The Elkridgean Cyclist - Bonked on Beechwood

Gearing up for regular bike-commuting...

It's been a long time since I blogged as my cyclist persona. I've been busy as the Elkridge Heritage Society webmaster, and I also recently overcame a 3 week obsession with family history research. Then I got addicted to Angry Birds Star Wars. My 4-year old great-nephew had to teach me how to use it. Now I've finished all the free levels and before I download another version of Angry Birds, I thought I would like to share some more experiences regarding bike-commuting.

Since my thumb surgery in November, I've had a difficult time getting my stamina back. And as luck would have it (luck does not run in my family - never get behind me in the grocery store check-out line!) while I missed a very mild fall and early winter recuperating, as soon as I got the go-ahead to ride again, suddenly winter decided to descend. I am willing to ride in colder weather, and sometimes I enjoy it, but there's a limit to my tolerance, and February and March winds are a strong deterrent.

I have a stationary bike, that tends to remain stationary. I was trying to walk and hike a lot during my recovery, and then I managed to get plantar faciitis on my left foot so even that became uncomfortable. I gained a bit of weight last year.  I blamed it on stress, injury, and having near constant temptation of working in the "eatingest" office I've ever been in. It seemed like every day there were cookies, cake or candy. It's hard to say "no" all the time, especially for chocoholics like me. I wish I could say I enjoyed every minute of over-indulgence, but I can't even say that. Of course there were some things that I can't regret. My birthday cupcakes from Kupcakes & Co. for example (shameless plug for an Elkridge business).

The long shot of it is, I replaced my ancestry and Angry Birds obsession with a renewed enthusiasm for fitness and healthy eating.

So back to cycling. As you can imagine, some number of extra pounds, along with muscles weak from disuse, makes regaining my bike-stamina that much harder to do. It's been a bear. Growl!

But the good news is, Spring is just around the corner (despite today's winter storm). I changed jobs and so far there has not been a single snack set out for general consumption. My new job is also 5 miles closer to home, along back roads, some of which are official bike-routes! So this means that commuting by bike, which was a rare and uncomfortable experience, is suddenly a very reasonable prospect which I hope to start taking advantage of two to three times a week, as soon as my stamina allows.

The first time I tried, it was a partly cloudy, chilly but still morning, and I rode a little out of my way to go down Ilchester and through Patapsco State Park. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world! There was just a streak of blue sky, and the colors of the leafless trees and grey river were muted but beautiful. All good things come to an end, however. On the way home, I "bonked" on Beechwood. That is, I hit a wall. My legs were shaking, my heart was pounding, and I couldn't ride the rest of the way up the hill. Now, I'd dutifully done a test ride a week or two before, and I thought I could make it, but I didn't have my commuting gear in my pannier. Plus, I was heading home from work at the lowest point of my circadian rhythm (that is, it was nap-time) after having worked all day (well, part-day since I'm part-time).Beechwood is a challenging hill - not as bad as Ilchester, by a long shot, but still a challenge. But I'm used to it being part of my stomping ground--a challenge but not an impossibility. Last year my goal was to ride up Ilchester without stopping. I never did it, but I improved to where I only had to stop twice. But Beechwood? It wasn't fair. I should be able to handle it.

The next time I tried, I made it up Beechwood (with one rest break), but was worn out for the rest of the evening. Now I have a mental block about it. I dread going up that last big hill. So I tried driving my car down to the river and rode from there to avoid the hill. It was still a challenging ride home because I added about 5 extra miles of relative flat to make up for the lack of hills, but the bulk of the ride was into a frigid head-wind. On a couple occasions, I brought my bike with me to work and rode around the airport for an extended lunch break. (Yay for flex-time!) My ultimate goal is to ride from my house to my office regularly, but I'm building up to that.

All in all, however, I'm feeling hopeful. I did my little weight-lifting routine on the other day and felt, for the first time in this process, that I was improving in strength. The stationary bike has lost its layer of dust. The eating-pattern-changes are getting easier too. I did the full commute yesterday, riding home via Lawyers Hill to Montgomery to Landing. It was hard, but I didn't nap afterwards, made it through a book club meeting, and stayed up to watch some shows on the DVR. So proud of myself!

No doubt, I have my work cut out for me though.


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Joel Gallihue March 07, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Rita Chelton March 07, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Glad you're back. I enjoy your blog.
Michele Miller March 07, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Way to go Ms. Cyclist!
Paul R March 11, 2013 at 01:39 PM
If you are commuting on Lawyers Hill, you'll see me every now and then. I ride on it almost every day. Be careful, traffic on Lawyers is way up ever since the giant new development went in. It's still not as bad as Landing though. Happy riding!


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