My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Category: Bikes (page 1 of 16)

The Manassas Crusher

Those of you that know me know that I like to ride bikes.  I also like a challenge.  Triathlons are enticing but I'd rather drown than swim laps in a pool for any length of time.  It's hideously boring.  Running is only marginally more tolerable – I'm a career fat guy so training for a run isn't my idea of fun but at least the scenery changes.  You see other fat people running all the time and you silently say "go get 'em buddy, at least you're trying"  People at the pool are far more judgey.  You can see their contempt from across the pool.  Anyway, running is at least tolerable.  So, what I decided to do was cook up my own 3 sport challenge: Road biking, mountain biking and running.

The event I dreamed up is called the "Manassas Crusher".  It's a 40 mile road bike, a 5-ish mile mountain bike and a 4 mile run.  The road bike piece is essentially a loop up PW Pkwy, right on Hoadly, left on Spriggs, right on 2324, left down into Brentsville and then circling up to Manassas Airport where you switch to mtn bike and ride M3.  M3 is a trail that goes up around the civil war fort by the airport, through the back side of Jenny Dean and into old town.  After that it's a 4 mile run that weaves through the neighborhoods around the city.

The road bike part of this deal isn't too bad.  There are 3 climbs on the Parkway that will work you over a bit but nothing terrible.  Things can get a bit trying down in Brentsville as there are rollers there and it's at the end of the ride.  Again, nothing killer though.  The Bike Manassas folk ride this route at least once

 a month during the summer.  There are also two good stops on that ride if you need them.  Starbucks at Hoadly and Wi-Not stop on 234.  They are both good but Wi-Not stop is a bit better.  You can drink your coffee without your pinky extended and they also let you fill up water bottles with ice without a fuss.  It was cold and very windy on Saturday so I spent a lot of time with my head down hiding from the wind.  The parkway part of the ride was grueling – the wind has no obstacles coming down the parkway so it gets up to full speed.  There were hills on the parkway that I usually come down at around 30 mph that were 20-ish mph hills on Saturday.  Nevertheless, the road bike is my strongest event out of all 3 and I was pretty comfortable the entire time.

The mountain bike part – taken by itself – is a pretty easy ride.  The M3 Mountain bike trail starts at the Railroad crossing out by the airport (It would be longer but the airport is afraid someone will ride a bike through their woods across the street from the airport and somehow crash airplanes).  It heads down towards the civil war fort, weaves through the woods and eventually comes out by the generation station on Godwin.  From there it cuts up through the back side of Dean school and then into Old Town.  It's mostly but not all singletrack.  As far as Mountain Bike trails go it's very well laid out but not exactly a killer challenge.  Anyway, I texted Sarah when I was about 10 minutes out and she met me at the railroad crossing with an extra water bottle, shoes and mountain bike.  Even though M3 isn't tough, after 40 miles on the road bike, the change in bikes was hard to manage.  The mountain bike is a heavy sucker and it requires a lot of work to horse it around, bunny hop stuff and ride over obstacles.  You've got to pay attention to what is coming up or you'll end up over the handlebars.

The running part started at my house.  I figured it was easier to bike there and switch clothes than it was to do the same in a parking lot or a car.  I got home, swapped my long cycling pants for some base layers and running shoes and headed out the door.  I was running my typical training route so there were no surprises.  Except how hellish those 4 miles turned out to be.  The big guns that cyclists depend on are the quadriceps.  I can always just lay whatever stress on those suckers and demand performance.  On Saturday the big guns walked off the job after 2 miles.  I did a mix walk run for mile 3 and managed to run the last mile but it was absolute agony.  I've never been in that much muscular pain even on my longest and hardest day on the bike.  My legs were screaming.  I also had no water on the run which was not good.

So, why did I do this and what did I learn?  Well, I did it for two reasons.  The first was to see how hard it would be.  In short, it's the most difficult physical thing I've ever done.  The pain I endured at the end of the run was incredible.  The second was to evaluate it as a possible "event" of some sort.  I think it would be cool to have something like this here although the logistical aspects would be trying.  If you had 50-200 people doing the event, the mountain bike trail probably wouldn't be big enough.  How would you get that many riders across PW Pkwy?  Certainly they wouldn't all ride their bikes to my house!  There are many unanswered questions.  The other thing I learned is that it would have to be earlier in the year when the weather is a bit warmer.

Overall, I'd say that I would do it again – even if I did it by myself.  I would like to make the mountain bike part a bit longer but that isn't likely.  It would be easy to make the road bike and running parts longer but that doesn't seem necessary.  I would probably move the running event out of Old Town as the sidewalks are in such disprepair that its dangerous to run on them.  Frankly some of the streets aren't much better – especially when you're tired.  I'm always surprised that, even after a summer training on the bike, I have trouble running more than a mile or 2.  Yeah, I know they are "different exercises" but it would seem that someone who can go 70 miles on a bike would be able to jog a couple miles.  I also learned that balance and pace are really important.  I usually hammer away on the road rides but made a conscience decision to hold back a bit.  That was a good thing because, while I didn't have to fling myself across the finish line to lie in a crumpled heap on the other side, it was a near thing.  

p.s.: Thanks to my friend Luanne over at ABS graphics for the logo!

Bike Virginia 2013

I'm back from this years edition of Bike Virginia.  I only got to ride 4 days of this years tour – I normally do all 6 – but there's just too much going on at work and life in general.  It's a real luxury to be able to take 5-6 days off to just ride.  Like any vacation it gives one a renewed perspective on life but cycling is such an "inside your head" sport that it is more like spending a week in a cave by oneself.

This is the third year that I've ridden the tour.  The first year I rode, the tour was centered around the Blacksburg-Radford area.  That edition is not fondly remembered by most that rode it.  Even the 50 mile rides were ridiculous.  The climb data was all wrong and pretty much ever day I got off the bike I had to deal with agonizing cramps.  Last year the  tour was based up near Winchester – Charlestown area.  It was the best multi-day ride I've ever done.  Bike VA routes are always well marked and flagged but last years edition wound through battlefields, Harpers Ferry and was a great balance of challenge and sight seeing.

This year the tour was centered around Lexington – Buena Vista.  We stayed at the Brierley Hill Bed & Breakfast which was quite fabulous and very near the event HQ.  Many folks tent camp for Bike VA. Not me baby.  I need a bed, A/C, showers and flush toilets.  By the way, Lexington is amazing.  It has two famous schools, Washington & Lee and VMI.  It also has an incredible Old Town area.  There is a good amount of retail and the restaurants are very nice.  9 months of the year it's a college town so it is no surprise that there is a social scene with restaurants, etc.

As this years edition was in southside, it isn't a shock that there were hills.  New for the first day was a short "warm up" ride of about 25 miles.  It wasn't bad, a nice little rolling ride that woke the legs up and got you familiar with the area.  The second day was very tough: 52 miles and over 5,000 feet of climbing.  It was pretty hot and I didn't keep up with my hydration as well as I should have so I got some pretty serious thigh cramps after the ride.  We had a nice dinner in Lexington that night and I got a decent nights sleep.

The third day had a bit less climbing and was more rolling hills.  I was pretty sore from the previous day but managed to ride very comfortably the entire 60 mile distance.  The fourth day I did the short 25 miler and left town.  I had to get back to Manassas and then fly to Los Angeles the next day.  Talk about a tough plane ride.  Full flight, leg cramps…fun.

People do ask me from time to time what the hardest part about Bike Virginia is?  Well, at first it's the climbing.  We just don't have mountains around here that you can train on with any regularity.  Sure, there are some hills on the PWC Parkway but a 5-6km climb?  Gotta go 25 miles west for that.  Having to generate that much power also changes how you pedal and sit which can result in some soreness as you adjust.  However, you get over all of that pretty quickly.  For me, the hardest part of Bike Virginia is that once the event starts, it doesn't stop until about 4 days after it is over.  From the time you get up in the morning to the second your eyes close at night, you're feeding the beast: sit up, get out of bed and start hydrating.  No plain water either or you will suffer.  You require electrolytes.  Every meal is considered in the proper context.  You might think: "wow, burrito's would be great for dinner"!  Then you remember (hopefully) that, after  a couple of hours on the bike the next day, those burritos might no be so happy.  You skip the burrito and hit the turkey burger with salad.  It's all consuming and after a day or two when your butt hits the saddle, it feels as though it never left.  Don't forget, just because you drove home, you must continue to normalize your electrolytes because you're still short.  Forget about that or skip it and you'll get cramps!

Anyone wanna sign up for next year?

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