Terii’s Cycling Babble

Ups and Downs
March 26, 2013, 8:00 am
Filed under: Day Rides

Yesterday, after I posted about last week’s rides, I remembered to connect my Garmin to the computer to save the rides and enter them onto the Bike Journal web site. Seeing I had around 43 miles for the month, I curiously looked at March 2012. 51.46 miles. I needed around 8 miles to break last year’s total. 9 miles for me to feel more confident and satisfied. Breaking a total by .3 mile just feels silly and nit-picky. I’m not nit-picky at all, no not me!

I started getting ready and Loke’s interest seemed low. He watched me, but mostly followed me only with his eyes. He seemed a little tired and also hadn’t eaten his breakfast. In spite of that, he still needed his walkies since Jens had rushed off to catch an early train so we were going out for a rolling walk at least.

After sitting quietly by the car while I readied things, he seemed to rouse for the first short distance and still moved pretty good for about the first mile. Not far after the school he settled into his ‘dragging pace’ for lack of better description.

Also had a very minor incident near the school. I’d stopped to let Loke mark a snow mound. After he’d done so, he scraped the ground with his paws, flinging snow, exposed leaves and sticks everywhere. As we started out, he gave an odd hop and shook his left hind leg. A few steps later, he did it again.

Baffled, I stopped to inspect him. I couldn’t miss the cause of his strange behavior. He had a huge clump (the size of a mid-sized plum) of bull thistle pods stuck to the back of his hind leg just above the foot. I instinctively reached for it without thought to pull it away, but thankfully commonsense returned before I actually touched it. ‘How on earth am I going to get that off him without getting a few hundred thorns in my fingers?’ I asked myself. ‘I need gloves.’

Then I remembered my mittens packed in my podbags. Even with those, it was a 10 minute chore. The pods were so dry they came apart too easily so I needed to pluck individual spines out of my mitten and Loke’s leg fur both. It was a relief to find that none of them had gotten through his fur, at least not enough to stick in his skin though they may have prickled him a little.

That taken care of, we poked along between 4 or 5 mph though he’d go a bit quicker down hills, even loped a few times. It was a glorious day to be out. Sunny, mostly blue skies with fluffy clouds drifting by like unshorn sheep, almost no wind at all and definitely above freezing. It was nearly 36 F when we stepped out of the apartment so I had 27 gears from the start. I’d toyed with the idea of doing the 10 mile Vaksala loop, but when Loke showed himself to be so slow, I stuck to the River Loop. Thankfully, our longer outing on Saturday with the Läby Loop made the River much more tolerable.

We took our usual way through a park-like area dividing a residential into two sections. About mid-way, a woman with a Rottweiler in a coat saw us coming and she stepped off the path to watch us. The dog made peculiar sounds, something between a whine and bark, as she danced on her hind legs. Not aggressive in the least. The woman laughed, calling out that her dog was jealous of mine getting to run with the trike.

I laughed at that since it echoed something I’d thought about before. I so love having a four-legged companion when out with the trike that I’ve often had brief ‘day-dreams’, for lack of a better term, about offering a dog-exercise service with my trike. ‘Hyper hound who’s still crazy after an hour’s walk? Walkies aren’t enough? Call (clever name inserted here) and have a happy, fit dog.’ Silly, but the thought still drifts through my head when Loke’s unable to run or I’m contemplating his mortality.

We puttered along to the out-n-back toward the military base and when Loke’s paces seemed fine though unhurried, I added the out-n-back upstream of the river too. Such a pretty day, I wasn’t in any particular hurry to return to the apartment. It was so warm I didn’t need my gloves or my toe-warmers. My legs were only covered with my heavy wool thermals under my cycle tights and that felt slightly too warm. I was even debating taking off my pink, Lycra cycle top and riding in my thermal shirt.

The warm, pretty weather begged to be enjoyed in a leisurely fashion. I stopped a few times, put Loke on his flexi-leash to let him sniff around and roll in the snow.

I was debating heading toward the vicarage near the field loop to push for a total of 9 or more miles when Loke gave an ‘ow!’ hop and began limping with his 3-toed foot. I didn’t even hesitate, we took the next turn for the shortest way home. We were going to finish with over 7.5 miles but less than 8 (7.84 miles to be exact.).

An internal argument raged while I toweled Loke off, thankfully just wet and not fur frozen with black ice) and added an extra scoop of kibble to his uneaten breakfast. I had a week left in March so getting that last mile or so would be no problem. Yet breaking the goal was soooo close, I still felt fairly strong and it was so very lovely out. As Loke drank some water and curled up on his pillow, I picked up the keys and went back out to ride again. I felt guilty doing it, but Loke only watched from his fox-curled position as I told him I’d be back soon.

I started out strongly (perhaps a little too much so) on the beginnings of the Vaksala Loop. Moving so quickly, the air felt a little cooler so I pulled on my yellow windbreaker. I zipped along Gamla Uppsala Road at over 10 mph and streaked under the train tracks at over 15 mph to splash wildly into the slush and slick ice at the bottom. While making the climb up from the underpass, weariness set in. My leg muscles suddenly felt tired and achy. I looked at my GPS as I passed the hotel. Not even a mile. I didn’t want to stop so tried to temper myself. I refused to return home with anything less than 2 miles.

I took a break under the shade of the tall pines bisected by one of my favorite little stretches of cycle path. A left turn would take me to Vattholma Road where I could take another left toward the mosque, cross the road in a right turn to go back home. Maybe that would give me 2 miles. Right over the road would take me toward Granby.

Straight? Straight would take me along the road lined with 3 story apartment blocks to yet other streets with more tedious apartment block scenery. I abruptly realized I’d never ridden it. Cruised through in a car, yes, but not on human power wheels.

To boldly go where I’d not gone before, I pushed on. Yes, I went there. I did a thinly veiled Star Trek reference.

I passed a few other people, crunching through ice quickly decaying in above freezing temps and hammered by the warm March sun. I reached an intersection, but pushed on straight rather than taking a left to begin my way home. After the outing with Loke, however leisurely, and the distance I’d done solo while forcing my way through ice, slush and piled gravel was a higher pace than I would have taken with the furry one. I began to feel the burn and a slight ache in my knees. I came to a residential area and decided to cut through it in the direction I thought would start me to home.

I miscalculated and came out on another road. It was familiar to me though and I knew the way from there. Stubbornness made me go left for a little extra distance though. The deep puddles of melt water joined the slush, slick ice and gravel. Then came a series of underpasses. Badly built ones to my thinking. The ‘down and up’ of them was squished into such a short distance that the climb out would have been brutal even on foot. Even hitting top speed on the way down, I made it only halfway up sharp incline. With wheels in gravel which lost a few inches of traction for every foot, it was still quite difficult and hard even in the lowest gear. My knees hated it.

I made it and arrived at the turn I was looking for, but a sign pointing to the right gave me pause. ‘Granby’. Another underpass and into a rather dense looking apartment block complex. Going that way would let me make a large loop taking me back to the shady cycle path leading to Vattholma Road and home.

I took it. Many strange looks followed as I navigated the labyrinthine paths of the apartment complex. My sense of direction led me onward for lack of signs. Finally, in the distance, a collection of familiar shops appeared and I pushed on. I came out near roads I drive several times a week. Under another underpass beneath the busy 55 leading to the new section of the E4, I followed signs to the Granby sport fields and mall.

Last year, I rode to the local American style ‘do it yourself’ car wash, I remember thinking how odd it was there wasn’t a cycle path along a certain section of road. It turns out there is, but it’s about 100 yards/meters back from the road and hidden by a man-made ridge of ground where it passes behind some kind of building. I’ve walked the other end of that stretch a few times as it goes along the fences of the 4H complex across from the Granby mall. On those walks with Loke while Jens shops, I’ve always turned back at a rather nasty hill. Very steep and not something I ever wanted to walk, or trike, up if I could help it.

Well, that climb sat between me and the finish of my loop. Dropping into my lowest gears, I began. Even in the smallest gear inch, it was a hard push and my knees complained the entire way. I made myself take the time to go as easy as I could with the tire slipping in gravel, pausing to give my knees brief rests. I had a view of some of the 4H buildings and even pen with a pair of dark colored, hairy pigs. They looked for all the world like wild boars or at least crosses. I locked my brake there to try for photos, but their dark coloring and angle/position of the sun just turned them, their trough and fence posts into a single dark blur.

While putting the camera away, a woman who was out pole walking, stopped next to me. ‘What an unusual bike! Is it designed for a special condition?’ she asked. I explained that I’d originally purchased it because of a bad back that had stopped me from riding a normal bike, but now loved it so much I wouldn’t go back. The questions kept coming. Was it really so comfortable? Wasn’t it heavier than a normal bike? Easy to ride? I was more than happy to brag about my secondary pride and joy (Loke being the first), especially how I could ride on ice nearly impossible to walk on and the fact my dog couldn’t pull me over.

She even asked if they were expensive. I answered that a high quality one like mine was quite pricey, but even the cheaper ones   cost more than some mid-range quality bikes. I didn’t mention how much mine had cost, but gave her a rough guess in Swedish Kronor for the cheapest ‘bents I’ve seen and mentioned that they came with 2 wheels as well.

She admired it for a moment more before we parted ways and I slogged the rest of the way up that cursed hill.

I finally made it and for about half a mile had an easy cruise on the path between the 4H fences and the road with the mall on the other side. I passed the first turn, intending to go onward to the one near the dog-yard. Loke gets to have some off-leash time there on occasion. Often, I walk Loke in the area when Jens goes shopping for dinner in the grocery store there. If the dog-yard is empty, Loke gets to run and sniff around. If there are others in it, we stroll around the paths.

I turned right and had an exciting charge down to the huge expanse of grassy sward between the 4H pastures and another cluster of apartment buildings. Acres and acres of parkland with short clipped grass sprinkled with small trees and statues (a meerkat??). In one spot toward the center, even a lone soccer goal net. Paved cycle paths criss-cross it, but I stuck to the one which parallels the pasture fences.

The way was choked with deep puddles of melt, some 5 or 6 inches deep that I crept carefully through, wondering if I was going to get a wet rump at any moment. Other spots had a combination of slush and hard, slippery ice. I powered through it all, reveling in freedom the Sprint’s 26″ rear wheel gave me by keeping the idler (that’s what the rear derailleur chain-guide arm is called!!!!) high and safe.

I came to the next turn where a thick, isolated clump of woods remained. Over head, the hoarse calls of crows echoed down. Maybe this year the murder will nest there as they’ve done every year before though oddly not 2012.

From there it was quick 1.5 mile home through the pretty wooded path to Vattholma Road and by the mosque.

As I passed the bus-stop near the mosque, a man, roughly 30 years old, dressed in work coveralls and yellow vest, looked up from his smart phone at my approach. He gave me a huge grin with double thumbs up and a vigorous nod of approval. I grinned back, a thumb up, as I passed. Then I let myself freewheel down the slope to go under the rail tracks. I hit 25 mph or more before reaching the bottom where the slush and ice waited me. I made my limbs relax before I hit it, making careful adjustments as the half-melted stuff yanked me to 15 mph before the trike bucked and skidded on the harder stuff. Quite exciting.

A few more puddles and stretches of slush were all that stood between me and home. I coasted into the parking lot with 6.07 solo miles. Though the car was due to go in for service the next morning which meant the trike would have to come in, I couldn’t face multiple trips of the stairs at that moment. The graveled slopes, the slush and the fact I have such a hard time tempering my speed and power without Loke’s help left me with quite a bit of knee pain and the thigh muscles burning. I’d have to fetch it in later.

In spite of needing a hot soak, anti-inflammatory meds (capsules and topical gel) and heating pad for my knees, I felt satisfied with the outing. That extra 6 miles bumped my total for March to 57.9 miles over 9 rides. Last March ended with 51.46 miles over 11 rides. At this time last year, my total mileage was 101.91 (subtracting rides on March 27th & 29th). Currently I’ve already clocked 166.06 miles and I’ll get a few more rides done before midnight March 31st, I’m certain. Jens wants to go fishing this weekend and is determined I ride in the areas he fishes. That will be at least 1 more outing, maybe 2 unless the Baltic is too icy for him to get his lines into the water. Then whatever rides I take on the River Loop in exchange for Loke’s business walks.

65 miles gained toward beating last year’s 800+ miles in spite of no miles at all in February or the first week of March. I feel very good about that accomplishment.

Sorry about the dearth of photos, but the pretty parts of the River Loop have been photographed so much this year. One can only display the same hill or copse of trees so many times in sun, cloud, snow, rain, autumn leaves or any combination of them all… before it blends into a sameness. The new places I went through yesterday were mostly *bleah* visually. Seriously, who wants to see clusters of boxy apartment buildings, 3-5 stories tall with a few trees, dirty snow and puddles? I didn’t. It was just miles to add on the total.

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