Getting Back in Shape

My body has had a tough winter. For a few weeks I was really falling apart. I couldn’t stand up straight. I walked with a pronounced limp with pain in my left knee and hip.

Setting Aside Little Nellie

It occurred to me that my back pain was probably caused by the impact shocks I get while riding Little Nellie. Those little wheels don’t absorb much of the hit from countless tree roots on the Mount Vernon Trail. (The National Park Service is starved for money and their maintenance has really gone south in the last two or three years.)

I switched first to The Mule, then to my Cross Check, both of which have normal sized wheels (700c x 35 for the bike nerds). My back responded almost instantly to the softer ride on The Mule. When I switched the Cross Check some new back and knee problems cropped up. I re-measured the seat height and the distance from the saddle to the handlebars. The seat was about 1/2 inch higher than The Mule’s. After I adjusted it, I took off. The Cross Check’s bigger gears were just what my legs needed. I feel like my old self again.

I rode it to Friday Coffee Club today. The strong, persistent tailwind made me feel like a bike god. The ride home was a bit challenging but I actually enjoyed fighting the wind. I am back to my old commuting mileages. My last 8 days were: 30, 23.5, 45.5, 28, 31, 32, 32, and 30 miles (252 total). A couple more weeks like that should put me in decent touring shape.

Cross Check at Dyke Marsh
The Cross Check at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail

 

Working Out Off the Bike

I am also doing on alternate days: yoga, weight lifting, and physical therapy exercises including some with a foam roller. I don’t much care for any of these but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Shopping

My pre-tour shopping spree has begun. I’ve bought mountain bike shorts, glasses (clear and polarized, both progressive for map reading while on the bike), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, Croakies, Koolstop brake pads, and a combination lock. (I am trading off weight for some security but I can’t recall ever having someone try to steal The Mule while on tour.)

The other night I attended a presentation by Jim Sayer, the Executive Director of  Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling makes the maps that I use. Jim’s presentation really helped get my head back in the game. Jim talked up La Route Verte, the bike touring network in Quebec. This is definitely going on my to do list. The website is amazing. (And it’s in both English and French, of course.) I need to do a key word search for “black flies” though.

And just to add to the preparations, spring arrived in DC. It may be temporary but two 70 degree days are just the tonic. I rode in shorts and a t-shirt today and it was bliss.

 

 

 

We interrupt this winter…

I rode 32 miles today. In shorts. It was 70 degrees F during the ride.

I’ll take it.

Oh, and this happened.

CC11000

My Cross Check went all Nigel Tufnel and turned 11.

Time to put this bike away for a while and switch to one of the others.

Tonight was the State of the Union Address. No mention was made of the most important event on the horizon: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a week.

 

 

Sunrise and Coffee

Only a complete idiot would get up before dawn and ride 15 cold miles for a cup of coffee. Yep, I’m your man.

Friday Coffee Club is my excuse for getting my ass in gear once a week. It’s also my excuse for a nap about five hours later.

I was unable to locate the battery for The handlebar bag on The Mule obstructs a handlebar mounted light so I pulled my CrossCheck down off its hook, slapped a headlight on its handlebars and rode off into the cold and dark.

I made it to the Duke Marsh bridge and was happy to see no ice on the boards. I stopped to check out the predawn light over the Potomac.

The ride to DC featured a headwind but I didn’t much mind because my legs were feeling strong after taking yesterday off.

Friday Coffee Club was in fine form. Ricky brought some homemade pumpkin banana chocolate chip bread. Poncho sported his new merino wool Phoenix Bikes jersey. Joe showed off his new screaming yellow jersey. Steve O describes his icky sinus surgery (I had to ask!). Andrea described how to tell male baked goods from female baked goods.

Fellerino checked his batwatch. It said rain was approaching so I headed for home. Of course, I got caught in the rain but the tailwind more than made up for the dampness.

Nap time beckons.

Willis Carrier is a god

It’s not the heat. It’s not the humidity. It’s BOTH.

I have been trying to adapt to the heat and humidity here in DC for the last month. I was totally spoiled by warm, dry days in the Pacific northwest for the better part of a month.

Yesterday, I decided to get my yayas out and did a ride I do every year. It’s the Whites Ferry century. I leave from my house and ride to Whites Ferry Maryland about 35 miles up the C&O Canal then take a cable ferry across the Potomac River. I pick up the W&OD trail in Lessburg Virginia and ride home. It’s flat but the 33 miles on the C&O towpath are unpaved. This means you use the same muscles for the entire ride.

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant, mountain, outdoor, nature and water

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

When I left it was actually comfortably warm outside. Withing two hours the heat and humidity increased. By the time I left the shade along the canal, I could tell it was getting mighty uncomfortable. I stopped in Leesburg to have lunch in an air conditioned bar, opting for Diet Coke over beer. The bartender must have refilled my glass ten times. Well, done, my good man.

I was pretty much gassed after 90 miles but made it home on fumes. 101 miles in total.

Today’s plan was to mow the lawn, then work on my bikes (including cleaning off the towpath dirt off my CrossCheck). I walked out the front door and it felt as if I were hit by a hot, wet towel. I hadn’t mowed half the lawn and my clothes were drenched with sweat. It only took a little over and hour but I looked like I had jumped in a swimming pool when I was done. I wish!

I gave up on the idea of doing work on the bikes. Suffice it to say that Willis Carrier is my favorite inventor.

In a few hours I was in a movie theater watching “Juliet, Naked”. No it’s not a porno. It’s based on the novel of the same name by one of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby. I ate all the salted pop corn and drank a “regular” soda. (Regular means a quart these days, apparently.) The movie was shown in a new theater with comfy seats. Bliss.

I lived my first 28 years in the northeast. Up there you go to the movies in the daytime when it’s too cold or nasty to do anything outside. DC stands the year on its head.

With a day off the bike today, I should have fresh legs tomorrow. I’m driving to central Virginia to do a 62 mile ride on a rail trail. The heat index (what it supposedly feels like) will be over 100 degrees.

Willis, whatchu talkin’ about.

Marching to Recovery

As my body heals from the blood clots that invaded my lungs, I find myself getting stronger by the day. In fact, I feel stronger now on the bike than I did at the end of my tour or, for that matter, at any time in the last three or four years.

Some of this is from working out on a daily basis, either at the gym or doing physical therapy exercises. Some of this may be from the fact that, while I am on blood thinners, I can’t drink alcohol. Some of this may be the result of the recent tweak to my saddle position on my Cross Check. Or maybe it’s just the warmer weather. Or my the lower dose of my asthma medication. Or maybe it’s the anabolic steroids I sprinkle on my Cheerios in the morning. Whatever it is, I’m crushing it on the bike.

In the last seven days, I rode 240 miles, including a 57 mile day followed by a 41 mile day. I feel like I can go forever and climb any hill. And I am riding about two miles per hour faster than I did last fall.

For the month of March I rode 750.5 miles, 24 miles per day. I took four days off. On the one of those two days, I did a six mile hike. On another I stood on concrete for 5 hours at the March for Our Lives in DC.

So far this year I’ve ridden 1954.5 miles, about 80 percent of it on my Cross Check. I have ridden 281 miles on Big Nellie in the basement, just to make sure I didn’t crash on icy streets.

And I completed the Errandonnee.

And I did two interviews with the local newspaper. The first was about plans for a new bike trail in our area. (The article is on page 3.) The second one, which happened yesterday, was about my bike trip to Key West.

April has lots of fun in store, including the first event ride of the year, my first ride to a Washington Nationals baseball game, a visit to my pulmonologist, and (I hope) finalizing plans for my summer bike tour to the west coast.

Errandonnee: Fixing My Bike and My Body

Yesterday, I tweaked the tension on the leather saddle on my Cross Check. After getting the swale out of it, I measured Little Nellie’s saddle for height and distance from the handlebars. I applied these measurements to the Cross Check saddle position. I moved it up and back about 1/2 centimeter each.

I’ve been doing physical therapy to get rid of pain in my left shoulder and upper arm. I had no appointments this week because my therapist was booked solid. Someone canceled and I took the 2:30 slot. I rode about five miles beyond the therapist just to try out the new arrangement on my Cross Check. Verdict: perfect.

Errand No. 9: Other

Destination: The Jackson Clinic in Old Town Alexandria (next to the Sport and Health fitness center)

Observation: It never ceases to amaze me how seemingly tiny adjustments to a bicycle saddle can take a bike from pain to pleasure.

IMG_0946

Not My Kind of Day

I feel like bitching and moaning.

  • I went to my physical therapy appointment today. For the better part of a month I’ve been rehabbing a nerve problem in my left shoulder and arm. I’ve now gone to nine appointments. I have nearly all my range of motion back but it still hurts when the arm and shoulder bear weight or move in certain ways. Thursday is my last appointment. I think it’s time to try acupuncture again. At least I got a big foam roller that makes my back feel great out of the deal.
  • Today is the first day of the 2018 Errandonnee contest. It was cold and rainy with the possibility of ice accumulation here in the DC area. I can’t risk falling while on blood thinners so I had to forgo riding to physical therapy and lunch which would have easily knocked off two of my twelve errands. We are getting a freak snow storm tomorrow so that knocks that day out as well. And Saturday is out because I am going to a march in DC with Mrs. RC. So I am down to nine days, at most, to complete my 12 errands. I rode Big Nellie in the basement just to keep sane.

No automatic alt text available.

  • A few weeks ago I ordered a new rear wheel, hub, and chain for Little Nellie from the manufacturer, Bike Friday, in Oregon. I have been waiting weeks for this to get here. It took them a week to get around to building the wheel. Only then did they discover that they didn’t have the cassette I ordered in stock. So I had to wait for that to arrive at their shop. So it finally came today. Yay! When I opened the box and pulled out the wheel, I decided to mount a tube and tire to it and get the bike back on the road. Only then did I discover that Schrader tire valve wouldn’t fit through the hole in the wheel rim. This is a first for me in over 40 years of bike riding as an adult. They drilled the rim hole to accept narrower, presta valves which are not readily available on small (406) tubes. When I called them, they suggested I take it to a bike shop and have the hole drilled out. Really? Now I wish I had had the wheel made locally in the first place. Anyway, I told them to ship me three presta valved tubes instead. (They’ll work fine on my old front wheel which has a Schrader sized hole.)
  • My Cross Check and I are not getting along. When I got back from my bike tour on The Mule, the Cross Check didn’t feel right. I was sliding forward on my saddle. So I tilted the nose of the saddle up a couple of weeks ago. My mechanics instantly improved. Unfortunately, after a 51 mile ride, my back started to ache like mad. So I tilted it back and rode 23 miles. No back pain. Go figure. After that ride, I moved the saddle forward just a bit in the hopes of getting the better mechanics back. I’ll fiddle and diddle with it some more over the next couple of weeks. One annoying thing about this bike is that tilting the saddle is very hard to do, much harder on my Bike Friday or The Mule. I actually need a hammer to free up the metal cradle that the seat hardware sits in.
  • Some bike tourists from Arlington are riding north from Jacksonville this week. The plan is to ride all the way to DC. They are riding along the coast, generally following the East Coast Greenway. They report that riding US 17 is not a lot of fun, but they are making good progress. Unfortunately today is crummy weather in South Carolina.

Hoops, Sleep, Bike to DC, Bike Home, Nap, Repeat

The last couple of days have been killers. Our daughter’s college team is playing in an NCAA conference tournament. My wife and I watched the games. When I met my wife I was a very mellow marathon runner. Once I got behind the wheel of a car I became a raging maniac. She’s pretty much the same when watching college basketball. Her reactions to the game are as much fun as the game itself.

The games ended around 11:30 p.m. The morning after the first game, I got up before 6 a.m., skipped breakfast, and rode into a cold wind to Friday Coffee Club. It was worth it. Swings House of Caffeine once again has apple fritters. At 9 a.m. the festivities ended and I got to participate in the roll out. The remaining east bound club members ride across the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza in front of the White House then disburse to their homes and jobs. I think this was only my second roll out because I went west to my office after coffee.

I headed for home. I waited at Constitution Avenue at a red light. The Washington Monument stood to my right, encircled by flags on flag poles. All the flags were pointing straight out. Fortunately, they were pointing in my direction of travel. I still had to cross the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge. Long story short, I froze my ass off.

The 12 miles to home were blissfully wind aided.

I ate breakfast and took a nap.

Friday night I stayed up late again to watch Mrs. Rootchopper’s team get eliminated. This morning I awoke before 6, skipped breakfast again, and headed back to DC. This time I had a tailwind going to the city. I stopped at the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail to renew my tradition of taking pictures of the early morning sun.

IMG_0894

My Cross Check jumped into the picture.

I arrived at the start of the Rock N Roll Half Marathon. This was on Constitution Avenue from about 14th Street to 9th Street. There were so many people that I couldn’t possibly find anyone I knew. I decided to find a good point on the course to view the runners.

I picked 18th and C Streets NW.  The streets were closed to cars and it was early so getting around was simple. I stood on the corner where the runners turned west off of 18th onto C. And watched.

The lead runners were incredibly fast. These folk were not messing around. Then the field became more and more crowded. I kept looking for my friends Ursula and Grace. And looking. And looking. Trying to find someone in a crowd like this brings on a kind of runner’s blindness, akin to snow blindness. Your brain just can’t process this much visual information.

Then I realized that a runner was coming right toward me. It was Ursula. She was just a few feet in front of me before I recognized her. I flinched when she gave me a high five (it’s her thing) because my hand was frozen. Right behind her was her co-worker Doug.  Another feeble high five. And they were away. I managed to get their picture from behind. (She’s got a fanny pack on. Doug is to her right.)
DSCN6031

I waited for Grace but I never saw her. On to Adams Morgan I rode, straight north on 18th Street.

I parked myself in the sun and waited as the runners turned from Calvert Street to go east on Columbia Road. It was still very cold, pretty much perfect for the runners. They were about a mile from running up the killer Calvert Street hill out of Rock Creek Park. Most of them had recovered, but Columbia Road was itself a bit of an incline.

Just as I began to get runner blindness again, I spotted Ursula. Yes! Then I accidentally shut off my camera. No! At least I got another high five. This time we made solid contact. Dang, it hurt. My hand was beet red.

I waited some more for Grace. She tweeted a description of her outfit (at my suggestion) so that her friends could pick her out of the crowd. I pulled out my phone to check the description and Twitter locked up on me. All I remembered from the tweet was that she was wearing gray tights (like a third of the field). Fortunately, Grace has red hair and tons of freckles. (I did too when I was a kid, so she gets bonus points in my book.)

And, sure enough, here she was. Her hair was pulled back and she wasn’t wearing glasses but she was easy to spot. And she was moving pretty fast despite the hill.

After she passed I rode across town to intercept the race again. This time I had to make my way through traffic jams. Drivers were now out and about and they were not happy to be hemmed in my street closures.

I made it to North Capitol Street. The runners were running south using the underpass to avoid New York Avenue. I had to use the side road and got stuck at a traffic light that lasted over a minute. I think the delay cost me a third shot at seeing Ursula. I set up camp at where the course turns east on K Street NE.

In just a few minutes Grace came cruising by. All smiles. She flashed a peace sign as she passed.

Grace Pooley

I turned and headed for the finish. This took much longer than I thought. At one point, on Capitol Hill I turned left where a police car was blocking off the road. My focus was in the distance and I didn’t see the yellow police tape strung across the road. I broke the tape with my helmet and apologized to the cop. He thought it was pretty funny and waved me on.

At the finish the runners were joined by family and friends. There was no hope of meeting up with anyone I knew so I decided to ride home.

By this time, I had come to realize that skipping breakfast was not the smartest move I could have made this morning. After I crossed the river, I had to contend with a strong headwind for the next 12 miles. Like yesterday, I had worn hiking boots instead of proper cycling shoes. The added quarter of an inch of sole made my knees very unhappy.

I pulled into home and ate all the things. The three cups of hot coffee could not have tasted better.

I had ridden 70 cold, windy miles in hiking boots on about 11 hours of sleep over two days. The coffee had no effect. I listened to my body and took a long nap on my bed in the warm afternoon sun.

 

February Bikabout

I expected to wake up sore and tired after yesterday’s combo of long bike ride, weight lifting, and physical therapy. Nope. I felt fine. So after breakfast I dropped off the car at a mechanic and walked two miles back home. I still felt fine so I filled up my tank with calories galore and headed out on the Cross Check. I wore shorts and a t-shirt because it’s February. And the temperature was already in the mid-60s at 10 a.m.

Crazy.

I rode bike trails 23 miles to Bethesda where I checked out Modern Market, a shop for which I have three gift cards. The place looked pretty good but my tummy was still holding the calories from back home so I headed back home the way I came.

The ride from Bethesda to Georgetown is a gentle downhill. This pretty much negated the effect of the stiff headwind. Once back to the river I had to fight the wind for about 12 miles. I I would have complained but it was well over 70 degrees.

I tacked on a few miles in the neighborhoods near home for an even 50 miles. The 98.5 miles over the last two days is by far the most I’ve ridden since the end of my bike tour in Florida back in October. Take that blood clots!

Oh, and, speaking of my medical misadventures, I just received a call from my endocrinologist. The lab tests say that the adenoma on my adrenal gland is innocuous. That’s one medical specialist I don’t have to see again.

And the foam roller arrived so that I can do my physical therapy exercises properly at home. The therapy is for rehabbing my shoulder but lying on this foam roller makes my back feel amazing.

DSCN6027
The Potomac River at the Kennedy Center with Theodore Roosevelt Island on the right.
DSCN6026
A depressing sign on the Capital Crescent Trail near the Potomac River.
DSCN6025
In the center rear of this picture was once a building with a tunnel through which the Georgetown Branch Trail passed.
DSCN6024
Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail.
DSCN6023
It’s Wednesday so I had to wear my WABA socks. These legs haven’t seen sunlight in months.