This and that

Yesterday, I participated in my first organized run in almost 22 years: the inaugural Open Gate Gallop. I ran the 8-mile route from the Guinness Brewery, into PVSP, out to the swinging bridge via the Grist Mill Trail, and back via River Road. It was a great time. As a long-time solo runner, it was interesting to run with so many other people. Even though it wasn’t a timed race, it was hard to resist trying to run fast. As a result, I clocked in at 9:25/mile, which I’m pretty sure is the fastest I’ve ever run any distance 10K or over. I’m not particularly competitive, but I like the fact that most of these runs support good causes, so I might try to do more of them. Last 4th of July, I was tossing around the idea of running in the Arbutus Firecracker 10K, but decided to find a geocache at the top of a pillar instead. If I don’t do something similar this year, the 10K might be fun.

Today, I took my first Sunday morning bike ride in 3 weeks, a 30-miler to Odenton and back. Due to travel and bad weather, it was only my second or third bike ride in the past month or so. I do expect to pick up the weekend rides as we get into the warmer months. The wet weather this year has made for horrible mountain biking conditions, and there’s more bad weather on tap for the second half of this week, but I think I’m going to try to sneak in a mountain bike ride on Tuesday morning.

Lastly, I didn’t have much time today to work on my pool pump replacement project, but I did get home in time to glue up the T-junction for the new suction piping. After due consideration, I decided to run each of the two vertical 1.5″ suction pipes directly into a 2-way Pentair valve, then into a 2″ elbow, and then into a single 2″ T fitting. The challenge was gluing everything together so that the T fitting ended up level, in spite of the suction pipes not being perfectly vertical. I think I managed to pull it off.

Ride Notes

Bad weather and scheduling conflicts conspired to keep me off the bike in January, with the exception of several commutes to work and one mountain bike ride. That changed today, as I took a ride out to West Friendship and back by way of Ellicott City, logging just over 40 miles. The temperature was right around freezing when I left the house at 7:45, and in the mid 40s by the time I got home, with beautiful sunny skies and light winds. The end of the ride brought me through Old Ellicott City and Patapsco Valley State Park (via the Grist Mill Trail), both of which were hopping this morning. I had intended to ride my Surly, but the rear tire was flat, so I rode my Masi single speed instead. That made for a more challenging ride, particularly once I got to the rolling hills of Turf Valley and points west. It was a great workout for the quads, though. I found 3 geocaches along the way, which gave me an opportunity to get off the bike. My back/left hip has been acting up lately, and was definitely letting me know when it was time to stand up and stretch.

Snow Ride

Nowadays, I don’t bike as much in the winter as I used to (opting instead for hiking/treadmill) but I still try to get out a couple of times per week. However, the snow we’ve gotten recently has further reduced my riding. Last Wednesday, I commuted to work on my old Specialized Rockhopper. I had not ridden this bike in almost a year, but I did get it tuned up at the shop recently. The morning temperature was in the teens, and the afternoon temperature was in the 20s. I rode with studded front and back tires for the first time in at least two years. It brought me back to my early bike commuting heyday, when I was obsessed with riding year-round in every imaginable weather condition.

Today, I took a mid-morning mountain bike ride. It was my first time (that I can recall) riding in the snow. It was a little too cold at dawn, so I waited until 10:00, when it was a little warmer, but still well below freezing. With a thaw on the way (it’s 37 as I write this) and sloppy, rainy weather coming later in the week, it’s looking like the window for snow rides isn’t going to last beyond tomorrow morning. Today, the trails were great, with most of them having been nicely “groomed” by earlier riders. Other than a few icy sections (mostly in sunny areas), the trails were in great shape, and fun to ride. I learned that snow riding (even on groomed trails) requires more physical effort, and different skills, than “regular” riding. I rode my hard-tail bike, which has new tires, and they gave me pretty good traction. I found that it was rather easy to overshoot turns and end up in the deeper snow on the edges of the trails, which generally causes the bike to lose traction. I was able to recover from this a few times, and others, I had to put my foot down and scoot the bike back onto the trail. I felt kind of like a beginning rider again. I suspect that if I lived in a snowier area, I’d get pretty good at this, but I don’t see it happening in Maryland. I only rode 7.5 miles, but it took me 90 minutes. I’m really glad I got out, as rain kept me off the mountain bike for most of December and early January, and it looks like the rain will be coming back later this week. I’m not sure when I’ll get another opportunity to ride in the snow, but I had fun today.

School Morning Ride

Looks like I’m going to have to skip mountain biking this week, due to persistent rainy weather and lack of overnight freezes. In lieu of that, I decided to shake things up this morning and take a ride out past downtown Columbia to Howard Community College and back. Normally, this is not something I would choose to do on a school day, but I figured I might as well give it a try. I left the house at 7:40, which worked out pretty well. The only significant school-related activity I encountered was in the Oakland Mills area near Talbot Springs Elementary, I guess because I happened to go through there near bell time. I got back home at 10:00, after all of the area schools had started. Obviously, I’d prefer to take a ride like this on a day when schools weren’t in session, but the weather forced my hand this week. All in all, though, it wasn’t too bad, and I wouldn’t be averse to trying it again some time. There was more traffic than on a weekend morning, which I had expected, but once I got off roads and onto CA paths, it was smooth sailing, with very few people out and about. HCC was quiet, owing to it being winter session, and I found a geocache there before turning around and following mostly the same route back home. We’re due for another 2-3″ drenching tomorrow, but beyond that, I’m hoping to take the bike to work on Wednesday or Thursday, which will give me two rides this week.

Sick House

Everybody in the house has either COVID or some COVID-like illness this week, except me. I think it’s the same, or similar, virus as what I had back in November, because of the killer cough. As for me, I had a slight scratchy throat for a day or two, and have occasionally felt under the weather, but have not (yet) gotten sick.

It is shaping up to be another mild, rainy winter, which is becoming more and more the norm in this area. I have been able to keep up with running and (indoor) climbing, but have not been out on the bike as much as I would like. I have not worn metatarsal pads for my last two runs, but have continued to work on keeping my ankles loose, and my heels have been happier. Today, I forgot to foam roll my right hamstring, and by the end of the run, it was obvious that it had been making a difference. Based on our pattern of 1 to 2 nor’easters per week, I’m thinking mountain bike rides are only going to be happening in the early mornings when the trails freeze overnight. I’m hoping to ride to work on Wednesday or possibly Thursday, and may see if I can get out another day this week as well. We will just have to see what the weather has in store.

Frosty Rides

This morning, and last Thursday morning, I’ve taken advantage of hard overnight freezes to get some morning mountain biking in. We have had significant rainfall the past two Sundays in a row, and that, combined with the freeze/thaw cycle, has made the trails too muddy to ride any time later than about mid-morning. The general rule is that if you’re leaving tire tracks, you shouldn’t be on the trails. That rules out commuting in the afternoon, but if it stays below freezing for several hours overnight, there’s usually a window between sunrise and 9 or 9:30 when the trails will be frozen. I took advantage of that window on both days, riding 14 miles or so last week, and 10 miles today, and conditions were ideal both mornings. According to Apple Fitness, my ride-time temperature last week was 26°F and today was 25°F. By 9:00 today, things were warming up, and I could tell the window was closing, as some areas were starting to thaw (I liken it to Cinderella’s coach turning back into a pumpkin at midnight). We got close to 3 inches of rain this past Sunday into Monday, and all of the streams were still running high, with lots of evidence of water run-off on the trails. There’s no way I would have been able to ride had the trails not been frozen. I’m sure everything was a muddy mess in the afternoon, when temperatures got up into the 40s.

I have found that I have to dress differently for winter mountain biking than I do for road riding. On the road, the faster speeds make a windbreaker a necessity to stay warm. On dirt, the windbreaker makes me sweat more, because it doesn’t breathe well. So, I leave it home and wear several breathable layers instead. Today, I wore a short sleeve wool t-shirt with arm warmers, a thin synthetic “32 heat” long sleeve pullover, and my heavy Canari winter cycling jersey. On the bottom, I wore my Garneau cycling pants, Smartwool socks, and waterproof Altra Lone Peak shoes with warming insoles. I rode with Bar Mitts and medium-weight gloves (by far my preferred setup for winter riding). On top, I wore a balaclava under my usual MTB helmet. This setup keeps me quite warm and comfortable on the trails, but does get a little bit cold if I have to ride for any significant distance on pavement.

Bike Commute Notes

Today was most likely my penultimate bike commute of 2023. Unless I decide to go to the office an extra day somewhere, my final commute this year will be on Wednesday, December 20. The morning leg of today’s commute was pretty nice, with temperatures hovering in the low 30s and light winds. We’ll see how the afternoon leg goes. I was initially considering commuting by mountain bike, but ultimately decided to stick to pavement, mainly because we got a lot of rain this past Sunday, and have had a couple of freeze-thaw cycles since then. I figured that the combination of the two would be a recipe for muddy trails this morning. I am pretty sure I made the right call. The one or two areas in the park where I ride over dirt were not completely frozen, and rather soft. While other areas that see less sun were still frozen, this afternoon’s upper-40s temperatures will likely make them muddy for the afternoon commute. For optimal winter off-road commutes, you either need solid below-freezing temperatures all day long (rare, and even then, areas that get a lot of sun will still turn muddy), or you need several days with no overnight freezes and no precipitation (also rare). As a result, I end up braving the salty roads in the winter more often than not, and getting my mountain biking fixes in during “dawn patrol” sub-freezing rides before work on telecommute days. If it gets cold enough tonight (the predicted low is 26), and I can get myself out of bed, I may see if I can do that tomorrow morning.

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.