Day’s Verse:
Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.

Micah 7:18

Yesterday I added up my miles ridden in 2010. Although it felt like tons, the real number is less amazing: 6,303 miles. For reference, in 2009 I rode 8,140 miles, including training for the STP from March to July. Nearly all of this year’s miles were commuting to/from the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. Nary a century, or even a ride over about 25 miles, in the entire year. I miss those long, all-day rides that leave your legs feeling like cooked spaghetti at the end.

Thinking about this also gave me a possible insight. Over the last 9 months or so, my back has bothered me more and more. Eventually I talked to Dr. Morrison about it and she sent me to Dan, and now I have 3 more weeks of physical therapy for my back. But why would my back start hurting in the last year, when it never bothered me before? Well, one answer is what Eric Moen told me when he did my bike fit back in the summer: “You’re 26 now. Your back isn’t what it used to be.” (Might as well just lay down and die now.) But as I thought about my year, and the biking I did, I realized that something else changed besides my age. With the relentless 40-mile days, I didn’t have energy for any other activities at all. I had no rest days except weekends, when I didn’t want to do anything else athletic. I was too tired. Even when I rested for the weekend, I’d start on Monday tired, and just get more tired over the course of the week. Historically, though, I’d usually done some kind of core strength training; even if I didn’t do anything else, I’d get in sit-ups and push-ups some time most weeks. I was able to do this because a 13-mile mostly flat commute is much easier than a 20-mile moderately hilly commute. In fact, for the first time ever I switched from sitting on an exercise ball at work to sitting on a regular chair: My back became too sore when I sat on the ball. Yet I’d sat on a ball for the entire 3.5 years I worked at Charles River with no negative repercussions.

I hypothesize that the unvaried, relentless, exhausting miles I rode, even though they were fewer than in previous years, prevented me from doing the usual strength exercises that supported my back. As a result, I didn’t have good core strength and ended up putting more strain on my back — ultimately landing me at MTI Physical Therapy. Now, I don’t have any real medical knowledge to support this hypothesis, but it would make sense, since I actually rode about 2,000 fewer miles this year than last year.

What have I learned? This year I’m going to focus on variety. I’d like to start an organized training series for my bicycling to improve my speed; but I’m also going to take 2 days a week off from biking and do strength training, particularly focusing on my core strength. And I’m going to keep walking or start jogging, to include some more bone density-improving activities. Now I’m starting to understand why people hire personal trainers or coaches. I’m feeling fairly out of my depth here, but I’m going to do my best.

Edited @6:10 pm to add: Got the new chain on. Understanding what steps to do is fairly simple. Executing said steps required a trip to a bike shop (needed a better chain-breaker tool), a pair of pliers, Ian’s hand strength, and about an hour of frustration. After we got it on and working, Ian said: “How much does it cost to pay a guy at a bike shop to do this?” I said, “Oh, about $15.” Ian: “Worth every penny.” With that, he left the garage. I’m inclined to agree… but then I remember the first time I changed a flat tire, and what a miserable struggle that was. This afternoon I just swapped slicks for studded tires on the Xtracycle (No snow’s gonna stop me from getting around now!) with no trouble. So maybe I’ll get a real, good chain breaker tool and keep trying to replace my own chains until it’s easy. If at first you don’t succeed…

2 thoughts on “2010 Bike Mileage, and a Hypothesis

  1. what’s your “chain breaker” like? I have a little screw+pin tool that doesn’t take much brute strength… it’s too bad Christmas has just passed. :-p

  2. It’s just a cheap $10 one similar to what you describe. I don’t know if it’s the tool (which has little microscopic handles and is hard to hold, let alone use), the chain, or my technique. Most likely option #3.

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