Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some things.

I was going to ride at lunch today, but there's too much going on. I'll be finishing up with my current employer on Friday, and starting a new gig on Monday. Working from home! Should be pretty interesting. For the last few days here, though, I have all kinds of stuff to tie up and try to pass on to other folks who will be filling in. Of course the guy I'm supposed to be training is out sick today.

Apart from that... I started physical therapy for the knee on Monday. I go again tonight. The exercises that I'm doing so far aren't bad. Nothing crazy. I just hope it works. I have a follow-up with the doctor in six weeks, and I'm hoping that by then the PT will have started doing what it's supposed to do, which is strengthening the muscles around my tendon so that I can get back to riding the way I used to.

Speaking of riding, aside from not riding at lunch today, I haven't been able to get out a ton. I did ride on Sunday, and that was pretty fun. Road conditions in Highland Park were pretty bad. Even with the studded tires I was fishtailing like crazy. It was good physical and mental exercise, as I had to make sure I was focused the whole time I was riding so that I didn't just spill.

Tomorrow will probably be my last commute to work. I'm kind of sad about that. I'll definitely miss that aspect of the current job. That said, I still plan to get up and ride before I'm supposed to be online and working with the new place. That should actually be nicer because I won't have to load up a bag with all of my work clothes before I leave. Plus, if I do want to ride at lunch, it will be a lot easier.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The left knee, briefly.

So. I have tendinitis (informally also tendonitis). Gastrocnemius tendinitis, more specifically.

Physical therapy starts on Monday. I need to strengthen my leg muscles via PT. Just riding the bike won't be enough (as it's obviously not making the pain go away as I continue to ride).


The good news is that the doctor told me to keep riding my bike. I mean, I shouldn't go out and try any centuries or anything crazy like that (although I'm hoping to do a partial the weekend of the 24th), but he said that especially while I'm doing physical therapy, I should continue to ride as normal. Which means weather permitting.

I'm supposed to try to get to PT two or three times a week, and I see the doc again for a followup in six weeks. If the PT seems like something I can do on my own, maybe I'll do that, but I at least want to go for a week or two to get an idea as to what I should be doing to help get things back to the way they were.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Your mom would stick a fork right into daddy's shoulder.

Commuting (by bike) during the winter and commuting during the other three seasons are two entirely different things. In Pittsburgh, anyway. For now, let's just talk about the commute in to work.

Commuting during Spring, Summer, or Fall is like a little vacation before arriving to work. You get ready for work, you get on the bike, you head out. In most cases, you're wearing shorts, and some form of shirt on top that might be sleeveless, short-sleeved, or long-sleeved. If it's really chilly, maybe you have knee warmers and an extra layer on top. Gloves with fingers, definitely. Oh, and a helmet, of course.

You (and by you, I mean me) fly down the Southside Trail at about 20-21 mph, zip over the Hot Metal Bridge, and continue down the Eliza Furnace (aka Jail) Trail, also somewhere above or near 20 mph. The entire 11.5 mile ride, including all of the various holdups as you make your way through town, takes 33 or 34 minutes, so you average close to 20 mph for the whole thing (thanks to the first few miles where you're flying down West Run Rd and Forest Ave between 25-33 mph).

33 minutes is probably pretty close to the amount of time it would take to drive in to work. Sure, you have to take a shower once you get there, but you'd have had to spend extra time taking the shower before you left for work anyway. It all evens out, at least in terms of time spent getting to work.

Winter commuting is a little bit different. You get ready for work. This is more of an involved process involving:

  • tights
  • socks
  • shoes
  • neoprene shoe covers
  • wind pants
  • top base layer
  • top long sleeve shirt
  • top windproof shell
  • balaclava
  • glove liners
  • gloves
  • helmet (with liner)

Once that's all taken care of, you hop on the bike (equipped with studded tires for icy/snowy conditions) and hit the road. The studs are great for handling the Southside Trail, which apparently doesn't get touched by any city crews, but man, that snow and ice sure do slow you down. Instead of moving at 20 mph, it's more like 15-16 mph.

The switchbacks on the Hot Metal Bridge are sheets of ice, too. I'm not sure why they can't send someone over to salt that bridge. It's pretty heavily travelled by pedestrian as well as bike traffic. The Jail Trail is in much better shape for some reason, but the resistance from the tires (and some nice wind) still helps to keep speeds down. By the time you get to work, you're looking at 44:37 in riding time. Altogether, with traffic stops and other slowdowns, it takes close to 50 minutes.

It's still better than driving. Driving might get you there a little more quickly, but then you have to sit on the road with everyone else, and hope that they know how to deal with a few snowflakes. You have to worry about what sort of construction someone will have started this morning. You have to wait for the car to warm up long enough for the heat to come on. You don't worry about heat on the bike. You just make your own.

Friday, January 9, 2009

It'll store our brains in mason jars.

I almost wimped out on riding in to work this morning. It looked cold, and I was running a few minutes late, and part of me kept saying 'Oh come on. You can just drive in to work.'

That part of me might have won if I hadn't packed up all of my stuff last night. Which is one of the reasons why I do that in the first place. Since everything was ready to go, I threw on all of my layers and hit the road, albeit slightly later than I would have liked.

It was pretty cold out, but as is always the case, I warmed up in no time. Sure, the wind stings a little going down Forest Ave. Big deal. It's not like that hill lasts forever. Actually, it was pretty windy even on the flats.

That and the studded tires slowed me down some, but the studded tires also helped keep me upright as I rode down the snow-and-ice-covered Southside trail. Speed for stability is a pretty fair trade.


Man, it's tired out right now. I'm pretty much ready to fall asleep. I just hope I can wake up by the time 5:00 rolls around. Geez. That's still three hours away.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Biking and... hockey?

Well, I have an appointment on the 13th to have someone take a look at my left knee. I hope they can see something obvious and tell me what easy steps I need to perform in order to continue with pain-free, long-distance cycling.

Yesterday was mostly pain-free. I only did about 21 miles, and stayed away from any crazy hills. Except for Greenwood over in Morningside. I only rode up that street because I was pretty close to my friend's house, and that was the only way I knew to get there from where I was.

The commute to work this morning was good, too. I was surprised at how warm it was (upper 30's, maybe?). I probably could have done without the studded tires today, but I was thinking it would be colder, and I was a little worried about ice on the trails. There's still some potential for that this evening on the way home, I guess.

I bought a new battery for the wireless sensor of my bike computer. The whole thing had been acting up lately. It would work for awhile and then just stop recording. At the Icycle Bicycle, it kept track of 49 of my 56 miles. Yesterday it wouldn't register at all, and today it worked for the first .3 miles of my commute.

We'll see how it does on the way home. Of course, that will be with my light on full power because, as previously mentioned, having it on the flash mode also causes the computer to freak out. I really should just switch to the wired sensor. I'd have to worry about fewer batteries, and lights wouldn't interfere with anything.

First hockey class is tonight. It'll be great to get back out on the ice. We went to a public session at Schenley a few weeks ago, but that's not quite the same as being able to skate around with a stick and pucks. There were two goalies in the class last year. I hope we're as fortunate this year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

I resolve to have someone fix my knee.

Well, the year started off mostly good. I got myself out of bed at 6:30, left the house around 7:40, and met a few people at the end of the Eliza Furnace Trail for a pre-Icycle Bicycle ride. Five of us (led by Dan) rode about 30 miles through the South Hills, heading out Streets Run Rd, riding all sorts of places I'd never seen by bike (and maybe not even by car), and then back down Streets Run and down Carson to REI in the Southside.

As with any other ride in Pittsburgh, our route had lots of steady climbs, and by the time we got back to the Southside, my left knee was already starting to speak up. If I'd been smart, I'd have said hello and goodbye to all of the Icycle Bicycle people at REI, called Heather, and had her come and pick me up.

I'm not that smart, of course, and I decided my knee would be fine over the course of a nice easy ride around town. And really, it was a fairly non-demanding ride. We headed all the way up Carson, crossed the West End Bridge, went through the North Side a little bit, made our way down to River Avenue, and crossed the 31st St. Bridge.

At that point, I decided that I should probably just make my way home from there, and split off from the group. I went up Polish Hill (not the steepest parts) and made my way to Oakland, down to the Panther Hollow trail, and then back over to the Southside.

Actually, I'd probably have been just as well off sticking with the Icycle Bicycle group, because by the time I was crossing the Hot Metal Bridge to get over to the Southside, I could see people I'd been riding with crossing it in the opposite direction.

Anyway, by then my knee was pretty miserable, but still, I decided to just ride the rest of the way (seven miles or so) home. I was pretty close to 50 miles on the day, and didn't want to give up before I hit that mark. I made it all the way home (slowly), took off all of my gear, and got a nice hot shower. 56 miles in the bag on the first day of the year. Not a bad start.

The bad thing is that my knee is still pretty sore, much worse than it's been on the day after other long rides that I've done. The plan now is to set up an appointment with a sports medicine guy that some (marathon running) friends of mine at work use when they have leg trouble.

I'm inclined to believe that something on my left side is out of alignment, thanks to the September wreck. I've been trying to remember to do stretches before I ride, and I'll admit that I didn't really have time yesterday, so maybe that's part of it, but either way, I think it's about time that I get somebody to have a look at this. If I don't get this fixed, I won't even be able to do the MS-150 in June. That would suck.

Today looks like a nice day. It would have been a great day to ride around a little bit, but the knee is still too sore. Maybe tomorrow.