A week off from riding is hard on me, even when the intervening time is spent in Sunny Spain, Barcelona to be precise. My muscles tighten up, my inflammations intensify, and there’s an ache that tells me my body doesn’t like the lack of exercise. These effects are compounded by overnight transatlantic plane trips during which I have very limited alternative options for posture. Why does the tourist class seating on long-range aircraft have less leg room than that of the smaller planes they use for intercity flights?
Not that we didn’t walk around Barcelona. The second day saw us do something like five or six miles over the course of seven hours, not including the distances we walked inside the buildings we visited. My quads were tingling at the end of the day. But the muscle groups we used to walk are not exactly the same ones I use for cycling, and the motion is not identical either. Overall, though, I came home a bit lighter than I left, despite the daily lunches, late afternoon drinks, and dinner with dessert every night.
But that return home was a stressful venture, measured in terms of pressure on the body to function, though not in terms of anxiety. We had to arise at 4:30 a. m. Barcelona time (Central European) to catch a 2 ½ hour flight to Frankfurt. Then we waited 4 hours before embarking on an 8 ½ hour flight to Dulles Airport, a trip that crossed five time zones and got us in at 6:15 p. m. local time (EDT). By the time we settled in and got unpacked at home we had been up for 23 hours, all of it devoted to travel-related activities.
The next morning (yesterday) I had an 11:00 a. m. class, but when that was done I was determined to ride my bike. After all, a combination of the annual start of daylight savings time and unusually balmy early spring weather meant that I could cruise in comfortable sunshine even if I had to begin around 3:00. I was jet-lagged, I hadn’t had a square meal since the previous day at about 10 a.m. EDT, and my muscles had not unwound from their airline-seat confinement (though we did receive a free upgrade to Tourist Plus seating, providing a precious 5” more leg room). Nevertheless, I hadn’t exercised in a week, and hadn’t ridden a bike in almost two weeks, and I was not about to postpone my ride.
That trip, though it was a wonderful glide through warm air and soft breezes, was one of the few that has ever left me feeling more achy, not less, as the ride went on. I found little reserve energy for tough pushes, my left knee was not unknotted, I got short of breath quickly—even my saddle seemed uncomfortable and stingy, and that never happens. By the end I just ached all over, differently in different bodily regions, but I ached all over. I couldn’t even do my uphill sprinter’s charge to the top of Academy Street, the customary way I end my rides. I just pushed along halfway up the hill until I could hang a right into our driveway.
This morning found me still wondering if I had finally lost my edge, rendering me unable to push a decent pace on the machine. Impatient to find out, I suited up and was out the door in time to be back in the very early afternoon. Not to worry. With more rest, better nutrition, and kicked-up energy, I was a different rider. Still a way to go before I am in shape to push it hard, but today’s sojourn was a definite cure-all; I arrived home with a rejuvenated knee, plenty of lung capacity, and a pain-free butt. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.