What Next?

What Next?

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.

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  1. Dave

    I’d recommend not riding outside only because you take the risk of getting injured and taking needed medical care from those truly in need. The roads and trails will be there when this finally passes, so give it a rest until our medical system is not so stressed. Obviously just my .02

  2. JIm

    Peace to all. In some places riding is now forbidden. Better to take up running or dog-walking.

    Good luck with the freelance work and make sure to link to it when you can so we can find it and support it.

  3. TominAlbany

    I’ve missed you writing, certainly. But, do what you gotta do to feed everyone. That comes first. I’ll be patient.

  4. Quentin

    The irony of the present situation is that I have not been able to do group rides at all for a long time because the local rides tend to occur at the same time as various activities that my kids are involved in. Those activities are all now cancelled, so suddenly I am available to participate in something that I should not do. It’s possible the group rides will be going on hiatus soon anyway. So, my status quo of solo riding remains unchanged.

  5. Chris

    Ah man, was actually planning on doing my first Grasshopper before this hit! There are a number of reasons I couldn’t take part before. Oh well, this too will hopefully pass. This fear of respiratory infections is interesting for some of us who have pre-existing conditions are go through a dance with possible contagion every winter. In some ways, it’s nice to have people being worried about spreading this one, although I do wish it didn’t take something so serious to collectively knock us upside the head.

  6. Parker

    Good to see your writing again, and thanks for the reminder about immune systems. As for afternoon naps, many of we old guys look forward to them most days anyway. 🙂

  7. Author

    Interesting little local update: Sonoma County is issuing a shelter-in-place order today that takes effect at midnight. I believe that brings the total number of Bay Area counties with shelter-in-place to eight. Napa can’t be far behind.

    And Sonoma County has gone from two cases to seven, though one, a cruise ship passenger, has been transferred out of the county for medical care. That puts us ahead of the rate of double every three days.

    1. Author

      We can go out. We can go grocery shopping, to the hospital, that sort of thing. The movie theaters are closed. Restaurants are pick-up or delivery only. Some regional parks, like those in the East Bay (a huge chunk of land serving more than a million people) are closed. One explanation I saw was that any “park” (defined as being a place with facilities like a playground) is closed, but open spaces are still open. We are supposed to remain six feet from anyone when we are out, but when I was in Annadel yesterday, I saw four or five pairs of hikers and none of them were six feet apart. Fortunately, exercise is considered an “essential” activity, same as the grocery store or getting gas. The order will be in effect here until April 7.

  8. Michael Bell

    Hopefully the pairs of hikers you saw were out with spouses/partners. No need to be six feet from someone you share a bed with!

    Here in the midwest, the Little Five Hundred is cancelled. Indiana University basically sent the students on spring break and told them not to come back. We have a significant international student population, feel for those who will have no place to go.

    I work part time in a local bike shop. This week was busy with repairs, commuters and folks suddenly with time on their hands. Monday was my last day for awhile, I’m near the age/risk category and have elderly parents to worry about spreading things to. I’m also not a mechanic, meaning as things slow I’m not needed. Most folks were respectful Monday of the distancing thing, found myself subconsciously backing away from those that weren’t clued in. Of course heard those in the student age group talking about going to parties before flying home.

    Plan lots of rides and house/garden projects. Just made it through one of the hardest maple syrup seasons I’ve ever done. Didn’t get on a bike for 6 weeks, boiled for syrup about four weeks straight (anyone need syrup shipped to them?) I’m also part-time glass artist and landscaper, so I can work solo through this. Don’t expect I’ll be selling much art in the next few months though!

    1. Parker

      Yeah, the distancing thing provides a type of Rorschach test for people in low-risk groups. To what extent do they appreciate the well-being of people in high-risk groups?

      I lived in Connecticut before retirement, and developed a taste for maple syrup as well as respect for the patience required to produce it. Are you really interested in shipping some of yours? Would Padraig allow interested readers to communicate with you this way?

  9. Michael Bell

    @ Parker,

    I’d happily ship syrup, but looking at USPS Flat Rate, just shipping a bottle would cost as much as the syrup! I’d agree on the patience required to make syrup, I tell folks it’s the original “slow food”.

    @JohnK, yeah, think I’ll skip any singletrack for now. I don’t have skills or young bones!

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