An Iceberg Calved on My Head

It’s soooo hot and muggy here in DC. Some people really like this. I do too but there’s a limit to everything. Today we passed my limit.

The morning was actually not half bad. The temperature was about 80 degrees and it was very humid. This is not a problem on a bike ride of only 75 minutes such as my commute. There was no need to loosen up. The heat and humidity did it for me. I settled right into my trance.

Pedal, pedal.

I cruised past the halfway point, around the Slater’s Lane apartments on the river. The trail turns away from the river and joins a spur that goes to the opposite side of the apartments. A woman was standing on the grassy island where the trails join. I paid her no mind and cruised past. I looked left to make sure the coast was clear and spotted something familiar. A white pannier with black leafy accents. The pannier had two large loop handles protruding from the top of the bag. I turned off the trail and headed back. Those panniers are unique and the belong to my friend Kirstin who was standing next to her Long Haul Trucker.  How I missed her on my first pass I’ll never know. She has RED hair. (I used to but the last of it left sometime in the Carter administration.)

As soon as she saw me she yelled: “Rootchopper!”

Kirstin rode all the way down from DC, about ten miles, to accompany her friend Yolanda on her ride to work in DC. Yes, she’s that nice.

Digression on #bikedc Connections: I met Mary at the 2010 50 States Ride. Mary is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club. She occasionally runs with Kirstin and told her about Friday Coffee Club, which is where Kirstin and I met.  Kirstin’s husband Tom works out with Ed who is the father of Lolly who used to work for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I volunteered to recruit new WABA members one evening. Lolly came to help, subbing for Alex. I met Alex in Baltimore on a bike ride. Alex saw a SharrowsDC logo pin on my saddle bag and asked if I was from DC. I bought the pin from Brian (who is @sharrowsdc on the interwebs) who sold them to raise money for WABA. Brian is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club.

So, back to our tale. Kirstin and Yolanda and I rode five miles or so to the 14th Street Bridge where they peeled off to cross the river while I carried on to my office in Rosslyn across from Georgetown. It was fun riding with them, a great change of pace for me. I have to admit that it was a bit frustrating too. Kirstin can chat a blue streak and the trail is too narrow to ride side by side. So we’ll just have to do another ride together.  Maybe I won’t get lost this time.

The ride home was a whole ‘nother ballgame. Damn was it hot. And muggy. I did fine for about 3 or 4 miles but for some reason my lungs started to ache. Not when I was breathing though. I was not having fun. I plugged along with the pain coming and going and eventually staying. In Old Town I pulled over and took two hits from my albuterol inhaler. I was hoping this would help as it did when I made a rather painful 3 a.m. trip to the ER in May 2016. It didn’t.

I crawled through Old Town. I noticed that sipping from my bottle seemed to help. I made it to Belle Haven Park, about 4 1/2 miles from home. I stopped for some fresh, cool water. And it worked! The pain subsided.

I have no idea what the heck was going on with my lungs but I felt good enough to pull over and take a picture at Dyke Marsh. As you can see, I was no longer dying.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sky, cloud and outdoor

I actually have a friend who prefers this kind of weather. She is insane. We met during the 50 States Ride on an oppressively hot and muggy day just like this. She appeared to be thriving. The other riders in our group not so much.

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Suffice it to say, we were abandoned to our wretched fate. (The woman in the photo and I actually finished. The dude lasted another few miles before bailing out when we got near his home.)

 

It’s Clinchmas!

  • Tonight, if the Mets lose and the Nats win, the Nationals win their division and qualify for the playoffs. YAY! This has been a foregone conclusion for a couple of weeks but longtime Red Sox sufferers like me know that nothing in baseball is to be taken for granted. You could look it up. Of google “Bucky Fucking Dent” or “Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson.”
  • Baseball quiz: who scored the winning run on the Buckner/Wilson play? Answer: Ray Knight, the Nats announcer.
  • Summer is officially over. In the last week, I’ve seen two bicyclists fall on the Mount Vernon Trail. That’s why I prefer the word “autumn” to “fall”
  • Felkerino once told me it is bad luck to refer to terrain as “flat” during a bike ride. It’s a four-letter f-word. Use “level” instead.
  • I am nearly recovered from riding the Backroads Century on Sunday. It had a lot of hills. My body was not happy this week. First, my back gave me a spasm on Tuesday morning. It lasted only a second and I managed to avoid turning into Quasimodo for a week. My legs have been dead for a few days. This morning they sprang to life. I hit 18 mph on the MVT. Must have been a tailwind.
  • The last two days I woke up at 5 am. I waited for daybreak (around 7) yesterday before heading to work. Today I left in the dark, with lights on my helmet and wearing a reflective vest. I am experimenting with strapping my battery to my helmet. I wouldn’t want to do this for hours at a time but it seems to be better than having a battery shoved down the back of my shorts. Note to Light and Motion, make me a Stella lamp with a shorter cord please.
  • It wasn’t until I was practically at work that I thought of going to Friday Coffee Club. I would have had to backtrack four miles. Not gonna happen.
  • One thing that never ceases to amuse me is how I know dozens of bike commuters but rarely see anybody I know. The person I see the most often, Chris M., is somebody I seem pathologically unable to recognize. Weird. Every once in a while somebody says hello as they go by. I typically respond “Blerfg.” I’m either half asleep or in a trance.
  • I signed up for another autumn ride: the Great Pumpkin Ride. I’ll probably be doing it with Ultrarunnergirl.
  • A friend of a friend runs several web-enabled freelance businesses. I can’t quite sort them all out but she is obviously a fan of yoga/mindfulness. When she lapses into yoga lingo on her business videos she says, “Sorry, went a little ‘woo woo’ there.” I have been looking for a word to describe this jargon and now I have it. People who are into yoga and mindfulness will henceforth be the Woowoos on this blog.
  • It’s suppposed to be a perfect weekend. All I want to do is let my body recover. So my plan is:
    • Mow the lawn
    • Swab the deck
    • Do a very gentle and short bit of cycling
    • Read my book about genetics. It is cleverly entitled The Gene.
    • Watch the Nationals clinch on TV!

Ultracenturygirl Goes Long

I’ve signed up for the Backroads Century three or four times before this year. I have always ended up riding the metric century, 100 kilometers or 62 miles, instead of the 100-mile version. Kirstin, aka Ultrarunnergirl, persuaded me to ride the 100 miles this year. So we did.

Backroads is the annual big event of the Potomac Pedalers riding club. The ride starts and stops in Berryville Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. To say that this area is pretty is to do it a gross disservice. Numerous times during the ride my jaw dropped open at the beauty of the hills and farms (I am a sucker for a field filled with big rolls of hay). The terrain is also damned near perfect. The hills, at least for most of the ride, are perfect for hill hopping, speeding down one hill and using the momentum to ride up the next. The narrow roads curve around farms and through corn fields and, well words don’t do them justice.

The Relentless Ultrarunnergirl
The Relentless Ultrarunnergirl

The weather was damned near perfect. I wore arm wamers and a vest for the first 25 miles, then put them away for the rest of the day. Temperatures rose throughout the day. Just as they seemed to get oppressive, the skies opened up for a two-minute cool down at mile 95. The weather gods could not have timed it better.

I’d never ridden most of the first 50 miles which wind their way north from Berryville into Jefferson County West Virginia in the eastern panhandle. The ride was hilly but I had fresh legs so they didn’t bother me in the least. Kirstin wore the teeth off her granny gear spinning like a fiend. Once, much later in the ride,  in a burst of insanity she actually got out of the saddle and attacked a hill. For a few brief moments she was flying. Lordy!

For much of the time we rode separately, but I’d soft pedal or wait at a turn on the top of the hill to bring us back together. She had a light on the front of her bike which helped me pick her out among the long line of cyclists.

On the way to the first rest stop at mile 25, we were past by Rudi, a Friday Coffee Clubber. Rudi broke his femur earlier in the year so it was great to see him zipping along. He had a huge smile as he greeted me in passing. Joy. Next came Lawyer Mike, another Friday Coffee Clubber, resplendent in his Dartmouth kit. Lawyer Mike was all business, all sweat and determination. Not messin’ ’round, dude.

We rode back to the start to finish the first half. Kirstin went to her car to get her lunch; I went to mine to get new batteries for my camera. We reconvened at the rest stop across the street where we ran into Elizabeth, fresh off her rookie triumph in the 50 States Ride. She somehow had ridden the same 50 miles as us but we never saw her on the road.

After lunch Kirstin and I went back out for another 50, this time south of Berryville. We had both ridden this course before in previous years. I recalled it as hillier than the first 50 and I was right. The hills and the increasing temperature made for more determined work but we were up to the task at hand. Bigger hills meant less hill hopping and more grinding it out.

Never Be Afraid to Look Silly When You're Going the Distance
Never Be Afraid to Look Silly When You’re Going the Distance

The second half has three rest stops. One had potatos boiled in salty water. Another had tomato and cucumber sammiches. Ride? Do I have to?

We were plodding along, feeling pretty confident of completing the ride despite the now uncomfortable heat. I spotted a sprinkler on the side of the road and then heard a popping sound all along the road. Enormous raindrops were falling from the only cloud in the sky. Big sloppy drops going splat on the road. What a perfect cool down! I was comfortably wet as I rode under a leavy canopy across the road when the road began an upbrupt ride. It was the steepest, hardest hill of the day. Riders up the road struggled. Been here, done this, got this. No problemo. I waited for Kirstin at the top. When you have infinite cardiovascular capacity, you smile as you crest the hilly beast!

Our reward was a fast glide down to the Shenandoah for a brief riverside cruise. Every down has its up and we climbed away headed for the finish. Once clear of the hill a tailwind pushed us home. My guess is that we rode our fastest miles of the day from mile 96 to mile 98.

We finished after 90 percent of the riders had left. Kirstin somehow found some chips and quac. I found my ride t-shirt and all was right with the world.

If you are thinking about doing this ride, I’d recommend it with one reservation. The people of Clark County,Virginia clearly do not welcome this event. They scowl at you. They drive agressively past you well within the legally required three feet. The sheriff all but declared war on cyclists rolling through stop signs. (Yes, it’s illegal but he could just as easily have directed traffic to allow participants’ safe passage.) It’s surprising to me that they don’t raise a banner in town that says “Cyclist go home!” The contrast with the people in Jefferson County, West Virginia was obvious. They waved and seemed genuinely happy to see us out on the road.

Congratulations to Ultrarunnergirl for completing her first century.

Here are some pix I took.