Spring flowers

24 03 2011

Spring flowers bring… the spring cold.

We finally got a genuine taste of spring this week, a couple of sunny warm days that made you want to pack away the winter jackets for good, break out the bib-knickers and go for a ride.

Except, it seems last Sunday’s pseudo-spring ride made me sick. I paid a steep price for that cold head wind. By coming down with a head cold.

Spring flowers bring the spring cold.

Ugh. And it had been such a healthy winter.

But when I awoke Monday morning with a niggling cough, I knew the gig was up. Sure enough, by the end of the day, I was in full-blown call-in-sick-to-work mode.

Two days of lolling in bed, and on the couch, in varying degrees of lucidity had me feeling energetic enough to make a return to work Thursday, although in hindsight, I”m thinking another day would have been advisable.

It truly sucks to miss the opportunity of those first warm, sunny days, with daylight lingering until almost 7:30 p.m. No rides. No runs. No nothing.

Even the prospect of a Friday ride is in peril, if my energy is still floundering.

The thing that really ticks me though; I should have known better. It seems this happens every year; we’re so excited by those first warming rays of sun, we underestimate our need for warm clothes and then bam, waylaid by a chill. I knew it part way through our ride when a little voice in my head, sounding suspiciously like my mother, said I should have worn another layer.

Silver lining?

It’s the first week of spring; there’s still plenty of fantastic days to come. The mileage can always be made up in April.


The wind at our backs

20 03 2011

It’s the first day of spring and Katie’s gimped with stress fractures; what better time to do a duathlon?

Actually, Katie’s regime today was more like a triathlon.

Since getting word that she has some stress fractures in her ankles and at least one shin, she had to waylay her running schedule. Instead, we’ve set out to maintain her training program with aqua jogging, pilates and cycling.

Up until today, the latter was on the indoor trainer, while watching television. Mind numbing to say the least, and the other day she did 1.5 hours! That’s positively catatonic!

But today’s sunshine and mild temperatures were beckoning us to ride in the wide world.

So after completing the running and swimming portions of her Sunday triathlon this morning with an hour of aqua jogging, and I returned from the road hockey leg of my duathlon, we set out for a 40 km flat spin out to Richmond.

It’s a rare treat to ride together in the middle of her marathon training, but that’s a silver lining to her current recovery. She’s come a long way since she used to mock my affinity for long rides, and it’s fun to share this activity, even if it is at a more leisurely clip.

Katie used to make fun of my rides; now she's out there with me!

The headwind was a little stiffer and brisker than we’d anticipated on the way out, so the workout was actually pretty substantial for a flat route. On the way back, of course, we sailed with the wind at our backs, pushing us past the curious ramshackle hillbilly shacks along the river, right alongside gated mansions.

It’s an odd place down there, in the lee of the city yet so very rural; there’s even a pasture with grazing horses.

I only wish I was celebrating a big win at the casino. I'm just happy we're turning around and will have a tailwind.

When we got home, Katie declared herself “tuckered.” But it’s a good tuckered, without any stress to her wounded legs. At this rate, she’ll have barely missed a beat when she gets back to running.

Quality vs. quantity

18 03 2011

At first blush, today’s ride looks like a bit of a cop-out; 35.35 kms barely qualifies as a ride. In July.

But in a wet, cold March even that modest distance can be a triumph.

As with most days this month, the weather forecast wasn’t particularly promising when I logged onto the computer this morning; overcast, cool, showers beginning shortly after noon. Plus there was a movie that intrigued me opening today.

It would have been easy to succumb to the less-than-ideal conditions and just fritter away the morning until I could catch Limitless at an early matinee. But that would have been a little hypocritical considering my ongoing lament about the lack of riding opportunities lately.

So I kitted up and hit the road about an hour earlier than usual, waiting just long enough for the morning rush hour traffic to dissipate.; I had about 2.5 hours to ride if I still wanted to make the matinee.

Already the clouds were thickening and darkening, the air was humid. I set out intending to do a quick, flat ride out to UBC, but urgency compelled me to test my legs up Burnaby Mountain for the first time this season; the kilometers wouldn’t be as impressive, but the quality of ride would still pay off.

Usually I wait until April before I begin the five km, 7 per cent trek up the mountain. By then I’ve got a few good rides in my legs so the steady ascent won’t beat me up.

Riding up Burnaby Mountain isn't hard in July, but it can be a bit of a test in March. But the payoff is always the same, going down (bottom right) at 70 kph.

But with my twice-weekly jogs this winter, I’ve felt less decline in my off-season fitness than usual.

This morning’s climb was an affirmation of that. No wheezing. No wobbly knees. No regrets.

As for Limitless, in which Bradley Cooper plays a failing writer who becomes addicted to a new drug that allows him to access the full potential of his brainpower, at the peril of dire consequences should his supply run out, it had an almost Fight Club vibe, with a driving soundtrack, compelling visuals and moments of fierce kinetic energy. In fact, like the drug Cooper ingested, the movie really sizzled when he was benefitting from its effects, but wallowed a bit when he was his usual slacker, writer’s-blocked self.


Ides of March

17 03 2011

It’s almost spring, but you’d be hard-pressed to know it. Eighteen days into March and I’ve got one road ride in my legs so far this month.

That’s because it’s always raining. Or cold and windy.

At least the trees seem to think it's spring.

The trails are muddy bogs; even if we did get an evening without rain, it wouldn’t be much fun to ride them.

About the only upside has been the switch to Daylight Savings Time last weekend. Oh sure, losing that hour of sleep sucks bigtime (why we don’t move the clocks forward at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, I’ll never understand), but the brighter evenings are a promise of after-dinner rides in the very near future.

In fact, when George Bush decreed the earlier switch to Daylight Time as a way to conserve energy, he added about three weeks to the cycling season; I can now start those evening rides in mid-April instead of early May. That’s about the only good thing that came out of his presidency.

It’s been a tough week in the loft.

Katie’s been suffering some foot and leg pain through most of her training for her next marathon; physio, massage and regular icing relieved it somewhat, but never eliminated it. So she sought a medical opinion. Tuesday she got the results of her bone scan: stress fractures. No more running for awhile, advised her doctor.

To say she was devastated would be an understatement. I was gutted.

She does so love her runs. So much so her running even rubbed off on me!

But it ain’t over ’till it’s over. And if there’s one thing I know, there will be no denying Katie her running goals.

For the next few weeks we’re going to rejig her training; rides on the trainer and out on the road when the weather finally cooperates, and a triathlon friend is going to introduce her to the joys of acqua jogging in the pool.

Meanwhile, she’ll keep icing, wearing her compression socks and strengthening her muscles with pilates.

She’ll be back smoking me on the boardwalk again in no time.

My new left (and right) foot

11 03 2011

I’m not a runner. So today I shopped for running shoes.

My bottom-of-the-sale-bin Adidas have served me for¬† more than a year, playing road hockey, doing my non-runner jugs up and down the boardwalk. But one of the insoles is slipping out of place all the time, and I’ve noticed the bottom of my feet are really suffering from the pounding, especially after road hockey; I walk kinda funny the rest of the day.

So I resolved to get some new shoes.

Now I don’t know much about runners, except I don’t want to spend a lot. After all, I’m not a runner. I do like them to be fairly lightweight though, and no weird funked out soles.

With those criteria in mind, the shoe dude at the sporting goods store asked me if I pronate. Uh say what?

I know from accompanying Katie on her shoe shopping expeditions that some runners have ankles that turn their feet outward when they step down, and others roll inwards. As I’m not a runner, I’ve never given a moment a thought to my own situation. And frankly, I wasn’t about to start. Because, you know, I’m not a runner.

My new runners.

I spied a pair of Sauconys that looked good, felt light and were priced right. ¬†tried on my size, walked around a bit; they felt good. I got the hell out of there before the shoe dude asked me any more confounding runner-type questions that I couldn’t answer due to the fact that I’m not of the runner ilk.

Too bad buying a new bike isn’t that easy. Or that inexpensive…


Round and round

5 03 2011

I love traffic circles.

They’re an efficient way to control the flow of traffic without lights and hassle of four way stops. They’re also a lot of fun on the bike. As long as everyone knows the rules. Which is rare. Especially when cars and bikes mix.

I'm always keenly aware when I enter this traffic circle

There’s one traffic circle on my early-season route. I approach it just as every car should, taking the lane to enter it, yielding to traffic already in the circle, then exit.

The problems come when motorists don’t know how to react to my presence.

I may love traffic circles, but I'd never try to ride through this one in Paris.

Some, like the transit bus driver last year, seem to think I don’t have any right to be there, and try to run me out of the circle. He got a nasty glower.

Others panic and stop, befuddled, screwing everybody else up all the way around the circle.

Always, though, I have to be on the alert that motorists simply won’t notice me, because they’re so freaked out by the whole traffic circle experience, they look right past me.

It’s always a nervous time approaching that circle, and I’m relieved when I swoop out the other side unscathed.


Like a virga

4 03 2011

It’s that awkward time of year, when the weather can be your friend one moment, and your mortal enemy the next.

Today is one of those days.

For the time being it’s dry, and I’m itching to ride. But the forecast calls for showers starting a bit later. When exactly? Well, they’re not being very precise.

What to do? What to do?

Check the online forecasts.

They say the showers will likely start by 1 p.m. It’s also cool; but that’s not a deal breaker. I can dress for cool. But cool and showers aren’t much fun.

How about the wind?

When it’s cool, and threatening showers, wind IS a deal breaker. I don’t much enjoy riding in the wind at the best of times. Riding in a cold, wet wind is just no fun at all. Unless I’m in Flanders. Then it’s a badge of honour.

The trees and bushes outside in the courtyard aren’t swaying, but the online forecast says the winds are 20 kmh, a stiff breeze in anyone’s book.

Maybe if it’s this hard to decide, it’s a sign I shouldn’t ride?

So I shifted gears and went out for a 35 minute run.

It was cool, and when I hit the boardwalk, my ears were whistling from the breeze that was indeed zooming down the river at a brisk clip.

The feeble sun was slowly being swallowed by clouds advancing from the west. And from those clouds I’m sure I could see some virga (yes, in another life, I would be a weather forecaster).

It's March, but the weather is hardly palm-worthy.

A 35 minute run is nowhere near as great as a four-hour ride, but at least it’s something. I still can’t help but feeling like a bit of a wimp. I hope I made the right decision.

Let it rain.