Friday, December 27, 2013

Another Cherry Blossom Run...

T-minus 100 days until the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run...

Tonight I went on my first run in about two years. It was pretty cold, somewhere in the low 30s. My plan was to jog until my heart rate hit 160, walk till it got below 130, rinse and repeat. I also brought "The Stick" in case my legs tightened up -- which they did after the third running session. I spent a couple minutes on my calves, and by then my pulse was down below 130 so I set off again.

I felt good. My calves were feeling better and my form was much better. I found myself picking up the pace. My pulse quickly hit 160, but I didn't care. I was going to push this one. 165, 170, 175, and I showed no signs of stopping. I was breathing hard, sprinting ahead, holding the Stick in my right hand like it was a baton and I was on the last leg of a relay race.

I crossed 180. Usually I'd pull back around now, but tonight I didn't want to. Before the run, I had estimated that my max heart rate was about 186 -- and I wanted to see if that was true. 182, 184, 186... 187! I held it there for a couple more seconds, before I felt my body pulling back. 187 -- the hardest I'd pushed things in years.* I walked the quarter mile back to my apartment, tired yet energized all at once.

100 days to go.

*Even when biking 13 miles to work, I never got my pulse that high; the highest I usually pushed it was into the mid-170s. There was one time a month or two ago, however, when I decided to sprint up the entire Dupont Circle escalator. I wasn't wearing a heart rate monitor, but I probably got very close to 187 that day too.

**If you click through to the web site, you may notice my pace was pitifully slow. This is normal.  Anyway I am just working on conditioning right now. Speed will come...... eventually.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Still Waiting...

Well, one month has come and gone. Actually it's been more like 7 weeks since I ordered the Brompton from BicycleSPACE, and they said it would be here by the end of April, but it is now pretty close to the middle of May and they are just as clueless as I am. "Brompton told us they shipped it... at this point it's probably hung up in Customs... we don't know if it got stuck in Customs though until the boxes arrive and they're covered with stickers..."

The Brompton has been showing up in my dreams. That's how badly my subconscious wants it. In last night's dream, I had just returned from a choir trip and I decided to head by BicycleSPACE to store my regular sized bike there while I walked around. That's when they told me that, as it happened, the Bromptons had just arrived that morning! "ARE YOU F'ING KIDDING ME?" said I. They asked if I wanted to come to the store room and unbox them. YES.

Then, in a bit of dream logic, we ended up playing basketball in an attached gym. I kept slipping on the floor because I was only wearing socks. Then I woke up without seeing my new bike.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

One Month and Counting...

I've ordered a Brompton. It's a folding bicycle, and it's going to change my life. And yes, I am a wee bit obsessed.  But I hear that's what happens to people once they stumble onto these things, realize what they are, and what they can do, and how they can make everything so much easier.

For the uninitiated, Bromptons are full-sized bikes made in the UK that can fold up in about 10-15 seconds to a package a little less than 2 feet by 2 feet by 10 inches. This puts them neatly into the "carry on luggage" category, and as such they are allowed on the Metro during rush hour. I can't tell you how many times I've planned to ride to work in the morning, but when I wake up I'm too tired, so I just Metro in instead. And because my current bike is full-sized, I can't take it onto the Metro with me until after 10 a.m., which is too late. So I'm left for the day without a bike, and thus unable to bike BACK home, and so I have gone the whole day without a nice long bike ride, which is bad for my waistline and my attitude. I need that ride -- it centers me.

After reading a ton about them online, I went to go see them in person at Bicycle Space. I took a few test rides around the block with various models, and found my favorite -- an "H6R," meaning it's a six-speed high handlebar model with a rear rack.

Here, I tried to capture my excitement.

The store let me borrow a demo model and use it for a couple days. It was pretty awesome! I was able to:

Bike to the Silver Spring metro station in 3 minutes -- shaving 7 minutes off my normal walk -- and keep it next to me during rush hour!

Bring it inside and put it under my table at Starbucks!

Ride 13 miles home on the Capital Crescent Trail!

About the only thing I didn't like about it was the stock saddle, which is fine for a couple miles in the city, but frankly is pretty uncomfortable after a 13 mile ride. It was so bad that even with all the Brompton's merits, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through with it. That is, until I went back to the store and tried one with a different saddle, the Brooks B17. Here's my final test ride:

The B17 rocked. It's a pricy upgrade but it's worth it.

So, I placed my order for the H6R with a Brooks saddle, using the extended seatpost (for taller chaps), and I also picked up a C-Bag which will sit on the front luggage block. Here's a mock-up of my new bike, complete with some Go Blue Cheer!

It's a custom bike, so they have to make it from scratch, and it's scheduled to get here in ONE MONTH. I cannot wait, and every day I notice times when having my Brompton would be so convenient. For instance, I had biked to rehearsal on my full-sized bike, and I was pretty tired and wanted to just metro home. But because it was 5 pm, aka "Peak of the Peak," there was no way a Metro worker would let me take my bike on the train. For that I'd have to wait until 7 pm. So I ended up, in my exhausted state, biking uphill 7 miles to get home. Yeah, it was my exercise for the day, but I'd really rather have had the option to Metro. With my folding bike I'll be able to!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Waiting for Spring

I told myself I would be the kind of bike commuter who rides to work during the winter months. I knew it would be cold, but I prepared with lots of gear. I went on an Amazon shopping spree for gloves and balaclavas and toe warmers and everything. I was ready. Yet I didn't anticipate just how cold it gets, just how dark it would be, just how difficult the weather would be. Snow, I could deal with. But DC hasn't gotten a lot of snow this year; instead we get cold, icy rain. There is NOTHING worse than icy rain -- not only is it super uncomfortable, it's also slippery (as my skinned arm and ripped cycling jacket can attest to). And the wind! It turns out 20 mph steady winds are doable, but those gusts of up to 35 mph are not, especially when it's 30 degrees outside.

I've barely ridden 20 miles this month.

I long for Spring. As the days slowly inch toward warmth, as the sun stays out slightly longer each day, I realize that we're just a few weeks away. Soon temperatures in the morning will be around 50 degrees, which is so comfortable for biking. Anything greater is just icing on the cake. I won't have to wear gloves anymore, and my outer layer can get ever lighter until one day, a few months from now, it will be 90 degrees and the breeze on the bike will provide sweet, sweet relief.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hitching a Ride

Sometimes I'll ride my bike to work on a Friday, but because I don't like to ride 26 miles in one day, I'll leave it there instead of riding it back home. When that happens, I often drive to the office the next day and bring my bike home on my trunk! Back in the spring I picked up a trunk mount rack from Amazon, and it's proved mighty handy when I just Can't Be Bothered to ride back. Here it is!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winter Riding

I fully planned to ride my bike to work throughout the winter months, cold be damned! But a quick check of my log shows that I only rode 34 miles in the entire month of November – and the worst part is I went over three weeks between rides. In fairness, I was sick for much of that, and I had a bunch of evening commitments, making logistics difficult. But it was still disheartening (and, sadly, fattening).

I'm doing a lot better this month. With almost half the month complete, I have ridden close to 50 miles. It's not nearly as momentous as what I achieved during the summer, but then, I didn't have to bundle up with five layers and toe warmers during the summer! This morning I rode 13 miles to work -- impressive considering I'd left both pairs of gloves at the office. What did I do? I wore socks on my hands. Not the most stylish, but it worked in a pinch.

It had been a week since I last went riding. I really wanted to go sooner, but my Bionx crapped out on me, and it turns out riding to work without it is not nearly as fun. I can do it, sure, but it takes about 20 minutes longer. And that "quick" 4 mile jaunt from work to rehearsal at the church? It takes a lot longer than 20 minutes when you have to manually power up a 5% incline for at least half a mile! It's hills like that that really make me miss my pedal-assist.

Luckily, my dealer dropped off a spare system while mine is in the shop. He is without a doubt the best shop-owner I have ever dealt with, installing the entire system for free, and then making two housecalls to help with problems I was having. I'm a 45 minute drive from his shop! And he didn't have to give me a loaner system while he tries to fix my faulty battery. He's a real class act and I heartily encourage anyone who's thinking of the Bionx or any other electric system to head down to Green Pedals in Annapolis, MD.

I can't ride tomorrow because I've got an early conference to attend and then a swanky formal dinner at night. But Friday evening I shall brave the dark and cold!

Here's a picture of me this morning:

Under 40 degrees. I wore an under armour base layer,
T-shirt, fleece, Pearl Izumi shell, balaclava!
Also toe warmers.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Healthy Treats

In an attempt to update my blog more than once every three months, I'm going to start posting more pictures, and telling brief tales of exciting adventures that I may have had. Or maybe not. Maybe I'm just making all of these adventures up. Regardless, enjoy.

Today's Healthy Shopping Trip

Never go to the grocery store hungry, they say. So I didn't -- and it was amazing. I had no cravings, no desire to buy BAD food, and so I ended up with this!

I put my bounty into shopping bags, and brought them home - somewhat precariously - on my handlebars. [NOTE TO READERS: Do not do this. It makes the bike hard to control.]

So today was a good day, with 13 miles of biking and a healthy trip to the supermarket. At this point I've got the cardio-as-a-routine thing down; I just have to work on making healthy eating choices.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Captain's Log

It's been about two and half months, and usually when I am silent for so long it means that I have fallen off the wagon. I am very happy to say that is not the case. You see, instead of writing about exercising, I have actually been doing it.

When my focus was running, I used to have to psych myself up for the endeavor. I am not a natural runner. My calves tighten up, I get incredibly tired and sore, and even the best experiences are akin to the joy one feels from successfully preparing vegetables. So blogging was a way to give myself a little pep talk.

I don't need a pep talk anymore! I really love biking, especially with the little push that I get from having the Bionx. It never sucks. Let me repeat that: it never sucks. (Unless, for instance, I forget to bring the Bionx controller and so I have to bike uphill with an additional 20 pounds in battery and motor weight. But even then it doesn't suck nearly as much as running used to suck.)

So I have not been writing, but I have been biking. Here are my logs to prove it:

Ele. Gain
September 2012
127.1 mi
+5,710 ft
August 2012
142.0 mi
+4,974 ft
July 2012
212.0 mi
+9,933 ft
June 2012
178.5 mi
+8,652 ft

Although my mileage has been lower recently than it was when I started, I chalk most of that up to being extra busy at work -- morning press conferences mean I don't get to ride my bike in to work as often as I'd like. (There was also a bikeless vacation in the beginning of September, a bit of under-the-weather, and some relationship drama sucking up much of my time.) But I've still managed to average over 30 miles a week this month - and the month isn't over yet! I expect to do another 13 miles or so tomorrow, bringing the total in line with August. And I have no intentions of stopping.


That said, I feel somewhat guilty about not posting recently, because I do have an awfully high number of (mis)adventures on my two wheels. So let me now briefly highlight what you might have missed:

Downed trees blocked the Capital Crescent Trail!
I got stung by a bee at 20 mph!
Another ride to Old Town Alexandria turned into a
late night ride past the beautiful Lincoln Memorial!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Camouflaging the Bionx

As anyone who has seen a Bionx frame-mounted battery knows, it sticks out like a sore thumb. This is good for sparking conversations, but not so good for leaving the bike outside for any length of time -- I just can't shake the feeling that that big "Bionx!" logo looks really tempting to thieves, even if they don't know what it is. Plus the font doesn't look very high-tech; it's more reminiscent of something you'd see in an old magazine ad from the 1980s.

I looked for bags that might hide the battery, but I wasn't having much luck. I was about to head to the store for some spray paint and rags when I stumbled upon an easier solution: duct tape! I know, I know, it sounds horribly low budget, and it is, but if you use colors that blend well with your frame, it actually works out really well. I chose two colors - "olive drab" (which is actually much darker than it looked online), and a "digital camo" style for trim. A bit of cutting with a utility knife, and I'm very happy with the results:



Thursday, July 12, 2012


After an easy ride to work this morning along the CCT, I decided to take a different route home. Rock Creek Park is very different on a weekday, when Beach Drive is open to traffic, and you're pumping as hard as you can on the uphill, heart rate over 170 for 1.5 miles (peaking at 178), acutely aware that there's a long line of cars behind you with no room to pass on this winding road with the double yellow line. Exhilarating... but holy crap, I haven't kept my pulse that high for that long in years. This is a "once a week" route at most.

PS - I passed the 500-mile mark today! I'm averaging around 200 miles per month. I wonder if I'll keep this up when it gets cold out?