When sidewalks attack

So, I’m bike commuting to work twice a week now, with the intention of moving up to three times a week toward the end of the summer.  It’s been great – the 19.5-mile ride (one way) is feeling shorter all the time!

The best part is, I’m not climbing the walls because I can’t run these days!  (I’ll be re-visiting that at some point in the near future, but biking is NOT going away.  It’s so peaceful in the morning – I hit the road between 5:30 and 5:45, so I actually don’t see that many cars before I hit the W&OD trail in Vienna.

Another bonus – I’ve lost a couple of pounds over the last three weeks, which I’m happy about.  I’d like to lose about 5-7 more.

Everything was great, that is, until today.

Nearing the end of my ride, I’m on a side street.  There are cars parked on both sides, and a car kind of crowded me a bit.  Traffic ramps up a bit over the last couple of blocks of the ride, so I decided to just jump onto the sidewalk and dismount.  So I dumped into a driveway and came out on the sidewalk.  Before I could react, I hit a segment that was raised by a tree root, and NAILED it.  No time to pull up – just hit it full-force.  The impact nearly sent me over the handlebars.

I suppose flatting two blocks from work is better than two miles from work…so there’s that!

I immediately heard that familiar hissing sound.  Dammit – I flatted my back tire just two blocks from work!

“No big deal,” I say – I’ll just walk the rest of the way, and fix it when I get there.

It became a big deal when I started walking.  I was holding the bike by the stem, and noticed that turning it took more effort than normal.  I looked down, and realized I had also flatted my front tire.

Well, crap.  Two flat tires.  Given that they went out at the same time, I’m surprised I didn’t wipe out right after hitting that mini-curb.

Oh, well.  Don’t have enough kit to fix two of them.  Off to the bike shop – gotta have my ride ready for Thursday!

Return to fitness: a process


fence 66
Sunrise over I-66, before gridlock builds.  The streets I’m on are mostly empty.  I’ts strangely peaceful!

After months of fits and starts, I’ve decided that, for the time being, I’m going to have to eliminate running from my fitness regimen.  This has been a painful and difficult decision to come to, but I think I need an extended period off to strengthen my legs and give them a break from running’s impact, and just allow them to heal.

(But bear with me – it’s not all bad!!!)

It’s four years since I’ve been able to run for more than a couple of months at a time.  Just when I feel I’m starting to get back to normal, something happens, whether it’s my Achilles, my calf, or my hamstrings.

The final straw was April’s Parkway Classic.  I was concerned coming into the race, with my longest run only hitting six miles, but I took it slow, never going faster than a 9:15 mile.  By the fourth mile, I was tiring, which was expected, but then my right calf started giving me trouble.  By the fifth mile, it felt as if the calf was splitting in half vertically.

By the sixth mile, I was resigned to walking the rest of the way.  I tried a couple of times to start up again and maintain a slow shuffle, and only made it worse.  I wasn’t able to walk normally for three days.

About three weeks later, I tried to run a half mile at a 10:00 pace.  I didn’t make it a quarter mile before the calf reacted badly.

End result:  rock bottom reached.

At this point, I recognize the need to strengthen, but without the impact that running brings.

work route
The way out is nice.  The way back…not so much!

Fortunately, I started a new job this week, and have a trail available to me that allows me to get to work without being killed by texting drivers.  It’s about 20 miles one way, is fairly hilly, and will certainly give me my cardio and calf/hammy work.

I’ve got to add core work.  I’ve never been big on weights, but I’m getting older and have to acknowledge the need.  I’ve spent so much time on the shelf over the past few years that I can no longer deny the toll atrophy has taken.

I’m not sure how I’m going to feed my need to compete, but am considering aquabike races.  Of course, that’s going to require me to head back to the pool at least a couple of times a week, but I can make that happen!

I’m going to spend this week developing a workable routine to return to fitness.  The end result may or may not include the distances of running that I used to cover, but it will result with me getting back to the level of fitness I’m accustomed to.

THIS is why I don’t bike on the streets

city bikingBefore I get started, I’m going to state something that seems obvious to me:  The more interesting the training area, the more enjoyable the training is.  I get it – you’re going to have a more interesting run in inspiring places.  Same goes for biking.  What could be more peaceful than flying down a local road into a brilliant sunset?

But the problem is when you get on a road, you could be taking your life in your hands.  You can ride in the bike lane, or in the absence of a lane, get as far to the right as possible.  You can arm your bicycle with blinking lights, wear a helmet and all the reflective gear you can find.  You can do all that, and it still won’t stop someone who’s simply not paying attention from killing you.

A triathlete acquaintance posted a story from my home state of Illinois early today, in which two bikers, a husband and wife, were killed from behind by an SUV driven by a 16-year old.  At this time, very few details are available, other than the riders were struck from behind, that the man died at the scene, and that his wife died later after being airlifted.  Both were wearing helmets.

The couple were on a training ride for a charity event to be held next weekend.  They were to participate in the Bike MS: Tour de Farms event in DeKalb, IL this weekend.

The latest reports state the driver was “issued a citation for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.”  In Illinois, this is a petty offense, punishable with a fine only, with a maximum fine of $1,000.

For the record, I’m not calling for the driver’s head – I have no idea what happened, and no idea of the circumstances surrounding the accident.  That said, let the record state that $1,000 is the cost of taking two bicyclists’ lives in Illinois.

That’s why stories like this really piss me off.  They’re the reason I don’t get out and bike as much as I’d like.  The simple fact that other people aren’t careful could cost you your life.

I’ve always been of the opinion that there need to be stiff laws in place to protect cyclists.  Laws that will force drivers to actually look for bikers and be careful.  I’m sorry – I just don’t think that $1,000 does the trick.

And, before I get the comments, I understand the whole “you take a risk when you walk out the door” thing.  But knowing the area in which I live, and seeing the number of people I see texting while driving, drifting in and out of their lanes with their heads down, that’s just not a level of risk I’m willing to take.  I value my life, and cherish the time I have with my wife, kids and friends too much to add that level of chance to my life.

Maybe that makes me a wimp.  Maybe that makes me a worry-wart.  It likely makes me a touch paranoid about this topic.  I’m OK with that.

The Washington & Old Dominion trail: A biking gem in Northern Virginia

What a crazy few weeks.  Work has been nuts, my son is back from college, new phones and a new car bought, and I’ve entered the final stretch of weekend classes in a certificate course.

The net result – not enough training, and not enough blogging, either.  I’ve worked out twice in the last two weeks, but I got back on track (actually…back on trail) Friday.

One of my favorite things to do when I can’t run is get on the bike and hit the trails.  Being more of a road bike guy, gravel and mud don’t really work for me.  I’ll do it for fun, but if the ride is about a workout, I’m on a road bike.

Fortunately for me, there’s a great paved trail not too far from me that stretches some 45 miles in its entirety.  The Washington and Old Dominion trail (technically the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park) is built on the bed of the railroad of the same name, which closed in the late 60s.  I’ve never ridden it from end to end, but I’ll get around to it one day.

The only down side to using the W&OD is that I have to load up the bike, and drive about 15 minutes to get there.  That’s because there isn’t a route to get there that doesn’t deal with the DC area’s insane drivers.  A workout isn’t worth getting killed over, after all!

W&OD map

The W&OD itself is a two-lane trial stretching from Shirlington, VA to Purcellville, VA.  It passes through heavily populated areas, suburbs, and more rural areas as you move westward.  Lots of nice towns, good food and bike-friendly things to do along the way.

Green LizardI typically start at the 10-mile marker near Vienna.  About 10 miles to the west is the Green Lizard bike shop in Herndon.  That’s my shortest ride – there and back.  I love to stop there, catch my breath and look at bike stuff.  The staff there is very knowledgeable and helpful.  They’ve got a full-service repair shop in there, if you’re in need.  Additionally, they have a coffee shop inside that makes smoothies – perfect on a hot day!

Mediterranean BreezeIf I’m not in a rush, or if I’m riding with the wife on a casual ride, we’ll stop in at Mediterranean Breeze, also in Herndon.  It’s just a block from the Green Lizard.  They do a little bit of everything on the menu, and everything we’ve had is pretty good (my personal favorite is the New Orleans jambalaya).  Good prices, too.  They also do a Sunday brunch, if that’s your kind of thing.

Carolina BrothersIf I’m on my own on a longer ride, I’ll go about 35 miles, and visit Carolina Brothers Pit BBQ (mile marker 27.5) in Ashburn as my midway point.  I’ve been there probably a half dozen times, and each time, the food’s been great – and cheap.  Of course, the down side is that the ride back ALWAYS takes longer than the ride there.  A belly full of BBQ will do that!

With all that said, today’s ride was short – 10 out and back, for 20 miles total.  It was my first ride on the bike this year, and it felt great to get out.  I pushed the pace on the way out, and focused a little more on form on the way back.  I deliberately didn’t time the ride, so as not to be competing with the clock.

Since it was a Friday afternoon, the trail wasn’t super-crowded, which is often the case on the weekends.  All in all, it was a great ride!