Stella and I got out to Pocahontas State Park with Adam and Kaden for another crack at the Blueberry Hill Trail. Luckily, the rain we had during the week didn’t keep us off of the trail. It probably even helped a little bit since things had gotten sandy in the couple of weeks without rain.
This is the 4th(?) time we’ve been on Blueberry Hill and I think Stella’s getting the hang of it. In fact, she did such a good job there wasn’t a photo break. It is rated as an Easy trail in the park guide so there are very few technical (rocky or rooty) sections and none of the climbs/descents are too steep. It’s a fun ride for me, too, since I’m pretty damn far from cycling fitness.
Stella has started Nutcracker rehearsals so I don’t think we’re going to be able to keep riding on days she has to dance. She’s also a bit of a chicken about the cold, so she might not be on too much until the Spring. Luckily Adam got a new bike so there should at least be plenty of dad rides through the winter.
Stella has been working me to get out on the bike with her for months. I have been out of the bike riding mode for the last couple of years and, honestly, the couple of times she and I have been on the road for rides it has been way too stressful. On a lark, we took our bikes out to Pocahontas State Park to see how riding on some fire road trails would pan out and it ended up being a great time.
This is us on our first ride at the park. Fire road trails are wide open and multi-use so we saw joggers and hikers out there, too. The climbing was never steep and it didn’t go on very long, despite being marked as “moderate” difficulty. We got a little turned around and had to ride on the park road to get back to our car but it was still fun.
Our next time out we went with some friends. This was an “easy” difficulty single track trail called Blueberry Hill at Pocahontas State Park and Stella struggled a little bit. The climbs were short and never steep, but the lack of bailout room had Stella being extra tentative. It also raised the stress level for me because I really didn’t want to watch her take a dip off of the track into a tree. She had just a few slow-speed crashes and, as evidenced in the above photo, finished with a smile. We’ve been out to PSP a couple of times with this group and it’s been a lot of fun.
Stella and I took a Labor Day ride down to the James River Park System for some easy loops around Belle Isle. A sunny holiday meant that the place was packed but it was good practice for Stella’s share-the-road skills. That’s a photo of us on the rocks at the river. After a couple of laps around the island, we took off down the Richmond Slave Trail and Kanawha Canal. It was mostly riding on paved multi-use trail. Easy stuff and a good time.
I had heard of a downtown trail called the “Poop Loop” for it’s proximity to Richmond’s water treatment facility. The Loop is just under 2 miles long and sits at the far end of the Slave Trail. It was described as a good place for new riders to work on mountain bike skills, so we were stoked to get on it. Turns out, Stella needs some more seasoning before she can qualify as a “new rider”. It’s a pretty technical trail (meaning lots of roots and rocks with occasional felled trees) that had her super gun-shy by the end. It was not ideal, but she toughed it out. She’s no quitter.
Our most recent rise was new-to-us trail at PSP call Box Turtle. It was rated “easy”, but I am starting to think these rating are more about grade and less about trail obstructions. The roots and rocks here weren’t as bad as they were on the Poop Loop, but she was still reeling a bit from that misadventure and so was quick to dismount some rideable sections. She’ll come around, I’m sure.
And that catches us up to date. I’ll be sure and post up after our next ride.
This was my 5th year riding for Team Capital Ale House in the Bike MS: Ride Virginia. It’s a fund raising effort for the National MS Society that culminates with a two-day bike ride from Richmond to Williamsburg, Va., and back. 150 miles over two days is a tough ride but it’s for a good cause. If you’re so inclined, this is my donation page.
There were a couple of big changes this year that made for a different ride than in years past. First, I finished my Whole 30 on the Thursday before the ride so I didn’t have the week of carb-loading that I have used as an excuse for a 4-day pasta binge. I had serious concerns about being able to ride my bike for 4-5 hours in a row because I didn’t know how my deeper energy stores would be after a month of fat adapting. The silver lining of the Whole 30 was that I lost a bunch of weight, mostly fat, so I’d be a lighter rider than I’d ever been on this ride.
Second, I didn’t get nearly enough training miles this year. The weather and schedule this Spring has been tough on our normal riding schedule. 75 miles is tough on my body even with our normal foundation of miles so going into it at 60% of normal training made for extra tenderness in all of my “contact points” (hands, feet, backside). I had a world-class 10-minute massage after Day 1 and I think it may have saved my Day 2.
Day 1 was good enough. I was worried about my energy levels after the Whole 30 but I made it okay. I ate mostly fruit at the rest stops to avoid any trouble that might crop up from bread or whatever. It was hot out, too, which mostly meant drinking lots of Gatorade and water. Everything worked out okay.
I was tired and sore most of Day 2. I had a couple of runs where I was strong but it wasn’t like it used to be before Whole 30. It was a “raw” strength, not a “feeling good” strength (That doesn’t make sense and I’m still working on how to describe this feeling). It was weird. Our group got split a little as the day went on and I got really fatigued/cranky over the last 20 miles. I was over riding my bike and that put a damper on the weekend for me. Lunch at the finish was great and I passed on the pool to get in a lengthy nap when I got home.
I’m reassessing my cycling calendar for next year. I love riding my bike. This was my 5th MS150 and I might need a break. The whole process felt more like a grind than it ever has and that’s not what I want. I’m not making the call today because I’m still pretty beat. I’ve got 6 months to mull it over. I’m a helluva muller.
An otherwise terrific ride was spoiled by a slow-motion crash inside the last mile. There was a 100-foot-long yellow line separating two lanes that, unbeknownst to me, had 30 feet in the middle that is an elevated curb. I drifted into it and went down hard.
I heard a click when I hit the ground and I was sure it was my collarbone breaking (as that is a very common injury for cycling crashes and among my greatest fears). I’m sure my recollection is suspect, but I remember lying on the ground for a second waiting for the broken bone pain/nausea to kick in and when it didn’t I eased up to my knees. My shoulder hurt from driving into the asphalt but I had full range of motion. Once I figured out that the click wasn’t my collarbone I figured that it was my helmet so I did a quick assessment to see if I was woozy. I passed that test(?) and got to my feet to see how torn up I was. My shorts and jersey didn’t tear but my forearm and lower leg were a bloody, road-rashed mess. I checked my bike which surprisingly didn’t show any signs of damage. The wheels stayed true and nothing was bent out of place. I took another minute to collect myself and finished out the ride. Post-ride beers beers at Adam‘s were welcome. I could feel the pain from the impact echoing through the soft tissue of my shoulder and across my ribs. It sucked. Big time.
I opted for wearing short pants and short sleeves to work for a couple of days this week while my mess dried out. I wasn’t trying to ruin shirts and pants for the sake of a dress code (and I’m fortunate to work in a place where I can make that call). I’ve been Advil-ing like a champ which has kept me from sinking too deep into painville but sleeping has been an uncomfortable pursuit. My biggest concern is the pain under my right scapula. It isn’t as sharp as it was on Sunday night but it hasn’t recovered as quickly as the rest of me has.
I don’t know that I have a lesson to share here other than “Don’t Crash On Asphalt”.
I finally got a bike rack installed on the roof of my little car so I could get myself to the ride. I enjoy a road trip as much as the next guy but I was really looking forward to a couple of quiet hours with a podcast or two for the drive. Driving myself also let me set my own schedule for riding or running errands (or hiding from historically scary weather).
Early Spring brings crazy weather anyway but we seem to pull especially odd stuff when we camp for this ride. We finished pitching the tents just as the sleet started falling. Sleet that eventually gave way to rain but not the 2″ they were calling for. It was still freezing cold. We may have overindulged in some bourbons to celebrate successful tent pitching. Maybe.
One of the things we riders are supposed to do is spend some money in the host town (meals at restaurants, shop at the shops, local hardware store for junk you need, stuff like that). Edenton happens to have a small wine and beer shop with a decent little craft beer selection. The three of us are hiding from the cold and checking out the beers when we see a bottle of Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops on the shelf. Some friendly chatter with the shop owner and we learned he had the one bottle on the shelf and 2 more hiding in the back of a cooler. Being good beer nerds we bought them on the spot and asked him to keep them cold until that evening. We rode bikes, showered, ate food, collected our bottles and sat enjoyed a couple of rounds of delicious, rare beer.
Friday’s and Saturday’s rides were cold and windy and each night’s sleep (in a small tent on a camping mat) was getting progressively worse. On Sunday the warm weather showed up and we said goodbye to the windswept farm roads to spend the morning pedaling through tree-lined back roads and neighborhoods. When we opted for the 37-mile route it included a sound crossing on a bridge. The view was incredible and I wanted a picture but didn’t want to stop and take one since it was a 2-lane 55MPH zone. So I pulled an Adam and took off a glove, reached back and took my camera out of my pocket, snapped a handful of photos, put the camera back into it’s bag in my pocket, all at 17MPH. Getting the glove back on was the hardest part.
We stopped after crossing back over to get a quick picture because it was going to be tough to describe. The bridge went out low over the water and then had a high-ish hump in the middle of the 3 1/2 mile crossing. It was far, for sure and a terrific end to the weekend of bikes.
This was technically a cyclocross ride but I rolled it with my MTB since I don’t have a ‘cross bike.
Devil’s Backbone Brewery was the start/finish for this 27-mile ride up and over (and up and over and up and over) some tough 17%-20% climbs including a Category 1 summit up and across the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail. This was probably a top 3 most-difficult ride for me. I definitely rate it behind my first century ride but I’m having trouble coming up with another one in front of it.
I walked a decent bit but felt like I got into a good groove on the 5-mile(!) ascent in the middle of the ride. I was able to draw upon my meditation practice this year to keep focused on making circles (pedaling) while on that climb and really feel like it made a positive difference. That was very cool. Rather it was cold. So cold that there was a good bit of snow still on top of the mountain from a snowfall 10 days prior. The descents were a different fish. Miles and miles of paved downhill on a poorly maintained mountain bike are not the sort of thrills I generally go for. I spent the time trying to convince myself that my odds of survival were just fine. It all worked out in the end but goddamn it was scary through a couple of different sections. The cold, dusty air set me up with a hacking cough through Monday morning. Good times.
We followed up the ride with some pints and a sandwich. It’s rare that I come home from a tough ride and say “I’m not sure I’m doing that again”, but that’s where I was on Saturday night. I’m a little closer to being tempted to try it again next year now that I know what to expect. We’ll see.
I don’t follow a ton of cycling news outside of le Tour (but I’m obnoxious enough to call it “le Tour”) but I know Taylor Phinney’s name from his place as a promising American rider. This WSJ article is about a stage in last week’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in Italy. The course was, apparently, too much for even elite riders and half the peloton quit halfway through. Phinney was in the back-half of the race thanks to a mechanical problem but he didn’t quit with the rest of them. His goal was to finish the stage under the time limit so he could take a shot at winning the time trial on the next day. After the race, he said that he thought of his father, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease to motivate him through the 80 miles of cold rain he rode alone:
“I knew that if my dad could be in my shoes for one day—if all he had to do was struggle on a bike for six hours, but be healthy and fully functional—he would be me on that day in a heartbeat,” Taylor Phinney said. “Every time I wanted to quit, every time I wanted to cry, I just thought about that.”
I try to keep a similar thought in mind when I’m out on the course during the MS150 I ride every spring. I’ve found myself at 50 miles into the ride on the second day and my legs hurt and I’m tired and I just want to go home. I try then to remember why I’m riding. I’m riding to raise money and awareness for people who would swap seats with me in a second to be as leg-hurt and as tired as I am. It’s a powerful and humbling idea.
I’d be rooting for T Phinney anyway (USA! USA! USA!) but now I’m going to start keeping up with him outside the grand tours.
[via those Pants Richmond Guys who pass along good bike stuff]
I haven’t been out on the bike much this year and I was worried about how it would go. Luckily the running seems to have kept me in okay shape and the squats have made my legs reasonably strong. The route was generally friendly and it was great to get back out with a couple of the guys. We were flying.
I’ve got a big MTB ride in a couple of weeks that I’m a lot less worried about now thanks to this ride. The biggest discomfort was in the cycling-specific areas of my quads and my ass. There isn’t any substitute for time in the saddle so I was uncomfortable after about 10 miles. I need to get out more often before CNC or I’m going to be walking funny for a week afterward.