve succumbed to a cold over the last several days. I actually feel guilty about not exercising. First time for everything I guess.

Anyway, tomorrow, absent especially heavy rainfall, will mark my half-hearted endorsement of bike to work week. Then more biking saturday, and a run up to 10k on sunday.

Why all the biking you ask? (that’s me feigning interest on your behalf) Next week girlfriend and I are going on a trip to do two of my favourite things, riding bicycles and drinking. I may double check the law on it at some point before we go, but for now I’m assuming that it’s frowned upon to do both at the same time. Well, on the road at least. Did I mention there are trails?

Since the trip will involve up to 4 hours a day of biking, it seems prudent to get a few rides in ahead of it. Fortunately the weather forecast for where we’re headed (the location of which, for reasons I haven’t entirely thought through, I am going to keep a mystery. For now…) has turned from bright and sunny to dark and wet. That’s super.

You might not hear from me before then, but I promise to provide updates during the trip. With pictures.

Oh, one last note. Hooray for metabolism. While I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for being sick, I’ve been eating a steady diet of ice cream, mochas, pie, pizza, and hamburgers. I weigh less than I did before I got sick. I feel like shit though, if that makes you feel better. Who knew the trick to dropping the last 8 pounds was to stop exercising and start eating garbage? That seems like a good deal.

I may not be posting as frequently as I would like, but on the bright side by the time I get around to doing it, hopefully I’ll have some material.

My thursday run saw the return of the stairs. You may remember them:

By the time I reached the stairs, I figured I deserved a short rest. I decided to take a “before” picture while I waited for my heart to settle down from running:

The funny thing is, while I ran all the way up the stairs (okay,  i feel a little sheepish about describing what I was doing for the last few stairs as running, the real “take-away” here is that I didn’t stop to rest), by the time I reached the top I was so consumed with hatred of the stairs that I forgot to take an “after” picture. All I can say is it wouldn’t have been flattering.

I did take an “after” picture of the stairs though. Here they are from the top:

For all my hatred of the stairs, I loved this little stump which proved good for sitting on:


I rested there. For a little bit. And then a little bit more.

Anyhow the run was about 4.5k including the stairs. Let’s not worry about how long it took.

I skipped out on Saturday. To make up for it, I asked my girlfriend how far she was running today. She said about 7k. That seemed a fair way to compensate for my allowing errands to get in the way of running yesterday, so I offered to accompany her, despite her putting me to shame the last time we ran that same distance.

We went to Deer Lake. It was pretty today:

The plan when we left was to do one 5k loop and then take a short cut on the second loop to end up around 7k. The hiccup occurred when we finished the first loop, and girlfriend was distraught that we hadn’t traveled 5k. She suggested we do two full loops of the park. I laughed at first, but it turned out she wasn’t joking.

So the thing with testosterone is when your girlfriend says “hey do you want to do something physically challenging that I can do,” the inescapable conclusion if you say no is that she is tougher than you. Unacceptable. Even if its true.

So I agreed to do a full second loop of the park, which by my math was going to be somewhere between 8-9k. Also known as longer than I have ever run in my life. Hell, I’m pretty confident most years of my life I haven’t run 9k cumulatively.

Girlfriend’s training program involves ten minutes of running, one minute of walking intervals. I found that when we took our walking “breaks”, I started to feel my muscles burning, whereas when I was running I didn’t really notice it. At the same time, I felt pretty good by the end of the run, so maybe there’s something to it.

I felt a lot stronger on hills than I have in the past, perhaps thanks to the stairs earlier in the week.

And, most importantly, I never fell behind my girlfriend. I even sprinted the final distance.

So, long story short, I hit a new personal distance record:

Distance 8.45k

06:42/km

56:38

The downside here is that I now feel pretty confident that I could run a 10k in a half way respectable time. It may be time to register for another “race”.

Sigh.



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