Cold Commute Notes

Very cold day today for November. It felt kind of like January. I remember one year back in the late ’80s or early ’90s when we had a November cold snap and temperatures stayed below freezing for several days. Today started out in the low 20s, and looks like it’s going to max out at around 40, which pales in comparison, but is very cold by recent standards. Being a Wednesday, it’s my usual day to go in to the office. While I used to bike in cold weather all the time (and still do occasionally), and I have biked in colder temperatures than today’s and lived to tell the tale, I have to admit that nowadays, it’s no longer my first choice. I considered going to the office tomorrow (Thursday) instead, as it’s supposed to be a little bit milder (upper 20s). Ultimately, though, I opted to stay with today because it fit my schedule better.

The ride was not bad. I could tell the temperature was above 20, because the condensation from my breath was not freezing inside my nose. The wind was fairly calm when I left the house at 7:30, but it picked up during the second half of the ride. I wore three layers on top, and tried out a new REI brand PolarTec hinged balaclava. Although the fit is snug with my current helmet, I think it’s a winner. I have another fleecy balaclava that I’ve frequently worn on sub-20º mornings, but it doesn’t do the greatest job wicking perspiration, and as a result, gets quite damp over the course of a ride, which is not something you want on a frigid day. The PolarTec seems to do a better job. Although I got the sense that my head was beginning to sweat towards the end of the ride, the balaclava was mostly dry when I took it off. My feet got a little bit cold, as they always do, but warmed up as I climbed out of the Patapsco River valley. My trusty Gore-Tex winter cycling gloves, combined with Bar Mitts, kept my hands reasonably comfortable for most of the ride. I rode a shade under 14 miles, which is shorter than my usual morning commute, but not bad for a cold day. The afternoon commute home promises to be about 15º warmer, so I’ll shed at least one layer, and switch to lighter gloves and a lighter balaclava.

On an unrelated note, 7:30 seems to be a good time to leave the house when I’m commuting via road bike on school days. While there’s still occasional foot traffic for the middle school, it’s not really a problem. The biggest issue this year has been dealing with school bus traffic on Lawyers Hill Road, but by 7:30, they all seem to have finished running their routes. It’s also early enough that I don’t have to deal with a lot of traffic for the elementary school in Relay.

Ride Notes

I had originally planned to run this morning and ride tomorrow (Sunday), but a slight chance of rain tomorrow prompted me to switch things up. Looks like the weather is going to end up being a non-factor, though. I had not taken a 30+ mile biking/geocaching trek in quite a long time, mainly because I’ve been doing more kayaking on the weekends this fall. It’s finally starting to get too cold for that (for this season, at least) so in its place, I’ll be getting back to more hiking and biking, and by extension, caching. Today, I rode out to Columbia and Clarksville and back, for a round-trip of just over 33 miles. I found 3 caches along the way, and failed to find one. The temperature started out a little bit below freezing, and warmed up to the upper 30s while I was out. I wore my trusty REI convertible cycling jacket over a long-sleeve cycling jersey and 32° long-sleeve synthetic base layer, as well as Garneau cycling pants, wool socks, Altra Lone Peaks with warming insoles, lightweight balaclava, and liner gloves underneath open-finger cycling gloves. I rode my Surly Disc Trucker, and broke out the Bar Mitts handlebar pogies for the first time this season. They’re a bit of a pain to take on and off the bars, but they make cold-weather riding much more enjoyable. I’ll probably leave them on the Surly all winter and just use a different bike on warmer days. I was pretty comfortable for most of the ride, including a couple of brief excursions into the woods to look for caches. It was great to get out for a longer ride. Tomorrow morning’s weather looks very similar to today’s, and the plan is to shoot for a 10-mile run. Wish me luck…

This, that, and the other

I finally felt like I was back at 100% for this morning’s run. I covered 8.7 miles at 10:35/mile and 183 steps/minute. My energy felt good throughout the run, and unlike my past couple of times out, did not feel tired or lethargic afterwards. I believe that the lethargy may have partially been a hydration issue. I have not been carrying water with me recently, because of the cooler temperatures, but today, I’ve been making an effort to drink a bunch of water over several hours following the run. There’s a nor’easter blowing through today, but I got out ahead of the rain, and only had to deal with some sprinkles. I’ll probably take a shorter run on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) and then, if all goes well, I’ll shoot for a 10-miler on Saturday.

As I alluded to several weeks ago, I’ve converted Monday into a telecommute day during the winter months (likely until March, when we go back on Daylight Saving Time). It works out well with my Monday evening climbing, and also gives me an opportunity to do something other than running or bike commuting one morning per week. Yesterday, I took a mountain bike ride ahead of today’s rain. I was out for a while longer than I had planned, but I did check out the new Bloede Dam Trail, which runs from Garrett’s Pass out to Ilchester Road on the Howard County side of PVSP, with a shortcut down to the River Road Trail at about the midway point. The second half, past the shortcut, has some incredible views, but some of it is well above my skill level. I’ll be happy if I can eventually get to the point where I can ride most of it, but it’ll take some practice.

Random notes

I’m fighting my way through my second cold in as many months. This latest one has been worse than last month’s. I think I picked it up at the Ravens/Seahawks game a couple of weekends ago. It has featured the worst cough I’ve had in probably several years. In fact, the cough was the initial symptom — I never got a sore throat. Sinus impacts have also been minimal — I had a stuffy nose for maybe 2 or 3 nights. It laid me up for a couple of days with fever, chills, and cold sweats, to where I thought it might be flu, but I think the fever went away too quickly for it to have been flu. Then again, maybe it was flu, but the flu shot I got in September reduced the severity. I do know that it wasn’t COVID, unless the test I took gave me a false negative. The main story has been the cough. In the beginning, it was wheezy and unproductive, but it has become productive in the past day or two, which has me crossing my fingers that it’s finally on its way out.

The other thing this cold has done is to completely sap my energy. After spending last Thursday and Friday lying around doing nothing, I managed to get the swimming pool winterized on Saturday, over the course of the entire day, with frequent breaks. Sunday, I tried running, and struggled to complete 3 miles at 12:30/mile. Monday (yesterday), I ran again, with only slight improvement: I was exhausted after 3 miles, but managed a pace of 11:30. The silver lining was that my form and cadence seemed pretty good both days, which tells me that my running biomechanics are improving, as I’m no longer sacrificing form for less important things like pace.

This morning, I took the new hard-tail mountain bike back out. It was my first time on a bike in a week. While I was slower than usual, and got winded more easily, it was not a bad ride overall. It was more enjoyable than either of this week’s runs, but that’s not saying much. I have to say that I’m really impressed with how well this bike performs on technical climbs. There’s a trail in the PVSP Avalon Area called “Water Bars”, which is a rocky ascent straight up the river bank, with a few wooden erosion barriers along the way (the namesake “water bars”). I’ve struggled for years to get all the way up this trail on my full suspension bike without stopping or putting my foot down, but I have never quite succeeded. Today, I tried it for the first time with the hard tail, and rode right up it. It didn’t even seem very difficult, and this was in spite of my being under the weather. I’ll still take full suspension any day for descents, but the hard-tail is the clear winner when it comes to going uphill. I just need to get back to the point where I can do it without getting winded!

Rough Run & New Bike

I had a really bad run yesterday. I went just under 6 miles, but both my pace and cadence were plodding, and I struggled almost the entire way. My right leg and calf were tightening up as I finished. Overall, it was not an enjoyable run. I think the main reasons were a lack of sleep the previous night, and possibly lack of hydration. I had run 10+ miles 48 hours earlier, but I don’t think that was an issue. I’m drinking more water today, and I slept better last night, but still am operating on a deficit over the past two nights. The elephant in the room is that I also have this weird dry cough today, which I’m hoping doesn’t mean I’m getting another cold. If I am, though, that might be another explanation for dragging yesterday. I felt fine climbing last night, though, and also on my bike ride this morning. I feel a little tired this afternoon, but OK otherwise. Maybe I just need a nap…

Over the weekend, we traded in my son’s 3-year-old mountain bike, a 27″ Norco Storm. He rode it a lot during COVID, particularly over at the Rockburn Skills Park, but he had outgrown it, and it had sat unused for the past year or so. The new bike is a Devinci Kobain 12S, which is a 29er hardtail. It has a size large frame, and should accommodate all 3 male members of our household. This morning, I took it out for a spin at PVSP, hitting a whole bunch of trails on the Howard County side of the Avalon/Orange Grove Area. Compared to my full-suspension Devinci Troy, the ride and handling felt similar, which wasn’t all that surprising, given that the frame geometries are similar. Also as expected, it felt more efficient on steep/technical climbs, at the cost of a rougher ride over rocks, roots, logs, drops, etc. I’m not sure how often my kids will ride it, but I plan on putting some miles on it myself for sure. For commuting, I’m thinking that a large custom-made frame bag, coupled with my lumbar pack, might be enough to haul all of my gear. I’m happy to see the Norco potentially go to someone who will ride it again, and I’m even happier to have another bike that multiple members of our household can ride.

November Rain

With colder weather and shorter daylight hours looming, I’m starting to fall into my wintertime routine of only going in to the office once a week. I rode my mountain bike the past two times, and as a result, today was my first commute on roads in over two weeks. It almost certainly was also my last bike commute before we set the clocks back this weekend. That, of course, means much earlier sunsets, which was a big deal back in the day, when I commuted multiple days per week and left the office later. Nowadays, I try to roll by 4:00pm in November and December, which gets me home before dark. I only ride in the dark on rare occasions when I’m delayed leaving the office, or in the mornings in early November and early March (the beginning and end of daylight time).

November is probably my favorite month of the year, but as with any other time of year in Maryland, the weather can be fickle, and this morning was exhibit A. The forecast was for a brisk, chilly day, and they got that part right. When I left the house, it was about 40ºF with a gusty breeze. Then, as I was riding through Patapsco Valley State Park, it started drizzling. I thought it might be just a few stray sprinkles, but it kept drizzling off-and-on for my entire ride. Fortunately, the rain was light enough that it didn’t soak into my clothes. Had I known it was going to rain, though, I likely would have traded my trusty REI cycling windbreaker for a rain jacket and hood. All’s well that ends well, but it does go to show that you always have to be prepared for inclement weather (and darkness) this time of year, in spite of what the weather forecast says (or doesn’t say, in this case).

Biking Report

I had originally planned to go kayaking this morning, but it was a little too cold for me to feel like venturing out, even with a wet suit. The forecast is showing a warming trend for the second half of the week into the weekend, so I may try to make something happen later in the week, although my schedule is a little tight. We’ll see. In lieu of kayaking, I decided to take a mid-morning bike ride around the airport loop. A geocache puzzle I solved this morning provided extra motivation, as the final cache location wasn’t far off the BWI Trail. This ride is a 23-24 mile round trip from home, which is about the same length as my round-trip commute to and from work. It was my first road ride in 8 days, and my first time riding my single speed bike in at least a couple of months. I used to commute with this bike regularly, but it does not have an easy way to mount a rack and panniers. Back in the day, I used a rack that clamped to my seat post, which I think I still have, but I was never a big fan of it. I suppose I’ll have to break down and use a backpack if I want to re-introduce this bike to my commuting rotation. But, I’m going off on a tangent.

The timing for today’s ride worked out well. I left after all of the area schools had started, and returned home before they let out. Traffic was manageable. Going forward, I’d like to try to work these kinds of rides into my schedule more often on weekdays, especially during times of the year when I’m only going to the office once a week. In particular, I think it’ll allow me to get out on my mountain bike more often during the winter months. On days when trail conditions are bad, I can do something similar to what I did today, either looping the airport, or maybe riding out to Columbia and logging a few miles on the CA paths.


Last week’s cold/URI is not 100% gone, but it has degenerated to the point where it’s no longer affecting my daily activities. The main thing I’m noticing now is that when I wake up in the morning, my head feels like it is in a vise. I’m assuming it’s some kind of sinus headache or whatever, but I’ve been knocking it down with ibuprofen, which works well enough. Yesterday, I commuted to work on my mountain bike, which (as I’ve probably written before) I love doing on school days. Other than a couple of new fallen logs along Garrett’s Pass and Soapstone Trail, it was a pretty smooth and enjoyable ride.

I ran on Tuesday and Thursday (today) this week, which puts me back on my regular running schedule. Both runs were about 7.75 miles, so I’m also getting back to my normal distances for weekday runs. My right hamstring felt stiff on Tuesday, but seemed improved today. My speed and cadence were also normal, so now I just need to get rid of this headache thing to fully put the cold behind me.

Back on the bike

I rode my bike for the first time in a week this morning. I’m also back at the office for the first time in a week, and it’s been a week since I came down with this cold, from which I am still recovering. The ride went OK, but my stamina on hills is still not quite where I would like it to be. That should hopefully improve over the next few days. My next time on the bike will likely be Wednesday, and based on the weather forecast, it looks like I might be able to commute on my mountain bike.

Chilly Commute

This morning really felt like fall. It was the first day of the season that I rode to work with cold weather gear (jacket, leg warmers, and lightweight balaclava). Temperatures were in the mid 40s with sun, and a little bit of a lingering breeze following a front that came through over the weekend. Not much noteworthy about the ride (much like most of my commutes) other than that I am slightly under the weather today, with a little bit of a sore throat. I hope it doesn’t develop into anything worse, as I’ve got a bunch going on in the coming days that I don’t want to miss. If need be, I can convalesce at home tomorrow and Wednesday. My guess is that I picked up whatever this is at the Orioles game this past Saturday.