Of Wovels and Snowshoes

It’s Presidents Day, the holiday we really don’t much need but are stuck with. We had Christmas, New Years, MLK, and Presidents Day in quick succession then bupkiss. Who’s in charge of this calendar really? The long march to Memorial Day begins. Thank god baseball starts up in a month or so. Hell, I’d swap one of these holidays for opening day in a heart beat.

As luck would have it, we are having a cold spell combined with a winter storm. I think we had five or six inches here in Mount Vernon Virginia. It was just the right amount of snow for woveling. I woveled and shoveled for about 90 minutes this morning. The snow kept falling. The snowplows kept plowing my cars and driveway in. I kept woveling. I won.

After a late breakfast and some lying about I decided to drive to Fort Hunt Park for some snowshoeing. IT seemed awfully cold outside but once I put on my bike commuting gear I was perfectly comfortable.

When I arrived the park was empty except for a giant SUV doing donuts in one of the unplowed parking lots and a pickup truck plowing the park loop road.

I waved to the SUV people who were having a blast and headed off into the powder. Except for some cross country ski and critter tracks the snow was untouched. It was remarkably quiet too. Just me and my breath and the crunch of the snow under my snowshoes.

Breathe. Crunch. Breathe. Crunch.

I made a big circuit of the park.  Park of the park’s road system is blocked off so I checked it out. The snow was clinging to the trees. It looked like a giant donut baker had sprinkled powdered sugar on everything. So pretty.

The closed section of road comes back to the main loop road so I veered off down a path into the woods. I tried a steep section. I was stiff legging it, afraid I’d fall down despite the grippy teeth on the snowshoes. No problem. Sweet. Some of these trails are used by high school cross country runners so they are perfect for snowshoeing.

I was getting close to the GW Parkway. It was lightly traveled on this snowy day. I knew I was near a big bald eagle nest. I found two. One was in an evergreen tree. The greenery was only present at the top and the nest was just beneath. It didn’t look like the nest I have seen from the Mount Vernon Trail so I kept looking and soon found a nest made of large branches. This had to be it. (I managed to screw up the picture so you’ll have to take my word on it.) There were no eagle about so I kept slogging ahead.

After making it back to the main loop road I noticed something in a tree on the far side of the road. The underbrush kept me from getting close but it certainly looked to be the size of a bald eagle. It wasn’t moving though.

As I made my way back to the car, the snowplow came around the loop again. He slowed and waved to me. We were the only ones in the park.

Maybe Presidents Day isn’t so bad after all.

 

 

Snowday!

The government agency where I work usually operates when the rest of the federal government does not so I rarely get a snow day. Today, I got one. Yay me!

There was a power outage at work and the computer system crashed and there was no way for most people to get there so they just said “Fuggit. We’re closed.”

Works for me.

I set my alarm during the day on Sunday and forgot to unset it.

BEEP BEEP. 6 am you are so cruel.

I went back to sleep.

After waking I did my daily morning routine of back exercises and meditation. During the last three days, Mrs. RC and I shoveled out our neighbor’s driveway so we could park three of our cars there. (Two belong to our kids who are overseas. My wife drives her 12 year old Accord to work. My car is a driveway ornament.) A humongous pick up truck came and parked in the driveway. Oops. Later it was joined by an SUV. The drivers were remodeling the house. So I needed to make curb space to get our cars out of their way.

The snow plows had made a hard bank of snow about the width of a car on my side of the street. The bank was well over two feet deep. One shovel at a time, I cleared enough space for my kids’s subcompact cars. This took two hours. How the hell did I, a sixty year old, do this on top of about 9 hours of shoveling over the last three days?

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Nice day for a shovelfest, no?

I attribute my shoveling survival to two things. My back didn’t go out. And my heart kept pumping without red lining.

My back benefited from three exercises that I added to to my morning routine. Two are versions of a side plank. In one version, I hold myself up with one stiff arm to the floor while the other arm reaches for the ceiling. My trunk is perpendicular to the floor. I am careful not to mess up my shoulder muscles when I am doing this. I just stay in that position until it starts to become uncomfortable then I switch sides.

For the other version, I am in the same position but supporting myself on my forearm. I then dip my hip to the floor and raise it. Over and over. As I do this. I move my free arm down to the floor with my hip and point it up to the ceiling as my hip moves up. I do one set of ten dips on each side.

These exercises have given my lower back lateral stability. I learned these from my physical therapy sessions last winter but I am certain that these, like most PT exercises, is a variation on a yoga asana.

The third exercise is a bird dog. Again this is a PT exercise that is stolen from yoga. On your hands and knees reach one arm out and the opposite leg back. Tighten your belly. Hold it. You can sense your lower back decompressing. It really feels great. I do ten of these on each side.

(Yes, I know. I have said I hate yoga many times in the past. What I don’t like about it is the dedicated time commitment and the routine. I do yoga asanas for very specific purposes. The thought of doing yoga continuously for an hour makes me want to run screaming down the street.)

In the past, I only did crunches and similar exercises for my abdominal muscles. This was great until I twisted my torso under load. Then my back would go out. Twisting under load is what you do when batting in baseball, bowling, golfing, and shoveling snow. It is bad news for someone like me who has had a disc removed from his lower back.

My other survival strategy is riding a bike. (Running does the same thing. Actually better but my knees won’t go there anymore.) Once I get warmed up, my heart rate stabilizes and I can ride for hours at a conversational pace. The same holds for shoveling. In all those hours of shoveling I never once felt my heart racing. I just kept chugging along like I was riding my bike to work. The snow will be moved eventually. Just keep shoveling. Wax on. Wax off. Go with the flow.

According to my friend Rachel, who only cusses during snow crises, I shoveled several fucktons of snow this weekend. (Yes, I know at least two area women with masters degrees who use the term “fuckton.” Reason number 2,120 why I love DC.) My shoulders, neck and upper arms are sore. My lower back is fine. My lower arms are in good enough shape to fill and empty several glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon. Three ounce curls are therapeutic.

After my shoveling session, I finally put on my snowshoes and set about playing in the snow. This lasted for all of a quarter mile. The snow was not compacted enough to support my weight even on snowshoes. I kept sinking nearly a foot into the snow. My heart was racing as I powered my way forward. I fell twice, once when my shoe caught on something. Another time a snowshoe came off leaving me wallowing around in a snowbank like Tian Tian. Tian Tian looks cute. Me. not so much.

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The bunnies were doing much better than me

So I headed for home. Time to have a glass of wine and call it a day.

 

And They’re Off – Errandonnee 1 and 2

Last night I slept with Meryl Streep. My wife, daughter and I were watching DVDs. I made it through St. Vincent (excellent if depressing) and the first 15 minutes of August Osage County, then I was alone. The latter movie is populated by incredibly depressing characters, a bit like Thanksgiving at my parents house in 1991.  Meryl Streep was really a depressing pill popper with cancer. The movie was an actors dream. Look at me ACT!!!! Watch me sleep. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning. Alone. On the couch.

After three more hours of sleep in my bed, I woke up to my new Saturday morning ritual of physical therapy, yoga, and meditation. Basically, I am coming to the conclusion that I should pick one because doing all three is a bore fest.

I waited for the sun to warm things up a bit. Road conditions in Mount Vernon were pretty sketchy yesterday so I decided to forgo riding into Old Town. What could I do down near my place? Snow was on the ground. There is an Errandonnee category called “You carried what on a bike?” I put two and two together and:

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Off I rode on The Mule to Fort Hunt Park about three miles from home. I got there only to find that I couldn’t open my bike lock. Arg. I thought it was an old lock and it never occured to me that it was my newer lock which, of course, uses a different key.

I rode home and grabbed a cable lock and rode back to the park. By this point I had wasted about an hour and was hungry. I decided to give the snowshoeing a go anyway.

Joy. Love it. I found a path into the woods. I forded a wee creek. I went down a steep embankment. I clambered up a short hill. The temperature rose into the 40s. I made my way baIMG_20150307_141412ck to the bike ambling this way and that through the park.

I strapped the snowshoes to my bike and headed home. Realizing that I was now starving I headed to Sherwood Gourmet about three quarters of a mile from home for a sammich.

Along the way I made another discovery. All winter I have been riding in my old Lake mountain bike shoes and some fleece lined overboots. This combination is a pain to get on and off. Today, I used my hiking boots instead. I didn’t think they’d fit in my toe clips but they fit perfectly.

Errand No. 1: Saturday, March 7

Category: You Carried WHAT on Your Bike?

Miles: 11

Observation: Snowshoeing is addictive. Almost makes me sorry winter is going. Wait. That’s crazy talk.

Errand No. 2: Saturday, March 7

Category: Personal Care (I was hungry!!!!)

Miles: 1 1/2

Observation: I am officially a regular at Sherwood Gourmet. Gary’s Lunchbox sammich, kettle chips, tall Diet Pepsi.

Trifecta of Pain?

My body does not do change well. When I went snowshoeing the other day, it seemed fine while I was out and about, but my little excursion, only 1 1/2 miles, followed by woveling snow and slush gave me a sore iliotibial band at my left hip. The iliotibial band was invented by Satan to stabilize man’s outer thigh. It starts just above the point of the hip and extends to the tibia just below the knee. When it gets inflamed it is hard to calm and can cause serious pain.

So tonight I go for my first ever Thai massage. In keeping with my style I signed up for a two-hour session. yes, i am an idiot. Sam and Jeff, two #fridaycoffeeclub regulars, had Thai massages from the same therapist earlier this week. Sam loved it. Jeff liked some aspects but not others.

During Thai massage the client remains fully clothed. The massage therapist manipulates body parts and muscles using his/her body and forearms and such. It actually looks quite a lot like some of the manipulations my physical therapist does.

So I fully expect to be a little sore tomorrow. This is just as well because we are expecting snow overnight and I will likely be woveling again during the day. By something of a coincidence, I have a late morning physical therapy appointment.

So by about 1 pm tomorrow, I expect to be sore in places I didn’t know I had. This may make evaluating the Thai massage somewhat problematic. Stay tuned.