Sandwiched in between my two races this month was a big birthday weekend. Of course, when the one and only Hillary Biscay is your coach, that means big birthday weekend with a capital B! Not only that, but Hillary herself was going to be doing the workouts with me! I had mentioned to her earlier this year that I finally wanted to knock the Skyline Drive ride off my bucket list. Having fellow HPB-er, Leslie, in the area confirmed the plan. As I was looking at the calendar to pick a date, the birthday weekend was born — and having Hillary fly in was icing on the cake.
I scooped up Hillary from a late Friday flight and we drove right to Leslie’s. Although the thought of 220 miles over 2 days should have been enough motivation for us to get right to bed, of course we had to stay up for a bit to chat 🙂 The late night lead to a lazy(ish) morning, and when all was said and done, it was after 12 noon when we were finally rolling down Skyline Drive. Looking back – probably not our smartest move. But we were having fun and enjoying the day so….whatever. Going North to South on Skyline starts with about 22 miles of climbing, and we were lucky enough to have a headwind for this portion! Having the late start also threw off our eating schedule, so when we stopped at Big Meadows (about halfway) for “Lunchtime” – it was actually closer to dinner time. When I saw it was 5pm I had a small panic moment, but we figured we still had 4 hours of daylight and that should be fine. Although, as the sun was setting and we were only at mile marker 90 (having 115 total to ride for the day), I began to have flashbacks to my R2R2R experience. Why am I always fighting daylight on my life adventures? I should really start to plan for the fact that the sun does go down. Sigh.
All is well that ends well though, and we rolled into Waynesboro to find that our clothes had in fact made it to the hotel! The Holiday Inn Express was amazing – several dinner options right across the street, the staff was great with the mailing clothes before/after, a free breakfast, and a jacuzzi! You seriously don’t need anything else on this trip. Since it was late when we got there, the night moved pretty quickly and before we knew it we were on our bikes again. Having left hours earlier than we had the previous day there was some bounce in our pedal strokes as we knew we weren’t in any hurry and we could just enjoy the day.
About 15 miles into the ride I looked up around the bend and saw a dark shadow. Could it be???? YES! It was a little black bear!! Hillary and Leslie were riding ahead of me at this point so I alerted them and we all stopped to check him out. As we reached for our phones to take a pic he got a bit of stage fright and scampered off into the forest. Bear count – 1!
All in all this ride truly is amazing. Within the 20k of climbing you have some breathtaking views, and we were blessed with mostly clear skies. In fact, the only storm that blew through hit while we were inside eating lunch! Such good luck. Day 2 continued to be a bit more relaxed as we literally ate our way through the Shenandoah. Fudge cups, onion rings, vanilla ice cream cones…..we did it all. As we neared 15 hours in the saddle our conversations were fewer and farther between, but I was having a blast just being out in the mountains with two of my favorite people. There is just something about the Blue Ridge Mountains that relaxes me and makes me feel at home. And the fun of 40 mph descents is always exhilarating too 🙂 As we came around one of the bends we found several cars stopped and a group of people out in the road pointing up at the tree. Within a matter of moments our bear count climbed to 5! It was truly a treat to get to see 3 baby bears up in a tree, and mama bear guarding below them.
As we got back to the car we were all feeling good – although still smashed enough not to run off the bike! It was time to eat some more, and get back to Baltimore – the weekend was still not over. After a long couple months at work I had opted to take Monday off to spend some time with Hillary…..and do a 100×100. After all, it’s not a birthday without that set, is it??! And there’s no better company in the pool than Hillary. As we left the pool and headed to the nail salon (obvious next stop) I did have to acknowledge how far I have come to be able to string together those long days of training and still be able to function. Ironman training is a funny beast. You’ll be entirely too overwhelmed to think about the next hour of your life sometimes. And other times you hit a phase where you know you can string together 20 hours of training in 3 days. I feel like this year is allowing me to get to my next level”athletically, and this weekend has validated that to me. Most importantly, among all this training, while I am tired, I’m not falling apart. I’m not an emotional wreck and letting the fatigue get to the best of me. That is a big step!
I was again lucky to have Hillary staying with me another couple days. It was a valuable look into the life of a pro triathlete on the road! I do have to say that having someone there to wake up before 5am with me to get in a few hours of workouts makes it MUCH easier! I will never take those days forgranted. Wednesday meant the end of our adventure together, but only for a few weeks as we’ll see each other in Lake Placid soon enough. Until then we have plenty to stay busy!