B-b-b-b-bike C-c-c-commuting, Ow!

It somehow seems unfair that global climate change would bring about vast changes in weather patterns that result in me having to bike commute in blustery 20 degree weather before Thanksgiving. After all, climate change is all about MEEE!

Out of bed and on the floor. Back exercises as usual. I had my full range of motion. I mixed in some yoga stretches. (I recently saw some pictures of yogis doing basic balancing poses. I can’t balance a check book. Not gonna happen.)  When I was done my back felt normal.

I was ready for the worst the weather gods could throw my way. Here’s what I wore:

Torso: Base layer + t-shirt + holey wool sweater + Marmot Precip jacket

Legs: Decade old mountain bike shorts + wool blend socks to just below the knee + Marmot Precip pants

Feet: Wool blend socks + Lake Mountain bike shoes + Performance fleece lined over boots

Head: Neck gaiter + watch cap

Hands: new performance lobster gloves

Bike commuting in the cold is easy as pie if you have the right clothing. I’ve accumulated all sorts of stuff over the last 10 or 15 years. Admittedly I am a fashion disaster but I’d rather be comfy than chic.

After about a mile I was toasty. My finger tips were cold on and off throughout the ride but I could wiggle them to warm them up. The rest of me was fine.

My over boots have a solid rubber bottom that keeps my feet dry when I walk into my backyard to get my bike when the grass is wet. I don’t want to cut them so that my cleats will show through so I rode The Mule which has platform pedals and rat traps.

I was cruising along fine. The Mount Vernon Trail was all but unoccupied. Near National Airport I came down a slight decline and there is was: ICE. Eek! I froze, figuratively, stood on my pedals, and glided over the 20-yard-long patch. I didn’t slide a bit. Yay, me.

Around Gravelly Point I was hit with a strong headwind all the way to Rosslyn. I started grinding away. This was not a good idea. I made it to work, locked up my bike, and headed to the fitness center. I sat down on a bench, stood up, and my back went out.


Fuck me.

All day I was stretching my legs and swaying like I was at an Elbow concert trying to free my back up. All day the spasm came and went, turning my back into a Z from time to time.

I could call the wife or the boy for a ride home but that would mean surrender. Not gonna do it.

My co-worker Kelly gave me a sense of how cold it was outside. When people dress like this, it’s cold.



And, of course, I rode home. It was actually pretty comfortable. The idea of dismounting wasn’t very appealing. I saw a half dozen ninjas along my journey home. A couple were dressed entirely in black. What the hell are these idiots thinking. One man came out of a porta potty at Gravelly Point dressed from the hat on his head to his shoes in black. I yelled as I passed “I can’t see you.” I yelled this at everyone else. I passed a cyclist heading in my direction. No lights. The only reflectors were on his pedals. I wanted to stop and give him the blinky lights that Pete Beers had given me at Friday Coffee Club. This, however, would have meant dismounting. And dismounting wasn’t going to happen.

For about five miles my fingers were cold but somehow they warmed up and stayed warm. A few bumps along the way sent shocks through my back but for 95 percent of the ride I was spinning slowly in comfort. Go figure.

After I arrived at home I did what everyone with back spasms does. I dropped things. My glove. My camera. My glasses case. Ugh.

I ended my day popping muscle relaxants and applying ice to my back. Ahhh. Oh, and I packed for my bike commute tomorrow. I’m either and optimist or a fool.


Back Out, Day 16: Nearly There

I kept to my new program. Morning stretching. Short walks every hour. An unintentionally long walk (where the heck is that bank?) at lunch. Fifty-six minutes of easy pedaling on Big Nellie in the basement.

I am nearly there. The bad: My left calf is really tight. My back stiffens up whenever I sit. Reaching high is not a lot of fun. The good: I can feel my legs getting stronger, probably the result of getting normal range of motion and mechanics back. 

During the day, my friend Charmaine suggested that we do a series of rides down in coastal North Carolina in early April. I do believe I’m going to give it a go. I’ll wait a couple of days so as not to jinx my back.

Since I have a dermatology appointment tomorrow, I will drive to work, passing up what is sure to be a 60-degree bike commute. My fingers are crossed that my skin biopsy is clear. Otherwise they’ll have to cut the little bastard off my head. Which raises the question, if it might be cancer, why not cut it off at the start, then do the tests? 

Speaking of cancer, I just finished reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It’ a teen novel about kids with cancer. It’s pretty heavy for a kid’s book and pretty damned brilliant. 

It’s hard to get down about 2+ weeks of back spasms after reading it. 

Back Out, Day 15: A Walk in the Park

I should be better by now.

I am not better.

I am less worse.

I woke up pain free. Back stiffness set in within minutes. 

After a morning of hanging out, I drove (that alone is rather telling) to Fort Hunt Park, three miles from home. As I got out of the car, my back and legs felt fine. I walked the park circuit road, 1 1/4 miles, three times. After about 2 miles I felt like I was climbing stairs. My limp was much less pronounced today. I didn’t have pain in my hips or my lower back as long as I kept moving. Still I felt tired. Walking is exhausting when you have to fight for  a smooth gait.

I stopped to stretch out my iliotibial band. Resuming, I made it to the car at 2 1/2 miles, stopped to stretch the ITB again, then set out for lap three. A man on a bike flew past me. Envy.

I had to stop one more time to stretch but made it back to the car feeling not half bad. 

I rewarded myself with a Gary’s Lunchbox sammich at Sherwood Hall Gourmet, a deli near home.

After lunch and some more lazing about, I did 1 hour and 20 minutes of easy pedaling on Big Nellie in the basement. I felt fine the entire time. Getting off the bike, however, I felt the tightness in my left leg again. And my right foot went into a cramp, my toes curling as I stood.

Still, it was a day of some progress. I am hoping to be back to the bike commute in time for Friday Coffee Club. Unfortunately, I still have some unresolved items on my to-do list. New tires for one car, an inspection and minor repairs to another, and minor surgery on my finger. Hopefully, all of that will be behind me by mid March. 

By then I hope to be more better.