D44: 小丹江→雷山 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

October 12, 2020

D44: 小丹江→雷山

Today was a big mountain. Quite possibly the biggest mountain I'll do all trip. Depending on how slowly I continue to make my way north, I'll probably go higher before the trip is over, but I don't think I'll be doing a larger span of "low point to high point" (which just led me to check topo data and discover that I'm missing a huge chunk of Guizhou's data). The morning's start was at just under 700 meters and the afternoon's peak was at just under 1,800.

Before I continue, it's important to note that I've got something wrong with me when it comes to altitude. (I probably also have something wrong with me when it comes to attitude, but that's neither here nor there.) I start feeling the effects much much earlier than is normal and much much earlier than, until recently, it was even thought possible. I'm already going to be taking Diamox when I get ready to go over 2,000 meters because I've ended up overnighting in a hospital on oxygen on a day that peaked at 2,200.

I personally suspect that the problem may be related to my inhaling a lungful of chlorine in the same accident in 2000 where I broke my gimpy leg, but we don't know. 

Because I saw that I had such a mucking great big climb to do today, I did something very clever - I recorded unmedicated data. Somewhere between 5 and 15 seconds of video of my pulse oximeter starting with a base line reading at my guesthouse in the morning, and then follow ups at 1,000 meters, 1,100 meters, 1,200 meters 1,300 meters, 1,400 meters, 1,500 meters, 1,600 meters, 1,700 meters, and 1,800 meters.

At 96%, I'm on the low side of normal (which is 96-98%) for an athletic someone who isn't known to have any major lung issues. While I do have a wheeze (have had ever since the accident) and I am to understand that the scarring on my lungs is still visible (per my recent CT scan when I was in isolation as a suspected Covid patient), the tests to confirm that I have full lung function were part of my long long ago permanent partial disability settlement.

The charts I can find think that 95%-96% is where you should be up to around 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) but I'm at 92%. And, 89% - which is where I definitely am at the peak - that's not supposed to be happening until at least 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). So, even though my convictions that I have a problem were sufficiently convincing that my primary care physician was willing to prescribe me a difficult to acquire medication (that merely has annoying rather than harmful side effects), I now have proof.

It's not in my head. 
Something is wrong.

Even having already been trusted enough that I get given the medicine I want (well, actually an analogue for the medicine I want because the medicine I want is straight up completely unavailable for purchase in a coastal city), it's strangely relieving to have documentable proof other than the stories about those times I turned blue and scared all the people around me. On my end of things, collapsing in the middle of the street was mostly just annoying. (A good measure of how poorly I'm doing medically is whether or not I'm annoyed by the people who keep asking dumb questions like if I know my name and today's date.)

Also, knowing how oxygen saturation levels affect performance, I imagine future trips to the mountains will be a whole hell of a lot more fun if we can fix whatever's wrong with me.

As for the day's ride, it was mostly the day's walk. To read my journal from 2012, I apparently rode the vast majority of the way up the other side of the mountain. Even went so far as to describe the grades as "relatively gentle". I'll grant you it was 80th day since departure and I'd been in the mountains for as many days I've been on the road this trip so it's not entirely impossible that I did in fact ride; it's also not entirely impossible that I pridefully neglected to write how much of it I walked.

Just as there are lots of things that you get to see on a bike that you don't see when using other forms of transportation, there are a lot of things you see on foot that you don't see when you are riding. So I went out of my way to photograph the wildflowers and the rusty orange moss. I snacked on road oranges (oranges that someone had dropped and which hadn't yet been run over by cars), had spoonfulls of sesame butter, and slowly sucked on dried blueberries one at a time. I filled my water bottles up at a waterfall that, despite not having a dipper or funnel or cup, had the feetpath of a place where other people had parked and gotten water.

It was lovely.

Even the sheer fucking terror of the going downhill part when I realized that my brakes were fully engaged as far as they went and I was still at 20kph wasn't too horrible. I put my foot down and skidded myself to a halt, bruising the second toe rather bad, and after a bit of calming down (and allowing the brakes to cool down), successfully did my first ever disc brake adjustment.

It got dark well before I finished descending, would have gotten dark well before the end even if there hadn't been that 1 or 2 kilometer bit, in the middle of the descent, that went back up again. However, since I've got a dynamo headlight, even though riding in the dark is something I would prefer not to do, it's not actually all that bad. And, to be completely honest, separate from the few cars and trucks and busses going completely away with the darkness, I think I prefer not being able to see how much it would hurt if I somehow missed the road and fell off the side.

Today's ride: 60 km (37 miles)
Total: 2,233 km (1,387 miles)

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