Spring finally arrived in northern Virginia today. It was in the mid-80s by late afternoon, breezy and wonderful, the first entire day that was truly like spring is supposed to be. Nature was completely undaunted by any ominous omens of the calendar, which made it Friday the 13th.
Just three years ago yesterday I began my cancer treatment, quite a different spring regimen. The aftereffects of the successful treatment have left me with less stamina and less determination to subject myself to discomfort. So since 2015 I have not ridden my bike on the relatively more temperate days of midwinter or early spring. All of the first three months of the year were on the exercise bike, or walking, and even these activities did not have the compelling allure they’ve had in years past. But I was whipped into better shape by the visit of my daughter and granddaughter, who wanted to see the sights of our nation’s capital. I was tested by Capitol Hill, challenged by the stairs of numerous subways, government buildings and museums, and generally called to consider that I was not too old to “use it” lest I “lose it.”
So this morning I was eager to get out on the W&OD Trail in the belated warmth of the season. Couldn’t just pick up and go, of course. I first discovered that we had no 2032 batteries to replace the dead one in my bike computer. So off I went to CVS, returned and then sought out the manual that would allow me to reprogram the gadget. After a mere 40 minutes from start to finish I had my electronic source of statistics back. I’d carried over the mileage tally for 9 or 10 years, outlasting several batteries, but today I started over again at zero, because I think this is the beginning of a new era in my cycling life.
Out in the garage my next challenge awaited. Since the Jamis Coda had not been ridden since late September 2017, its tires were low despite my pumping them up once over the winter. And sitting idle in the garage is not good for the drive train, particularly the chain. Though I had oiled it in September, it was stiffened with rust and dirt. Luckily the tires held air, and about ten minutes with a rag and chain oil got the drive train workable. More oil for the cables, a readjustment of the rear brakes (new brake shoes needed soon!), and I was ready to suit up and go. I decided on my trusty Kelme / Costa Bianca jersey, the colors of a European pro team of the Lance Armstrong era. Sandro Botero rode for them, as did a couple of riders—Chechu Rubiera and Roberto Heras—who switched to Lance’s US Postal team and helped him win several of his seven straight Tours de France almost as much as PEDs helped him.
I took off with a lurking trepidation—would my body be up for this? The plan was to ride just 11 miles, out to Hunter Mill Road and back. No overkill on the first ride of the season. I felt good on the bike, and going up Jackson Parkway and onto the right-of-way over to the Trail, I passed a couple of neighbors planting new bushes along the 50 or 60 foot paved link. Everybody’s loving the warm air. Once on the Trail, I found my strength and stamina were OK. I was passing the really slow riders, was being passed by the strong ones, and dodging a number of walkers. As always, I marveled at the convergence of roadblock groups, like the two moms pushing strollers side-by-side, and the walker passing them, spread out across the whole trail just when I wanted to go by. My cheery “on the left” was not met with any rush on the walker’s part to get over quickly. Cheeky! I knew I had missed the Spring Peepers in the marshes of Difficult Run by about a month, and the bullfrogs too. But on the way home some kind of froggy noises were emanating from Eudora Park, where Piney Branch flows.
I was feeling good as I approached my turnaround. Inside my head something whispered “go ahead, you can do a few more miles.” But I said “get thee behind me, Lance,” recognizing the voice of the temptation to do more than one is naturally capable of, whatever the price. By about halfway home I realized how smart I had been to keep to my plan. I was riding into a brisk quartering headwind, and all the muscles that were doing things unfamiliar to them were starting to ache: quads, shoulders, arm and hand muscles, knee joints.
Back at my desk, the computer said that my numbers for time and speed were in the same range I had reached near the end of last year. So now it’s nothing but onward and upward. I well may be out there again tomorrow because it’s supposed to be another warm day.