Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Great Allegheny Passage Trail Ride


On Memorial Day weekend, my brother and I set out to ride the Great Allegheny Passage Trail.  The GAP is a 150 mile Rails-to-Trails path that connects Cumberland, Maryland and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  We gave ourselves three days to finish the ride.  It seemed perfectly reasonable to us that we could average 50 miles per day.   Also, my sister-in-law came along and provided support throughout the trip.  She would drive ahead and meet up with us at various places along the trail.  This way we didn't need to pack more than a couple hours worth of food and water.  We had it all planned out... Until we started.  

Day One: 5:17:45, 45 miles

So the first rule in executing a great plan, is to change it before you even start.  This is exactly what we did.  Instead of starting our ride in Cumberland as we had planned, we decided to start a little down the C&O Towpath in Paw Paw, West Virginia.  
We did this for a couple of reasons. One of which I'm sure is just plain old ignorance.  Another being that it was closer to where we had spent the night on Thursday.  So we figured what the heck, so what if it adds a couple miles into the ride.  We will be able to absorb that, right?   We'll that couple of miles turned out to be 30.  (Guess we should have looked at that map a little closer.)  The day was further complicated by the fact that we started out way later than we had planned too. 
So off we were, behind schedule, ignorant and happy.  But finally we were on our way - headed west on the C&O towards Cumberland.  It is quite a nice ride with lots to see like historic locks and houses and civil war battlefields.
Thirty miles and about three hours later we rolled into Cumberland (our planned starting point).  Hungry and a little tired, we stopped for a late lunch at about 3:00PM.  We had been making what felt like pretty good time at about 10 miles per hour.  But with the late start and the hour for lunch, we were starting to wonder just how far we were actually going to get.   We knew the trail was going to start getting harder.  
The next 22 or so miles is all uphill.  We knew that meant harder riding and slower pace.  So, we decided we would stop in Frostberg.  There we would reassess our situation.  This was an easy, logical decision since it was the next town on the map.
The ride from Cumberland to Frostberg proved to be much harder than Paw Paw to Cumberland.   It certainly didn't help that we had the 30 mile warmup.   Those 17 miles took us nearly 2 hours to complete.  By this time it was starting to get late and we were pretty tired so we decided to call it a day.  Forty five miles and five hours of riding wasn't all that bad of a day.  The only problem is that we were only 17 miles into our original itinerary.  That is about 40 miles shorter than where we wanted to be on day one.  I was already starting to wonder if we were going to be able to complete ride.  

Day Two: 5:38:00, 58 miles

Day two started out well.  We got up, ate and were on the trail early.  The plan for the day was to stop more often - every 15-20 miles for a brief rest.  Picking up where we left off in Frostberg, we were back on the hill with eight more miles of climbing ahead of us.  At least we were fresh.  The ride up to the continental divide was great.  There were lots of scenic views of the valley.  We crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.  And rode through the 3,300 foot long Big Savage Tunnel.  
It was amazing how much there was to see in just those few short miles.  Reaching the Continental Divide was such a relief.  Plus, we knew it was all down hill from there (literally).  Next stop - Myersdale. 
Still trying to make up as much time as we could, we didn't spend too much time in Myersdale.  We wanted to get to Rockwood where we planned on taking a longer break for lunch.
After lunch at Rockwood, we decided that we would continue on to Confluence.  At that point we would decide if we would go on to Ohiopyle or stop for the day.   Our butts were already getting sore and Confluence was another 20 miles (or two hours) away.  
By the time we got to Confluence, we were pretty sore on the back end.   My legs were not too bad.  They were tired, of course, but I had been eating more so I wasn't totally wiped out like I had been on the first day.   My biggest problem was my butt.  Aside from being sore from sitting on a bike seat for 10 hours in the last two days, it was starting to get raw.  We needed this break.  By this time it was about 3:00 PM.  We decided to go to Ohiopyle and call it a day.  It was only 10 more miles and the next stop after that was an additional 20 miles.

Day Three: 6:10:28, 80 miles

Last day.  It was all or nothing on this day.  If we had to stop short and not make it all the way to Pittsburgh, I would be very disappointed.  That was the capstone to the trip - to make it the whole way.   It wasn't about the 150 miles (or 180 the way we did it).  It was about finishing the ride and completing the challenge.  
We had a lot of distance to make up.  Seventy seven more miles to go.  That is farther than I had ever ridden a bike in one day.  I spent a lot of time the night before working on recovering my legs for the ride.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a good solution for recovering my sore butt other than staying off of it.  
The strategy of breaking up the ride seemed to work well.  So, we decided to take it one step further.  We would alternate short micro breaks and longer breaks as the day went on.  Every 45 minutes to an hour we would stop.  The first break would be short and the next would be longer.  This would allow us to stay well fed for the long day. Plus it gave us plenty of opportunities to rest our aching backsides.  The longer breaks coincided nicely with major stopping points along the way - Connolsville, West Newton, Boston and then on to Pittsburgh.  Over the. course of a single day we witnessed an interesting transition from the small towns of Pennsylvania like Connolsville and Smithdale to more urban areas like McKeesport to the center of a major city.  
A nice surprise was fact the last 30 miles or so were all paved.   (Except for that short stretch near Homestead - What's up with that?).  Once we started seeing more and more people on the trail we knew we were getting close.  And that was all the motivation we needed.  I knew we were going to finish the ride.  
The other thing we didn't account for in our planning is where the GAP trail actually ends.  I had my mind set on ending at Point State Park and the big fountain where the three rivers converge in Pittsburgh.  This is where the trail should really start. It just makes sense.  But this is actually about 3 miles from the end of the GAP trail which ends at a place called The Hot Metal Bridge.  But nonetheless we finished the ride at the fountain.  We made it. Success!!  A great weekend for sure.

Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Week 5 Training Log

This was a rough week.  Life got in the way of training this week.  Travel for work, a sick cat and an evening trip to the ER to get stitches for my daughter's foot.  I didn't get very much done but sometimes these kinds of weeks happen.  Glad this one is behind us.  

1/26/2014
Rest

1/27/2014
Bike trainer  
35 minutes
137 ave HR
83 RPM ave cadence
498 cals

1/28/2014
Run (treadmill)
Start Time: 0530
35 minutes 
3.8 miles
Ave HR 147

1/29/2014
Rest/travel day
Late night getting caught up on work and had to get up very early to catch my flight back home.  

1/30/2014
Nothing

1/31/2014
Nothing

2/1/2014
Nothing

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2014 Week 4 Training Log

1/20/2014
Rest day. 

1/21/2014
Bike trainer  
35 minutes
137 ave HR
85 RPM ave cadence
506 cals
I did some riding on the MTB in the snow around the house.  It was a lot of fun riding through 8 inches of snow.  And really hard!   I had almost No traction on driveway.  On the hill in my backyard, I would end up spinning the wheel until I just fell over.  Sometimes we have to make the most of the situations Mother Nature gives us - and have fun with it.  

1/22/2014
Bike trainer  
40 minutes
130 ave HR
83 RPM ave cadence
539 cals

1/23/2014
Run (outside)
5 degrees
Light clouds
No wind
Start Time: 0400
29.5 minutes 
3.17miles
Ave HR  not recorded 

Yeah - it was cold outside today.  But I layered up and stayed plenty warm.   

1/24/2014
Rest

1/25/2014
Run (inside)
Start Time: 1030
60 minutes 
6.9 miles
155 ave HR
1377

Nice run on the treadmill today.  

1/26/2014
Rest.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014 Week 3 Training Log


1/12/2014
Run (outside)
42 degrees
Light clouds
wind 10 mph
Start Time: 1230
60 minutes 
6.7 miles
Ave HR 159

Went out a little fast but quickly settled into a nice pace that I was able to maintain for the entire run.  After the run I had a little cream cheese and a yogurt and berry smoothie.  Otherwise I didn't use any other fuel for the run and I felt good. For the remainder of the day I wore my 2XU compression socks to help with recovery and reduce soreness for Monday's workout.  

1/13/2014
Bike trainer  
32 minutes
121 ave HR
82 RPM ave cadence
398 cals

Seems the compression socks helped out yesterday.  My legs felt pretty good this morning.  But since I did a couple longer runs this weekend, I took it a little easy on the bike this morning for a little recovery.  I like the numbers though.  

1/14/2014
Rest day

1/15/2014
This is what happens when you forget to bring work shoes to the gym.

Run (outside)
30 degrees
Thick fog
wind 0 mph
Start Time: 0400
35 minutes 
4.2 miles
Ave HR 162
815 cals

Lifting 30 mins
Abs
Bench
Push-up
Lat pull
DB curl
DB bench
DB row

It was a very foggy morning run.  With he temperature just below freezing the conditions were perfect for little spots of black ice all around the neighborhood.  So, if I were smart, I would have turned around and went home after hitting the first patch.  No need for injury, right?  Yeah well who said I was smart?  I just kept on running.  I used the opportunity to learn something new.

Today was also my fist day in the gym in quite a while.  This year I am adding some strength training into my workout routines.  I didn't do anything major, mostly upper body today.  I intend to spend a couple weeks using just body weight or light weights.  I am doing this to allow my muscles to adapt to the new stress of weights.  I don't want to injure myself by going too hard too soon.  This definitely something I would have done when I was younger.  


1/16/2014
Bike trainer  
35 minutes
132 ave HR
84 RPM ave cadence
477 cals

Lifting
Lunges
Free Squats
Light bar squats
Leg extensions
Leg curls
Calf raises
Pull ups

1/17/2014
Rest day

I think the addition of the weights (plus a couple bad nights of sleep) required an additional rest day this week.  My body was telling me not to get out of bed this morning.  Sometimes you need to listen to what the body is telling you.

1/18/2014
Bike trainer  
50 minutes
141 ave HR
86 RPM ave cadence
747 cals

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Three Simple Steps for Running on Ice

So first a little disclaimer:

RUNNING OUTSIDE WHEN THERE IS ICE IS DANGEROUS! 

If you are apt to run outside all seasons of the year, there is a chance that you will encounter some ice along the way.  If you do, here are a couple easy steps to help improve your chances of coming out injury free. 

1. Slow Down
This should be common sense for most people.  Sometimes the simple things are worth repeating.  (Again - SLOW DOWN).  Slowing down gives you more time to react when slipping does occur.  Also, if you are out running where there is ice, you are doing it because you enjoy running in the cold - so why unnecessarily risk an injury.  Or may be you are being chased by a bear that you woke up from hibernation.  If you do find a bear, your probably shouldn't run either so slowing down works here too. 

2. Shorten your stride.
Keeping your stride short helps keep your feet under your body and protects your knees from overextending if you do begin to slide. 

3. Lean slightly forward
Leaning into the run helps keep your center of gravity in front of your feet.  A forward center of gravity can help in several ways.  First, when you begin to slide, your feet will likely slip backwards allowing your knee to bend which will lessen the force of your foot on the ice. Less force on the ice will lead to less slippage.  Also, with your foot sliding backwards it allows you to pick it up faster and to get it out front again helping you maintain upright.  When your feet slide forward, your center of gravity shifts behind you and you begin to fall backwards.  Once you start falling backwards it is nearly impossible to get your feet under you again it help you recover balance, and you usually end up on your back. 
An additional benefit of leaning forward is that if you do fall, you will most likely fall forward.  Breaking a forward fall is less likely to cause serious arm and wrist injuries than if you go backward.  When falling backwards most people tend to straighten their arms and lock their elbows.  This can cause some serious problems when you hit the ground.  Additionally, if your are somewhat skilled at falling,  you have a better chance to roll out of it when you fall forward. 

Remember if you do run outside in the winter, please be safe.  And again, please do not be afraid of the treadmill.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014 Week 2 Training Log

I spent a lot of time on the trainer this week.  We had a crazy week of weather ranging from sub-zero mid week to nearly 60F yesterday.  Lots of rain and ice made the basement a much better option for working out - especially early in the morning. 

1/5/2014
Bike trainer  
40 minutes
138 ave HR
81 RPM ave cadence
584 cals


1/6/2104
Bike trainer  
36 minutes
130 ave HR
82 RPM ave cadence
484 cals

After the ride today when I was putting my bike away, I noticed that the rear break was rubbing on the tire.  Too bad I didn't notice that until I was done!  That might explain some of the sluggishness I felt this morning.  I had just been chalking it up to being my first early morning workout in three weeks.  A couple quick turns with the wrench and it's good to go.  Ugh!  We'll with wind chills expected to be well below zero, I'll probably be back on the trainer again tomorrow.  

1/7/2014
Bike trainer  
35 minutes
132 ave HR
87 RPM ave cadence
480 cals

Another really cold morning today. So another spin on the trainer.  I would say that the little break repair from yesterday was a definite help.  With just a quick look at the results, everything is basically consistent including calories burned (based on my HRM) and I had about a 6% increase in my cadence.  

1/8/2014
Rest day

1/9/2014
Run (outside)
20 degrees
Light clouds
No wind
Start Time: 0400
35 minutes 
3.8 miles

Nice easy run this morning.  Just over 9 minute pace.  I didn't look at any data during the run (no GPS or HRM). I wanted to run at a pace I feel that I can sustain for an extended time. Even though I only ran for 35 minutes, I still felt fresh at the end and I think I could have continued for quite a while.  For a better assessment, I need so do the same on a weekend when I have more time. 

1/10/2014
Bike trainer  
Start Time 0410
30 minutes
128 ave HR
83 RPM ave cadence
393 cals

Had a late start this morning so had to limit the time to just 30 minutes.  Another slow and steady day today.  

1/11/2014
Run (inside)
Start Time: 1130
60 minutes 
6.7 miles
161 ave HR
1435

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014 Week 1 Training Log

1/1/2014
Happy New Year!
Weather:
36 degrees and cloudy
Light winds

Very short run today.  Headed out at about 11:30am. Ran a little with my daughter to start.  She wants to start running, so today I ran some with her first.  After she was done I headed out on my own.  Shortly after starting out I started getting stomach cramps and felt like hurling, so I cut it short.  Not entirely sure what the problem was but I'm thinking it had to do with the fact that I hadn't eaten anything all day except coffee and last night was New Years Eve and involved a lot of junk food.  Felt better later in the day but decided not to go out.  

1/2/2014

Weather:  inside
Workout felt good today.  No more stomach issues.  I did 50 minutes on the bike trainer with an average cadence of 89 RPM and an average HR of 150.  

1/3/2014
Weather:  inside
Today I ran for 50 minutes on the treadmill while my daughter had swim team practice.  Nice run at a moderate pace.  Kept the treadmill at a 8.34 pace for most of the run.  I started at 10 min pace for about 3 minutes to warm up. And 9 min pace for last 1:30 or so.  Average HR 155

1/4/2014
No workout today.  Spent about five hours on my feet timing my daughters swim meet though.  That has to count for something, right?