Today, for Mother's Day, instead of my usual long slow distance run, I went for a bike ride. Of course, you are all well aware that I'm not able to run for a couple of weeks due to the fracture in my left foot. But I did get the green light for cycling. Two years ago, when I developed a stress fracture in my right foot (do you detect a pattern here?), I hobbled over to the local bike shop, where they were having a tent sale, and bought myself this beauty:
|The Trek Lexa. A GREAT entry level road bike. I just love it!|
Yep, I even took it for a test ride in the boot. I brought it home and my husband wouldn't speak to me for about 24 hours. After all, his logic was that I had a perfectly good mom bike (a hybrid) in the garage. But I wanted something sleek and fast. After my first long bike ride, I knew I made a good decision. My oldest son also took it for a spin and proclaimed it as "awesome". Which meant more to my husband than my opinion. I rode that bike at least 3x/week for most of the summer, as I eased back into running. It was a lifesaver and almost as good as running. It was that good. My only complaints about the bike are the hard seat and that my hands fall asleep when I'm on a long ride.
Anyways, this morning, I headed out to the 30-ish mile route that I adopted 2 years ago. The beginning of my route takes me through some very bumpy roads and "fitness paths" in the very congested NW "burbs of Chicago, where I live. I'll just say that my road bike is not made for rough conditions, and after a while, the jarring really starts to take a toll! If I did a lot of my riding on these local streets, I'd buy a mountain bike with fat tires and shock absorbers. Seriously!
As I started out, I headed south towards the Arlington Park Racetrack. In the past, I actually found a "hidden" road that runs along the Metra tracks and the stables at the race track. The road itself has no name and you have to ride through the train station parking lot to get to it. It's a little creepy and secluded but I like riding by the stables because in the early morning, the workers are prepping the horses for the day's races. There's a practice track where they ride, too. It is pretty cool to watch! The price you pay for this hidden gem is the poor road conditions and so I have to pay close attention to where I'm going. There is usually a lot of weaving around potholes and broken pavement. Fortunately this year, the road is under construction so I'm expecting smooth sailing once it is complete! At the end of this road, which goes under a highway, there is one of those "super churches". It is at this point that the official bike path begins. The church has police directing traffic, and they always wave me through. Sadly, these churchgoers aren't very courteous drivers, and I've had a few near misses, even with the police waving me through.
For the next few miles, I weaved through suburban streets on the path that runs along the road and cautiously crossed at the lights. Much more so than running, you really have to be alert and watch the cars. Most drivers do not stop on a red light to turn right. They do not move over to pass, essentially running you off the road. For this reason, I don't listen to music when I ride. I need to be alert at all times. I'm thinking about adding a rear view mirror to my cycling equipment. I don't care how nerdy I look. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder.
After about 5 miles, I came to the local community college. This is where the path gets really wide, smooth, and nice. I started to pick up cruising speed. I noticed three police cars surrounding a car on the busy street. I saw the police talking to the driver on the side of the road, and I wondered what the heck she did to merit a police chase? Oh, the possibilities! I crossed the very busy street at the light, nearly missed being hit by a car, and headed up the path into the forest preserve. On the path, I saw a guy riding a weird bike. He was wearing a helmet and cycling clothing, but as I passed him, it occurred to me that he was riding a unicycle. I laughed to myself because: a) it took me a minute to realize that he was riding a unicycle and: b) there was a guy was riding a unicycle on the bike path! Apparently it is a thing, because I googled it and found lots of images of serious cyclers riding unicycles. Who knew? Truly, you learn something every day! Guess I'm the weird one...
I passed a few more runners and cyclers and headed to my very favorite part of the path. This section isn't pretty or anything, as it runs right up against the busy 4 lane road, but it is a straight out fasssssst stretch! I love it because I feel like Lance Armstrong (without the performance enhancing drugs) as I sprint forward in high gear. I passed a couple on a tandem, recumbent bike. Guess I'm not the weird one. I said hello to them but they ignored me as I passed them. Whatever.
I continued to push forward after heading down and up a fairly steep hill, and came to another one of those "super churches", Willow Creek, which looks like a college campus. Being that it was Mother's Day, the line to turn left into the church drive stretched for about a half mile. I waited for the light, and saw my friend, Mike sitting in the bushes, manning the traffic controls. Mike is a retired cop, who has this side job of controlling traffic in and out of the church on Sundays. The first time I saw him, I didn't realize who it was until I passed him! That time I stopped to say hi on my way back. Now we look for each other when I ride on Sundays. I hadn't seem him for a while, since it was my first bike ride of the season, and I stopped for a hug and a hello. He asked about my family and filled me in on his. He told me how rude the drivers are to him! Flipping him off and honking at him. I can only imagine what they were thinking as they saw us chitchatting! Hah! I said goodbye and got back on my bike. He clicked the button and the light turned green for me. There's nothing better than that!
This is one of the prettiest parts of my route, a nature preserve. I have seen deer while riding through here. Today there were a ton of birds singing and flying through. At the end of this portion of the path, I stop to refuel and turn around. This was mile 13. I looped back, waved to Mike as he changed the light for me again and headed forward. I didn't head directly home, but took a 5 mile detour through another portion of the forest preserve. Most of this part is downhill, which was great because the wind started to pick up and I was riding into it. I passed quite a few bikers heading into the other direction. You know the ones--wearing their professional jerseys, riding their Cervelos or whatever $$$ bikes, refusing to acknowledge me--amateur! Whatever.
I rode back towards the community college, watched the baseball game that was going on there, and headed towards home. My quads were starting to talk to me, as were my "sitz bones". After about 20 miles, the padded bike shorts don't help all that much. I adjusted my position a few times. I pushed on and came back to the race track, which was now causing a huge traffic jam as all the Mother's Day celebrators were heading into the park. A few miles later, I was home. It wasn't fast, but it sure was enjoyable!
What do you like to do for an alternative activity? Have you ever been injured? How did you cope?