These Are the Days…..Boone to Cville on Bikes!

If you’ve been following along for a couple of years now, you may remember one fun bit of trivia is that Hillary and I share the same birthday (June 13th!). You also would certainly know by now Hillary’s love of birthday smashfests, most notably, the 100×100 swim that occurs!

Since she had the birthday swim smashfest covered, we’ve expanded our horizons in the past few years with birthday bike smashfests as well. Involving more than just 3 hours and a pool, and often tricky to coordinate around racing and training schedules, we skipped last year. But with Leslie and me turning 30 this year, we knew that we would have to make an effort to put this one on the books again!

Two years ago, our birthday bike trip included a two-day jaunt across Skyline Drive. Easily the most iconic ride in Virginia….or, much of the East Coast, really, we got to introduce Hillary to the beauty of east coast riding! Of course, to turn 30, the most logical thing to do was to plan a 3 day trip.

The plan was hatched back in February I think, and by the time mid-april rolled around Leslie reminded me that we should probably start to plan for it. Step 1 to this was going to be to get Hillary to the East coast. Turns out, she already had a trip to Knoxville planned for May, so boom, we had our weekend! Step 2 was the route. Enter a few hours of time on google maps, googling “cycling trips east coast”, “cycling trips blue ridge parkway” and “multi day bicycle rides.” Eventually we circled back to our original plan of 3 days on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After playing with a few distances as potential starting points, a route became clear: it was exactly 300 miles from Boone to Afton Mountain, the exit of the Blue Ridge Parkway down to Charlottesville. And with that knowledge, one-way rental cars were booked, hotel rooms along the way secured, and boxes of items we would want overnight at our stops mailed!

Leslie and I arrived in Boone within minutes of Hillary’s arrival. Of course before anything else we had a hill repeat session to smash. Don’t worry – an appropriate hill in Boone was not hard to find! Then we headed for the sendoff dinner at Hob Nob Farm Cafe. We checked our bikes over and then got to bed. After learning a couple years ago that noon is not the best time to start a 120 mile hilly ride, we planned to get up and at ’em early the next day!

But the best laid plans were put on hold when we woke up to a chilly 40ish degrees. We postponed ourselves one more hour before it warmed up to a comfortable riding temperature (keep in mind we had minimal clothing with us!!)….one last check of the bikes and…..a bolt breaks! Woops, we got a little crazy tightening Hillary’s seat post. Thank goodness for the age of the internet, as we were able to quickly locate a Lowes and head over to get that snafu fixed up!

The guy taking the picture made sure we were all riding on John Deere's....
The guy taking the picture made sure we were all riding on John Deere’s….

We hit the road by 10:45 (still over an hour ahead of the other year! ha!) and rode off in search of the Meadows of Dan, about 110 miles away.

The best ham biscuit ever. This general store came much too early in the trip!
The best ham biscuit ever. This general store came much too early in the trip!

The Blue Ridge Parkway truly is great riding. Nice road surface, minimal traffic, and gorgeous views help to take your mind off of all the climbing that you are putting in to get these rewards! The beauty of the parkway was in full effect during the 3 days of riding, and both of our stops at Woodberry Inn in Meadows of Dan and Peaks of Otter Resort could not have been more perfect for the trip. Each had a restaurant and bar attached (the last thing you want to do each night is have to pedal to a restaurant!!) and had some welcoming staff and company to chat with and hear stories from.

Many of these gorgeous flowers along the way!

During the ride there were a lot of pedal strokes. A lot of powerbars consumed (and poptarts, and PayDays!). Some ups and downs as we faced unexpected 10 mile climbs, had to go 10 miles longer than we anticipated without water, and one unanticipated detour for repairs on the parkway. But those parts become just a blur and what I remember, similar to the last trip, is the laughter. From our “oh shit” giggles when the first bolt broke, to the times I was laughing so hard at stories we were telling that I could barely keep my bike upright, no amount of climbing or miles would ever want me to miss those moments. I would encourage anyone who has thought about this kind of a trip to DO IT! Pick a route. Send boxes with food and throw away clothes to a hotel mid point. Dupe a friend into coming along. And just enjoy the unknown of the roads ahead, relishing in the hours where you have nothing else to do than ride a bike.

Our view from the room at Peaks of Otter.
Our view from the room at Peaks of Otter.

And of course, you could also do it the Hillary way which involves forgetting to send overnight clothes in your boxes and thus riding with your Michele dress and flip flops all 3 days. As if I didn’t love that dress enough I am SERIOUSLY impressed by it now that I watched it hold up to 3 days in a jersey pocket coming out wrinkle free each evening!

Yep, carried the flip flops too!
Yep, carried the flip flops too!

After the trip I got to show Hillary around my Charlottesville stomping grounds for a day or so. It’s always super helpful to have her see in person what I have access to for training.

Our new friend at the Wooderry Inn
Our new friend at the Wooderry Inn

And, if you’re wondering, yes we did get back on our bikes Tuesday as well. As Hillary put it “It’s like the Tour….you just have to keep riding now.”  HA! Always an adventure 🙂 Until the next birthday!!

How #SMASHknox turned into #CrashKnox

Sigh. I pretty much already gave away the exciting part of the story here, but I’ll start from the beginning anyway!

I was super excited to head down to Knoxville with Leslie, Nate and Max. It’s always better with a crew! The drive down to Knoxville is easy but borrrrrring. There’s not much to see on I-81 other than huge 18 wheelers. The guys acknowledged Leslie and my superiority and allowed us to comfortably lounge in the back seat while they drove 🙂 Even better!!

Pre-race was easy, it’s always good when I’ve been to the race before and know the in’s and out’s of the town and the shuffle. I also got to catch up with SO many people – the Rev3-turned-Challenge Family racing team members I have missed, the one and only Holly Bennett!!, and I was able to share the pre-race dinner with one of my athletes, Deanna and her friends. I’ve become pretty accustomed to the “remote” coaching atmosphere, but whenever I have time to see things in person I am reminded how valuable it can be. Deanna was definitely fit and ready to go after a very LONG and cold winter in the mid west!

Race morning came and Leslie and I headed down to transition. As soon as we arrived, the sprinkles started. Little did I know that this was not just a passing shower! We headed down to the swim start where and met up with Maggie. They both were like “oh let’s put on our swim caps” (I did) and then were like ohhh PSYCH let’s have our picture taken to be tweeted all over social media. Ha! Joke’s on me 🙂 pre-race

Anyway, the swim started and I tried my darndest to stay on feet but it just seemed from the gun like a really weird race. It was as if every swimmer went off on their own direction. There was very little organization, and even though people were pulling away it wasn’t like normal where one pack got away. It was just like confetti out of a cannon in all different directions away from me. Still, I couldn’t find feet and ended up pulling in the back group on my own. The bright side is that this is still much better than last year’s swim where I was really solo, AND, for a non-wetsuit swim not bad. It also meant getting onto the bike with a pack!

We had a group of 4 for the first 10 miles or so. Taking a look at my power I knew I was biking hard. Too hard? Maybe, but it was going to be close so I was determined to hang on as long as I can. I was a little stressed out about the stagger rule we were following for drafting. By this time, the heavy rain had begun. Rain, plus a course that is open to traffic, plus some technical windy roads that aren’t in perfect condition, PLUS the stagger rule?….well, it was just a lot to keep in mind. Our pack of 4 had decreased to 3 with me hanging on by a thread at the back. I looked up to see where the girls were and make sure I was staggered appropriately (at this time I was riding close to the right white line). I took a look down and all I remember seeing is: puddle, pothole…..no road.

What, no road? Shit! I had gone right to avoid the hole — in my head I needed to stay right to be staggered. But in doing so, I basically staggered myself off the road because the white line disappeared — the road was caving in on the one side into a ditch. At this point, I just remember my front wheel going over, and nothing else until I came-to sitting upright, facing away from the road, in the mud. UGH.

First thoughts: Check body, no bones sticking out. Stuff boob back inside tri top (awkward, and weird.) Assess damages: blood, but I’m okay, it hurts, but nothing too bad. Tri shorts have a hole in them. UGH my new tri suit, Unbreakable! UGH of course I’m wearing a tri suit called Unbreakable.

That prompted me into the decision making phase: what do I do? I was around mile 12, so I could ride myself back (no one was around at the time). But that would take awhile, and nothing was so broken I was really down for the count. Then I’d have to call Hillary and tell her I’m okay but crashed, and if she didn’t make me do a run workout today, I’d probably have to do one tomorrow since I need a hard hit-out in this time frame. Hmmmm. Okay, I’ll get back on the bike and see how I feel. If I’m even close to what I was riding before, I’ll just keep going.

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So, I got back on my bike. By this time another female had passed, checking if I was okay (thank you!). I said yes, and then another one (or two?) passed as I was collected my bottle and other things that had flown off and putting it all back together. I hopped on and used the last woman to try to keep me riding hard. Numbers were never near what they were pre-crash, but honestly they weren’t the worst I’ve ever raced with either. So: onwards!

It became clear that I was not going to be the only crash of the day. Hoping that all I saw out there ended up as okay as I am now!

Coming back from the ride I was greeted with soggy socks and running shoes: sweeeeet. I put them on and started to run. All I could feel was the road rash on my quad, which was cool because the actual pain of running fast wasn’t there, but also not cool because it was just not comfortable. I’ve trained to learn to run through the leg-pain from running hard, it’s a bit of a mind-trap when it’s a different pain to deal with! So, I just did the best I could, pushing as much as I could for the run. I was catching a few women so that was reassuring, though, it definitely wasn’t my finest run day.

Coming through the finish line I was greeted by my friends…..who all came looking to blot my chin/face. Uhhh….what? It’s my leg that’s all messed up. Ha! Apparently I had a nice little chin bruise/scrape that I hadn’t even noticed. They assured my my face otherwise was in tact, though. Medical was awesome and cleaned me up, and then it was a fun afternoon of meeting SMASH teammates, old friends, and watching Leslie pick up her first pro paycheck!

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Then for the LONG drive home…….once again, always better with friends 🙂 I’ll get my redemption at the 70.3 in a couple weeks, at Challenge Williamsburg!

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Recalculating

If you’ve been watching the triathlon headlines in the past week, there are quite a few things changing in the industry these days. Unfortunately, it feels a bit like dejavu as once I’ve been at the mercy of an in-season announcement from Challenge Family (formerly Rev3) that they are removing/reducing/reallocating prize purses in not one….not two…..not three….but FOUR of my events for the season!

Womp, womp.

This left me in a bit of a tight spot. Luckily I didn’t lose money due to lost accommodations or plane tickets; however, I am now facing a much more expensive racing season seeing as many of these were driveable-homestay friendly races for me. And, in case you were wondering, flying across the country and staying in a tiny resort town is quite a bit more expensive than driving to Atlantic City and a homestay. Expenses aside, these were also races that family was going to be able to make AND I had many of my athletes joining me at these races. Missing a race opportunity for myself is one thing; missing a chance to see my athletes crush it in person? HUGE bummer!

But, if racing iron distance has taught me anything, it’s how to handle the low moments. I can only control the controllables – and this, was most definitely an uncontrollable.

I want to take a second to point out how I have some of the most amazing friends and teammates. People were coming out of the woodwork to help me make new travel plans happen on short notice. Thanks to Leslie for taking time and effort to arrange introductions for me (hopefully not a secret sabotage as now I get to race her – HA! :)). And, a huge thank you to Mary and Dan (see also: Cadence Running Company) for helping ensure my travel to the race happens. I am beyond words with how flattered and how appreciative I am that you all believe in me enough to do what you have done, I promise to race hard for ya!

So, where can you find me for the next few months? I’ll still be heading to Knoxville this weekend for what looks like it will be quite the show! Then Challenge Williamsburg will be a birthday weekend hit-out before heading west to Coeur d’Alene. And in between, one massive 30th birthday bike trip (more on that next post!).

After that of course when July hits, it’s CVILLE CAMP TIME! And then, I will be making a valiant return to the OD (olympic distance) racing with the NYC Triathlon. I’ve been promising my sister I’d come race in NYC for awhile, so when a huge hole in my plans opened up that was my top pick. Because, why not?

But before July there is obviously plenty on my plate to focus on. Onwards!