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.

 

 

 

A busy week

It’s been a busy week:

  • Four medical appointments (endocrine system, eyes, teeth, skin), two indoor bike rides on Big Nellie, two outdoor bike rides on Little Nellie, a visit to the gym, five yoga sessions (on my own) (Did I mention I hate yoga.) A return to meditation after several months. One WABA event followed by a WABA happy hour. And Friday Coffee Club. Also, I stealthily bought Mrs. Rootchopper flowers for Valentines Day. And we went out to dinner.
  • I started doing yoga again because my body is a wreck. I suspect part of the reason it is a wreck is that I’ve gained about 20 pounds since last summer. My left knee, hip, lower back, and arm are all messed up. And very painful. My thighs feel like they are made out of concrete. So the yoga I am doing is very basic and emphasizes freedom of movement. My routine also includes PT exercises for iliotibial band syndrome (which I think may be behind the knee and hip pain) and runner’s calf stretches. I’ll give it another week before I go to my doctor and raise a white flag of surrender. The last thing I want to do is get on the medical hampster wheel again.

Next week promises to be busy as well.

  • A CT scan (as part of the endocrinology thing) on Monday at 7:30
  • A bike ride at 9:30 on Monday (I’ll probably miss the start because it’s in DC)
  • Breakfast with Mrs. Rootchopper at a diner on Thursday, an every other week thing.
  • The Hains Point 100/Bike DC 3rd Thursday happy hour. (This coincides with my friend Rachel’s trio playing at a local eatery. Sad face. Gonna miss it.)
  • Friday Coffee Club

I suppose I could be cavorting in Antarctica or Munich or some other far away land. But I’ll leave that to the young folk for now.

In a couple of weeks, the Crystal City Garage Bike Races begin. If you are in DC and want a cheap (i.e. free) night out, you should come.

 

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.

Ramblings on a Gloomy Saturday

  • My participation in a 60+ mile bike event today was dashed by an 18-inning epic World Series game. Yes, I watched the entire thing which didn’t come to an unsatisfactory end (the Saux lost) until 3:30 in the a of m. A few years ago I attended a Washington Nationals game that lasted 16 innings. I have to say that I was grateful that I didn’t have to ride 15+ miles home after last night’s affair.
  • I actually woke up on time to go to the 9:30 start but the combination of feeling bleery, the cold, rainy weather and the ache in my lower back convinced me that crawling back in bed was a better way to spend my day. I did download the cue sheet so maybe I can ride it someday during the coming week.
  • Yesterday, I rode to Friday Coffee Club in DC. After starting small the gathering grew to about 8 or 9 people. Somebody took a group picture. I had my mouth full of muffin. I look like a deranged chipmunk.
  • Most of the gang left leaving me talking, I kid you not, to two men named Poncho and Bones. Cowboys? Bank robbers? Drug runners? The left side of a athletic yet inept infield? Nope. Just Frank and Steve, an attorney recruiter and a computer scientist. So boooring!
  • I am getting kind of depressed by the low angle of the sun and the shortness of daylight. I left for Friday Coffee Club in predawn blackness. I waited until I was 6 1/2 miles from home to take a sunrise picture. sunrise 102618
  • For you politics junkies, as I took this picture I had my back to the condominium that was once home to Paul Manafort. I think he’s still in the pokey.
  • Tomorrow morning I am riding to Crystal City to watch the Marine Corps Marathon. A friend of my daughter is running. It will be her first. Go Marien!

The Incompetent Coffeeneur Rides Again

The Coffeeneuring event is up an running again thanks to Mary’s tireless dedication to destroying my central nervous system with gallons of caffeine.

Of course, I wasn’t really paying attention so I accidentally coffeeneured (is it a verb?) today by riding 30 round trip miles to Swing’s House of Jitters in DC to see my peeps at Friday Coffee Club.

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Did I mention we went from 80s and muggy to windy and 55 overnight here in DC? I had on tights and two shirts (one with long sleeves) and I still froze. I have to admit it felt pretty terrific.

I rode into town in the pitch dark and slalomed around scores of limbs downed by the overnight passing of the remnants of hurricane Michael. In Jones Point Park I dismounted to try to remove a small tree that had landed across the trail. I didn’t bring my axe so rootchopping wasn’t in the cars so I snapped the top off to clear half the trail.

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At Swing’s I celebrated with an apple fritter along side my Nicaraguan brew. (Actually, as far as I know this coffee could have come from Dubuque. But it said “Nicaragua” on the urn so I’ll go with that.)

The brew and the fritter put my heart and pancreas into overdrive. On the way home I stopped at the gym to lift weights. You wouldn’t like me when I’m mangry.

So ends my first day of coffeeneuring. I am coffeeneuring again tomorrow because my friend Susana wants me to tell her all the things about my Any Road bike tour.

The Coffeeneuring rules say that I can’t count Friday Coffee Club again. And, despite tomorrow’s coffee meet up, I don’t normally drink coffee anywhere else but home. Therefore, I’ll probably fail to successfully complete the challenge and qualify for the Golden Coffee Urn or other fabulous prizes.

Now if I could only get to sleep….

Rainy Friday, Worth the Ride

Rain. Cold rain. On a Friday morning when most retirees stay in bed. I got up and hit the road a little after 6:30. The rain, blown by a northeast headwind, spit on my face. And I rode. I arrived at Friday Coffee Club (yes, we capitalize it) around 8. The crowd was predictably small, given the crummy weather: Ed, Ricky, Andrea, Jeff, and a player to be named later. (Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.) Ed and Andrea were discussing a 400 kilometer randoneuring event they are participating in tomorrow. (Ed is riding. Andrea is volunteering.) That’s 248 miles (plus 5 because the course designer is a sadist.) In one day or so. I can’t even.

Ed brought a lightly used Brooks Flyer saddle with fancy copper rivets. I bought it from him for my tour. It has lots of room for tension adjustments. My tush should be a happy camper.

After Andrea, Ricky, and the PTBNL left, Ultrarunnergirl made her first appearance of 2018. Yay! I haven’t seen my biking-hiking-baseball-flaming drinks buddy in a very long time. Hugs and smiles. She took the bus because she is nursing a messed up hip. We must get her well for future adventures.

After I left FCC, I rode to the gym and went all Hulk for 40 minutes. Next, I did 20 minutes of physical therapy at home. Then, I went to an acupuncturist down the street.

I had a hard time tuning my ears to my acupuncturist’s heavy Korean accent but with some forbearabce, we managed to get the gist of my problem understood. He examined my tongue and poked various parts of my body. Mostly this was painless, but a couple of pokes in my feet caused sharp pain. (A similar discomfort shortened a Thai massage a few years ago.)

As I lay on my back, He pinned me in my upper left arm and at various other points all over my body. After about 15 minutes, he flipped me over and repeated the process. Acupuncture is rather hocus pocus to me but I have had success with it in the past. I have to say that my arm does feel better this evening. I’ll wait a day or two before declaring the trip a success.

At the end of the appointment, he placed small stickers on spots on my hands. This mark points that I should prod and massage to help my shoulder heal.

When I got home I ordered two new maps from Adventure Cycling. Over coffee, Ed has made the road west out of Missoula sound like bicycle heaven. He said there is a 90 mile gradual downhill that follows a river through the mountains. I stumbled across a blog online that described the shortcut to the Cascades in less than glowing terms. I will use the maps to work out itineraries for both routes.

One of the maps contains a small surprise, a short cut to Missoula from the east. I’ll have to give that a closer look at that. (It probably involves a climb of horrific proportions.)

I think the only way to properly plan for this trip is to go with the flow and see how I feel when I get to Montana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Double Header in Shorts

Spring finally arrived for a few days on Friday. It was shorts weather at the break of dawn so I rode to DC to attend Friday Coffee Club properly attired. The ride featured a warm tailwind, the best kind. Little Nellie’s wee wheels were rolling just fine.

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@edbikes’s apple fritter and coffee

After hanging out with the cool kids at Swings House of Caffeine, I headed back home. Of course, I took another walking lap around the Tidal Basin and a spin down to Hains Point to absorb all the cherry blossom goodness.

Inebriated on all the pinky whiteness, I rode home into the aforementioned wind which was decidedly less than joyous but I had shorts on and I didn’t care.

After a few hours at home, I rode back to DC for some baseball watching. My route back glanced off the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin again. (If you don’t do cherry blossoms and bald eagles, you might as well not live around here.)

I met Kevin U. at The Wharf, DC’s newest, absurdly overdone development on the water. What it replaced was utterly forgettable, but the excess of this place is just inane. Kevin and I ran into Ted and his mother and her friend Bert. I think this is the first time I have seen Ted without cycling clothes on. Now that I think of it, it may be his mom’s first time seeing him with cycling clothes on too.

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I parked Little Nellie in here. It’s the best thing ever.

Kevin and I walked to the ballpark. He wouldn’t accept payment for the seat he gave me so we agreed that I would buy him some nachos. At the nacho booth, the server was being a bit stingy with the portions in the chicken nachos for the customer in front of us. The server’s co-worker started kidding her about it. Then I got into the act as a joke. Stingy server moved down the line of ingredients and Co-worker waited on me. The co-worker put his finger to his lips to keep me quiet as he made a HUMONGOUS bowl of chicken nachos for Kevin. We all had a good laugh when Kevin hefted the thing.

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Here’s Kevin, slim and trim before eating his nachos
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The Nacho Bomb: Kevin’s gonna need bigger pants

Back at our seats I pulled out my food from home and Kevin dove into his nachos. In the spirit of the thing, he did his best to eat as much as he could but it was a titanic calorie bomb. I brought a glove to catch foul balls (our seats were down the first-base line). Good thing too, because the nachos had rendered Kevin immobile.

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The view from our seats. Note the nets put up to protect fans during batting practice. They take them down for the game.
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I brought my son’s glove for protection. Note that it is an ARod model. As a former resident of Boston, I felt a sense of intestinal distress putting it on.

The game was a bit of a yawner. The Nats played poorly and lost 2-1. During a pitching change, the stadium played some dance music and hidden cameras panned the stands for people dancing. A woman in the row behind me was dancing up a storm. That’s how I, standing with my arms crossed looking bored, ended up on the Jumbotron. (It was my second time on the big screen. The previous time was under similar circumstances as the cameras spotted the large couple in front of me wearing Virginia Tech clothing on Virginia Tech Day.)

Well, I didn’t catch a foul ball, but Kevin and I had a good time. Kevin’s gastroenterologist, however, will probably not be amused.

As always, my favorite part of riding to night games is the ride home in the dark. Even the headwind didn’t spoil the fun. I made it home at midnight.

I awoke late on Saturday. At 10:30 a.m. I found out that the Nats were playing at 1 p.m. I could go! Sadly, I was too pooped to pedal. Double headers are hard.

My thanks to Kevin for a fun evening.

 

Errandonnee: An Alarming Finish

With warm air and a strong tailwind, I rode to DC for my final errand. Along the way, I watched three raptors fighting above the Belle Haven eagle nest. Crazy.

It’s Friday and that means Friday Coffee Club. And it’s the season opener for the Washington Nationals. Woot!

Errand No. 12: Social – Friday Coffee Club

Destination: Swings House of Caffeine, 17th and G Streets NW

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Fire Alarm Coffee Club

Observation: When I got to Swings a fire alarm went off. And all the coffee people came outside. I felt like an arriving celebrity. The alarm stopped. I ordered coffee and a muffin and a second alarm went off. So out we went into the wonderfully warm weather. Again. We finally got back inside for good though.

The ride home was into that wind that was so kind to me on the way in. Both coming and going I passed the peripatetic Joe Flood who was out searching for cherry blossoms. (He found a few.) I stopped at the gym for Andrea’s secret sauce (weight training). She’s doing a 200K randonnee event tomorrow. Go girl.

And so that’s a wrap on my Errandonnee for 2018. Eagles and garage bike races and coffee with friends and physical therapy and Italian subs and gyms and stores. It was fun. Special thanks to Mary for running this crazy event again.

 

 

Errandonnnee Lift Off

The 2018 Errandonnee is underway and so am I. After cowering in fear of ice for a couple of days, I got my errandonee going with four errands in one day. I covered 34 1/2 miles in the process.

Errand No. 1: Social Call

Destination: Swings for Friday Coffee Club

Observation: I got up and left the house well before dawn, took the inland route (which takes about 10 minutes longer than the Mount Vernon Trail) to avoid ice, and rode 15 miles into a cold headwind for hot coffee and a muffin. And friends. Totally worth it. Also, Ricky brought pound cake left over from his birthday. He is so old he wears a winter hat indoors.

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Errand No. 2: Store

Destination: REI in DC

Observations: There was a 20 percent off sale and two of my three pairs of rain pants are kaput. So I bought a second pair of Showers Pass Elite pants. Love them. Also, the store is in the building that housed the first US Beatles concert. And to think I am just 54 years and a month late. Also, thanks to Jeff Wetzel for giving me directions from Friday Coffee Club to REI. He threw in a tail wind too.

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Errand No. 3: Personal Care

Destination: Mount Vernon Recreation Center

Observation: Last week, my physical therapist told me to lift less weight and to lift it sloooowly. It works better than lifting lots of weight and there’s less chance of getting hurt.

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Errand No. 4: Personal Business

Destination: Sherwood Hall Gourmet

Observation: This deli is about 1/2 mile from home. I could have eaten at home but their sandwiches are good and I get to support a local business. I had a Gary’s Lunchbox, chips, and a Diet Pepsi. Lunch of champions.

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As is usually the case, the Errandonnee comes at a time when my easy errands are hard to come by. I don’t work any more, I don’t have any physical therapy or doctor’s appointments, and I am probably skipping a volunteer opportunity this week so I can attend the Crystal City garage bike races.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.)
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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.