Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good Days

Shot day tomorrow, I dread these days as they come around now. Enbrel didn't hurt like Humira does, I never gave shot day a second thought.  Life was simpler before Enbrel quit working for me.  My current pain is a solid 4 maybe a 5 right now thanks to two days of mowing, trimming, weed eating, raking and cleaning out two large flower beds for winter.  I have been trying to keep up with Wren and I am ready to admit defeat.  My hands, hips, knees, ankles and right shoulder are all equally cranky tonight.  But the place sure does look better.
I finally received my score from my Minneapolis training program.  I passed with an 86, so I now have my Level 1 Flexo certification.  I would like to pursue the Level 2 and 3 certifications if Georgia Pacific will allow us to.  Wish I could say that having the certification will make it easier on me or that I would get a raise but thats not the case.
I have my bike ready to take out for a 100 mile shake down ride tomorrow.  I believe I found what was causing my flats, so I have a new tube and a new Dunlop 606 mounted up to see how far I can make it before I have a flat tomorrow.  Just kidding, I'd better not have one.  I also have a small tank bag mounted and am anxious to see how riding with it will affect the handling of the bike.  If everything goes alright, I will be ready for our 2-3 day ride coming up.

I hope everyone can get out this weekend and enjoy some great early fall weather ... pain free.  I will be working all weekend, but have some fun for me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Back Home

I was approached a few weeks ago at work about going to a training class for flexo printing.  For those not familiar with flexo, it is a form of printing that transfers ink via a laser etched ceramic anilox roller to a photopolymer plate.  There's much more to it, but I won't bore you with my work life.  I originally told them no, that due to my RA, I could not ride in a vehicle that far.  I had just barely got those words out of my mouth when they said, "we're flying".  Oh, ... well then I'm in.   

We flew out early Tuesday morning and had a good flight to Dallas, then a good flight from Dallas to Minneapolis, if you don't count the last 15 minutes.  There was a ton of turbulence approaching Minneapolis and the 737 was dropping, then rising, pitching from one side to the other, then BAM ... we slam down on the runway hard and they reverse the engines harder than I've ever experienced throwing people forward testing their seat belts out.  Later in the car to the hotel I asked one of the supervisors, "did we land or were we shot down?"  He nearly hit the car in front of because he was laughing so hard, he didn't see it slowing down.

The class was good, the print lab was cool, the first 2 days the weather was amazing but the last 2 days were cold and raining.  I hurt a lot the last 2 days and it reminded me of the upcoming winter weather benefits that our RA and OA give us.  

We went to a Twins post season game (the new stadium was awesome), the Mall of America (not a shopper but had to see the amusement park and walk through aquarium), ate seafood at Stella's and they had 2 guys from Deadliest Catch there signing autographs (no, I didn't get one),  went by First Avenue (club used in Purple Rain - amazing all of the bands that have preformed here, a ton of music history).  I love live music and the shows they have coming up made me want to stay there.  I didn't really know what to expect from Minneapolis, but came away impressed with how nice and friendly everyone was and how exceptionally clean the town was.  We walked a lot (to add to my RA and OA pain) and I can't recall a single piece of trash on the sidewalk or street at any time.  It was well worth going and hurting over.  

I'm back home and resting now, trying to let my RA ease back up on me.  OK, actually I'm just waiting for the grass to dry so I can start mowing and trimming today.  Hope everyone has a good and pain free week. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Old Enduro Riders Never Die

I have all of your normal RA pains (sitting, standing, walking) everyday, but overall I have been feeling good for the last two weeks with one exception.  My wrists and hands have been hurting.  There are a couple of factors that could possibly be aggravating them. We have had a lot of rain lately and the humidity has been consistently around 80% over the last 10 days.  The other factor is work.  I have had a rough, but rewarding two weeks at work.  Two out of the last seven work days, I have worked by myself on the front end of the press, doing the work of two operators.  I can do it, but I pay a price for it.  After all of the crawling around to get to the bottom print decks, lifting and carrying metal ink pots and climbing up and down stairs and ladders, I anticipated more areas hurting me today, so I guess thats a good thing.   Temporarily, my fatigue is almost down to nothing.  Now this feeling... I could learn to like.

I think the switch to Humira will turn out to be a good one. I may not be feeling as good as I did right after an Orencia infusion, but I feel more leveled out now.  With Orencia, I felt great after the infusion, but the last two weeks of the month, before another infusion, I was hurting.  The thing I don't like about Humira, is the injections hurt like a big dawg!

I'm packing my bags to fly to Minneapolis tomorrow.  It's not a vacation, it is a company training trip.  I will be gone four days and have to test at the end of the training.  If I pass, I will have my Level 1 Flexo printing certification.  Not a big deal, I don't plan on leaving the company, but these days you don't know what big companies will do.  It could come in useful later, if I have to look for another job.

Not much going on this week around the shop.  I have a couple of items ordered for my bike.  By the summer of 2011, I may finally have my bike set up for hardcore dual sport rides.  When I first bought my KTM, I didn't expect to get wrapped up in dual sport riding like I have.  But I didn't anticipate not being able to ride single track trail either.  It has been a bitter sweet adventure for me.  I miss riding the woods and every time we pass a good looking trail I want to point my bike down it to see where it goes.  I sometimes weigh the options and if it looks good enough to hurt over later, I will ride it.  I saw a bumper sticker last month that read "Old Enduro Riders Never Die ... They Just Start Riding Dual Sport".  Obviously I'm not alone since I used to race enduros.  I need one of those bumper stickers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Saga Continues

I woke to the annoying beep, beep , beep of the alarm clock early this morning. It's cool though ... today I'm getting up early to go ride. This is the first time back out since the horrific 3 flats in one ride day 2 weeks ago. I spent a lot of time checking and patching the tire after that ride and even put in a 10 mile ride around the house to make sure the tire was alright.  Everything was fine.

I picked Randall up on the way to the Ouachita National Forrest this morning. We were both yawning but anticipated a good day. We quickly loaded his bike in my truck and headed on our way. It was 63 and heavily overcast this morning, nothing on radar, all of the rain and storms were north of us moving straight east. Once there, we unloaded, got our gear on and took off like a couple of cats at the dog pound.

After a short run up highway 71, we turn into the forrest and light the big beasts up. There is an uphill off camber turn that just dares you to slide your bike sideways as you hit the forrest boundary, so Randall and I did not disappoint it this morning. Sliding sideways through the turn at 35 mph we pop over the top of the rise and down the back side of the hill at 60 mph. It was chilly once we got started. I almost wished I would have worn my sweatshirt instead of a thin riding jersey this morning. The bikes love cool, crisp mornings like today and they were responding to the slightest throttle movements. At one point, I was running around 45 mph, I cracked the throttle and the front end popped up while it literally slung me backwards and yanked my arms at the shoulder sockets. Man ... this is why I ride. For that feeling right there, the sheer horsepower and acceleration makes you feel so alive. I slowed down as we descend into a valley, go around a tight little turn and hit a low water bridge. I light the throttle back up and run down to forrest road 178 and wait on Randall. Randall pulls up and is checking his GPS, looks over and begins chuckling. What is it? He informs me that I have another flat tire. I was so mad, I didn't change the tube, just turned around and rode back out on the flat tire. I have had enough flats with this tire, there has to be something inside it that I'm missing, I am peeling the tire off and throwing it away. After arriving back at the truck, a quick glance at the odometer shows I racked up an paltry 14.9 miles!

On the way home it continued to get darker and a fierce cross wind hit all at once blowing my truck all over the road. Before we got back to Randalls house, the sky had opened up and it was raining hard. By the time I arrived at my house, the rain was coming down even harder. I sit here with thunder rumbling in the background and the rain hitting the roof so hard it's deafening. In fact, it's currently raining so hard, the animals are starting to pair up.

Very disappointing, but perhaps for the best. I don't mind riding in a little shower or even a brief thunderstorm, but I don't like riding in hard rain all day long. And neither of us would admit to the other that we wanted to turn around and go back to the truck. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Working With RA

A recent post from Lana, Weakness vs. Strength, brought up an important question for all RAers that work. "Often times, I wonder whether asking (for an accommodation) makes me better than those hundreds of people who have other chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Do I deserve an accommodation and they don’t?" In my opinion, this is a touchy subject with employers. I think how they respond to asking for accommodations would depend a great deal on your overall work record and production. I don't agree with this, it's just my opinion that how they would look at it. But then again Lana brings up a valid point in, is it fair to the other employees. My view is that, while it is not fair to the other employees, it is also not fair that we live everyday in pain and have to conform, the best we can, to healthy workers standards. We are far from weak, yet we are judged everyday at work against standards that healthy employees often struggle to maintain.

I am in a unique situation in that my printing supervisor is very aware of rheumatoid arthritis. His wife has it and we talk from time to time about how each of us are responding to treatments, fatigue and mental attitudes. He is not much of a people person, even though he is a supervisor, yet you can see the pain in his facial expressions when talking about his wife's struggles with RA. But, as soon as we finish one of these conversations, I am expected to perform 100% of the required production even though I am enduring the same disease his wife has. I don't have a problem with this, I like proving myself in spite of living with RA.  At work, if you have continued sub par production days, you will get a written warning that goes on your permanent record and in some instances, can get laid off for 3 days. Fair ... no, but I keep on doing the best that I can. Currently, my press crew is second out of 6 crews for production for the month of August.

 I have had FMLA for the last 4 years but have never used it. The bottom line for me is that if I don't work, I don't get paid. I have to work, my wife, daughter and the dogs are depending on me. But in the back of my mind (probably most of our minds) I wonder if there will come a day when I just can't do my job anymore ... that thought scares me.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mortality and RA

There are a lot of articles written about shorter life spans for people with RA. We have all read them, having rheumatoid arthritis is considered a risk factor for heart disease. Could it be that cardiac problems associated with RA are due, in part, to a lack of physical activity due to disability or chronic fatigue? Many RA patients are diabled within 15 years after diagnosis. It is common knowledge that muscles that aren’t used will atrophy. The same would be true for the heart, since after all, it is a muscle.
This is why I try to push myself to workout, at least a little bit, even on days when I don't feel like it. It doesn't have to be a grueling 90 minute workout that pummels you into a sweat induced, dehydrated coma. A simple 20 minute workout of walking or some light dumbbell exercises each day will help. The main thing is just getting started. Believe me, I know it's hard, but once you feel it working, you will want to do more. Also, weight bearing exercise can help prevent osteoporosis, another secondary effect of RA.
It is important that we, as RAer's, manage our risk for heart disease by monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight. Easier said than done, I need to lose weight, but I do work out, monitor my blood pressure twice weekly and have yearly physicals with bloodwork done. It's our responsibility to make healthy lifestyle choices for ourselves, our doctors can not do that for us.

Flats Update

I've always taken pride in taking care of my tires, especially when I raced. I run a little extra air even though it detracts from the handling of the bike, and try to avoid protruding rocks and roots that can pinch a tube. After thinking back, I realized that I had not had a flat while riding since 1995 or early 96. A pretty good run, but having three flats on one ride bruises your ego.
I brought my bike back home and unloaded it. I pulled the rear wheel off and yanked the tire off of the rim for an inspection. I was sure that I would find something causing the flats. After careful inspection of the inside of the tire, the rim and all of the spoke nipples, I came up with nadda, zip, zilch. The only thing I can think of is that, where the spike went into the tire (first flat), it left a pretty fair sized hole in the tire, and occasionally, a small rock will catch the hole in the tire just right and protrudes through and punctures the tube.
I cleaned the rim and tire up, put a new rim band on the rim, double patched the hole in the tire and mounted it back on the rim. I'm not sure how the patches will hold on the inside of the tire, I've never tried this before, but the tire only had 100 miles on it. Being a new Dunlop 606, I couldn't just peel it off and trash it without trying this. I am taking it out Tuesday for a test run ... hopefully with no flats on this ride.