Week 36/52 recap
5.3 miles temps – 5. miles EZ – 16 miles paced
I rarely mention the cross training I do as part of my training for the NYC Marathon. I have kept up with my physical therapy and added in extra core exercises and yoga stretches. Also, once a week I hop onto my mountain bike and go for a good hard ride.
At the beginning of June I was biking one of my favorite routes, Barnes Lane Loop. I am always excited for my Bia Sport watch to log any of my old route and look at them on the maps online. I also have the data kick over to another social network called Strava where I can compare my times and distances to other athletes.
Strava allows you to connect with groups of friend who share similar interests or other locals who run and bike the same routes that you do. They even have a function called “segments” on which you can directly compare you time to anyone else who has logged the same stretch of road, trail or hill. I mostly like to compare my segments to how well I have done in the past to see if I am improving. Occasionally, when I log a new route for myself, I will see that someone else has labeled a segment in the midst of where I had run/biked.
That is what happened when I checked out my Barnes Lane Loop the first time on Strava. All sorts of segments came up with the times other bikers had traversed the area. I had ridden at a relaxed pace, feeling out where I was fitness wise, and it was no surprise that I hadn’t been the fastest biker on any of the segments.
There was one segment on which I wasn’t too far off the best woman’s pace, a mile section in Spring Creek Canyon. I thought, “I bet I could best that time if I pushed,” but hated to knock anyone off the status of “Queen of the Mountain” (QOM) as Strava calls it. I checked out the woman’s details and the next thing I thought was totally uncharacteristic of me, “GAME ON!”
I mentioned in detail in (Act 1 – Red State, Blue State) of how I passed a local woman as I was biking to campus one day and she never lets me forget it. That was the woman who was Queen of the Mountain on that segment of Spring Creek Canyon. She had gotten under my skin by showing her competitive nature every year I ran into her and now I could compete with her, beat her, without her seeing me coming. A lot like when I passed her cheerfully on Orchard Road but this time with a different intent.
As each week presented itself, my cross training didn’t allow me to return to the canyon route. Thunderstorms chased me to spin on a stationary trainer at the PSU gym where Jim has a membership a couple of weeks in a row. The cost for a day is only $5 so it was worth it to get my biking done in a different way. It is dry in there but I worked up a good sweat each time.
I biked out to Boalsburg one week so that I could have my Bia Sport measure the one route I like to run for long runs. I helped me know the elevation gain too, since the NYC Marathon is not flat, I am trying to train on a similar course. There are Strava segments on the route too and it was fun to see how fast some locals have accomplished along the bike paths.
Last week would have been a perfect morning to buzz down through the canyon. It hadn’t rained so there would bee no puddles nor slick muddy spots to slow me down or make the route dangerous. Alas, I had business in Lewistown calling me. I needed to visit my parents’ lawyer sometime during working hours to sign some legal papers. The canyon would have to wait.
No regrets biking to Lewistown! I hadn’t biked the route since I was cross training for the 2012 Wineglass Marathon. I was anxious to see if my fitness allowed me to pedal up and over Front Mountain without having to stop. I loved biking Stillhouse Hollow and skirting the remote Greens Valley. Whether biking or hiking, I usually always see deer or bear or grouse in this section of Bald Eagle State Forest.
This year I opted to stop and take some photos along the way. I started at the top of the Seven Mountains with a head lamp because I knew Stillhouse Hollow would be dense and dark. Just a mile in, I a took a photo of me by the “bridge out ahead” sign because I thought it would make me look tough. For the decades I have been hiking and biking that area, the bridge has always been navigable by foot and really was only a warning to vehicles.
The hollow was very dark that morning and I was glad to have worn the headlamp to see the deep potholes and jutting rocks on my descent. I was also pleased and really impressed that my Bia Sport and Go-stick had reception. This was one remote area I had not ever expected it to work. I was excited that it would record my whole workout and had a bit of assurance that in case of an emergency I could rely on the SOS Alert for assistance.
Remote, dark and quite, this area of the woods has always been some of my favorite in Central PA. I only set up listening to my podcast of Selected Shorts to help distract my ascent up Front Mountain. As I descended the south face of Long Mountain into the hollow, I was a little creeped-out that I seemed to have chosen a Halloween episode to start with. The woods took on a spooky feel and I stayed hyper aware as I crossed first Laurel Creek on a gated cement bridge then got close to the crossing of Greens Valley Stream.
It turned out to be kind of a funny story, The Cat That Went to Trinity that takes some crazy twists. I am determined to listen to it again because I became distracted with a crazy twist of my own when I came to the bridge that was out.
No, really, this year the BRIDGE IS OUT! No planks to walk my bike across, no creosote scented beams of yester-year, the only thing left was the skeleton of what had held them. I wracked my brain, “Had I walked across the iron structure with my bike before!? No way!!” The drop from the bridge remnants was significant as was the bank down to the creek on either side.
I stood there fussing about what to do when I found where other bikers and hikers must be using the one bank down, cross the creek and and back up the other bank. The banks were steep, the creek was running strong but not high and I really had no other choice. I resigned my self to having wet feet for the rest of the day, used the breaks on my bike as I walked it what felt like nearly vertical by my side then crossed the stream. I had to leave the bike at the base of the stream and take off all extra weight (my CamelBak and saddle bag) then return to push and climb with my bike up the far bank. It was tricky but I earned the right to feel like I was a bad-ass by the Bridge Out sign.
The rest of the ride went well and I enjoyed the readings of a couple of Poe stories as I crossed over the top of Front Mountain. I could tell that I was having and would have no trouble with the ascent but the mountain laurel was in perfect bloom so I stopped a few times for some photos.
This week has been peppered with quite a few thunderstorms and downpours. It is also the local Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and my cross training day fell on Children’s Day. I love biking in to see what crafts the kids have made and are selling. I have purchased a lot of great creations from them so it was pretty much a no-brainer that I would use the visit was my cross training. The canyon would be muddy with a lot of puddles from the storms.
The canyon. It was calling me. I wouldn’t have time to bike the entire Barnes Lane Loop but what if I just did that segment and turned around and came back in time to catch a bus into Children’s Day? That would be silly though because I would have to bike up the terrible Shilo Road hill on the way back.
The canyon. I knew I could push harder than before and maybe, even with the tricky terrain, could go faster than the 6:33 that woman had biked that segment. Damn the mud, damn the deep puddles, I was giving it a go and the crawl up Shilo hill could be my victory lap.
I chose The Moth podcasts to keep me company, put on my Bia Sport on to record the ride and my other watch to time the exact segment. I warmed up for a couple miles and kept my legs active and rotating even on the long descent down Shilo hill. I took a drink of Nuun on the level final 1/4 mile and then saw the gate ahead that marked the beginning of the segment. I got moving as quickly as was safe to bike around the meal gate and punched my timer.
I remembered to stay focused on keeping my effort up even when I would normally back off. The segment was really only 7/10 long and I could rest after I crossed Rockview Road. I knew exactly where the muddy spots and puddle would be and made the best of every tanget. I pushed super hard on the straight-aways upon which I normally backed off and enjoyed the view.
Until the hard left turn onto the bridge crossing, the muddy spots had slim sections that were drying and the puddles never crossed the whole path. The bridge was covered, as usual, with a huge muddy puddle at the near end. From years of running and biking this route I knew that straight through the muddle was the safest and I plowed through it as fast as I could after making the turn. Not a slip nor wiggle as I made it to the far end of the bridge!
The ride wasn’t over though, I had about 1/10 mile until Rockview Road. I saw where the segment ended head and knew it was going to be tricky to stay up to speed and safely hit the rough section that followed. I did hit the final muddy section a bit unsteadily but made it onto the wooded path without incident. I hit my stop watch and glanced down, 5:32 – over a full minute less than her time!
I was pleased and biked on just a bit farther to the dam to cool down before turning back for home. What was almost more gratifying was slowly grinding up Shilo hill without having to dismount. I had a good workout even though it was half the distance I normally bike.
Of course the moment I got home I had to go online to see if Strava recognized my victory n that segment. Sure enough there was a trophy by my workout that signified I had achieved a personal segment victory on this ride. I scrolled over it and it reflected my 5:32 on Spring Creek Canyon as begin second place… what!? SECOND place!?
Not but three days before, another woman had broken the record on that segment by recording 4:50! I had to laugh and I was really glad that I hadn’t been the one dethrone the QOM. I beat the 6:33 that I set out to do and that was good enough for me.
I was also pleased to see that someone had recorded Shilo hill as a Strava segment and out of curiosity looked to see how my time stacked up against the other women. My 11:15 grind uphill actually landed me a second place to the QOM 7:27. Did you guess it? I wonder if she would be cross if I could pass her up Shilo like I did on Orchard.