It’s been so long since my last outdoor ride that I felt funny on the bike today. My nerves and reflexes “forget” the parameters of my skill and of the machine, so I have to think about things that usually are automatic for me: How fast do I descend Academy Street to start my ride? How much time and space do I need to pass this walker? How do I lean going around this curve? It was fourteen days ago that I last rode, the day on which I decided to follow my usual route in to Shirlington and back home through North Arlington, using residential streets for a change of environment and of scenery. I could have gone home more directly on the trail, and when I got there the long way I knew I’d asked my lungs to do too much. I was wheezing, hacking, coughing up phlegm. Four days later my course of antibiotics started.
Today the influence of the antibiotics should be out of my body; I’m told they are still working four or five days beyond the last tablet taken. Since the medication ended I have gotten over my cough and my infected sinus. My breathing and heartbeat are more nearly normal. All of last week, taking it easy and avoiding the brutal heat wave that resulted in overnight lows in the mid-70° range, I rode on my indoor bike, watching La Course en Tête, a biographic film about the career of Eddie Merckx, probably the greatest bike racer ever.¹ Then this last weekend there were two more days off the bike as we went out of town to a friend’s 70th birthday party.
This morning dawned cool and clear. We had driven home yesterday through soupy air, laced by occasional downpours and, as we neared Washington, another “Terrorist Weather” “heavy thunderstorm warning” on our local newsfear station, WTOP. The weather guy mixed observed phenomena–15° temperature drop in the wake of the storm, gusty winds, lots of lightning–with speculation–the storm “had the potential” to produce hail the size of quarters. No hail was ever reported. In fact, I’d be shocked to see hail in the form of disks anyhow. That storm, and others like it, ushered in a cold front. Consequently, the air took a while to warm up this morning. I washed and oiled my bike, badly in need of both, and fixed the Audi windshield wiper that had picked one of the downpours we drove through yesterday as the time to fail. By the time I was ready to go the air was a bit warmer, a bit on the breezy side, and by far the best it had been here for about 10 or 12 days.
One of the lingering effects of my illness has been a burning sensation in my lungs when I breathe hard. I imagine this is partly a result of all the heavy coughing I did, and maybe the lungs’ reaction to being clogged with mucus and under-challenged for so long. When I took off today my lungs were not quite ready for that much sudden exercise. They burned and I coughed from the irritation. But once they were used to breathing heavily again they seemed to get back to normal. I had a great ride in cool air and brilliant sun. I would certainly agree to any offer to continue exactly this kind of weather for the rest of the summer. In fact, my lungs no longer “burn” much when I inhale deeply, so it seems they just needed to get stretched out a bit. There’s a lot of riding to be done, lots to see out there, lots of good times to be spent on the bike. If all these extraneous factors like heat waves and bacteria will just let it happen!
¹Merckx has a great quip in this film. He and the family are eating lunch, and someone has brought a box of cupcakes from the confectioner’s shop. Merckx takes one (it’s during racing season), takes a bite, and says: “They say sweets are bad for cyclists. It’s not sweets that are bad; it’s hills that are bad for cyclists.”
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.