As the news of the spread of Covid-19 informed us of its departure from China to Europe, to cruise ships, Iran and beyond, I knew it was only a matter of time before it reached our shores. What I didn’t understand at the time was just how contagious it is. Estimates now for the R0 (R nought, a measure of just how contagious a disease is) on Covid-19 are that it ranges between 1.4 to 3.9, which is to say, for every person infected, they will infect between 1.4 and 3.9 people. That makes it about as infectious as Ebola at the low end and nearly as infectious as SARS at the high end. The infected population in the U.S. (and many other places) is doubling every three days.
School here is out for spring break. I’d already canceled our trip to Memphis so Mini-Shred and the Deuce could see my mom, so having them home from school today is something I knew was coming. What I didn’t anticipate was the way this week will look like next week and the week after, and possibly many weeks after.
In my life I’ve never seen news change so much from day to day. Last week I was wondering if the disease would make it to Sonoma County, today there are two cases, one of which came through community contact. I’ve read that doctors at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital estimate that for every reported case of Covid-19 there are 50 as-yet unknown cases.
I’ve never been great at math, but now that I carry a device in my pocket that can help me through any math problem in under a minute, I’m willing to tackle whatever I encounter. Here in my backyard that means that there are probably 100 people already infected. With the number of infected people doubling every three days, that means that come April 16 there will be more than 100,000 people with the disease here in Sonoma County alone. That’s 20 percent of our population.
Because all of Italy is on lockdown, there will be no Giro d’Italia. The last time the Giro was cancelled, Italy was run by Benito Mussolini and Patton was preparing to land in Sicily. The Sea Otter Classic, the largest cycling festival in the U.S., has been postponed until next fall. One of the PR agencies I routinely work with is planning a video conference for the purpose of spring product intros that manufacturers would rather not wait six months to make.
My Paceline co-host Selene Yeager flew to Oklahoma for The Mid-South and we’ll discuss her experience on this week’s show (which will happen now because I’m not out of town). Promoter Bobby Wintle stayed in regular contact with Stillwater’s mayor and city manager, and they ultimately allowed the event to proceed, though only 1200 or so riders of the 2200 registered showed up for the event. Precautions including hand sanitizer and no finish-line hugs are a pretty clear demonstration of caution to my eye. However, Wintle is the subject of some pretty intense criticism, and while I can respect opinions on this aren’t exactly room temperature, I know that the way my perception of the severity of the situation changed by several orders of magnitude between Wednesday and Friday. Was the city smart to let the event proceed? I suspect we will have our answer in two weeks, but Wintle deserves credit for maintaining strong contact with the city and following their advice. The decision to cancel an event that close to the start isn’t one I want to second-guess; I wouldn’t wish that dilemma on any event promoter.
The response by the organizer of the Solvang Century, however, was very different and much less defensible. The ride was to take place last weekend. Riders who inquired about whether or not the event would be canceled, were initially told, “The answer is an unequivocable [sic] and emphatic NO!” Rider instructions included nothing about precautions being taken due to the disease and that may have contributed to Santa Barbara County pulling the event’s permit, “despite our vigorous protests and objections,” according to the event’s Facebook page. Organizer Randy Ice later sent out an article with the headline “Top Biologist: Corona Virus Is ‘One Of Biggest Frauds In History’”; the article made multiple references to the “Deep State” conspiracy. His response left many scratching their heads, and grateful that the Santa Barbara Health Department stepped in to act on behalf of rider safety, given that Ice felt no need to.
Closer to home, the Grasshoppers have been postponed for the time being; we weren’t due to have another until the end of the month. Bike Monkey’s next event, Fish Rock, was to be held April 4. Last year gave me the hardest day I’ve ever had on the bike, and I was looking forward to it the way someone looks forward to getting a cavity filled. Unfortunately, it has been postponed indefinitely.
When I think about my former life in Southern California and the group rides I did multiple times each week and the frequency that I felt a misting from someone’s snot rocket or other bodily fluid ejection, and considering how often riders will get on the bike if they aren’t so sick they are bedridden, I can’t say that I’d be willing to do any group rides these days.
A few years ago the Kate Winslet moving “Contagion” painted a portrait of society breaking down in a pandemic. I recall thinking that the odds against civilization breaking down to that degree unlikely to happen in my lifetime. Now I’m not so sure. It feels less like a speculative drama and more like a dramatization.
By now we’ve all read about strategies for social distancing and I’ve got nothing to add on that score except to say that dirt roads and trails are smarter than being on the road. My shot above captures the Manzanita that were burned in the Nuns Fire, the green of brush that has grown back since the fire and grass that is already golden from too little rain this winter. It reminds me that this will pass. Also, as an audience, you’re an intelligent and rational bunch, so I’m confident that you’re acting in a sufficiently safe manner.
Here’s what I can share: We benefit if we keep riding. If there is one thing this site is known for it is advocating for all the psychological benefits we get from riding. The next few weeks, possibly months, will be stressful. The more we can do to take care of ourselves, the better off we, and everyone around, us will be. We also know that rides that range between easy and tempo, that is Zones 1-3, boost our immune system, while going deep, Zones 4 and up, will tear it down. This would be where I apologize for using techy racer talk; I come by it honest. Put another way, it might be a good idea to avoid any efforts that make you go, “Holy crap that hurt” or rides from which you get home and know your immediate future includes a nap. I’m planning on dialing back my intensity as well as keeping the duration of my rides under three hours.
If ever you were Zwift curious, this is as good an excuse as you’ll get for turning the experience of riding on a trainer into something as absorbing as a video game.
I wish I could have found an artful metaphor the way Robot did for his FGR, but this felt a little too nuts-and-bolts for that.
Finally, on a separate, but somewhat related note, posting here at RKP has been off for quite a few weeks. I’ve had to chase a fair amount of freelance work lately and it has made my normal day-to-day here challenging, to say the least. While there’s still a lot up in the air for me, I will attempt to get back to a more normal publishing schedule.
Take care and keep pedaling.