Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Back in the saddle... and... wow, not what I was hoping for!

What my lips felt like I'd been doing.
I knew this morning's commute was going to hurt. Realistically, with the weather, the extreme cold temperatures, insane dumps of snow and the cities' absolute inconsistent street grooming, it's simply been too dangerous to commute to and from work this winter. Which bummed me out, though it gave my back time to continue healing. (I think these sprained sacreiliac ligaments are the injuries that just keep giving - as soon as I think I'm past the pain of the injury and can start easing into what, for me, is normal physical exertion, some gremlin decides to play cat's in the cradle with my ligaments and I'm back to square one.)

I dropped my car off at the gas station for inspection, and started what is my normal route from Scotts Corners in Pound Ridge, NY to the office in Downtown Stamford, CT. All was going well until I hit the uphill of Trinity Pass. Now, it usually takes me a couple of weeks after not riding for a while to be able to climb TP with my backpack on without having to stop or dismount and walk. (Many of you know this climb. It's not easy when you don't have a 20-pound backpack on when you're in pique condition.) What was scary, though, was heading into with an 18-mph pace and all of a sudden, being seized with a blinding coughing fit. And I mean blinding. Murphy's Law dictated that just as I was starting to take some deep inhalations preparing for the climb, a fierce cold gust of wind blew right into my face and into my lungs. I pulled off to the side of the road and dismounted. In so doing, the bike fell over into a pile of ice-mud-sand-salt-mush-chunks and the derailleur derailed itself. Let's see - 20-pound backpack, coughing fit, awkward incline, uneven road and a bike repair. Can you spell, "N-O-T-S-O-G-O-O-D-F-O-R-T-H-E-B-A-C-K"? Because, stupidly, I didn't take off my backpack when I leaned over to pick the bike up to flip it over to re-align the chain and all the bike's dangly bits. Do bear in mind, this hill is in the first 3 miles of my ride. I still have another 9 or so to go. Including a couple of hills.

The walk up was not fun. Between dragging my sorry butt up the hill, the backpack, the bike, the coughing fit which evolved into a constant wheeze along with the coughs, and the incline, I wasn't happy. And I was dreadfully late. Of course, if you know Trinity Pass, you'll also know it's not the most cell friendly. So I couldn't even call a co-worker to rescue me until I'd walked all the way to High Ridge Road and down a ways.

Might as well have used a nutmeg grinder on my lungs. Would have been more pleasant. 
After what seemed like an eternity, I got to the flat stretch that leads to High Ridge, re-mounted, and continued to ride. But I noticed that anytime I had to breathe with any force, the coughing returned. Violently. I was hocking up loogies like a frat boy dared to hit a tree across a field on a bored, drunken Saturday night.

I was really hating myself for riding into work.

I put in a few miles, and then as I was heading into the last incline before the downhill ride and Frogger moves to the office, the coughing started again. And it was ripping up my lungs. Yes, it was sunny. Yes, I was warm in body. But the wind was frigid and strong and hitting me in the face. My lungs were burning, and not in a good, "I'm a bad-ass cyclist" kind of way. More like a, "Oh, dear lord, is this your way of telling me that I've come down with my daughter's miserable chest cold and this ride has accelerated it into pneumonia?" I made it half-way up the slope and I had to get off. I had to get the backpack off because I couldn't open my chest up enough to breath.

I called in to work to see if one of my co-workers could pick me up, only a mile or two away. I felt like a dork. But what could you do? Knowing I had a dangerous couple of intersections ahead, including a quick, high-speed 3-lane shift from the far right to the far left amidst a major fare-way merge, I didn't want to risk a coughing fit that would prevent me from paying attention. I called every extension. No one was picking up. I called incessantly for almost 10 minutes. Finally, my CFO picked up. He told me everyone had disappeared, but the CEO, whose car he'd have to use, but he was on the phone. So I waited. And waited. And waited. By now, my lips were cracking, and I was so miserable that I didn't care if I got sandwiched between delivery trucks headed downtown and soccer moms en route from dropping kids off to their spa day appointments. Rica-squishing be damned, if I was meant to die today, it would be on two wheels and not standing like an idiot on the side of the road. I called the CFO, told him not to bother and I'd see him in a few.

I remounted and went as fast as I could. It was a miracle - my lane-shifts were traffic-free! I floated into the parking garage at the office and carried the bike cyclocross

This ride sucked. It flat out sucked.

I am reminded of the sage advice of Andrew Reischer who told me never to ride when it's below 30 degrees. And he advised me to take wind-chill into account.

Dear Andrew,
You are wiser beyond your comprehension. Ne'er shall I under appreciate your advice again and try and bad-ass my way through a ride.
All hail Andrew.

Needless to say, me thinks I'll have to ease into my usual commute with a bit more patience and reality. I'll drive a little further into town and then add the miles back on once my cycling legs, lungs and back are feeling better.

Of course, my commute is very different from my fun riding. Looking forward to taking my Madone out for a (backpack free) long ride one of these days soon...

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