Combining Running and Biking

I.

Why don’t more people combine biking and running? It’s a lot of fun. Maybe that’s a lot to ask, considering how cyclists are often so tribal that an admission that you run (or, god forbid, even enjoy running) will get you banished to triathlete island (presumably one of the Hawaiian islands; I heard that’s where they do their weird little contests). First things first: I’m not a triathlete. Not by a long shot. I fucking hate swimming, even though I have enormous feet that have never helped me in life but could have helped me in a pool if swimming wasn’t miserable. And I wouldn’t call myself a duathlete (go to hell, Microsoft, it’s a word) in the competitive sense, although I did complete one duathlon a few years ago and it was kinda fun but also kinda full of douchey, the way most competitions involving people are.

I just like biking and running, especially trail running. Also, I hate driving cars. Living in an incredibly walkable city that contains a) your workplace, b) businesses that sell food and provide entertainment, and c) a great local bike shop will do that do you. I get behind the wheel of our minivan maybe once a month, and I feel like a 15-year-old with a learner’s permit every time.

II.

This enjoyment–hatred has led me to the logical conclusion of biking to trailheads instead of driving to them. I bike somewhere, lock my bike, go for a run (or hike—this strategy works for hiking too), unlock my bike, and ride home.

This weekend I leveled up, adding a second trail run into the mix. I thought it would be cool to run to the top of Peter’s Mountain on the east side of the Susquehanna River (actually a ridge, but in Pennsylvania they call ridges mountains for some reason that has yet to be explained to me), then cross the river and summit the ridge on the other side, essentially looking across the gap at where I had just been.

Highlights include:

  • almost twisting my ankle hundreds of times. They (mainly tired AT thru-hikers) call Pennsylvania “Rocksylvania” because there are a shit-ton of rocks here, which is annoying for hiking and borderline suicidal for trail running. However, the focus and agility required to careen down a rock-studded trail without tripping can get you in a flow state like no other. It’s a version of real-life foot Tetris where losing could mean crushing your skull against a granite boulder. You know, “fun.”
  • really nice views, especially from Hawk Rock
  • shaded forests, thick and green with vegetation, looking prehistoric
  • the constant temptation to walk instead of run uphill
  • looks of surprise, awe, and incredulity from other trail users (Perry County residents, no doubt) who obviously don’t see trail runners very often and therefore couldn’t tell that I’m a pretty slow trail runner. I heard them mutter things like “He’s going to run the whole way?” and “He already made it to the top?” as I passed. In the parking lot a man said to his kids, “now that’s how you train.” I felt like Rocky. Hell, I felt like Jesus. I highly recommend running in Perry County if you ever want to boost your fragile ego with completely undeserved compliments.

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III.

All that’s to say, I think people (and by “people” I pretty much mean roadies) should get out of their tribal mindsets and run every once in a while. And instead of driving their cars to go run someplace, they should bike there. Why? Well, it’s a lot of fun, and it doesn’t add to the the environmental catastrophe we’re avoiding. Those are two pretty good reasons. If you aren’t convinced, then you probably can’t be convinced. But just in case, here are some other reasons:

  • it’s like interval training, but not soul-suckingly boring and painful. The riding parts are like the warm-up/recovery/cool down and the trail running sections are like the intervals. When I did intervals on the bike, I always struggled to reach my max heart rate. It was like there was some internal governor, a level I couldn’t hit outside of competition. No struggle to blow myself up while running up a hill though (and not even running fast! just running!) And a quiet forest is a more enjoyable setting to suffer in than whatever stretch of road you do intervals on twice a week (or a fucking indoor trainer). But hey, just my opinion.
  • “Variety is the spice of life”…is a thing I’ve heard people say, and it seems to apply here. It’s cool to explore new places and move your body in different ways.
  • More time on trails means less time on roads, which means less time in which a distracted driver could kill you.
  • It’s endlessly flexible. You can bike three miles and run one mile, or concoct some sadistic sixty-mile loop with multiple running sections of any distance. If you don’t feel like running much, you can add more bike miles, and vice-versa. You can gain no elevation or thousands of feet, on the bike part or the running part or both. You can run on trails or roads. You can bike on trails or roads. You can go fast or slow.
  • Sometimes you don’t want to ride 70 miles. You want to ride 30 miles. But you also want to spend some quality time outside and get a nice workout in to justify your Netflix-watching and cookie-eating later in the day— a noble objective. A ride/run will burn plenty of calories, probably the equivalent of a significantly longer ride, so you won’t feel guilty when you’re stuffing your face while forcing yourself to watch House of Cards and secretly wondering what all the hype was about.

IV.

So, I’ve convinced you. You’re gonna try it out. What do you need?

  • Shoes; and
  • A bike.

Most any bike will do. You could use a bike with clipless pedals and bring your running shoes and shorts in a bag or backpack. Better yet, you could use a bike with flat pedals and wear your shoes—and running shorts instead of bibs—which allows you to travel light and not have to change. That’s what I do. You’ll be amazed at how you lose literally zero watts from not clipping in, and you’ll wonder why we even clip in at all. Honestly, it’s a good question. I’ll continue to clip in on my non-touring bikes, but it’s still a good question. I don’t have an answer.

V.

Here are the Relive maps of my weekend jaunt. The bike part is missing—I must’ve deleted it by accident. But I promise I didn’t drive there.

https://www.relive.cc/view/1585434314

https://www.relive.cc/view/1585433862

 

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Back (and the Same as Ever)

I took a break from writing for a while. The whole “chronicling every ride of the year” thing got kind of tiring. Felt forced.

But I still like writing, and I’ve still been riding (spring finally, haltingly, arrived, and I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it). So I’m going to get back into it, at least when I feel like it, which will hopefully be somewhat regularly. I’ve been seeing an uptick in subscribers, which makes zero sense unless something radical shifted in Google’s search algorithms. Who are you, people reading this, and how did you end up here?

I even returned to BikeReg.com, the place where I used to regularly drop $40 to go ride around in circles with a bunch of 30-something hotheads, and registered for a gravel race/ride in western Pennsylvania in September. This event sounds like a lot more fun. I’m not sure if I’m going to race it or ride it. That might depend on how small the field is and how I feel after the first few minutes of climbing.

I’ve got other things in the works: some bikepacking trips, a drivetrain upgrade to my Masi, a new pair of bibs to wear out, the joys of having a backyard and a hose (no more washing bikes in the shower). Maybe an Everesting attempt if I can ever get up the courage. Plenty to write about. Then again, you can write about anything, can’t you?

 

 

#25: To/From White Rocks

4/1/18

Bike: Tom Joad

In my ears: The Moth podcast, headwind both ways

Easter Sunday. April Fool’s day. More shitty “spring” weather day.

Initially I planned to ride later in the day, to sleep in and eat a leisurely breakfast and watch the Tour of Flanders. But I couldn’t sleep, and when I found a pirated stream there were still 150 kilometers left. So I grabbed the Jamis off the back deck and headed out.

Nothing special about this one–I hate driving places in general, and especially to do physical activities, so whenever possible I try to bike to them. Lately, this has meant a lot of bike-to-the-trailhead-then-hike-then-bike-home. It’s a fun way to get outdoors and neither the biking nor the hiking is particularly strenuous.

Heading south on Williams Grove into a block headwind, I started to feel the soreness in my legs from the big Saturday ride. 12 mph, then 11, then 10. It was better on Creek Road (again, tons of anglers fishing for trout in the Yellow Breeches Creek.) Fortunately the trailhead was only a short way up the Kuhn Road climb.

The hike? Meh. I hate rocky trails, and this one was very rocky. The “white” rocks weren’t really white. The view was nice but mostly obstructed by trees. Or maybe it was just the glum overcast skies that had me down. I hiked up to Center Point Knob on the A.T. and wrote in the guest book: “Consider eating fewer animals.” As if a sentence in a trail log is going to change anyone’s mind.

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The ride home? Not great. It started raining almost immediately, and to my horror the wind had shifted 180 degrees and was now a strong headwind out of the north. How can it do that? I complained to nobody as rain drops beaded on my glasses. I WAS ONLY HIKING FOR AN HOUR! Seriously though, that’s never happened to me before.

I told myself that conditions like these are what separate the true outdoor enthusiasts from the posers, or something like that, and fought my way back to Mechanicsburg in slow motion. The last 10 miles weren’t too bad (only a crosswind!) and I capped off the long weekend of riding with a chai latte at Little Amps.

Final stats: 38 miles. 2 hours, 35 minutes. 988 feet.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1484136298

#24: Fishing Traffic

3/31/18

Bike: Larry Walker

Companion: Tyler

When we got to Duncannon, around the 95-mile mark, we had a decision to make. We could continue home on 322, a straight shot along the river, into the wind but flat and only another 10 miles. Or we could cross the river and tack on another 15 with two climbs. Just think of the Strava file, I told myself.

“What do you think?” I asked Tyler as we approached the bridge. He hesitated, deferred to me.

“Let’s do it,” I said. Followed by something to the extent of “I don’t feel good by any means, but life’s short.”


The ride had been pretty much totally pleasant up until that point. We set out from Harrisburg before eight in the morning, climbing over Peter’s Mountain on our way to Millersburg–the climb warmed us up, and shaved off about five miles from the typical route. We arrived at Bob’s garage in good spirits and with fresh legs.

There was a nice group for the 50-mile ride through the valley with a couple small climbs. Bluebird skies, sunshine, streams full of anglers enjoying the first day of fishing season. I felt strong and finally it felt like spring. I tried to imagine the farmland thick with corn as it will be a few months. Rolling down Shippen Dam road I thought about my first time riding up there at the 2016 Tour of Millersburg, back when I’d just moved to Pennsylvania and all the roads were a mystery. No context, no place on any mental maps. Now lots of them, even some up in Millersburg where I don’t ride all that often, are familiar. The geography resonates with my memory.


In the end, I didn’t regret the decision to cross the river and make it a truly big day on the bike. But I definitely felt it. Tyler, who actually trains with intervals and stuff I can’t force myself to do, stayed strong, drifting ahead of me as my legs searched for glycogen and found none. We fought a headwind on Delville Road, then climbed over Pine Hill. I fell way behind and Tyler waited at the top. Same thing on Lamb’s Gap. I feel bad when I can’t hang, when I crack like that. I think it’s just a lack of endurance, but it could have also been inadequate food. (I ate four sweet potato bread mini-loaves, which I thought would be enough, plus drink powder that looks like cocaine.) Last time I cracked around mile 70; this time it was around 100. So maybe I’m improving.

But, like all rides, eventually it ended, and I felt incredibly satisfied with the effort.
It ended up being my second-longest ride by mileage, and my longest by time in the saddle. Amazing to think that this kind of distance and elevation is typical for an average stage in a World Tour race.

Final stats: 120 miles. 7 hours, 20 minutes. 8,200 feet.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1482388542

Relive: https://www.relive.cc/view/1482388542