Running

Shoes

Little known fact: I used to run track in high school. It was the only sport offered that didn’t have tryouts, and I thought it would look good on my transcript or something. I was really bad at it. I mostly ran sprints, slowly. I felt like I was going to die, even at that distance.

In my junior year, I sprained my ankle badly during practice, and it’s never been right ever since. I used to sprain that ankle every other year, and it got to the point where being hobbled would depress me. I fell badly on my other ankle during martial arts practice a few years ago. After weeks of physical therapy, I used prescription ankle braces whenever I practiced. But I always felt unstable on my feet.

I quit running and martial arts. I took up bicycling. I discovered that I’m no faster a bicyclist than a runner, but I had fun biking.
Continue reading

30 Days of Change

Sometimes, I look for other ways of torturing myself pushing my body to the limit. Because why not?

A friend of mine recommended that I look at Neila Rey‘s site. I found it instantly appealing because 1) it lays out exercises in an easy-to-understand visual format, 2) the exercises are manageable to do in short chunks of time, and 3) they mostly involve using one’s body weight. As I am lazy and cheap, doing a quick regimen that didn’t involve having to go to the gym or buying equipment was very tempting. I had to try it. I opted for the 30 Days of Change program to get myself re-acquainted with working out again.

The program involves 30 straight days of doing a combination of cardio and strength exercises, which are mixed up throughout the program so that you aren’t doing the same thing twice in a row. There are three different levels of workouts, which Neila calls “normal, hard, and freakin’ murder.” I started out on Level 1.

The first four days seemed easy to me– almost too easy. I figured that if it wasn’t a challenge, then I should level up. Big mistake. There is a significant difference between “normal” and “hard,” so when I attempted Day 5 at Level 2, I nearly lost it. The plank jacks and duck walks were so hard for me, that I admit I started crying during the last couple sets. From then on, I knocked back to Level 1 for the rest of the program.

I did a few modifications on some of the workouts– I swapped some of the running exercises for biking, and if I thought a particular day wasn’t challenging enough, rather than going up to the next level, I shortened the recovery time between sets instead. I did end up doing some running by Day 8, when I discovered that it was actually not too terrible.*

Somewhere past the halfway mark, I felt like I was getting stronger. I needed less time to recover, doing some of the cardio exercises didn’t leave me a total mess, and some exercises (like push-ups?!) actually got easier to do.

There is also a recommended menu, and I confess I didn’t follow it because I got sick during the program (not related to working out), and didn’t feel like I could do that change then. This may account for why I don’t see a dramatic change in my weight or my appearance. But I do feel really good– like I’m comfortable in my own body again, which I haven’t felt in a while. And more important, I feel like working out every day is easily achievable. I wake up a little earlier in the morning to exercise before I leave for work. It doesn’t take too much time out of my schedule, and I feel energized for the rest of the day. It helps to combat against the morning blues I had been feeling lately.

Even though I’m done this program, I want to keep exercising. My friend and I will be embarking on the 30 Days of High Intensity Interval Training (gulp!), and you can follow my progress on Twitter.

*I stopped running a long time ago because I kept getting injured. I do wonder whether I should come back to it, at least in a limited capacity as part of cross-training, because I think I’m starting to get repetitive strain in certain parts of my body from being on the bike every day.

Ebb and Flow

Northwest Branch and Trail

There comes a time in a blogger’s life when the blogger has dropped off from posting regularly, and feels compelled to apologize to loyal readers, no matter how minuscule the readership.

It’s been a difficult spring for me. I had somewhat of a mental breakdown last month. It’s been a long time coming, really. Even off the bike, I have a tendency to push myself pretty hard. I’m reminded of my time riding the Urbana 200K— mental toughness may be a virtue in some respects, but it has a boundary, and I crossed it some time ago. I completely fell apart, and am now in the process of rebuilding. It’s going to take a while.

Through it all, I kept biking. That was one of the few bright spots in my life in an otherwise bleak time. I enjoy my daily commute, riding through the woods, watching the trail greening in the warmer weather. I’ve been doing shorter group rides, but I’m having fun with those, too. Being outdoors on my bike rejuvenates me, even though the feeling is sometimes short-lived and disappears once I sit down at my desk.

This is all just to say that I’m sorry I haven’t been writing here regularly, but rest assured that I’m still bicycling. I haven’t given up yet.

Winter Ramblings

My left knee has been bothering me for the past few months or so. I’m a little worried by it. Any recommendations for a good orthopedist?

Part of me is annoyed that the snow and ice here sometimes makes it difficult to ride without making changes to my bike set-up, and part of me likes to use it as an excuse for doing other things. I like to walk, hike, spin. Maybe to everything there is a season, as they say.

I’ve said this before on another blog, but I’m going to say it here: hilly miles do not equal flat miles. 100 miles is fun and fast on the Seagull Century, not so much on the Civil War Century. By the same token, an 8-mile commute would be fantastic if flat, but my route is not. On paper, it sounds easy. I should not beat myself up so much if I can’t ride this every day. And yet, I do beat myself up, still.

Vacation Ramblings

Isle La Motte
R and I talked about bringing our bikes on our vacation. As it turned out, my shifter cables decided to explode and fray the day that we were going to leave. I had to leave my bike at the shop.

We ended up renting a couple of bikes on the first day, and rolled around the islands. One day was enough for R. I couldn’t help but notice bicycles and infrastructure throughout the week. Bikes were common in Montreal, and there were painted bike lanes, bike lanes with a concrete barrier separating them from cars, and sharrows. We saw all sorts of bikers– from the spandex-clad racing up Mont Royal, to the commuters in regular clothing riding from one part of the city to another. I did not see any conflicts with bicyclists and drivers while I was there, and it seemed like biking was simply another accepted mode of transportation.

Burlington Bikeway
I noticed the trails in Burlington, VT and in Northampton, MA. Beautiful day for a leisure ride, and again a good mix of sporty bikers and commuters.

I realize the obvious consequence that the more I bike, the more I notice biking around me. That’s a good thing. It’s a part of my life, and I’m happy to see it’s a part of other people’s lives where I’ve traveled as well.

Some Ramblings About Riding Mt. Vernon

sign for Mt. Vernon
This was my first time riding the Mt. Vernon Trail– in the daylight. I’ve done parts of it, but only at night. I figured I should get to know the trail during the day. Some thoughts:

-It’s really pretty, even in the wintertime. I’m envious that this is Rootchopper’s commute. He pointed out the eagle’s nests– and as if on cue, we saw a bald eagle fly into one. Magical.

-I got lost a couple of times– getting out of Old Town Alexandria, and getting out of Jones Point Park. I know I tend to be directionally challenged, but I do think the signage could be better. Many thanks to Justin for pointing me in the right direction.

-Oh, and why do I not go to Old Town more often? Seriously– so easy to get to by bike.

-There was a downed tree near the end of the trail, which I attempted to go around. Unfortunately, there was mud on the side of the trail, and I slipped and fell. I was happy to discover that 1) I slipped in soft mud instead of hard pavement, and 2) that my feet will come out of the pedals in an accident. Still, falling was embarrassing.

-It’s not my heart, it’s heartburn. At mile zero, I stopped to eat a Clif Mojo bar. On my return ride, I started feeling that familiar burning in my chest. I looked at my heart rate monitor, and I wasn’t even close to being at threshold level. So now I know, and I guess I need to eat Tums on every ride. It hurt me all the way home.

-I’m still amazed by how much of the area I haven’t seen. So much to explore!

-It was great to meet up with Mr. T in DC and Jerdlngr. So great to meet up with Bike DC folks!

-I meant to just ride for the morning, but instead I made a day of it. And it was a great day.

Rootchopper’s account is here.

“Training”

And now, to reverse what I said in my last post.

Around these parts, training seems like a bad word. When I mentioned that I was training for the next brevet, a friend remarked, “I hate that word– it sounds like work. Riding is supposed to be fun.”

I do agree that riding is supposed to be fun, and it can be for me, when it’s wandering around the city, leisurely trying out new routes and trails, or riding to fun destinations. But right now, hilly brevets are not fun for me. There is always a point where I’m trying not to cry, and although I’m fine (and ecstatic) at the end of a ride, the day after seems to be a day of reckoning for me where I’ve discovered I’ve physically gone too far and am doing some harm to myself.

When I tell folks how I feel, the answer is always that I need to ride more. I don’t disagree with that– as I’ve discovered through Strava, I ride considerably less than my Bike DC friends, even those who don’t participate in randonneuring. I try to ride when I can, but carving out time is difficult for me, especially now when I’m in school.

Mike W. sent me a thoughtful email with tips on how to train off the bike as well as on. He suggested I work on exercises to strengthen my core and leg muscles. So I’m doing stuff like plank pose and burpees. I’m not exactly enjoying this, but I am already noticing a difference. I feel stronger.

So, I’m training. I’m training to not get beat up by brevets. I’ll be at the next one, and we’ll see how it goes.