I did it!!! I got the handcycle on the road, and it’s amazing. I feel like myself again, working out outdoors, on wheels, feeling the wind and sun on my face. Fantastic!
It’s such a nice change. In my walking life, I’ve gradually transitioned to full weight bearing in a knee-high boot, but I can only be on my feet about half an hour. If I push too hard, my feet swell and my pain kicks back up again. Taking a shower still requires crutches and is a bit of an ordeal. But on the handcycle, I’m just me again – exercising, enjoying the effort, and no pain other than that of working muscles.
Last weekend I took the handcycle off of the trainer and out to the bike path. Right away my confidence skyrocketed – I hadn’t realized quite how much faster and easier than running it is. My first day out I went to the north end of the bike path from my house in the Lakewood estates neighborhood (between the high school and the Ethan Allen Shopping Plaza). I did 5 miles and could have done more, but wanted to be sure I didn’t overdo it.
I felt great the next morning and decided to go a little further – to the south end of the bike path and around the south shore neighborhood loop of the marathon course, and it was totally manageable, though it’s quite a hill getting out of that neighborhood. I’ve realized that getting up hills on a handcycle is really different than on a bike. It’s a lot harder to carry speed and momentum up a hill – I think probably because of the smaller muscles of the arms – there’s just not that extra burst of power that you can draw on when bicycling. Luckily, the handcycle I’m borrowing has 14 speeds, so there’s the granny of all granny gears to get up the hills.
I should clarify that by “hills” I’m talking about the 100 foot elevation gains that the marathon course climbs. When I was mountain biking last year, a day with 1000 feet of elevation gain was not unusual. On a handcycle, if I do 300 feet of elevation gain over 10 miles I feel like I’ve done a lot of climbing.
In any case, I covered 11.4 miles that second day, which was when it started to feel like this marathon goal was about within reach. Since last weekend, I’ve clocked 40 miles over 5 rides. Tomorrow’s goal is 15 miles. I’ve also done one hill interval workout at the North Avenue campground, which has a hill that is fairly comparable to the Battery street hill in the marathon (a bit steeper, and a bit shorter), so now I feel like if nothing else I can make it up all the hills – even if it’s just one pedal stroke at a time.
Things I’ve learned:
- Turning around on a handcycle involves some advance planning. It has the turning radius of a station wagon.
- I can strap my camelback hydration pack to the back of the seat and tuck the hose behind me so I have water at the ready. I can NOT reach the pockets.
- My pushing muscles are stronger than my pulling muscles.
- I should have a bell to train on the bike path.
- When I go through puddles, there’s not a lot of spatter to the face.
- The days I train I’m happier than the days I take off.
This morning when I rode it was lightly raining and cool, and fairly easy to tell who else was out training for the marathon. It’s getting serious out there and I’m just thrilled to be part of the experience. This morning I was thinking that maybe I’d do this every spring – even without major surgery as an excuse. I have always been very active, but it’s been decades since I’ve had a specific event that I’ve been training for, and I really enjoy the focus of it. Onward and upward!