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?

 

 

Even the Darkness Has Arms

One thing I don’t like about winter is how early night falls. Another thing I don’t like is the cold. It makes sense, then, that riding at night in the winter time is not really my thing. As the days shortened over the past few months, more and more weekday rides happened on the trainer instead of the roads, and for the last two weeks exclusively so.

But I’m lucky to live in a city with a 20-mile greenbelt that is mostly car-free and smoothly paved, which makes nighttime riding a safe and accessible alternative to the trainer. Tonight I did a loop with Tyler and learned that the winter nights aren’t as intimidating as they seem from the comfort of a heated house. With the right clothes and plenty of light, nighttime riding is actually…fun. Who knew? I was warm and the path was pretty much empty and after the blood-orange sunset our lights gave us plenty of visibility. It ended up feeling pretty much like a normal ride, just a little quieter and a bit more mysterious. I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed myself.

I’m not sure what exactly makes the dark so intimidating, so frightening. The lack of light? The possibility of unseen things lurking? The sense of loneliness? But once you’re out in it, prepared for it, accepting of it, it offers its own simple pleasures. The thrill exploration, the feeling of invincibility when you realize the dark and cold can’t get at you, that you are safe and even comfortable.

I think we’ll try to do this ride once a week or so. Yes, it’ll give us the chance to breathe some fresh air and get away from the mind-numbing monotony of biking in place. But, as I realized tonight, it might do more than that.

Seeing Things

Last time I rode up along the Susquehanna to Millersburg it was August. The ridges were green then, impossibly dense with foliage, and the valleys were thick with cornfields swaying in the breeze, heavy with cobs waiting for harvest. In August I was there to watch a race. The downtown was full of lean people with shaved legs walking in cleats like high heels. There were sidewalks lined with lawn chairs, stop signs protected by hay bales, side streets cordoned off. There were carbon bikes, each worth more than 10% of what the average townie earns in a year, pretty much everywhere. I wore my most breathable jersey, zipped down, and drank cold seltzer to stave off the heat.

Yesterday Millersburg was quiet. Everyone was at home or in church and the streets were empty and the stores were closed and nobody was thinking about biking. Not in December. When we crisscrossed up and over Peters Mountain the forest was gaunt in the first stages of winter, all browns and grays, thin enough to look through to see the land spread out down below. When we bombed across the valley the corn was either down or brittle like old paper left unprotected. I wore gloves and oversocks and there was no sweat, only condensation in my glasses when we stopped.

peters-mtn-east-power-cut-hdr

One of the beautiful things about cycling is that it returns you to the same places, season after season, year after year. In our cities and suburbs we don’t notice changes as easily; we are absorbed in private dramas for which the landscape is a backdrop, a movie set we are too busy to look at closely except when it invades our stories in some striking way.

But when you are out riding there is nothing to do but look. Around at the roadside world, down at the pavement below your top tube, above at the sky and anything it might be holding. You are out in it, really out in it, with no distractions, no other occupations. You notice the way time warps everything, the difference a year or a hard frost or a fire makes. On bikes, you do is move through the world with your eyes open. That is all you do.

The landscape is the foreground, the middle ground, the background. It is the backdrop, the stage floor, the house lights, the seats, the theater itself. The ridgelines layer into the distance, going on forever.