Friday, January 30, 2009

Sunshine on my face, makes me very happy

I think I've made my feelings about spin class abundantly clear. Spin class is not what I would consider to be the most stimulating of activities. Despite the best efforts of Bikin Mike, there's only so much that he can do to make sitting on my bike, in the middle of the spin studio, pedaling like crazy, going nowhere, exciting.

It is for this reason that I am getting very excited about this Sunday. Besides being Super Bowl Sunday, it is also the day that Team Bikin gets together and holds our annual Super Bowl Sunday bike ride. Held, not surprisingly on Super Bowl Sunday, we all get together and ride from the spin studio in Plano, to downtown Dallas, to eat lunch, then ride back to Plano. It's about 50 miles round trip. More importantly, it's 50 miles, round trip, OUTSIDE.

Considering that I haven't been on my bike, outdoors, since the end of October, I may be wishing that I was back in the studio after about 15 or 20 miles. In the past, every time I go two or three consecutive days without riding my bike, I get a fear that the next time I get on my bike, I will basically have forgotten how to ride, and that I won't be able to ride 50 yards without hyperventilating. Logically, I know that this isn't going to happen. But that doesn't stop it from happening every time.

So, with this irrational fear buried deep within my subconscious, given that I was off of the bike for two full month's due to illness, my apprehension at riding 50 miles this weekend borders on panic. Never mind that 3 short month's ago, I rode 150 miles over two days, from McKinney to Paris, TX.

This Sunday's ride actually started a few years ago as a way for the restaurant's in the area we are riding to, called the Dallas West End, to boost their sales on Super Bowl Sunday. The restaurant mangers in this area, located not surprisingly in the west end of downtown Dallas, got together with one of the local bike clubs to encourage cyclist to ride downtown and eat lunch, and then ride home.

The only problem was that the idea worked too well. Riders from all over the DFW metroplex converged on downtown Dallas. For a few years, the West End was swamped with upwards of 1000 cyclist, all looking for somewhere to eat lunch. As these thing tend to do, the problem sorted itself out. As many cyclist got tired of waiting an hour for a table, the numbers have decreased to a more manageable size.

The good news for those of us riding from Plano is that, for once, the weather appears to be cooperating. Despite the ice storms that we had earlier in the week, the forecast for this Sunday calls for highs in the mid 60's. But more importantly, it calls for winds out of the South. That's extremely important when we are first riding from Plano, south to downtown Dallas. Then riding back North to Plano. That means that we'll have the tailwind to ride with after eating lunch.

After a big lunch, never underestimate the benefit of a good tailwind.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred an upcoming post, I comment on my recently discovered new super power.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Would it kill them to finish on a mountain?

While watching coverage of the Tour Down Under last week, something happened that seems to be becoming more and more of a problem these days.

I fell asleep.

Now, there are those who would say that the fact that I'm not 17 anymore, could be causing this. The fact that I'm sitting in my recliner, (aka, the big leather man chair, get one if you can), might also be a contributing factor to this phenomenon. It is, quite possibly, the single most comfortable chair on the face of the earth. But I think that there is an underlying cause for my inability to remain awake while watching coverage of cycling. It pains me to say this, but say it I must.

For the most part, the average stage of a pro bicycle race is boring.

I'm sorry. I didn't enjoy saying that. I took no pleasure in saying that. But the fact that it's an unpleasant fact, doesn't make it any less of a fact. The typical stage of a pro cycling race is boring.

I'm sure that there are those of you out there, that as you read that statement, were so offended by it, that you are now literally cursing my name and moving your mouse to close down your Internet browser.

To those of you I say STOP. Believe me, no one loves cycling more than I do.

Actually, I have no proof that I love cycling more than everyone else, but try and prove me wrong. That's one of those claims, that no matter how outlandish it may sound, there is virtually no way to disprove it.

So what do I feel is causing pro cycling to be so boring? That would be the flat, boring, bunch sprint finish. Now that may seem like a ironic statement to make. A good bunch sprint finish is possibly the most exciting 30 seconds of any sport that you may ever see. No, it's not the actual finish that leads to people falling asleep in their chairs, but it's the 4 or 5 hours before that, of watching a peloton pedal along in one big group that acts as a natural anesthetic.

The typical stage of a pro bike race follows a fairly predictable formula. The race will start in a small European city. After a 5 or 10 k neutral start, the actual race begins. Right from the start, 4 or 5 guys will ride off like maniacs and establish a break of 5 to 10 minutes. And that's pretty much how the stage will proceed for the next 4 hours. Thanks to the miracle of GPS tracking and race radio, everyone in the race knows exactly how far ahead the breakaway is. They know exactly when they need to start reeling them in. And they know exactly how fast they need to ride to catch them before the finish. It's no great mystery why the breakaway always seems to get caught with about 1 to 3 k to go. Then, and only then do you get the thrilling 30 seconds of the sprint for the line.

So you're undoubtedly asking yourself, "Why, oh why, if they know that these stages bore Nearly Famous Fred into unconsciousness, do they insist on producing these types of stages?" Aside from a unexplainable unwillingness to satisfy the personal preferences of Nearly Famous Fred, the race producers actually do have a good economic reason for this.

The reason is quite simple; fans don't spend money on top of a mountain. Let me explain

It may come as a surprise to some of you out there, but a bicycle ride or race, is an expensive event to produce. Shocking, I know. Along with corporate sponsorships, the only way to make it financially possible, is to have the stage start and finish cities bear part of the financial cost. It may also come as a surprise to some of you, but the start and finish cities on a pro bike race, actually bid and pay to be part of the race. I have no idea how much they actually pay, but for our purposes here, let's suspend reality and say that I know what I'm talking about. So you can believe me when I tell you, it's a lot.

As most cities are not found at the very top of a mountain, it then stands to reason that most of the stages will end in the nice flat valleys where the cites actually are. If you need any more proof of my flat, boring stage theory. Look no further than these stage results from the Tour Down Under:

Stage 1 - the top 127 riders in the stage finished with the same time. That's 127 out of 133 riders that started the stage.

Stage 2 - the top 72 riders all finished within 13 seconds of the stage winner.

Stage 3 - the top 47 finishers all finished with the same time.

Stage 4 - the top 53 riders all finished with the same time.

Stage 5 - (The Big Mountain Stage), the top 38 riders all finished with the same time.

Stage 6 - the top 85 riders, of the 122 that started the stage, all finished with the same time.

If it weren't for sprint time bonus' and finish time bonus', it would be hard to determine the winner, because everyone would have the same time.

There's nothing I find more compelling than watching pro cyclist struggle up the road to the top of Mt Ventoux. But the fact is, there's no town on top of Mt Ventoux to pay to have the stage finish there. If you go out and look at the stages of the upcoming Tour of California, not one of the eight stages has a mountain top finish. I could be wrong, (imagine that), but in the history of the ToC, they have never had a mountain top finish. And unless someone discovers a town perched at the top of a mountain in California, I doubt they ever will.

So, unless I'm willing to give up The Big Leather Man Chair, (which I am not), I guess I"ll just have to be content to get in a daily nap whenever there's cycling coverage on TV. There are worse things.

Or, I could just go out and ride my bike.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, January 26, 2009

You know what bugs me about.....The Versus Network

Today, we start a new and exciting feature here on the Nearly Famous Fred blog. At least I think it's going to be new and exciting. You very well could be bored to tears by it, but I think it's going to be fantastic.

As I have mentioned before, I am a born and bred Texan. And despite the popular opinion held of Texans across the rest of these, The United States, that being that Texan's are a shy, quite, and somewhat reserved people, I happen to be an anomaly here, in that I can be somewhat opinionated, and not terribly shy about expressing it. This is why I am so excited about this new feature on my blog. Whenever you see one of my post, in which the title begins with the phrase "You know what bugs me about.....", this is basically going to be me taking the opportunity to vent my frustrations and dissatisfaction for someone or something. I'll try not to sound to whiny (??) or petty. I say I'll try, but I make no promises.

In this, the first installment of "you know what bugs me about.....", we look at the Versus network.

First of all, I appreciate the fact that if Versus didn't broadcast coverage of pro cycling, there would literally be no place for cycling fans in the US to see any. That not withstanding, I just spent a week watching 30 minute highlight shows of the Tour Down Under. 30 minutes? Are you kidding me?? Is there so much going on in the world of fringe sports, that they couldn't spare a whole hour to recap a stage of a bike race that conservatively took the cyclist 4 to 5 hours to complete. I was watching the "coverage" of one of the stages and before they broke for commercial, there was about 90 k's to go to the finish. When they came back from commercial 3 minutes later, Paul Sherwin was talking about how the teams were lining up for the sprint finish.

Just to compare, let's see what Versus is showing tonight. In tonight's prime time schedule, Versus is offering the following:

7:00pm to 8:00pm --- "The Contender". This would be the mixed martial arts version of Survivor Island.

8:00pm to 10:00pm --- "The PBR Built Ford Tough Series". For those who don't know, that Professional Bull Riding. That's 2 hours of professional bull riding. I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that there are that many people interested in watching bull riding, that it requires 2 hours of it to satisfy their desire.

10:00pm to 11:00pm --- "The Contender". This would be a rerun of the contender that they showed 3 hours earlier.

11:00pm to 1:00am --- "The PBR Built Ford Tough Series". That's right, they're rerunning the same 2 hours of bull riding that they showed at 8:00pm. Just in case anyone had to go to the bathroom and might have missed 3 minutes of the 2 hours of bull riding that they showed at 8:00pm, they're going to go ahead and rerun the entire 2 hours.

So, if I understand, (and I think I do), they condense a 4 to 5 hour stage of cycling down to 30 minutes, but they fill 4 hours of a six hour block of prime time programming, with the ratings grabber that is bull riding. And it's not even 4 hours of original bull riding programming. It's 2 hours of bull riding, and then a rerun of that 2 hours. Now, I do understand that this is "Professional" bull riding. I'd really be upset if this was amateur or collegiate bull riding.

The first 3 weeks of July are just about my favorite of the year. My time is pretty much budgeted as follows. I get to work at 8:00am. Via the miracle of the internet, I immediately bring up the website, and follow the text updates of the Tour de France online. Everyone in my office pretty much understands that they're not gong to get much, if any, actual work out of me during those 3 weeks, until after lunch. I then put in a solid 4 hour work day after lunch, and get home from work around 5:00pm. I then go on my evening bike ride until about 7:00pm. Once home, I shower, and start that evening's coverage of that day's TdF stage. Bed is usually around 10:30pm to 11:00pm.

That's pretty much how it goes every weekday for the first 3 weeks of July. My coworkers know this. My wife and son know this. Deviations from this schedule are not tolerated. I know that I have Versus to thank for this, and believe me, I am grateful.

But I remember that it wasn't that long ago, when Versus provided the same type of coverage for the Vuelta d'Espana, that they still offer for the TdF. But I'm guessing that due to the overwhelming demand for more bull riding coverage, the went to the daily 1 hour updates format. When they announced that they were dropping their expanded coverage of the Vd'E, they said that Versus wholeheartedly supported cycling, and would continue to support it in the future.

If they offer any more support like this, there won't be anywhere to watch cycling at all.

The other thing that bugs me about the Versus network.....more Bob Roll, less Frankie Andreu.

Thus ends the first installment of "You know what bugs me about...". Boy, it felt good to get that off my chest.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Psychology of Spin

As I mercifully wrapped up my series on my recent illness and brush with death in my last post, today I can get back to writing about cycling. This was the illness that kept me from posting for a couple of month's.

Based on the tidal wave of apathy that nearly swept me away, it seemed that many of you hadn't noticed that I'd been away for awhile. But for those of you who did notice, you will be glad to know that I should be posting on a fairly regular basis now. Or maybe you won't be glad. We'll see.

There's another contributing factor for my recent absence from posting. October is probably the absolute worst time of the year to start a cycling blog. Think about it. The pro cycling season is finishing up, and here in Texas, the weather has gotten sufficiently cold to the point that, at least for me, cycling outdoors is becoming less and less of an option.

Yes, at 6'3" tall and 190 lbs, I am the world's biggest Weather Weenie. I freely admit that.

That leaves me, and those like me, with two options. Pray for an unseasonably warm day, or head indoors for spin class. For me, spin class would mean Bikin' Mike Keel's spin studio.

Besides being a bike ride producer, a cycling personal trainer and coach, a great friend, good cyclist, and all around boss dude, Bikin' Mike also operates a spin studio from November thru March. Five days a week, (ok, three or four days a week, give or take), you will find me at Mike's award winning studio, spinning my little heart out.

Before I go any further, in the hope of trying not to hurt anyone's feelings, I need to say something. (Disclaimer time.)

Bikin' Mike does an absolutely fabulous job in leading a spin class. He's got music blaring. He's enthusiastically calling out the spin cadence changes. If you listen to him and follow his ques, you can't help but get a great workout. Mike is doing everything he possibly can to make a spin class as enjoyable an experience as it can be. BUT....

...there's only so much Mike can do. No matter what Mike does, you still cannot escape the fact that you're sitting on your bike, staring at the same 4 walls, spinning like crazy and going nowhere fast. The two months I was sick and off my bike, I had forgotten how those walls can seem to start closing in on you. But, in the three weeks that I've been back in spin class, I've quickly been reminded.

About the only complaint that Mike gets from his clients, (his other clients, not me), would be regarding Mike's choice in music. You see, Mike is approaching his mid-50's. That would mean that Mike's musically formative years, (I made that term up), would have been the late 60's and 70's. Since those were the years that Mike began taking an interest in music, it stands to reason that most of Mike's music collection comes from that period of time. In other words, most of Mike's music library was probably not originally released on CD.

Mike typically answers these complaints with the effective response that it's not that he doesn't appreciate the music of today, it's just that he doesn't own much of it. While I am currently willing to accept that answer, I have advised him that they sell new music almost everywhere. Even with the knowledge that you can now actually download music directly to your home, Mike has been somewhat slow in acquiring a more current music library.

Not that there's anything wrong with Mike's music. It's perfectly fine music, but my God, how much Santana, Chicago, and Steely Dan can one person listen to. And to be fair, when clients do give Mike new music, he does his best to work it into the studio.

In an attempt to hurry these efforts along, and preserve my own sanity, today I would like to announce a new project.

Today we embark on The Bikin' Mike Keel Music Library Modernification Project.

I don't think that Modernification is a actually a word. But by gosh, it should be.

If you have any music that you think would be enjoyable to spin to, I'm asking you, no begging you, to send Mike the CD. Or a copy of the CD. Or make a mix CD of some of your favorite music. ANYTHING would be greatly appreciated. Now, what would make music "enjoyable to spin to"? The standard set by American Bandstand would apply here. If "it has a great beat, and it's easy to dance to", then it would probably be a good song to spin to.

The only things that would cause a song to be immediately rejected, would be anything recorded my Madonna or Britney Spears, (that's my own personal preference), and naughty language. We probably won't be spinning to a lot of Marylin Manson. If you're going to burn a CD for Mike, I believe that he will be needing it in the MP3 format.

By the way, Mike knows nothing of this project. Won't he be surprised!

If you would like to contribute to The Bikin' Mike Keel Music Library Modernification Project, (cash is not required or wanted, just music), please mail your contribution to:

The Bikin' Mike Keel Music Library Modernification Project
c/o Bikin' Mike Keel
605 East 18th Street
Suite 103

Plano, TX 75074

I thank you, and my therapist thanks you.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Back from the Brink, Part 6...and thankfully, the final installment

As entertained as I'm sure you've been, hearing me talk about how I was sick for a couple of months, it's time to wrap up this series. I know, I know, you just can't get enough of me whining about how the doctor's did all these test that didn't show anything, and how the nurses were mean, and how I'm soooo much smarter than the doctors. You may not be tired of it, but I sure am. So today, we wrap it up.

When last we spoke, I had gotten a surprisingly good night's sleep at my sleep study. I still say that I was somehow drugged, but my lawyers have advised me that since I have no proof, my continuing to claim that I was drugged is starting to sound somewhat pathetic, if not actually a cause of action for the good folk at the sleep center to sue me. Always being careful to avoid getting sued, I do hearby recant those accusation. (Please don't sue me.)

About a week after I had completed my sleep study, I went back to the sleep center to go over the results with a doctor. It has been said of me, that I am not a patient man. That, combined with my 3 year old's attention, makes for a very volatile combination. By that I mean, I do not like to be kept waiting, and there just aren't enough different activities in a doctor's waiting room to keep me occupied.

So, as I sat in the waiting room for my 10:00am appointment, I couldn't help but notice that the current time was 10:45am. I believe I shouted out something to the effect that "it's a good thing there aren't any sick people waiting here! Someone might actually drop dead before a doctor can tell them what killed them!" I thought that that was a fine example of comedic sarcasm, but Trish didn't think it was nearly as funny as I did.

A full 50 minutes after my scheduled appointment, I get to see a doctor and we proceed to review the results of my sleep study. As I had predicted, I was told that I DO NOT have sleep apnea. So much for the fancy medical degrees.

Technically, Sleep Apnea is when you actually stop breathing while asleep, and you then wake up, due to the lack of oxygen. This happens over and over again, all night long. The doctor told me that I didn't stop breathing at all that night. That was the good news. The bad news was that my sleep chart, which shows when you're awake and when you're asleep, showed that during the 6 hours that they monitored me, I woke up 42 times.

Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot? That seems like a lot to me. Unfortunately, it seemed like a lot to the doctor as well. Especially for someone who doesn't have Sleep Apnea. My next question seemed kind of obvious.

"Why was I waking up 42 times a night?" The doctor's response was disappointing, to say the least. She just kind of shrugged her shoulders, and said "I don't know?

"Come on doc. At least my neurologist seemed to be genuinely disappointed when he couldn't find a brain tumor. How about a little effort here."

Let's add these test up. So far, I've had:

1 Chest Xray. Result - showed nothing.
1 Resting Echo-Cardiogram. Result - showed nothing.
1 Stressed Echo-Cardiogram. Result - several sever razor burns on my chest, but the test showed nothing.
1 Brain MRI. Result - showed nothing. (By nothing, I mean it showed nothing wrong. It did show a brain.)
1 Sleep Study. Result - did show that while I didn't have Sleep Apnea, I was waking up about every 8 minutes, all night long. As to why I was waking up - No idea.

Isn't modern medicine just a miracle. Here we have, what I assume to be several thousand of dollars worth of state-of-the-art medical test, and all they show is that I wake up a lot. My wife could have told me that for free.

All of these stunning test results were sent to my neurologist. After literally seconds of analysis, he determined that I should take a sleeping pill. Wow. How many years of medical school does one need, to learn to prescribe sleeping pills to someone who is having trouble sleeping?

All of this wouldn't be nearly as frustrating, if it hadn't worked. After experimenting with two or three different sleeping pills, we finally found one that put me to sleep pretty quickly, but didn't leave me feeling like the walking dead the next day. So now, I take a little blue pill before bed every night.

(No, not THAT little blue pill. I don't know what you might have heard, but let me assure you, it's not true.)

I'm almost disappointed to say that ever since I started taking my little blue pill, I've slept like a baby every night. The headaches have stopped, and I feel great the next day.

So that's the story. Maybe next post, I can actually talk about cycling.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, January 19, 2009

Back from the Brink, Part 5...I have a nice head???

Continuing our review of why I was absent from posting on this blog for a couple of months, today we'll talk about the sleep study that I was forced to endure.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of a sleep study, today's post should be enlightening. Basically, you're wired up and they watch and monitor you while you sleep. As the name would imply, the one absolutely necessary component of a sleep study, would be that the patient actually go to sleep. They, ("they" being those people administering the sleep study), then put the patient in a situation where it is quite nearly impossible to sleep.

I was told to report to the "Sleep Center" at 9:00pm in the evening. Right there, I had my first problem with this whole thing. Being 44 years of age, and being what most people would consider to be an "Ole Fuddy-Duddy" in training, the only thing that I'm really interested in doing at 9:00pm at night, is sitting in my big leather recliner, (hereto after referred to as "The Man Chair"), watching TV, and getting ready for bed. The last thing I'm looking to be doing at 9:00pm, is leaving the house. The fact that I was leaving the house to, presumably, go sleep somewhere else, is the only thing that made it tolerable.

I arrived at the sleep center at the appointed hour, were I was met by the "sleep technician", (another made up title), and shown to my room for the night. It looked pretty much like any hotel room you've ever stayed at, except that the bathroom was down the hall. We'll discuss the bathroom situation in more detail in a few minutes, so just keep that in the back of your mind for now.

The "technician" then began the process of attaching no fewer than 2 dozen sensors to various spots on my body. These sensors are supposed to register movement, and what position I am sleeping in. The vast majority of these sensors were either attached to my scalp, or directly to my face, but they were also attached to my legs, arms and chest, as well. These sensors are literally glued to my skin and are connected to wires which run to a box on the night stand.

Once she was done with the sensors, she then had me put on two heart rate and breathing monitors. One around my chest, and the other around my stomach. For any of you who have ever worn a heart rate monitor while cycling, you are familiar with this type of device. Now just imagine that the heart rate monitor is on way too tight, and that you have a second one on around your stomach. Again, way too tight.

Now, with all those sensors glued on, and straps on around your chest and stomach, doesn't that sound like you're all ready for a good night's sleep?

The technician did say something that I really appreciated. She said, and I quote, "Mr Miller, you have a really nice head."

That's one of those odd compliments that you're really not sure how to respond to. Of course, the polite thing to say is "Thank you." But you also want to ask, "How so?" By what criteria would one judge a head by? Shape? Size? Texture? Taste? Smell? How does one go about comparing one head to another?

It did make me feel good that she felt I had a "nice head", simply because who would make a better judge of heads, than a "technician" at a sleep center? All she does, every working day of her life, is glue sensors to people's heads. If there's anyone qualified to judge the attributes and deficiencies of a person's head, it's this lady.

Now, getting back to the bathroom situation. At this point, I have 2 dozen wires running from various parts of my body, connected to a box next to the bed. Despite my love of a good night's sleep, I am now 44 years old, and the night's that I sleep straight through, are easily out numbered by those night's that I have to get up and make at least one trip to the restroom. At this point, the only question that I have for my "technician", is exactly how do I do that? She replies that I just call her on the intercom next to the bed, and tell her that I need to go. She will then come into the room, and help me carry the box the wires are connected to, down the hall, and into the bathroom. So basically, I have to call and ask for permission to go to the restroom.

So. I've pee'd, and I'm all wired up. All ready for a restful night's sleep. For all of the reason's that I've pointed out above, I figure if I get 30 minutes of actual sleep tonight, out of sheer exhaustion, it will be a miracle. Not the least of these reason's is that I am now informed that they really need me to sleep on my back. I haven't slept on my back in 35 years. This whole thing is a complete waste of time, because there's just no way I'm getting any sleep tonight.

The "technician" turns out the lights as she's leaving the room, and as she's closing the door, she has the nerve to say, "Nightie, night."

I'm laying there in the dark, and I swear, no fewer than five minutes had passed, when the nurse came back on the intercom, and said, "Please wake up Mr Miller. Your sleep study is now complete."

I told her that that wasn't funny, and that she's not making it any easier for me to sleep. To which she replied that it was now 5:30am, and that I had been asleep for six and a half hours. I immediately called her a liar, and looked at my watch. To my great surprise, it was indeed 5:30am.

I had really been asleep for over six hours. The only thing I can figure, is that as soon as the technician left they room, they immediately began pumping in some sort of sedative gas. While this would serve to meet the primary requirement of a sleep study, that being that the patient actually sleep, I don't think the results would be indicative of a typical night's sleep for me. However, I was assured that I had indeed fallen asleep all on my own.

She then removed the sensors, said that the doctor would review the results, and send his findings to my neurologist. I was now free to go.

This was amazing. This was actually the best night's sleep I had gotten in months. And all it took was gluing dozens of sensors to my head, face, and body, and preventing me from visiting the bathroom as I felt I needed.

Next post, we review the results.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back from the Brink, Part 4...that can't be good?

Just to get you up to speed in this series of post:

Part 1 - I have had headaches, tiredness, and shortness of breath for a couple of months. I go to the doctor.

Part 2 - My doctor
says I have sleep apnea. I disagree. He refers me to a cardiologist, a neurologist, and for a sleep study.

Part 3 - I go to the cardiologist. I am terrorized by a scary woman named Helga. We determine that there is nothing wrong with my heart.

If you want any more detail than that, read the postings.

Today, we go see my neurologist. Of all the doctor visits that I went to during this whole unseemly ordeal, this is the one that I dreaded the most. Based on my years of watching M*A*S*H and House, I was pretty sure my doctor was wrong about the Sleep Apnea. Given that just before I got sick, I had completed a 2 day, 150 mile bike ride, I was pretty sure that there wasn't anything wrong with my heart. But, as to what might be going on inside my head, I have no idea.

Those of you who know me, didn't need a neurologist to tell you that I had no idea what was going on inside of my head.

So, Trish and I are sitting in the exam room, when someone I assume to be the doctor's son walked in. This guy looked to be all of 19 years old. I wanted to ask him, "Did you come to work with your Daddy today? You're such a big boy. Yes, you are!" But I didn't.

He introduced himself as the neurologist. I think I actually laughed out loud. I've got ties older than this guy, and he's going to tell me if there's anything wrong inside my head. I don't think so, but Trish made me stay.

I describe my symptoms, and the first thing he says is that it sounds like I have sleep apnea. I attempt to leave again, but again, Tris makes me stay. I informed him that my regular doctor, (as opposed to my irregular doctor), has already scheduled me for a sleep study. In the mean time, the neurologist wants me to have an MRI.

This immediately causes me a great deal of anxiety. If I've learned nothing from watching years of House reruns, aside from the fact that both my doctor and my neurologist are wrong about me having sleep apnea, it is that the last place you want to go, is into that big, tube shaped MRI machine. It seems like every time House puts someone in there, they have some sort of attack, or seizure, or just flat out die. Trish and I have dubbed it the "Death Machine". I think it's were House sends the patients that he can't diagnose, and he just wants to get them out of his hair. But, once again, Trish forces me to go get the MRI a couple of days later.

About two weeks later, we return to the neurologist office to discuss the results of the MRI, along with the results of the sleep study, that has been done as well. I'll talk about that experience in my next post. The neurologist says that, as he expected, the MRI showed nothing abnormal. Then he said the strangest thing.

"The MRI did show a white spot on your brain, but it's not anything to worry about."

Remember a couple of post ago, when I talked about certain phrases, that when uttered by a doctor, tend to get your attention very quickly. In that post, I used the phrase "BRAIN TUMOR" as a example. Well, you can add the phrase "WHITE SPOT ON YOUR BRAIN" to that list as well.

"What the hell do you mean, there's a white spot on my brain?"

Just what I said. There's a small white spot on your brain, but it's nothing that I'd be concerned about."

"Well sure, your not worried about it. It's not your brain. To tell you the truth, I'm deeply concerned about it."

This little conversation did bring one thing to light that I had never considered before. There is almost no sentence, in which you can use the phrase "on my brain", and it be a good thing. No matter how nice a subject is, when you add the phrase "on my brain", there's almost no way that it's going to work out well for you.

"The flowers were in full bloom, on my brain." Nope, that's no good.

"We found lots of sea shells today, on my brain." No, you don't want that.

"The smell of jasmine filled the air, on my brain." Can't see how that is going to help you.

The spot is actually described as, and I quote from the Imaging Specialist's, (I think, a made up title), report:

"Single posterior right frontal deep white matter 5mm region of T2 prolongation."

Wow! I have absolutely no idea what any of that means, but that can't be good, can it?

Below, is one of the actual MRI scans. In it, you can actually see the white spot.

This scan is important for two reasons.

One.....despite popular opinion, especially that of my 9 year old, it does confirm that I do, in fact, have a brain. How many of you out there can actually prove that you have a brain? So I got that going for me.

And two.....I don't care what anyone says, I am a handsome man, inside and out.

The neurologist went on to say that almost anyone over the age of twenty, is going to have one or two of these white spots, on their brain. Sorry to break that little peace of news to you.

After reviewing the results of the sleep study, the doctor still felt that my problem was a lack of sleep. I think you know where this is leading.

I get to take legal, safe, doctor prescribed drugs!

I'm not too concerned about it, unless they start doing urinalysis test before next year's Hotter-n-Hell.

Next post, the ordeal of a sleep study.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Friday, January 9, 2009

Back from the Brink, Part 3...Sorry to disappoint you Doc

Continuing the recap of my recent medical adventures, so far we've determined that:

* I've been sick for the last couple of months, with headaches every morning, shortness of breath at the slightest exertion of effort, and just being ridiculously tired all the time.

* I eventually go to the doctor, who immediately suspects that I have sleep apnea. A diagnosis that I, based on my years of watching M*A*S*H and House, completely disagree with.

* My doctor schedules me for a sleep study, to confirm his completely incorrect diagnosis of sleep apnea.

* In order to rule out other possibilities, he also refers me to a Neurologist. Those other possibilities being brain tumors and/or aneurysms, which he seems to find amusing.

* Almost on a lark, he decides to perform an EKG in his office. I guess the machine was just sitting there, and he had some time to kill. That test shows some sort of "issue" with my heart. He doesn't feel that it's anything to worry about, but he refers me to a cardiologist anyway.

You know, I'm really glad I spent the last 8 years going from 260 lbs to 190 lbs, and getting healthy, or I might really be sick. Figures though. I could have spent the last 8 years sitting on my behind, eating pizza and hot dogs, and been just as healthy as I now appear to be. I'll be the most well conditioned corpse you've ever seen.

One other thing that my doctor said, was to stay off of my bike until the cardiologist says it's OK to ride again. As a matter of fact, I should try to avoid any activity that would put any stress on my heart. I'm certainly glad that there's not anything to worry about.

So the first specialist I see is the cardiologist. After reviewing the printout from the EKG at my doctor's office, and talking to me for all of 5 minutes, he states that he doesn't believe that there's anything to worry about either, but he wants to run some test anyway. Sure, just for fun, lets go ahead and run a resting Echo-Cardiogram, as well as a Stressed Echo-Cardiogram. You know, just for fun.

As it happens, they just happen to have time to do the Stressed Echo-Cardiogram right then and there. For those who don't know, this is the test where they wire you up with electrodes, (still strangely arousing when done by a nurse), make you run on a treadmill till your heart rate gets going really good, then they basically do a sonogram on your heart.

When I say that the application of the electrodes is somehow strangely arousing, I should clarify that that is true when done by the right nurse. I of course refer to the type of nurse that you'll usually find in any movie seen on Cinemax after 10:00pm. I am not referring to the type of nurse that they apparently have doing the Stress Echo's at my cardiologist office.

I'm not sure what her real name was, but for our purposes here, we'll call her Helga. It would seem that Helga recently immigrated to the U.S., either from one of the former Soviet republics, or from East Germany. It would also seem that the development of a gentle bedside manner is not a subject that was particularly emphasized in nursing schools behind the Iron Curtain.

"You, you vill take off your shirt, and lie on ze table, now!"

I'm so intimidated by this point, that I immediately rip off my shirt and jump up on the table. Helga then proceeds to shave my chest. She probably could have been a little more gentle about it if she had just ripped the hairs out of my chest with her bare hands. Then, for some reason, and I'm not kidding, she rubs my chest with sand paper. I'm not sure why, but I think she felt she didn't do enough damage during the shave.

"I vill now attach ze electrodez to your chest. Do not move!"

I reply with an obedient, "Yes ma'am".

Helga applies the electrodes to my chest. The alcohol wipes were a particularly nice touch after the shave and sandpaper scrub.

"You vill now get up, and get on ze treadmill. Now!"

"Yes ma'am". I, like a whipped dog, dutifully get up and stand on the treadmill.

"As ze treadmill begins to move, you vill begin valking. As ze treadmill increases in speed, you vill jog, zhen run, yes? If you have difficulties in breathing, you vill let me know, yes? Now you vill begin!"

So, the stress portion of the Stress-Echo now begins. I begin at I nice gentle walk, but seeing that Helga is clearly disappointed in my lack of "stress", the treadmill quickly increases to a jog, then a run. As I'm at a full gallop on the treadmill, another nurse comes into the room. I later find out that this is the person that will be performing the "Echo" part of the Stress-Echo. It takes about 15 minutes for my heart rate to rise to a point where Helga feels that we can proceed to the next portion of the test.

"You vill now stop running, and quickly get on ze table. Now! Shnell! Shnell!"

I literally jump off of the treadmill and onto the exam table. I would later learn that once they have my heart rate up, they only have about 90 seconds to get whatever information they need. The sonogram lady, as she likes to be called by her friends, now squirts a rather large amount of goo on my chest. Any woman who has ever had a baby is familiar with this goo. It actually felt rather nice, given the shaving and alcohol burns that had previously been applied by Helga. The sonogram lady then rubs the sonogram thingy around on my chest for about 90 seconds.

(My vast knowledge of medical terms, is impressive, isn't it, i.e...sonogram thingy?)

The sonogram lady then leaves without saying another word. It is apparent that she is deathly afraid of Helga. Not without good reason. I now believe that Helga is planning on killing me.

"Ze doctor vill be in to review ze test results in a few minutes. You vill put on you shirt. Now!"

With that, Helga turns and leaves. I cancel my call to 911, that I had been secretly dialing on my cell phone.

A few minutes later, the cardiologist comes into the room, and begins to review the test results. As he's going through the printouts and sonogram results, he seems genuinely disappointed that he can't find anything wrong.

"Nope, I'm sorry Mr Miller. I don't see anything wrong here."

"That's OK doc. I'm sure you did your best." At this point, I'm so happy to have escaped Helga's evil clutches, he could have told me I was pregnant and that would have been just fine with me.

As I'm leaving for the day, we schedule the non-stressed echo for the next morning. It's more of the same, just without the fun of Helga's death march on the treadmill. That test turns out just fine as well, and I get the OK from the cardiologist to resume riding my bike.

I didn't see Helga when I came back the next day. But believe me, it wasn't for a lack of looking. It's funny though. I can't look at the scars on my chest now without thinking of her, and smiling. When you stare death in the face like that, it makes you appreciate life just that much more.

In my next post, we take a trip to the Neurologist.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back from the Brink, Part 2....what else

If you'll recall my last post, we were reviewing why I've been away from this post for the past couple of months. When we last left our hero, I was at my doctor's office, and he had given me a preliminary diagnosis that sleep apnea was causing my headaches, shortness of breath, and extreme tiredness.

In a vain attempt to relate to the kids today, let's refer to "extreme tiredness" as "X-Tiredness". Cool.

I should mention that at that time, I completely disagreed with the doctor's diagnosis. While I've had no "formal" medical training per se, I do watch a lot of "House" on TV, and I felt that that more than qualified me to make my own medical diagnosis. But my wife insisted that we listen to the doctor.

So the doctor wants me to have a sleep study done, but before that, I should see a Neurologist, just to eliminate the possibility of anything "funny" going on inside my head. Again, brain tumors, seizures, and aneurysms, aren't what I would usually consider to be funny, but what do I know? He's the one with the medical degree.

Just as I'm getting dressed to leave, the doctor pokes his head back in the exam room and says, "As long as your here, let's go ahead and do a EKG, just to make sure that your heart is OK as well". Well, I'm a big strong cyclist. I just did a two day, 150 mile bike ride. What could possibly be wrong with my heart? Yea, right.

After a couple of minutes, the nurse comes in and hooks up all of the little electrode things to my chest. While the thought of a strange woman hooking electrodes to my bare chest would normally be both frightening and somewhat arousing, for some reason in this case, it didn't quite have the same effect. Probably had something to do with my wife sitting there. She tells me to just lay back and relax. Again, under any other circumstance, if a strange woman said that to me, it would usually be a good thing.

We now begin the EKG. I should have known something wasn't right by the nurses reactions to the test. I heard a lot of "hmmm's", and a few "ohhhh's", and even one "Wow!". After a couple of minutes, were done. She removes the electrodes, gathers her things, and rushes out of the room like she's afraid she's going to catch whatever it is that's wrong with me.

A few minutes later the doctor returns. The first thing he says is "it's probably nothing to worry about, but". It's that "but" that scares the cr@p out of me. He continues.

"There were a couple of things on the EKG that just didn't look quite right. I'd like you to see a Cardiologist too".

OK, lets start adding these up. I come in with headaches, and so far:
1. I need to have a sleep study done, to confirm sleep apnea.
2. I might have a problem in my head, i.e...brain tumor.
3. There is apparently something wrong with my heart.

What else can go wrong? Pneumonia? Gout? Athletes foot? I was actually afraid to go outside, fearing that I would be set upon by a plague of locust.

Next post, we talk about my wild time at the Cardiologist office, and all the good times that we had there.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Post Script...In case you missed it, The Fat Cyclist had a hilarious posting on his blog about a couple of packages of expired Shot Blok. I highly recommend that you go to my "Cool Links" directory on the right hand side of this page, click on "The Fat Cyclist" link, and scroll down the his posting titled "The Shot Blok Experiments".

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back from the brink.....

For those of you who noticed that I haven't posted for a while, (both of you), you'll be glad to know that I am once again posting to the Nearly Famous Fred blog, or the Fred Blog, or "the Flog" for short. After being nearly swept away by the tidal wave of apathy, I felt I owed it to my readers to start posting again.

The reason for my extended absence is two fold.

First off, I've been sick. For the better part of the last two months, I've been waking up with a headache, every day. I'm not exaggerating. I woke up with a headache everyday, for two months. Not a skull splitting migraine or anything, but just an annoying headache.

At least I don't think they were migraines. Having never been diagnosed with migraines, I really don't know what a migraines feels like. I can tell you this, if these were migraines, my wife and I are going to have a serious talk. She's been complaining about migraines for years, and if this is it, she's got a great big "suck it up and get over it" coming.

On the headache scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being one too many beers the night before, and 10 being the pound your head against the wall until you lose consciousness type of headache, these were probably a 4 or 5. Nothing too severe, but bad enough, that after the first 5 or 6 days in a row, they really start to lose their charm, type of headache.

In addition to the headaches, I was also just amazingly tired all the time. Didn't feel like doing anything.

(Please insert your own "how is that different than any other day" joke here).

Didn't feel like getting out of bed, much less go ride my bike. Couldn't muster enough energy to even post to my blog. (God forgive me). I basically had an I.V. drip of coffee going all day to keep me awake long enough to get through a day of work.

Along with all of that, I was incredibly short of breath all the time. We had a house full of company over for Thanksgiving weekend, and we were trying to get the Christmas decorations up before everyone got here. What should have been a weekends worth of work, turned out to be a week long ordeal. I would help put up decorations for about 10 minutes, then had to sit down and rest for 45 minutes to catch my breath. After a few of the "you're just being lazy" objections from my wife, (given my history, who could blame her), she started to realize that there might be something seriously wrong with me.

(Again, insert your own "we all knew a long time ago that there was something seriously wrong with you" joke here).

This all started around the end of October, so by the end of November, we decided that I might want to go see a doctor. Denial is a wonderful thing.

As soon as I explained my symptoms to my doctor, he immediately asked if I snore. When you think about it, that actually is a pretty dumb thing to ask someone, as they are typically asleep when they would usually be snoring. I told him that I can't speak to if I snore or not when I'm asleep, but I could verify that I don't ever recall snoring while I was awake. He said that headaches in the morning, general tiredness, and shortness of breath are all classic signs of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea, for those who don't know, is when a person is asleep, they actually stop breathing. Sometimes for 30 seconds or more. This usually wakes them up, and then they start breathing again. You're usually not actually aware that you're awake, but you do wake up. It can be a potentially deadly illness. This continuous waking up all night long deprives the person of the deep, restful sleep that they need, causing, among other things; headaches, sleepiness, and shortness of breath.

So my doctor scheduled me for a sleep study. We'll get into that in a little more detail in my next post, but for now, lets just say they wire you up, and watch you sleep. But before the sleep study, the doctor wanted to eliminate other possibilities. By other possibilities, he meant a brain tumor, or some sort of heart problem.

It was at this point in the doctor's visit, that I made a significant discovery about the human language. There are certain words, that no matter how bored and tuned out you are, will just snap you back to reality. I have the attention span of a sleepy three year old. By this point, we had been at the doctor's office for about 45 minutes, not counting the time we spent in the waiting room. So I basically had a glazed over, thousand yard stare going on. Somewhere in the back ground, the doctor was droning on, sounding remarkably similar to Charlie Brown's teacher.

"Blah blah blah, blah bla bla bla. Ba blah. Blah ba bla."

It was right about here were, somewhere through the fog, I heard;

"Blah bla bla. Bla ba blah BRAIN TUMOR, blah bla bla ba."

Whatever dream world I had drifted off to, immediately vanished. I was quickly and violently slapped back into reality.

"I'm sorry doc, I didn't quite catch that last thing you said there. What was that again."

He then repeated that he didn't think there was anything to be found, but he wanted to eliminate the possibility of anything funny going on inside my head, like a BRAIN TUMOR. I immediately explained to my doctor that he and I have very different opinions of what is "funny".

In tomorrow's post, we'll review the good times that were had during the multitude of test that followed this trip to the doctor's office. We'll also delve into the unique experience of a "sleep study". After that, we'll look into the other reason why I haven't posted in a while.

And just in case your were worried, I do NOT have a brain tumor.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred