Christmas Ride

(Not a self-portrait)

We didn’t have a White Christmas and Lake Montclair wasn’t frozen as it was last year, but it was cold enough for a frost and for the dog’s water dish to freeze over.  These ominous signs, combined with reports of snow to the north, indicate the depths of winter are not far off.  I waited patiently for the sun to heat things up a few degrees and set out in the late morning to review the Christmas landscape.

One nice thing about being a dedicated cyclist is people give you cycling-related presents at Christmas.  Today I tried out some new cycling gloves (pictured at right) and some wool socks (not pictured) which my loving daughter gave me.  Both worked well – the gloves too well, in fact.  I’ll need the temperature to stay around freezing, else my hands will fill them with sweat.

There was little evidence of Christmas on my standard 17-mile loop.  There was only one bicyclist - a young man riding a mountain bike that was much too small for him.  Vehicular traffic was much lighter than normal, which is difficult to capture in a picture.  I did spy a nativity scene at the Christus Victor Lutheran Church on Rte 234, which was a pleasant reminder of the day’s meaning.

Here’s hoping you and yours had a very Merry Christmas.  I now patiently wait for the days to grow long and the sun to burn hot while I make do as best I can with my new winter gear!

P.S.  This is my 250th post on this blog.  I’m glad it fell on a special day such as this.

A Cold And Windy Day

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  – Woody Allen

I hope the people in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying the sun.  We’re still a few weeks from the solstice and I already miss it.  The cold days certainly make “showing up” more difficult!

With a strong possibility that I won’t be able to cycle tomorrow (Harry Potter is calling me), I resolved to keep my weekend cycling streak alive and set off into the teeth of a steady 20 mph wind.  The temperature was in the upper 40s and this was the coldest ride of the year for me.  The wind only made it more “exciting.” 

The best that can be said for today was I have now cycled 13 weekends in a row.  My only break since mid-April was August 28-29, due to one of my many mechanical issues with Old Ironsides.  I’m also within spitting distance of 2,000 miles for the year.  Barring a major calamity, that mark is well within my grasp.

I didn’t do anything exciting with my route.  I just traveled up my old friend, Rte 234.  The first 12.2 miles were into the wind and it took me 55 minutes to cover them.  It was a tough go.  As one might expect, turning around made all the difference.  The return trip took me only 38 minutes and my heart rate dropped from near max to Zone 3.

I think I’ve just about reached the max of my current cold weather kit.  My full-finger gloves are thin and meant for Fall weather, not the depths of Winter.  I used two pairs of socks and my thin shoe covers kept me warm, but I don’t think they can handle much more.  My skull cap worked just fine.  For my torso, I used a new fleece jacket with a jersey and long sleeve shirt.  That, too, was up to the task but I could feel the limits of the arrangement.  Without a significant overhaul, I believe 40 degrees is my limit.  That’s about 25 degrees colder than I would have ever imagined cycling in just nine months ago!

Prince William Forest & Quantico

On Saturday, I traveled around Prince William Forest and did a couple of laps on Quantico Marine Corps Base.  Although the calendar informed me it was Fall, the weather was decidedly summer-like, with temps in the mid 90s.  I’ve traveled all these roads at least once before so there was very little new to report, other than the Modern Day Marine Expo, which I passed on my way by the post HQ. 

From the outside, there wasn’t much to see other than a bunch of white “beer tents.”  I’m sure it is very nice and the Marines are very proud of it, but I had finished only 20 of my 45 miles and couldn’t be bothered to stop.  Instead, I took my break on a bench at the Quantico Elementary School playground.  It was in the shade and nobody was there.  Much better than a tent full of Marine stuff.

Here is this ride’s installment of “Virginia Historical Marker Picture.”  This marker is on Rte 234, near the entrance to my subdivision, Montclair:

And this is what it looks like in its natural setting:

I finished the ride in good shape and in a better-than-average pace of almost 15 mph.  There was only a small issue, namely that when I got off the bike I had no feeling in the ring and pinky fingers of my left hand.  This continued for most of the day, which was a tad disconcerting.  Some one-handed google searches informed me that I was suffering from handlebar palsy, an overuse injury caused by excessive compression of the ulnar nerve which runs down the arm and (most importantly for this story) the outer portion of the hand, ending in (you guessed it!) the ring and pinky fingers.  It is also responsible for hand strength, which explains why I had a tough time using my left hand to properly operate a clothes pin later that evening.

The treatment for this condition is rest, usually 2-4 weeks.  I’ll give it six days.  Various websites also recommend frequently changing hand positions  (something I already do) and additional padding in riding gloves (something I will definitely look into).  The hand is already doing much better and I am even using it to type this post – yippee!

Today, I took the Trek back to Revolution Cycles to give it a tune up prior to next weekend’s ride in Culpeper.  The cables, derailleurs, brakes, and whatnot on new bikes have a break-in period.  Small adjustments are usually necessary after the first couple hundred miles.  Such was the case with my bike.  After a few small tweaks and a chain lube, the Trek was right as rain.  I briefly loitered at the glove section, hoping to find a pair of full-fingered gloves for my winter riding.  I found several, but none for less than the cost of dinner at a fine restaurant.  I think I’ll shop around a bit!