Starting Over Again, Again

Here it is the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, and today I took what can only be thought of as my first ride to get back into serious cycling shape.  In May sometimes all things can conspire against my cycling health:  we usually take our longest vacation trip during the month; commencements and festivities get into the picture; there is outside work to do that demands priority over bike trips.

All three of those came into play this month.  We were traveling to and in Bavaria for eleven days.  Student meetings, Georgetown University Commencement ceremonies, and related appointments robbed some prime time.  And the lawn demanded to be mowed; annuals had to be planned, purchased, and planted; mulching had to be completed, and the like.  In addition the weather was utterly uncooperative.  So many days threatened pop-up rain showers, or began dark, cool, and breezy and cleared only when it was too late to go out, and the like.  As usual we had no continuum of setttled, gradually warming spring days, but  went almost directly from harsh early spring to summer, with that unsettled rainy period in between.  It was great for the grass, our young lilac bush and the like, but otherwise harsh.

The net result is that I have ridden only six times all month, the sixth today.  I get only three more shots before it’s June.  Starting last Saturday I rode two days out of three.  This, I thought, would begin my process of rounding into shape.  Maintaining good judgment, I did not overcook these first two outings, but embraced the saying that “you have to go slow to go fast” so that I wouldn’t develop inflammation and aches.

Then I caught the cold.  This was a full-body, sinus and chest cold.  Luckily it’s been moving fast: one day of sore throat, one day of runny, stuffy nose, one day of lung congestion, one day of coughing up that congestion, and then today.  For four straight days I had been looking at great riding weather, but knowing I didn’t have the effective lung capacity of a pneumonia-ravaged squirrel.  Plus I felt lousy and lacking in energy and appetite.  On day two we had grilled steak, and I could not finish my medium-sized piece.  Anyone who knows me knows that means I was very ill.

Today dawned beautiful, sunny, semi-serene.  The breezes were a bit brisk from the SSE, but nothing was going to keep me from getting in a ride.  The ten-minute loud thunderstorm of last night that took out our power for the evening and kept me from knowing the result of the Bruins game until 3:08 a.m. (thanks again, Dominion Power) had left the air cool and clear, and off I went.  But again, I went slow so I could go fast later on.  On one level I went slow to check my lung capacity, my energy level, and the like.  But I also wanted not to inflame my knee or hip joints or over-stress my quads and calves.  They had gotten plenty of work walking the streets of Bavarian cities, but not exactly the same kind of work.  They ached sporadically from non-use.  It was a pleasant jaunt, given the strange combination of ardent serious riders and spacey/dippy/plodding weekenders (families with young kids, folks who rarely ride, folks who seem to ride sporadically but never to have learned the “rules” of the trail, etc.).  No construction, no road crews, no hassle.  Well, there was the cop parked at the edge of the fire station parking lot at Wiehle Avenue just to watch how the right-of-way issue was handled there.  It was amazing how unusually unaggressive and courteous the Reston Saturday drivers became today!

[You want dippy?  On the way home I observed this officer of the law rebuking and redirecting a woman who had begun to cross Wiehle about 20 feet north of the crosswalk.  At this point Wiehle is 4 lanes wide southbound (2 travel, 2 turn) and 2 lanes wide northbound (2 travel), with a narrow median strip.  There is a striped crosswalk at least TWENTY FEET wide where the bike trail crosses it.  He was explaining to her that everybody had to stay in the crosswalk area to be safe.  This dim bulb couldn’t even haul her carcass a few feet south and cross in the giant crosswalk even though she had to have seen the cop watching.]

So the first steps to rebuilding form that I thought I took last weekend are repeated today.  This time they should take.  I will have a couple of weekend interruptions coming up, but nothing that will distract me from moving forward with my development.  On the good side, I maintained or lost a little weight on the trip, and lost a little more over the last few days, so my weight today is the lowest of the season.  Now that’s something to build on!

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.

It’s A Gift

I have been known to be a bit cranky about weather forecasting and forecasters.  You wouldn’t even have to twist my family’s arm to get them to admit it to you, and regale you with anecdotes to prove it.  Part of it’s just blaming the messenger for the message, as in the Gary Larson cartoon about “Hell’s Weather Forecast,” in which the Devil is saying to a captive audience “And here comes another cold front that’s juuuuuusssssst going to miss us.”   When Gary McGrady tells me about the fifth straight day of showery weather that will keep me from riding outside, Gary is the Devil.  Even worse is when Gary, or Sue, or Bob, or Doug promises a nice day, but the weather turns out to be cloudy, windy, and cold.  Then they lied to me!  That infuriates me, as if they were deliberately toying with my emotions.  Even if weather forecasters seem to be the only professionals other than baseball batters who are highly regarded if they succeed one-third of the time,  it’s irrational to think that they have it in for me personally.  No, their incompetence is general and impersonal.  (Not you, Gary, Sue, Bob, and Doug; the others.)

So a day like today inspires me to rise above my weather paranoia like the Calm Cyclist I am, thank the aforesaid prognosticators, and admit that (as in Monopoly) the error is sometimes in my favor.  The forecast was for mostly cloudy with showers “mostly” in the afternoon.  That “mostly” kills me.  Either it doesn’t shower at all, or the radar shows light rain, which turns out to be hitting the ground only sporadically, or the showers pass over the DC area right in the middle of the period I could otherwise cycle in, or the clouds look very threatening, but no rain comes, and then it lightens up and starts raining.

But today the sky was already showing some blue when we got up.  It kept on showing more blue, until by 10:30 or so it was sunny and bright.   So I sallied forth.  The air was warm and a bit moist, full of good spring smells.  The roads had dried off.  There was a bit of a breeze from the SE to make my NW trip easier on the way out.  The azaleas were in bloom, the trees were leafing out.  The world had been washed clean and bright by last night’s showers.  The trail was clear.

I felt so good I climbed Hunter Station Road.  The work was invigorating, though I can tell that the effort used to be easier.  As it warmed up my sinus stopped running, and I could breathe well.  I felt in command of the bike, riding strongly yet within my own limits and parameters.  i even hit quite a few major road crossings when the lights were in my favor.  Both the ranger truck and the huge ride-on mower gave me a wide berth.

So this ride was a sheer gift, undeserved and unexplained.  And much appreciated.  I pledge to do more such appreciation and less whining.

Promised rain, wind, dark:
Vanished.  Spring sun, smells, dry trail:
I live my Karma.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.