All the photos from Bike Virginia 2013, a 3-day (or 6-day) bike tour of Virginia that took place in the mountains of Buena Vista, VA.
Click on any image to open up a slideshow.
Bike Virginia theme: Pirate Invasion
Dave’s theme: Humility & Teamwork (hey, it was a long day so I’m allowed to pick two)
So let’s talk for a second. I’m not the fastest runner in the world. Not even in most of the groups I run with. I haven’t run the farthest, either. But most of my friends would agree that I can certainly hold my own running on pavement and trail. I’m comfortable, confident and at times, a little crazy with my running endeavors.
So, how does being comfortable, confident and crazy translate to riding a bike?
Riding 64 miles, up and down mountains, over the course of 7 hours…
They ain’t no joke. Like, for real. You don’t need a crazy GPS bike computer to tell you that those bad boys are STEEP. My legs and lungs confirmed the severity of the incline rather quickly. Right after my eyes told them both not to do it. Those guys never get along with each other.
This cycling event is not a race. Far from it. It’s a TOUR. I’ve mainly either 1) raced, 2) trained or 3) ran for fun. But I’ll tell you what… touring is friggin’ awesome.
All the people here are incredibly nice. Everyone talks to each other. Tells fun stories. Laughs at each other’s corny jokes. And helps one another out.
2 pieces of teamwork that were crucial in today’s ride…
1. Hand signals and verbal commands
With 1,000+ riders out here, we have to work together to keep each other safe. There are holes in the road, dead animals, trash, tons of other cars (some of which, unfortunately, care more about where they’re going than they do human life).
The hand signals for slowing down & turning are vital, especially when reaching 35-40 mph on some of these downhills.
And a verbal command of “car up” or “car back“ could literally save your life. Dead serious.
All of us were on the same team today. And I just love it when everyone plays nice.
2. My team (and new friends) stuck with me
I am, by far, the weak link in our group of 4. There were many times when they could’ve left me in the dust, but they always slowed down and waited. They asked me how I was doing, and always kept an eye on me.
Team, I’m 100% serious on this. I could not, and would not, have done this without you. Thank you… times 64 (because that just seems appropriate).
…was gorgeous. That word is typically reserved for women referring to their girlfriend’s new sun dress—or some 20-something, hot, new movie star. But trust me. Today’s ride was every bit as gorgeous.
Mountaintops, valleys, winding roads, farms, cows, old abandoned houses with tractors out front, rivers, rapids, carved-out mountain walls, college towns, cemeteries… and everything in-between.
Normally I don’t stop to take pictures of dead guys’ tombstones, but my man Stonewall Jackson was there, so we had to stop and say what’s up.
I did handstands (and other funny things) where the cadets of VMI do their military drills.
I got my feet wet at Goshen’s Pass.
We hung out with girl scout troops at the first rest stop. Firemen at the second. And the sweet women of whatever church at the third. Don’t let the white hair fool ya, folks. Those ladies make a MEAN PB&J… real heavy on the P.
The 2 main climbs were ridiculous. Still trying to figure out how they only got TWO out of that, but whatever. I almost made it through every one, but had to walk halfway up one of them around mile 50.
The descents, while a treat for the legs, were playing tricks on my mind. And by tricks I mean I was scared out of my mind. I probably hit close to 40 mph on more than one occasion. One wrong move, and you could find out what it feels like to be the bottom of a snowboard (minus the soft snow). Not a highly sought after feeling.
My legs didn’t feel too bad when we got back, but 7 hours of just about anything will wear you out.
So naturally, first, I hit the food. Lunch was a vegan’s treat… again. Salad, with tons of veggies. And a veggie burger.
After devouring that at about the same pace I rode my bike today, I had to find Mother Nature’s best recovery spot. The river.
Much of our ride was alongside a river, and she was calling my name the whole time. So I headed down there with Michelle. It was everything I had hoped for, and then some. Perfect temp. Water flowering fast. Not to deep, not too shallow. Nature wins again. Come to think of it, when does she not win?!
The night ended with a peaceful, relaxing dinner, followed by a showing of Premium Rush, a movie about bike messengers going rogue. It probably got 1/10 of 1 star, but of course I stayed up to watch the whole thing.
Today’s theme: New adventures
The drive to get here was really boring for 2 hours, and absolutely beautiful for the last 15 minutes. As we entered the town of Buena Vista, we quickly turned onto a road that less us through an amazing golf course. I don’t play golf, but if I did, I’d never get tired of paying at this place.
The event appeared to be very well organized. Lots of signage. Parking attendants. Registration tent with tons of volunteers.
After a short safety briefing, I picked up my packet and met up with my friends. I only knew 1 of the 3 others who was joining me, and even we don’t really know each other all that well. New adventures…
You’d think that, during a bike tour, the adventure would start once you hopped on your bike. Oh no, my friends. My weekend began with me doing circles around a hexagon-shaped tent, searching for the magic button that made it erect itself… all while the 2 women, who already have their tent setup, sit off to the side eating pork tenderloin sandwiches for lunch (what?!)
Sidenote: For those first-time campers out there… there is no such button. Trust me. I looked everywhere.
The ladies offered their help. I gladly accepted. Finally, 3 brains were able to figure it out… sort of. It’s up, and it’s sleepable, and for right now, that’s me #winning.
Admittedly, I had done little research into how this event was run. After my tent was setup, that’s when I found out what today’s ride option was: 27 miles.
I had done 25 in a triathlon two weeks ago, and struggled through 32 last weekend, so I knew I could complete it. I just didn’t know if I could keep up with our group.
It ended up being a beautiful 27 miles. Parts of it were certainly challenging, climbing up & down the mountains, but the views were easily worth it. The only thing that was sore was my butt, and I consider that a victory.
There was only 1 rest stop for today’s ride, and of all things… they were serving nachos & cheese. I’m sorry, but even if I WASN’T vegan, the last thing I’d want at mile 12 of a 27-mile ride is nachos & cheese.
I met a really nice woman from Toronto, Canada. Didn’t get her name, but we chatted for a bit right near the end of the ride. I fell back from my group, and also stopped for a picture, so her & I chatted it up. Super-nice woman. This was her 2nd year doing the event. Little did I know how many people travel a great distance for this thing. She was nice enough to snap my picture at the city limit sign.
Amazing. Tofu tacos. A vegan’s dream. Nothing more needs to be said.
After dinner, we gathered around our tents for a friendly game of Spades. Our new friend, Gary, joined us. Michelle & I clearly had different strategies, which doesn’t work so well when you’re on the same team. It took Kara 5 rounds before she actually figured out how to play. That left Brandon, Kara’s partner, who clearly knew what he was doing since they ended up smoking us.
Spoiler Alert: The decision has been made. No ironman this year for me. If you’re wondering how & why I came to my decision, read on, my friends.
I’ve been contemplating it for a while. Should I sign up for an ironman this October? I’m turning 30 next year, and I thought it’d be great to have completed an ironman before my 30th birthday—which is kind of ironic, because I couldn’t care less about age.
One day it’s this. The next it’s that. Sometimes I go back-and-forth multiple times the same day. It depends on who I’m talking to.
Today started with more confusion, but quickly turned into clarity.
I began a bike ride with a friend of mine, and a dozen of her riding buddies. The original idea was to ride 50 miles. That’s an insane amount of mileage for someone who has never ridden more than 25 before. And these guys are veteran cyclists. Not all were blazing fast (although some definitely were), but they all knew what they were doing, for sure.
It didn’t take long to realize there was no way I could keep up. A few of them hung back with me to try and pull me back into the group. The red lights helped me catch up, too. The group calls themselves the “Gentlemen of the Road & Ladies of the Lanes,” and while I might fit in with my bedside manner, I certainly can’t hang with my lackluster cycling ability. Shortly after coming to this realization, my mind went to work…
An ironman contains a 112-mile bike ride. If this is what 32 feels like, I wonder what 112 is like. And after my 1500m swim at the Jamestown International Triathlon last weekend, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around a 2.4-mile swim (approx 3800m).
Basically, as it stands right now, completing each one of these two things (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike) would arguably be the two most difficult physical challenges I’ve ever attempted (and I’ve run 50-miles in the mountains & competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder).
I noticed myself drifting towards a mindset that I had 2 years ago, just before I quit ultrarunning. I had this tunnel vision that I had to finish a certain race, run a farther distance or tackle the biggest & baddest of obstacles. For what? To prove something? To be the best? No. I was never going to be an elite runner. That was never my intention. I had nothing to prove back then, and I have nothing to prove now.
One of the greatest things that happened when I quit ultrarunning was the return of fun. Running was fun again. It was just as much a social experience as it was a training mechanism. I also learned to not be so hard on myself. There were no runs to skip… because there were no runs planned. I ran when I wanted to, or when others were running.
Back to the bike ride…
I didn’t want the 32-mile bike ride to discourage me too much. I know my physical limits (and capabilities) pretty well. I’m not discounting the thought that I still had enough time this summer to prepare for & complete an ironman race in late October. Physically, I could do it. But the time & effort required would mean sacrificing many other things… other things that, over the past few years, I’ve come to greatly appreciate & incorporate into my life. Not to mention, the training I’d have to log to prepare for an ironman—well, it just wouldn’t be fun.
The iron-distance triathlon isn’t going anywhere. It’ll be there whenever I’m ready to tackle it. And right now is not my time.
This will free myself up to do other things—things that I have decided are important to me, but have neglected in the past.
Another decision that I’m not only happy with, but very proud of. Proud of myself for setting priorities, and actively making decisions to live out my life accordingly. It sounds like the most basic of concepts, but I didn’t always live my life with such intention.
If you take anything away from this, please re-read that last paragraph. And keep this in mind…
We don’t always make the right decision. And not everything we do in life will be fun. But everything comes with a choice. And, as it is your life, it only seems right that you should be the one making it.
What an experience, to say the least.
Truth be told, there was a little more to it than that, so let me break it down for ya.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to most of you, but the swim was my main concern entering the race. For starters, I had nowhere near the training that I should have had. Swam in open water a total of 2 times this year, and maybe only another dozen in the pool (all of which were fall shorter than the 1500m we had to swim in the race).
And on top of my lack of training, I just don’t do well in the water. I’m a land guy. Always have been. And if I can’t plant my two feet solidly on the ground, I get a little nervous. Throw me in a river with strong current, ask me to locate & navigate around 2 buoys, travel a total of 1500m (more like 1600m for my swerving self), and drop a 1-hour time limit on me… and I get A LOT nervous.
It also doesn’t help that my buddy calls me the night before, in Richmond, and says that the river is moving at 6.5mph. And minutes later, my friends from DC (who LOVE swimming, btw) just talked to a race official at the hotel, who told them, “Oh, yeah. The swim is definitely still on.”
Holy Freakout, Batman!
Now that all that is out of the way… I walk up to the beach with my buddy, Nick, since we’re starting in the same wave together. Although I know there’s nothing more I can do at this point, I’m still not the least bit comfortable with what’s about to happen.
I talked to myself the entire 20-minute car ride to the site, going over my game plan.
And yet, here I am, 2 minutes before the start, freaking out like a 3-old-year with a spider crawling up her arm.
“Oh, crap! Did he just say, ‘Go?!'”
Lucky for me, the water near the shore was really shallow. We were able to walk the first 50, 60, maybe 70m or so. I took advantage of every. single. step.
I tried to stay as far up-river as possible, because I knew the current would be pulling me down river. And I had to stay to the right of the turn buoy.
Yeah… that didn’t work. My lack of swimming prowess, combined with a fairly strong current, threw a wrench in that plan. I found myself about 100m from the turn buoy, and completely down-river from it. I grabbed onto a paddleboarder for a minute to gather my thoughts.
“I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t fight the current. I didn’t train enough. My form is already shot and I’m not even halfway there yet. I might have to call it quits.”
I looked at the paddleboarder and said, “Alright, I’m gonna give this a shot.”
He said, “I’m right behind ya, man. Go for it.”
So I swam almost directly upstream, expending way more energy than I realize I had in me, and made it to the turn buoy… at the same time all the women who started 12 minutes after me made it there.
Typically, I would love the idea of being surrounded by 30+ beautiful, athletic women in swimsuits. But there was nothing typical about what was happening to me right now.
Once I made that first turn buoy, it instantly gave me confidence that I could at least make it back to shore. The thoughts of quitting quickly disappeared.
I coasted on the short down-river stretch, and eventually made it back to shore. The really shallow water I mentioned on the way out… I totally forgot about it. So when I was still 50 or so meters from shore and my feet unexpectedly hit the ground… Hallelujah!
One last thing… On the way back into shore, I knew how strong the current was, and I was really proud of myself for compensating. I learned my lesson on the way out, and took a much better line than many others who I saw much farther downstream as we were approaching shore.
Goal #1 accomplished. 1500m in 38:05
Nothing too eventful on the bike. I didn’t really take it all that easy (at least in the effort I put forth), yet still found myself at the bottom of my age group. So goes it when you buy a $1500 tri bike & don’t ride it for 3 years. But I kept both tires inflated, and nothing broke.
I tried to push myself whenever I could. Part of that was because I was so elated that I made it out of the water. The other part was just me being competitive.
I still cranked out 40k (24.8mi) in 1:19, which equates to 18.8mph. Very happy with that on how little training I put in.
As was the case with the 4 sprint triathlons I did several years ago, I always get passed by a bunch of people on the bike. The only difference this year… longer distance meant even more people passed me.
But the beauty of a triathlon for me, is that I’m a good runner. I probably passed 90% of those same people on the run.
I averaged 7:48/mi, and finished 10k in 48:29. My legs felt like poop from mile 3 on, but hey, nice job guys. Real proud of ya.
The coolest part of the run (literally, the coolest) was the turnaround point. I love running. I love volunteers. I love kids. And I love water, especially when I’m hot & thirsty.
There were a bunch of kids offering a “splash” at the turnaround water stop. How can you say no to that? So the first one completely misses my face & drills me in the chest. I saw the rest of the kids getting jealous because they wanted to splash someone too. Again… how can you say no to that?
Long story short, I got splashed 5 or 6 times, everywhere from mid-thigh to my face, all within a stretch of about 30 feet. I ran the last 3 miles a bit soggy, and uncomfortable, but you know what, the kids loved it, and even a few other racers smiled. That’s worth more than any finishing time I’ve ever put up.
While my buddy Nick & I were standing about 50 yards from the finish, cheering on Amy (his wife) and Erica (aka: E$), I started talking to the awesome volunteer on the corner. She’s a runner, but was always a bit nervous about the swimming & biking, so she’s never tried a triathlon.
I’m not the kind to force anyone to do anything, but if she enjoys being out here cheering us on, and she loves to run, my guess is, she’d enjoy herself with a triathlon. So I gave her some ideas on training, and which races to start with.
Low & behold, she actually looked me up online after the race. Her name is Kelley. She just recently moved to Williamsburg, and hasn’t found many running buddies yet. But she told me she was looking into doing a tri, and also asking about marathons in the Fall. I think I know of a good one 🙂
I love my friends. I love triathlons. I love volunteers. And people are awesome.
And I finished with a total time of 2hr 51min… but honestly, who even cares?! I finished.
According to my training schedule, I should’ve been swimming or biking today. But I chose a run instead.
The Boston bombings are still fresh on my mind. I don’t have answers or explanations; mostly, just more questions. But my brain can’t help but to go into overdrive when something like this happens. A run was just what I needed.
The events in Boston were certainly tragic, but there are others all over the world whom, for a multitude of reasons, cannot physically run. Birth defects, accidents, illnesses, you name it. Thousands of people whom will never experience the feeling of running even a mile.
Today, I run for them.
And while I realize this doesn’t even come close to providing them the experience of a run, I’m reminded of all the other amazing things these people can do, will do & are already doing that enrich their lives each and every day.
There’s a Little League baseball complex less than a mile from my house. When I left for my run this evening, 2 games were being played: One by the real youngsters, just big enough to start pitching to themselves. The other kids were a few years older, just starting to realize the excitement of hitting their first ball into the gap in left-center.
I paused my iPod. Then stopped along the fence in right field to take it in. Two things came to mind.
1. For that brief moment, I missed baseball.
2. I looked forward to coaching my son one day.
We’re quite a few years away from this one, but I’ve always been a futuristic thinker.
I looked around at all the parents. I heard the third-base coach — whom I’m sure was a player’s dad — cheering his players on. And I thought, “I would really like to be that cool dad when I grow up.”
Thank you, run, for a wonderful trip down memory lane, and an equally as promising glimpse into the future.
This is the first post in a new series I’m calling “today’s run.” My mind is often at its most active when I’m out on a run. And I’d like to share some of those thoughts with the world.
Today’s run took longer to develop than it should have. Between work, and my relentless insistence on shoving food down my throat, I managed to put it off until 4pm.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter when you run. It just matters that you ran. Today was one of those days.
I set out for an 8-mile trail run in my backyard, the JRPS trails. Buttermilk, Northbank, Belle Isle… all the usuals. And although I originally set out alone, I found myself sharing the trails with many different faces: some familiar faces, some strangers and some hairy ones with long tongues and real sloppy kisses.
I bumped into my buddy Nate who I haven’t seen in a while. Nate’s training for one of those crazy ultras I used to be so gung-ho about. Good for you, buddy. It was great catching up.
Then a few canine friends stopped to say hello. Some just gave me the quick snif’n’go (which I totally understand when Mom’s got you on a short leash). Others stopped for a legit petting from head to rear. And you better believe I gave them every last bit of what they were looking for.
But this one sweet pup… He was off his leash. Mom was pretty laid back. So he decided he’d run with me for a few hundred feet. I’m awful with naming dog breeds, but just trust me, this guy had sweet puppy face written all over him. I ran the rest of my run with his dirty paw prints on my shirt.
And then I saw a few moms… with strollers… and little ones inside. I don’t have a kid of my own, but I still smile at almost every little kid I see.
Then I saw my buddy Tyler at the end of my run. He just finished up a mountain bike ride. He’s going through some career stuff, just moved into a new apartment… the cycle of life. Stuff we all deal with at some point or another, but it was nice to hear his personal story.
All of these encounters got me thinking about family. A wife. A kid or two. A dog. A decent-sized house in a friendly neighborhood. The ups & downs of parenting…
I want all of that stuff. Not the same way I want to complete an Ironman, or I want a new computer. But that’s where I see myself in the future. Near future? Distant future? Who knows? But I want that.
As some of you know from my Facebook status updates, I watch The Bachelor on ABC. It’s an awful show on so many levels, and I know it’s 100% entertainment, heavily staged, yada yada yada. I get it. But it’s one of my few guilty pleasures, and I find it extremely entertaining. So bear with me for a sec.
In thinking about all this family stuff, I’m going to cite a line that I’ve heard many times on The Bachelor.
That’s always been my number 1 goal in life… to have a family.
I always thought that was just a line. Something they said for the camera, or to convince the guy to pick them. Who knows if they really meant it or not—or what it even means to them. But after today, I started to think if there might be some truth in that.
I’ve been guilty for almost my entire adult life of putting work ahead of my social life (which includes relationships). I’ve set many goals over the past 10 years, and I’ve accomplished almost every one I’ve set. I’ve done some really awesome things.
Maybe I should think of a relationship—and eventually, a family—in more of the way I think of the other goals I set for myself. I don’t want to force something that’s not there. And I don’t want to put a deadline on it (because that could force me into something I’m not ready for).
Over the past 3 years, I’ve tried to make a relationship more of a priority. And the fact that I’m single right now doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t done that. There could be any number of other reasons why I’m still single, none of which are bad, or anyone’s fault. It’s just how it is.
This is really just a reminder for myself. A reminder that I do want a family, a dog, a house & some kids. And that just like all the other goals I have in life, they won’t just appear before my eyes. They take dedication, timing, sacrifice, money, and a host of other things.