Thursday was a beautiful day! The sky was blue, the air was cool, the variable wind not very strong, just a breeze. Having ridden on the exercise bike the day before, I was really ready to go out on the trail.
I’d have ridden the trail on the day before too, except that I’d gotten a 24-hour heart monitor attached Tuesday morning. The doctor said I could and should be able to do all normal activities during the 24-hour period; frankly, I’d hoped to get a ride in then, at least indoors. But the device came with a lot of intimidating instructions. Couldn’t get near any electronic signals that might interfere, so I’d have to avoid the exercise bike, and not use my usual bike computer if I went on a ride. In fact, the bike setup would have a signal generator whether the computer was mounted or not, so I might have to remove it to take the ride. Further, the instructions said not to shower, take a bath, swim, “etc.” I wondered if the “etc.” included sweat heavily, which I would do if I rode. And finally, the technicians who installed the monitor did not, in my view, do the right thing when attaching the monitor’s electrodes. They could have shaven my chest hair to give the thing a good connection, but they didn’t. They swabbed the area to remove skin oils, and attached the electrodes over the hair. They used tape to secure the electrodes better, as well as the adhesive on the device itself. The central of the five electrodes was so loose that I thought that it wouldn’t take much at all to dislodge it, and the instruction sheet spoke in dire terms of having to re-do the test if that happened.
By Wednesday morning I was unhitched from the monitor and I guess I could have ridden. My legs were aching the way they paradoxically do when I do not get enough exercise in them. But I was feeling still a bit out of sorts with my cold, and decided an indoor ride would be a better fit for my degree of health and fitness. Did 30 minutes, and noted afterwards that my weight was down by 4.5 lbs. from when I last rode indoors about 10 days ago. I chalked it up to an anomaly based on all the variables of time-of-day, last meals eaten, and the like, that can account for daily weight variance.
Beautiful Thursday was the ideal day. With an indoor ride in my legs I could extend my range to Ashburn, enjoy the great weather and early autumn sights, and improve my conditioning. So off I started, feeling most of the symptoms mentioned in “Riding Ill,” but generally OK. I’d eaten half a Clif Bar for a little extra energy, just in case the light breakfast of Wheat Chex and milk ran out before my need for energy did. Rolling out to Ashburn felt fine. I was deliberately holding back a bit, thinking of the distance and the few recent miles in my legs.
My “Ashburn” turnaround point refers to a barbecue restaurant and general store right where the W&OD crosses Ashburn Road. On the north side of the trail, opposite the store, are benches to rest and soak in a few rays of sun before heading home. It’s about 18 ½ miles from Academy St. I remounted for the return, a little surprised that I was heading into the prevailing wind. It felt like it had been in my face coming out, though sometimes it’s hard to tell when the breezes are light and variable. As I hit the checkpoints homeward—the Route 28 overpass, Sterling Boulevard, Elden Street—my legs were getting heavier and heavier, and I was craving another rest. That was unusual, I thought. I’d managed for several years to ride my range of regular rides with set pauses, usually about halfway along. The rides under 25 miles long didn’t usually require any rest stops at all, unless it was very hot or very windy. But somewhere east of Herndon I began to lose the energy to travel on. I was drinking more liquid, but I was also fantasizing about crawling into bed and sleeping once I got home. My neck and shoulders hurt. I stopped at the bench at the top of the hill down to Hunter Mill Road. I considered calling Jane for a ride, but since I was about 5 miles from home I thought I would soldier on, even at a reduced pace. This after all was not a race (I have to remind myself of that frequently, since I tend to race against my own sense of how I “should be” performing). Once down the hill (where I only hit about 26 mph instead of my usual 31 or 32) the trail is an uphill false flat most of the way to Vienna. Going forward was quite an effort; if one could assume the fetal position on the bike I would have. Hot baths and warm beds floated through my mind. I considered another rest at the Vienna Community Center, but decided that I could more easily take the last two miles right now than get going again after a rest. On the uphill after Vienna I could only give minimal effort, and surprisingly it went well. Usually I really push it here, and the climb seems like a monster. Lesson learned: if you don’t attack the gradient, it will not try to hurt you.
When I got to the foot of Academy, my usual all-out charge to the top of the street was out of the question. I meekly wheeled around the dump truck and flatbed that have adorned our street ever since our driveway/retaining wall project began, and slowly up the drive. Home at last!
Whether this “bonk” was just running out of energy, or dehydration, or an event triggered by my erratic heartbeat I am not sure. I did not have the symptoms that accompanied the earlier erratic-heart episodes: sudden sweating and short-term loss of breath. But aching neck and shoulders were the same. And I had lost 3 or 4 more pounds. At any rate, it was one of the rare times that I have felt worse after a bike ride, and I’d rather never go there again.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.