Sunday, August 1, 2010

You might be wondering...

Where the heck have I been??? Well, I haven't been riding my bike much, unfortunately, and there are two main reasons for that.

First of all the month of July here in central Pennsylvania was dangerously hot much of the time. We had temperatures above 90° for fourteen out of twenty eight days, plus a few days that hit over 100°. In addition to the heat the humidity was out of control, making for some dangerous biking weather.

But the main reason is that just over three weeks ago I woke up in the morning feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest. The pressure of it literally woke me from sleeping. I then had pain spread from my chest down my left arm and into the left side of my face and jaw. Can you say panic?

Now I have had chest pain before-- and even woke up because of it-- but this was different. Due to my job I have developed some tightness and trigger points all around my chest area and that can sometimes cause pain. But the pressure and spreading pain was not like trigger point or muscle strain.

I started to feel numb, except for a shooting pain down my left bicep. Maybe it was because I was starting to panic, I don't know. It seemed crazy to think that I might be having a heart attack. But I was scared enough that I went to the emergency room.

Once there (and yes, I drove myself-- I know, bad move) they hooked me up to an ekg machine, gave me an IV, put a nitro glycerin patch on my chest, the whole nine yards. I had a chest xray. Everything was coming back normal, including my heart rate. The pain had subsided by the time I had arrived at the hospital, and it was shortly thereafter that the pressure was relieved.

Since heart problems run in my family, the decision was made to keep me overnight and do blood enzyme tests every eight hours to see if I had actually had a heart attack. To make a long story short, despite the fact that I was allowed to have my laptop at the hospital with me-- and I even had a pillow from home-- I was so BORED and uncomfortable that I was miserable there. It was one of the longest twenty four hour stretches of my life! Luckily everything came back normal and so I was sent home the next day (Saturday) and told to come in for a stress test early in the week.

I had a nuclear stress test on Tuesday and let me tell you-- all this bike riding has paid off in the heart strength department! It took almost the entire nine minutes to get my heart rate high enough and once they ramped down the treadmill my heart went back to resting rate quickly and without incident. I was completely reassured by the stress test.

When I saw my doctor the following week he told me that everything looked great-- my heart was healthy and strong, my cholesterol was low, and I didn't have diabetes or thyroid issues, both of which can cause the symptoms I had. I do, however, have pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the pericardium, the lining around the heart. They don't know why I have this, but it could be for any number of reasons. Mostly they are non-fatal so I'm trying not to worry!

For now I have to take an anti-inflammatory drug and they've put me on a diet. I'm also taking a baby aspirin each day. The diet is fine; I've been trying to lose weight anyway! I'm not happy about the medication or the aspirin, but I'll be retested in three months and can hopefully stop taking both at that time.

Needless to say I was afraid to ride my bike while waiting to find out what the heck was going on with me. I've been on a few short rides this past week, the longest being about 18 miles. Not many pictures, though. But now that I'm on this new diet I've taken some 'before' photos to have later for comparison. So here's me, and I hope you'll see less of me in the future!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stop and smell the roses... or something like that.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I picked up Bike Snob's book the other day. In one of the early chapters he writes, "Everything about riding a bicycle compels you towards beauty." Not to be too sentimental (okay, maybe a little; I am something of a romantic after all), but that statement really spoke to me.

I'm an impulsive person who rushes around, hurries up, doesn't want to wait for anything and so on and so on. I can't STAND those "it's the journey not the destination" types of sayings-- they make me want to slap someone! However, riding my bike really is about the journey, lol. It's about the only thing I do where I go slow, take my time, relax and appreciate what's going on around me at that very moment. It's rather Zen I guess you could say.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of some of the beautiful things I've come across while out on my bike. Today I'm putting up mostly flowers with other subjects to come later on.

Beginning of the season
Moth Mullein
Rough-fruited Cinquefoil
Multiflora Rose
Oxeye Daisy

Wild Lupine with Zabulon Skipper
With more butterflies (and maybe a few more flowers) to follow in the next day or so...

Monday, July 5, 2010


I know, I know. I've been terrible at updating my blog lately. I've been so busy these past two weeks that I've barely had time to ride, let alone take pictures and then write about them! I actually have a backlog of photos to share, though, including some from my trip to the Statue of Liberty last weekend.New route last week-- and to my surprise I found a covered bridge! At some point I want to take some close-ups, but as you might be able to tell, it's downhill to the bridge and then an immediate uphill. I'm not really inclined to stop my momentum when it's so darn hot out. So I'm thinking it'll be about October before I do anything...

I took the picture above because I loved that hollyhock just randomly growing on the side of the road, plus it was the same color as my shirt!
My dad and my sister were down this weekend and we went for a ride on this new route. It's kind of hilly-- rolling hills-- but they did just fine. Mostly I was thinking of my dad because, well, he's my dad and a bit older than me and it was beastly hot.
Maybe someday I'll put up some pictures of me, but for now my bike will have to be my stand-in:

Oh and it wasn't until after this ride was over that we realized I was using a broken lens-- no wonder I had a hard time getting things in focus!

My dad and I also went for a ride this morning before he left to go back to New York City. We rode down for breakfast at Spill the Beans and then did a short ten mile ride around Lititz. It was so hot-- like 90 degrees at 10:30am-- that we stopped many, many times for rest and some water. But I'm excited about how much my dad likes bicycling! It gives us something fun to do when he's here for visit (other than sitting around talking, of course).

I have a bunch of flower and butterfly pictures from the rides with my family, and hopefully I'll get them sorted and identified soon! Until then, here's another way to get around Lancaster County:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Games!

I'm blogging from New York City today! I'm going to New Jersey for my 25 year high school reunion, and staying with my Dad in Manhattan for part of the time I'm here. I didn't bring my bike this time, though. Too many logistical hassles between here, the hotel and home. It's Saturday and I haven't been for a ride since Wednesday-- I'm having withdrawals here...

I wanted to make sure I got my official Summer Games post in before this segment finished-- I've actually been doing many of the activities listed, but I haven't been blogging that much these past few weeks.

One of the challenges this time around was to carry a load on your bike. I do this fairly regularly as I try to bike to work as often as I can, and that means hauling loads of clean and dirty linens back and forth (I'm a massage therapist). My hybrid had a great basket on the back to haul stuff in, but sinceI got my crank forward back in October of last year I've been without a basket. That meant lugging three or four sets of linens in a messenger bag-- not fun at all. It also meant that I couldn't do much grocery shopping if I needed to get things like milk. As I posted a week or so ago, I had a rack installed on my crank forward and I've bungeed a basket to it. Mostly I've been hauling my camera around, but here's what I got last week:

Lavender! Here's a closer look:
I stopped by the Flower Wagon and bought seven new lavender plants. I'm going to edge my driveway with them. I underestimated the amount I needed, though-- I need at least seven MORE plants to make it the whole way down the drive. Anyway, I felt so very European toting my lavender on my bike! And it smelled great, too.

Another Summer Games task is to do some kind of maintenance task, big or small. Of course I wash my bike regularly and I check the tires daily and fill them if necessary. The last thing I want is a pinch flat, especially on that rear tire.

The one thing on the list I really wanted to do was read a book about cycling. I picked up

Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling

by BikeSnobNYC at the Borders by the Rockaway Mall in New Jersey. It's very funny and I also love that he opens the book talking about the Amish (except he's wrong when he says they don't wear sneakers-- some of them do). The illustrations are great as well-- I would recommend this book to any bicyclist who's willing to poke fun at themselves, and even to those that aren't-- they might climb down from their high horses and mingle with the hoi polloi!

I also have a subscription to Bicycle Times magazine. I love it because it's mostly about regular people doing regular bicycle riding. Some of the stuff they write about goes right over my head, like some of the technical stuff about brakes or whatever, but it's very balanced between the technical and the mundane. Perfect for me, lol.

I hope to get a ride in on Monday or Tuesday. I've been missing my bike!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bike Freedom Valley!

Otherwise known as INSANITY! And I mean that in a good way, of course!

Let me say two things right at the start: first, I only took two pictures today, despite the fact that there were many interesting sights along the way, and second, this ride kicked my butt! I finished, though, and I wasn't even the last one to roll in!

I woke up at just after three this morning and couldn't get back to sleep; I was too excited about the ride, I guess. I finally got on the road at about 5:30 (because even though I was up early I still couldn't leave on time). Unfortunately I kept having problems with my bike rack and had to stop three times to monkey around with it until I got it the way I needed it. So now I was running late-- registration check-in was from 6:30 to 7:30, with a projected start time of 7:45 am and I wanted to get there before seven so I could get a good parking spot!

I got to Kelly Drive in Philly at about 7:15 and found a spot easily. I had pre-registered, so getting my number, cue sheet, and other stuff was quick and easy. I took a picture of the riders assembling at the start, as you can see above, but it doesn't show AT ALL how many people were there. I don't know what the number was, but hopefully it will be on the web soon and I'll post it.

Right from the start I knew it was going to be a bit rough. At eight in the morning the temperature was 77 degrees with a humidity level of 82 percent. The humidity did go down as the day went on, but the temperature went up, with the "real feel" going as high as 98 degrees!! Oh misery!

I opted for the 35 mile shared roads ride (meaning shared with cars). The info on this option said the terrain was hilly, and I assumed that meant something similar to "Lancaster County hilly": rolling hills with an occasional steeper climb, with lovely flat sections in between to give some rest. Well, I was wrong. VERY WRONG!

The first fourteen miles were torturous. Seriously, if I had realized how hilly it was going to be I never would have thought I could have ridden it. I'm not sure that I've mentioned it here on my blog, but I am one overweight chick right now. I won't say how much, but it's significant. Maybe someday I'll post some before and after pictures. Anyway...

I actually had a little mental breakdown at about mile eight when I realized that it was going to be an incredibly challenging ride and I still had 27 miles to go. I sat on the side of the road and cried for about twenty minutes, wondering how in the heck I was going to do this thing. I just decided that I would go as slow as needed to, walk if I needed to, and rest if I needed to. It would be that simple.

And that's exactly how I did it. I walked up quite a few hills, lol. The first rest stop, at Villanova University, was around mile fifteen. The oranges, bagels and cold drinks revived my spirits! The best part? It was mostly all downhill to the next stop, about ten miles farther down the road.

Along the way I met this guy, whose name I can't remember, and his horse Showtime:

I don't usually think of cowboys and Philadelphia as really going together, but they look awesome don't they? He said Showtime was 27 years old-- he's in great shape for such an old guy!

I didn't get a picture, but there was a couple riding a recumbent tandem who always seemed to be either just in front of me or just behind. The woman was in the front seat doing the driving while the man was in the back seat strumming a blue ukelele! And they were singing as they went along. I wish I'd taken their photo.

I also rode for a while with a woman from Berks County, and we exchanged numbers at the end of the ride, with hopes of getting together and doing some biking.

The last leg of the ride was on the Schuylkill River Trail (pronounced SKOO kill, but with a G sound in the middle there, too). After a few miles you could opt to get back on the street in Manayunk (MANny unk), or follow the trail the whole way back. Since the trail option was also the flat option, that's the one I chose! And it really was a trail-- packed dirt and small rocks, running through trees along the Schuylkill River. I saw two big turtles sunning themselves on a fallen tree trunk and I stopped to take their picture, but just as I was getting my camera out some people rode by and the turtles slid back into the water. At that point I just wanted to get to the finish so I put the camera away and pedaled on.

When I got to the start/finish point I rang my bell like a crazy woman for about thirty seconds. I was too tired to whoop it up any other way. I got a quick butt massage-- yes, butt massage (and legs, too). I needed it something awful! I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and after resting for a half hour or so I loaded up my bike and headed home.

I will definitely do this ride again next year, and I will definitely choose the same ride option that I did this time around. I want to see how much I improve over the next twelve months! Although it was a tough ride for me, I'm glad that I underestimated the term "hilly." If I had really understood it I never would have chosen to try the 35 mile route and challenged myself.

I think I'll take a rest from riding tomorrow... but maybe not...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lots and lots of miles this weekend...

Or so it seemed anyway. I did close to thirty on Friday, twenty on Saturday and just over twenty today!
My main ride for Friday was the Long Ears Loop again. Still no baby mule but look above-- it's a black lab sitting in a tree house! This treehouse is in a goat pen and they climb all over it and play on it. The dog's name is Tika and she lives in the pen with the goats. If you go over to the fence she'll bring you a ball so you can throw it for her over and over and over and over again... This pen is another Amish farm just across the way from where the twins live. In addition to Tika and the goats there are cows, a bull, and horses of course. They also run a store that sells items in bulk. I haven't actually shopped there because I don't really need any bulk items.

This little beauty lives on a farm about a mile past the baby's farm. When I stopped to have a drink and a rest she came right over to check me out. As soon as I brought my camera out she got shy and wouldn't look at me! Until her buddy came over, too:

Later I rode down to the Cozy Crop House to do a few massages, and then rode from there to my mom's at about 10:30 pm! It's only about two miles from CCH to her house but it was DARK. I do have head and tail lights on my bike, but it was a tiny bit unnerving to be riding on somewhat lonely country roads that late at night-- the rustlings in the cornfields and long grass were the worst!

Saturday morning I went on a sixteen mile ride with the bike club and it was hard. The route was hilly as heck (because flat is a relative term in Lancaster County-- and I mean that seriously, not sarcastically, lol). It sure seemed like the pace was faster than eleven miles per hour, but that could have been because the hills were wearing me down. I don't have a problem with shorter hills, or ones where there's a downhill first to gain momentum but those long, low-grade ones just kill me. And there were plenty of those kinds of hills on this ride! The upside is that I didn't have to get off and walk any of them, and I kept the pace pretty much. I did fall behind from time to time but once I got caught up I stayed with the main group until I tired on a hill. Luckily for me I wasn't the only one struggling a bit so I had plenty of company, lol.

Today there was a twenty mile ice cream ride scheduled, but the only ones who showed up were me and the leaders (they ride a tandem). It was beastly hot-- 89 degrees with humidity at 73 percent! Like a sauna or something. Since it looked like thunderstorms could roll in we decided to ride around Lititz rather than out towards Ephrata-- that way if it did start to storm we would be close to home. We went about 15 miles, stopping for ice cream at the end. I had a root beer float and boy did it hit the spot on such a hot day!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thirty miles of beautiful riding and then a few in the rain...

It's twins! Alright, I don't know if they're really twins but they're certainly a well-matched pair. They live on an Amish farm in Warwick Township and I can't say that I've ever seen them pulling a buggy or doing any kind of farm work or even being ridden around, so I can't imagine what their function is. I doubt they're just pets, though.

I don't think I've mentioned that I'm going to be riding Bike Freedom Valley on June 20th. It's a non-competitive bike ride in Philadelphia with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. You can choose from a number of different routes, and I've chosen the 35-mile ride from Villanova to Spring Hill and back. To that end, I've been trying to up my daily miles in preparation.
On Monday I rode 22 miles in the morning and then another 8 in the evening. It was a gorgeous day for a bike ride! Sunny, dry, relatively cool and a little breezy. I did the "Long Ears Loop" in the morning hoping to get some good shots of the baby mule, but he and his mom were nowhere to be seen. I did get some waves from the adorable little Amish girls in their black pinafores as I went by, though. They also have a stand selling strawberries and rhubarb so I'll have to make sure I bring some money with me for next time. Fresh strawberries right out of the strawberry patch are delicious!
I was obviously taken with this wheat field... at least I think it's wheat. I guess I'm going to have to do some research! What I loved about this field is that it looked so soft. I didn't actually touch it, though, so I'm not sure. I tried to get a good close up of at least one stalk, but it was too windy to get a decent one.

Tuesday I was in Delaware most of the day and so didn't get a chance to ride at all. Yesterday I decided to try and do the Spooky House Ride before the rain got here. Of course I was about halfway done when it started coming down; I was soaked by the time I got home! I'm going to have to spend some time cleaning my bike today because it's covered in mud splashes and worm bits-- but I can say with confidence that my new bike rack did an excellent job of keeping that stuff off of ME, lol.
I did stop to take a picture of these wild roses despite the water. They look like they're about done and I was afraid the rain would knock all the petals off before I get back own this way again.

Unfortunately the Wednesday night ride with the bike club was rained out, too. I can only make the bike club rides when I don't have work in the evening, so it was disappointing to have no work and no bike ride! Especially when it's an ice cream ride...

Here's to next Wednesday then!