Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bicycle Menopause

This is how cold it's been outside lately: I walked to our nearby blood bank to give blood, and I was almost deferred because my temperature was only 93 degrees.

To me, my temperature reading says something curious both about oral thermometers and also about how few people normally walk to the blood bank.  I waited two or three minutes, and my temperature (as registered by the thermometer I carefully cradled in the back of my cheeks and tongue) rose to 96 degrees, so I got to give blood.  But it goes to say, even though there's no ice on the roads or frost in the skies, the weather is brisk enough that breathing through my mouth during a 20-minute outdoor walk can frighten phlebotomists.

If it's so cold outside that the mere act of walking can frighten phlebotomists, what does this mean about riding bikes?  (Because now that I've written that phrase, I've fallen in love with it.  Frightened Phlebotomists.  Frightened Phlebotomists.  Say it Phive times Phast!  The phlebotomists are frightened.  Hah.)

Biking, it turns out, is another adventure entirely.  Because, okay, yes, it's cold.  When I started doing serious biking last winter, I pretty much expected that.

But also, biking is HOT!  As in, embarrassingly, Take-Off-All-My-Clothes-and-Sweat-in-Front-of-Strangers kind of hot.  And I wasn't expecting that.

Here's what I've learned about running errands on my bike.  (I'm going to preface this by saying I really love my bike nowadays, and winter biking adventures are just one part of this love).  So, everybody says that it's a good idea to dress in layers, and I do.  I have grown particularly fond of these cylinder thingies ("fleece headbands", I think they're called?) that go over my ears:  I put one around my ears and one around my neck, like a scarf.  Hands and toes are vital, so I've got honking warm gloves and I wear boots that are sort of like Uggs, but trash-picked or yard-saled.  I pay careful attention to the far reaches of my body; and as for the middle of my body, I just layer up a bit.

And then biking through Siberia, it's cold.  There's this wind that cuts to the bone, which is sort of exciting but also sort of gives me the feeling that if I crashed right now, I might freeze and stick to the road and the paramedics would need to use a crow-bar to pry my stiff icy body off the tarmac.  The wind zips past and sends icy needles into me, kind of like a Polar Acupuncture which is both painful and also incredibly healing.

And then at some point I come to the red light.  And I stop, and so the wind stops, and all of a sudden this furnace inside my body goes wild and I'm like one of those Chocolate Gateau cakes that looks sort of normal on the outside but has all this molten delicious stuff oozing out of every pore.

The most amazing version of the volcano effect is when I actually get to where I'm going.  Because once I stop AND I go into a warm building with no wind blowing me, it's like I'm having the mother of all hot flashes.  Last January I rode my bike two miles (a mere two miles) to get my mammogram, and it was like 20 degrees outside.  Yes, the ride was a tad nippy.  But by the time I got into the office, I was tearing my clothes off at a furious pace.  All the other women sitting in the office were huddled up in their Christmas sweaters, coats draped over their shoulders or possibly lying on their laps.  And I was stripped down to a t-shirt, standing in the middle of a giant pile of shirts and jackets and windbreakers heaped up around me, sweating up a storm.  And the women around me asked, "Isn't biking on a day like today cold?" but I was in my t-shirt with the steam just sizzling off of me.  Wonder Woman on Fire.

The cold part of biking, I expected that.  The hot part, that's the surprise and delight.  It's like that t-shirt says, "They're not hot flashes; they're power surges".  And they make me feel a bit like a ninja warrior, a force to be reckoned with.

I'm the woman who frightens phlebotomists. Be warned.

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