Monday, March 21, 2011

Sneaky Biking

We have this alternate schedule thing at work where if you work 80 hours in 9 workdays, you can take the final Friday of the period off. I try and take advantage of it, but somehow I rarely seem to succeed. Either personal things rob me of hours during the week (school meetings, doctor's appointments ...) or something comes up which requires my presence on what otherwise would have been a day off. This past Friday was no exception. I had taken a sick day earlier in the period to try and recover from bronchitis, and I had a meeting out in Sterling pop up for Friday morning. It was going to be another beautiful, unseasonably warm day - in the 70's in mid-March! - and so I was determined to take at least a little advantage of it, even if I couldn't get a full day off.

What's this? Our Sterling office is not far from the W&OD trail?! And there's a new, large W&OD trail parking lot nearby just off of Rt. 28?! Too good to pass up. Before I headed to the office Friday morning I threw my bike and gear into the back of my car. My Sterling meeting was done around lunchtime, and I headed over to the W&OD. For the second time in as many days I found myself using my car as a changing room to wriggle into exercise clothes. I'm pretty good at this by now - I once completely changed from a business suit into yoga clothes while driving down Rt. 7, thanks to a lot of red lights and traffic.

I headed west on the trail. Out past Rt. 28 the trail is much more open than the section by my house. It has almost a rural feel. Riding was a pleasure, even though there were plenty of Lance Armstrong wanna-be's out and about. I may sound old and curmudgeonly for saying this, but these people make me laugh (except when they're pissing me off). When I was growing up cycling was something you did for transportation and maybe light recreation. It wasn't a Sport with a capital "S". Certainly, no one donned special outfits for bike riding. Nowadays, though, you feel quite under-dressed if you venture out on the trail without your matching cycling jersey, tights - or better yet, singlet - and little bike socks and shoes. I admit to owning the most functional parts of cycling clothing: shorts with paddling and hard-soled bike shoes. I do not see any reason to adopt the rest of the costume. And I certainly see no reason to adopt the selfish view some of these folks have - that they own the trail and slower cyclists are unwelcome obstacles in their way.

Make no mistake - I am a slower cyclist. No one would mistake me for Lance Armstrong even if I took to wearing the bike racer outfit. No one would mistake me for Lance Armstrong even if I was dating Sheryl Crow (an idea I must say I find less objectionable than wearing the bike racer getup). This was the first time I had been on a bike in a long time and I was slooooow. According to my Forerunner I pedaled about 20 miles at an average speed of about 12 MPH. Admittedly, that included a bathroom break and a stop at the quarry overlook (!), but I think it's still a pretty accurate speed. I felt good though despite my slowpokedness - I pedaled 20 miles without feeling sore in the least afterward, I enjoyed the ride, and I look forward to more cycling this year.

After my ride I headed over to the nearby Wegman's shopping center looking for food. I was about to go into some chain food place when what to my wondering eyes should appear but the Sterling branch of Moby Dick House of Kabob! I ordered a felafel sandwich and powered up my computer to approve timesheets, something I had forgotten to do in the morning. The felafel was awesome - really hit the spot after my ride. I must admit to feeling some affinity for the folks who run these felafel-serving joints, though I'm not sure the semitic fraternal love would be returned.

Alas, I felt compelled to make good on my commitment to work the rest of the day, so at the conclusion of my little adventure I wriggled back into my work clothes and headed back to work.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Paddles Day

The first Thursday after the beginning of Daylight Savings Time was St. Patrick's Day. Sunlight for paddling and unseasonably warm temps - plenty of reason to raise a glass in celebration.

It's that swing time of year when dressing for the water temp means schvitzing in the boat, however dressing for the air temperature would have put me at risk had I wound up in the water. I'm reading a book written by an ocean rower, from which I've learned that while out at sea ocean rowers often row naked, particularly on the bottom, to avoid salt water rashes. I certainly wasn't ready for that. So I put on my drysuit over just a t-shirt (and pants, I was wearing pants!) as a compromise.

It was a small group: just Rob, Peter, Jen and I showed up at the marina. We were joined by Annette and a friend of hers who paddled down from Washington Canoe Club in OC-1s (outrigger racing kayaks). Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all. The group headed upriver to accommodate Annette and Pam, who ultimately needed to head in that direction to make it back to the Canoe Club. As expected, we got pretty warmed up. I wound up doing some sculling braces cool off - got my torso and the back of my head into the water, which was indeed cold. However, once the sun set it cooled off quite a bit and by the time we neared the marina I was glad for my drysuit.

After paddling we had our typical Noodles and Company dinner, then we crossed the Pentagon Row courtyard to Sine Irish Pub. The place was hopping, crammed with bleary-eyed revelers in green. In addition to the usual bar area they had set up extra keg coolers throughout the place serving green beer. Peter availed himself of this holiday-themed beverage, while the rest of us ordered Irish whiskeys. I usually don't drink after our Thursday night paddles, but the proximity of St. Paddy's Day and Purim (the one Jewish holiday when one is supposed to get drunk) was enough to convince me to deviate from my usual practice. I mean, two drinking holidays in one!

We made a toast of "Sláinte" to our good fortune for having had such a nice evening, and then we were on our way. Sometimes you don't even need a rainbow to feel you've found a pot of gold.