Sunday, February 28, 2016

Polar Bear Tri - Race Report

Well, hello again blog. It has been awhile.

Today was the first triathlon of the season - Shelbyville Triathlon Series.  Last year the weather was icy & the bike was cancelled.  This year was a picture perfect weather day.

We caravanned from Mary's leaving her house about 6:45AM & arrived at the race site at 7:40AM.  We had the perfect amount of time for packet picket, body marking, transition setup & a couple of bathroom breaks.  The pre-race talk was around 8:20AM & the race started at 8:35AM according to my Garmin.

Ruth, Audrey, Mary, Me & Misty
This first tri of the series is a reverse - meaning Run, Bike then Swim.  This was my first reverse since last year ended up being a Dash & Splash due to icy roads.  I liked the idea of not being all wet & then hoping on the bike but I think overall I like the traditional Swim, Bike, Run order.

The other thing about the series is each race gets a little longer so since this was the first one of the series it was the shortest - 3K run, 6 mile bike & 400 yard swim.  

It is also, hard to know how to dress this time of year.  The temperature was in the low 40s & sunny at the start but warmed up really quick.  I had my tri suit under running tights & 2 layers on top.  I wore thin gloves & a beanie - both I took off for the run but put back on for the bike.   I was pretty warm on the run but perfect on the bike.

The run was an out & back.  We started off pretty fast.  The out was faster than the back.   There was a little wind but not awful.  My run is pretty solid this year.  My right knee has been a little achy but I have been trying to take it easy so it doesn't get worse.  So far it has been working.  Even with taking time to heal my achy knee I was still over a minute faster than last years 3K time in the Dash & Splash.

Run into Transition
3K Time = 16m45s

T1 was good.  I decided not to wear the jacket I brought since I was so warm on the run.  It was a good choice.

T1 Time = 0m46s

The bike was a loop with some easy hills.  I was in big gear the entire ride.  The wind was picking up & one turn was pretty brutal into the wind but thankfully there was also a slight downhill.  My bike was solid as well.  I have been very regular on the trainer this winter which has helped.  It is nice to start off the season strong.

Bike back into Transition
6 Mile Bike = 19m50s

T2 was slow.  I racked my bike & took my shoes off then ran to the pool.  I stripped the layers off in the pool area.

T2 Time = 2m25s


The swim was the dismal portion of the race.  I have been struggling with a shoulder issues since last summer & haven't really swam much.  Every.single.stroke.hurts.  It sucks.  I started PT 6 weeks ago & it has helped but I still feel pain when I swim, do a push up, side plank, etc.  I go back to the ortho this week to see what, if any, the next steps are.


It took 3 attempts to get my googles properly seated.  That was annoying.   It took 200 yards to find my breathing rhythm due to being out of breathe from the bike & transition run.  It also felt like I had a lot of traffic - mostly swimmers that were faster than me but took a couple beat break at the wall so we ended up swimming pretty close together most of the swim.  My upper body felt tired.  I really need to find some upper back exercises that don't hurt my shoulder.  I did not enjoy the swim this year.  My swim was over a minute slower than last year but that was expected.

Pfew, Done!

Swim Time = 10m37s

Total Time = 50m37s

Mary & Me
I won my age group but there was also no one else in my age group.  I won a pair of Speed Levers to change a flat.  Hopefully, I won't need them anytime soon!


Happy racing y'all!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wild & Wonderful Bike Camping

Better late than never on this post.  I take trip notes which is a good thing otherwise I would have forgotten all the little details of this trip by now.

Steve has gotten into adventure cycling & bike camping this year.  So naturally our summer vacation was to include both.  4th of July week we went to West Virginia to tackle the Greenbrier River Trail.  The trail is 77 miles of rails to trails.

We drove to West Virginia on Saturday with no real plan yet in place.  We stopped in Lewisburg Visitors center which is near the southern trailhead.  We picked up some maps & a recommendation for a place to have dinner.  We stopped in at Hills & Holler bike shop & pizza place.  Super cool place & they had great food.  Steve had a pizza & I tried the crab cakes.  Yum.

After dinner we headed to Watoga State Park for the night.  We got campsite #14 right on the river.  It had been raining all day so the sites were pretty wet but it was manageable.  We set up for the night, got cleaned up & it started raining.  Thankfully the rain waited until we were ready for bed.

We were trying a couple different types of sleeping gear.  The first night we used the Therm-a-Rest sleep cots.  They were OK but noisy when moving around on them.  They do pack up pretty small & are light weight.  They did take up a lot of room in the test compared to the sleeping pads.

Campsite #14 - Watoga State Park - Night #1
Greenbrier River - High water level due to all the rain
On Sunday we got up & made coffee & oatmeal for breakfast.  We packed up our gear & headed to the Seebert trail head - MP 45.8.  Our plan was to start in the middle of the trail & do an out & back heading North first.  The trail consists of crushed gravel.  I was riding my hybrid with 2 rear panniers & the doggie trailer.  Steve had his gear loaded in 4 panniers on his bike.  Before we started I was thinking we could knock out 35 miles a day.  Boy was I wrong....

My fully loaded bike 
Pulling the trailer was a huge mistake. It was nice to have the extra space but made the ride so much harder than it needed to be.  The first day I was only able to average 8 mph or so.

That first day we headed out at 10AM - actually everyday we heading out around 10'ish.  The weather started off cool & cloudy.  Due to all the storms we came across some downed trees.  The WVA parks system takes great care of the trail.  We saw them daily on the trail cutting down fallen trees & maintaing the pit toilets along the trail.  I was super impressed with the trail maintenance.


We stopped in Marlington for lunch at the Dirt Bean Cafe & Bike Shop.  The food here was great.  Helps that you work up an appetite on the bike!  Steve had the Dirtbean Dip & I had the Chicken Avocado Wrap.  We also had some coffee & took cookies to go.

Dirt Bean Cafe - Marlington, WV
Inside Dirt Bean Cafe - Marlington, WV
Inside Dirt Bean Cafe - Marlington, WV
After lunch we rode a few more miles.  We stopped around 3:30PM at the campsite at MP 63.8.  The maps we had listed this as the last campsite going North that had water & a toilet.  We found out the next day that MP 69.6 had the same amenities but wasn't listed on the map a such.

We rode about 18 mile that first day.  At this point I knew there was no way we would be riding 35 miles a day.

We setup camp & then got ready for dinner.  We brought a bunch of Mountain House dehydrated meals.  This night we had the Chicken Fajita wraps.  Just boil water, pour in pouch, wait a few minutes & serve.  Easy peasy.   It is surprising but the meals are actually pretty good.

One nice but sometimes unsettling thing about the Greenbrier trail is that it is pretty deserted.  We were passed by one group shortly after we stopped but never saw anyone else that night or the next morning.  It was a weird feeling to be out in the middle of nowhere at night.  Once it got dark I got spooked by every little noise.  To be fair, there were some loud animal noises very close by.  I'm used to hearing sirens & horns not animals at night.  We did see lots of deer on the trail & we were warned about black bears in the area but never saw one on the trail.  Steve did rig up a system to hang our food bag in the trees before bed just to be safe.

On the second night we slept on our sleeping pads instead of the cot.  I think they are just as comfortable but there is no way I am going to get as good of a nights sleep as I do at home.  Each night camping we would go be bed around 10PM & get up around 7AM.  Pretty much from sunset to sunrise.

Greenbrier River Trail MP 63.8 - Night #2
Greenbrier River Trail MP 63.8 - Night #2
Greenbrier River Trail MP 63.8 - Night #2
Day 3 on the trail started with coffee & a dehydrated breakfast - Egg Skillet Wrap.  We then packed up & headed out around 10:30 AM.  Our plan was to head to the town of Cass & Northern terminus (MP80) of the trail for lunch.  When we got to Cass there was this really cruel steep, short all gravel climb.  I wasn't able to get the momentum I needed to get up the hill & got stuck.  Thankfully Steve got up it & was able to help me get my bike up the hill as well.   We then rode around the little town & realized that the main restaurant was closed on Mondays.  Bummer.  Lucky for us there was another restaurant/grocery/gas station near by that was open.

Sharp's Tunnel & Bridge - MP 65.2
Sharp's Tunnel & Bridge - MP 65.2
Sharp's Tunnel & Bridge - MP 65.2
Town of Cass - MP 80.4
Town of Cass - MP 80.4  
Town of Cass - MP 80.4
Town of Cass - MP 80.4
After our lunch we headed back down the trail.  We arrived at the MP 69.6 campsite about 4:30PM.  This site was further from the trail which was nice.  Although no one came by the trail while we were there it felt a little better not being so close to the trail.   Day 3 mileage ~29 miles.

By evening #3 we were getting pretty proficient at camp set up.  Dinner tonight was Beef Chili Mac & cookies from our lunch stop.    We were cleaned up & in the tent by 8:30PM.  I wasn't much of a fan of hanging out in the dark especially since we didn't have any wood for a fire.   Since we were in the mountains it gets dark pretty early.

Greenbrier River Trail MP 69.6 - Night #3
Greenbrier River Trail MP 69.6 - Night #3
Greenbrier River Trail MP 69.6 - Night #3
Greenbrier River Trail MP 69.6 - Night #3
It's amazing how much crap you can haul on your bike!
Steve demonstrating the bear bag is high enough
Day 4 we were up again by 7AM.  We had coffee & oatmeal for breakfast.  We broke everything down, packed up & headed out on the trail by 10AM.  We could have done all of that faster but there was absolutely no point in rushing.  We like to ease into our vacation days.

We headed back into Marlington for lunch.  We thought about trying a different restaurant but decided to go back to Dirt Bean.   At this point of the trip I was ready to be off the bike & have a hot shower.  There are no amount of wipes that can make me feel clean & fresh after 3 days of hard cycling & no shower.  I wanted a shower & to wash my hair.  Period.

We rode back to our car in Seebert & got a campsite in Watoga State Park.  All I cared about were the showers.  We got a campsite for 2 nights since we had decided we were going to take the next day off from riding.   Day 4 total ~ 24 miles.  3 day total 75 miles.

Watoga campground is really an RV park.  The sites are really nice if you have an RV since they are large, lots of trees & along the river.  The problem with the site we had is there was no level ground to pitch a tent.  The closest area to a level spot was virtually the site next to us which seemed weird to us since our site was huge but we pitched the tent there anyway.  By this point we decided we would only stay one night & find another place to stay tomorrow.  All I really cared about was a shower which I proceeded to take & it was the best shower ever!  Even if it was a camp shower it was hot & I felt clean afterwards.  Priceless.

The other nice part about being back in some civilization was ice & cold beer!

We decided to grab a pizza at the town store instead of making another dehydrated dinner.  We also bought some wood to have a fire.  It was actually quite nice until it started pouring down rain at about 8PM.  So into the tent we went for the rest of the evening.

Watoga State Park Site #7 - Day 4 
Watoga State Park Site #7 - Day 4
Watoga State Park Site #7 - Day 4
Watoga State Park Site #7 - Day 4
Day 5 we did no biking.  We decided to check out Cranberry Wilderness & do some hiking.  Unfortunately the visitor center was closed on Tuesday & Wednesdays so we did some exploring around the area.  We did a couple of hikes that amounted to about 5 miles.  The Cranberry Glades Overlook hike was a bit meh but the Black Mountain Trail was awesome.


Cranberry Glades Overlook


Black Mountain Trail
Black Mountain Trail
Black Mountain Trail
After hiking we had another dehydrated lunch at the overlook.   After lunch we headed back to Watoga State park & drove through more of the park.  We found some really cute cabins & was lucky enough to get one for 2 nights.   We then headed back to pack up camp & move to the cabin.


Watoga State Park Cabins - Day 5 & 6
Watoga State Park Cabins - Day 5 & 6
Watoga State Park Cabins - Day 5 & 6
Watoga State Park Cabins - Day 5 & 6
Watoga State Park Cabins - Day 5 & 6
Watoga State Park Cabins - Day 5 & 6 
Day 6 we did more hiking.  The weather was drizzly most of the day.  We did another hike in Cranberry Wilderness - it was in the cranberry bogs.  Nice hike but not what I was expecting when I hear cranberry bogs.  We then went to hike the Falls of Hills Creek.  Now this was an awesome hike even in the rain.


Cranberry Glades
Cranberry Glades 
Cranberry Glades



Falls of Hills Creek
Falls of Hills Creek
Falls of Hills Creek
Falls of Hills Creek - Lots of Stair Climbing
Falls of Hills Creek
We headed back to Watoga State Park & did a couple more hikes around the park.   Total hiking for the day about 4.5 miles.

2 days off the bike was perfect & we felt ready to tackle some more of the Greenbrier River trail.  We decided to wait until Friday morning to see what the weather was going to do.  It ended up storming on Friday so we headed home.  We will go back again to finish the Southern end of the trail.

We learned a lot of lessons on this trip but overall really enjoyed it.  Some of the lessons learned:

  • Don't tow a trailer unless you have no other option.  It makes for really hard biking especially over gravel.
  • Plan in a recovery off the bike day.  
  • Showers are awesome.
  • Don't tow a trailer
  • Showers are awesome
  • Any and all food is the best food you have ever eaten when you have been out riding
  • West Virginia is beautiful!








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