Happy. Healthy. Heathen.

Traveling, training, thinking, talking, typing


October 2009

Day 5 down

Another great day on the trails!

We started out in Cumberland, Maryland with a great breakfast at our Fairfield Inn.  Then back up the trail a bit for a picture of the C and O sculpture on the square.  We knew it was going to be a long day, and we were unsure of the trail conditions, so we were rolling by 9, which for us is early.

me, the mule, and the mule driver

Today we began the C and O canal (stands for Chesapeake and Ohio).  The canal was conceived in the early 1800’s as a route to carry goods to and from Washington DC.  The railroads were also being developed at the same time and at times they ran parallel to one another.  The canal was built, complete with 75 locks, alongside the Potomac, and was used until 1925.  It was shut down and began to deteriorate and then-President Nixon signed a bill creating the C and O National Park in 1971.  Now many of the locks and lockhouses are visible and some are even functioning for public display, and the trail runs for 180 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington DC.

a lock and the lockhouse
a little canal scum just adds to the color

The trail conditions here were different than the Rails-To-Trails we’ve been on up to now.  It’s far muddier, and more “natural” (read roots, stones, puddles), but it was no less beautiful.  Jesse took a little spill, but the leaves cushioned his fall a bit, and we fully expect this won’t be the last time, as we expect a bit of rain tomorrow, making the trails even juicier.

Jesse's wipeout, exactly as he landed

We ate twice today at colorful places along the trail:  the first, and we took no photos of this for reasons we don’t know, was formerly a high school and there is now a diner in the old lunchroom; the second, Bill’s place, kind of a sketchy place right off the trail that is open when Bill says it’s open.

the sausage and cheese plate at Bill's

We also went through the PawPaw Tunnel – a 3000 foot-long tunnel that was to have saved a couple of miles around a mountain when it was built.  A little creepy, drippy, and dark, but interesting.  Took 14 years to build and has a million bricks in its internal arch.

Randy - I wanted to call you from here, but had NO cell service - did you run this without a headlamp?!?!?!

We rolled into the town of Hancock around 6, checked into our cozy hotel, took steaming hot showers, snacked on trail snacks and vending machine soft drinks, and are reading about tomorrow’s ride.

Thanks for reading!

Day 4 – 44 miles – Rockwood, PA to Cumberland, MD

Okay, if you clicked on this link to find out what the hell Butt Butter is, skip to the end of the post.  If you can wait, read on to find out how today’s miles on the Pittsburgh to DC adventure unfolded.

Hump Day, and in this case that’s appropriate in more than one way.

Today began with a 20-mile haul toward the Eastern Continental Divide, which as everyone knows is the geological feature that determines watershed direction; hence, the slow uphill pull we’ve been making since leaving Pittsburgh.  We are following a rail bed, so all the big hills and curves are smoothed out, even in areas where it’s very hilly. 

You can see by this chart the slopes leading up to the Divide

Along the way we passed a couple of beautiful trestles and a wind farm.

We could see about 20 windmills on the crest of this hill

The remaining 26 miles that brought us into our overnight town of Cumberland, Maryland were fabulous.  We could have technically done them without pedalling, but we were enjoying getting the speed up a bit since we’ve been cruising around 10-12 mph.  Jesse’s computer showed 22 as top speed.

We also crossed from Pennsylvania into Maryland at the Mason Dixon Line – trivia question on Facebook photo album.

had to put the brakes on to make this photo

This little town in Maryland is the start of the C and O canal, and is a very quaint, homey, bike-oriented town.  We went out for Mexican food here, and then stopped at a bike shop on the canal.  We have camera problems (I left the charger at the first night bed and breakfast, and we’re just about out of the last charge), but we hope to resolve that before tomorrow night’s blog/pictures.

Great Allegheny Passage ends, C and O Canal begins

Butt Butter:  this is a bike-riding-specific ass lubricant (!) that serves to reduce any area of friction in the saddle.  Our Ragbrai team has long discussions about application technique:  some choose to apply just a tiny amount to the inside chamois of the riding shorts, others of us want to feel as if we are sitting in apple pie as we ride (that would be me).    It’s an indispensable piece of riding paraphernalia, and I am glad to share this information with you.  Now you know.

Thanks for reading

Day 3 – 50 miles to Rockwood

 We knew it would happen.  There’s just no way you can plan a 7-day biking trip for the month of October ANYWHERE and not anticipate at least one rain day.  This was at least one rain day.

Jesse's breakfast

We started the morning with another great meal – breakfast at a nearby diner – Jesse plate was actual called the Garbage Plate – it had just about everything in it – eggs, bacon, ham, potatoes, onions, green peppers.  We went back to the room to repack and prepare for a rainy ride.  The forecast was for rain to stop at midday, so we waited as long as we felt like we could, put on the rain gear and took off (keep in mind this blog is coming to you from my laptop, so I’m carrying that in the saddlebags too).

high-tech shower cap/helmet covers

It was a treacherous ride from the hotel to the trail – busy road, downpour, no shoulder or sidewalk, unsure of exactly the route.  We finally picked it up and then started our 50 mile day. 

most of the trail looked like this today

The rain was intermittent throughout the day, but because we had such an arborial canapy it was filtered somewhat.  Today was the most picturesque so far – it’s all been beautiful, but today was just gorgeous.  There is still a lot of color in the trees and the trail goes right beside the river; except for the few small towns we traveled through, we saw maybe 8 people the whole day.  It’s really past the season, or rather between bike season and cross-country skiing seasons.  The diner/bike shop merchants we visited chatted with us about the folks they see come through.  We spent a good portion of today’s mileage traversing a state park, and the trestles crossing the river are spectacular.

a moment of reflection....

This particular tunnel had had a fire, then an internal collapse, so the trail goes around it for a mile or two.

"we can lift our bikes over..."

Lunch was at a little diner in the town of Confluence (guess what happens in that town), but before that we had this wonderful treat in the town of Ohiopyle – a chocolate/peanut extravaganza that even I, a non-chocoholic, gobbled up.  You’ve deduced by now, between this blog and the Ragbrai blog, that these bike rides are primarily about the food.  First, you really do have a voracious appetitie after riding all those miles, and second, you really enjoy all the local flavor, literally.

eating our way across Pennsylvania

Tonight’s meal was in a bar in the town of Rockwood (Town of No Internet or Cell Service) and they actually put slaw AND french fries on my burger.  What’s up with that?  Jesse had a turkey Panini that he said was great.  I ate the burger and the fries and the cole slaw but passed on the bun, since I’m ever so carb-conscious (see chocolate/peanut wad, above).

Tonight’s lodging is different yet – we’re in a hostel on Main Street.  We’re the only ones here, but it could hold up to 24 in bunks.  It’s a general store that has been restored, and we’ve even gotten laundry done here.

hostel - 6 bunks in this room, but we had it to ourselves

This post will be late; I hope to get it posted at the first opportunity we get a signal tomorrow morning.  Our waitress tonight told us that the whole town is without any cell service…go figure.

metal sculpture at entrance to town of Rockwood

Tomorrow’s highlight promises to be the crossing of the Eastern Continental Divide.  This means we’ve been on a gradual uphill for 3 days; 20 miles tomorrow will take us to the Divide, then shortly thereafter we’ll transition from a Rails-To-Trails project to the mule towpath of the C and O Canal.  This also means we go from 4 days in Pennsylvania to the state of Maryland, and it means that we begin a gradual downhill!  The surface is reputed to be much more gravelly, so it may be a bit of a tradeoff.

Watching the World Series in the hostel living room – Phillies fan.  Bottom of the 4th, 1-0, won’t make it all the way through the game.

Flat Family traveled snug in my BentoBox on my crossbar all day long – I’ll reattach them to the seat post again tomorrow so they can sightsee and view the Continental Divide – I wish all those folks were here with us for real!

The Flats

Thanks for reading!

Day 2 in Pennsylvania

Wow – another fabulous day on the bikes.

We were much more interested in the story of the B and B after a huge meal, a hot shower, and a good night’s sleep.  It really was as charming as it could be, and the breakfast that Betty fixed…OMG.

food porn

We were on the bikes by around 9:30.  The Montour trail is a Rails-To-Trails project and some sections are incomplete, so occasionally you have to leave the trail, get on the main road and then find the trail again.  Sound easy?  Sometimes, and sometimes not.  They have great signage at the trailheads, not so much when you leave the trail.  We spent a while today wandering (read: dodging cars, backtracking, cursing (me, not Jesse), looking at the map, dodging trucks, more cursing) and seeking trailhead signs.  We went through an industrial section too.

we look happier than we felt at that moment as we were lost in the city at this point

When the Montour ended, we picked up the Great Allegheny Passage, which runs for about 150-ish miles, and it runs right along the Youghiogheny River.  It was really pretty today, even as the day became more overcast.  We made much better time today, and rolled into town around 5:30.

Trail scenery

Immediately after checking in, we hopped back on the bikes, rode to a nearby restaurant, ate (again), and now we’re skyping the kids, checking emails, watching the weather (gonna RAIN tomorrow).  Day 3 is a shorter mileage day, but we do have the weather to deal with. 

We miss everyone at home, and we’re still on schedule to come home Monday.  We’re attempting to put more technical details about the trip on another blog:  more info to come on site and address.

Thanks for reading!

Day One of Gap Canal Bike Ride: Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C.

This blog is being temporarily hijacked to follow Gayle and Jesse as they follow the Potomac, Monongahela, and the Alleghany Rivers.

Nashville airport at 5:00am

This day began at 3:00 am when we woke to the alarm for our 5:30am flight.  The bikes were packed into their snug cardboard nests for the trip, and we carried by hand the 4 saddlebags, and even wore our biking clothes.  The flight was uneventful to Cincinnati, but that’s where it got ummmmm, interesting?  For whatever reason, the second engine would not start (not good) as our plane from Cincy to Pittsburgh began to leave the gate, so back we went, where we snoozed(Jesse)/read(Gayle/people-watched(both) for a couple of hours.  Reboarded, then 45 minutes later, Pittsburgh.  We reassembled the bikes in the airport baggage claim, strapped on our helmets and took off.

about to hit the trail

The access for the trail was surprisingly close to the terminal, and Jesse had memorized the directions to get there, so within about 2 miles we were sailing along a nice, flat, fine-graveled surface.  The temp was perfect and there were lots of walkers, runners, bikers, and even some roller-bladers on the path.

Rails-to-Trails is a worthy investment if you are looking for one

We had a great time, put in 40 miles, but because of the 2-hour delay, we arrived at our first night’s destination after dark, cold, hungry, and tired.  We were picked up at the trailhead by our Bed-and-Breakfast host, got settle into to our revolutionary-war era log cabin, ordered food from the local pizza place, took scalding hot showers, and are just about to crash.

I can’t make an assessment for the whole week yet, but if today is any indication, this trip should go on your Must-Do List.  I reserve the right to alter that endorsement, if I spend much time in cold, wet biking gear.

Sorry about the pics – check back on tomorrow’s entry to see if I’ve had any success, or just piece together the blog and FB pics!!

Thank for reading!


And with a couple of clicks of the mouse, I’m registered.

I’ve been waiting til now, just to let it simmer in my brain for a while, but the rates go up Oct. 31.  I have opted out of blogging the actual cost of registration, because if ever the blog were to serve as inspiration for someone to ultimately compete in an event like this, the cost alone would have a staggeringly defeating effect!  Look it up if you really need to know, but also understand that the financial cost is the least expensive of the costs…

Training this week has gone well.  Today’s weather is not cooperating too much, so the brick gets put off one more day – a lake swim/bike ride.  I will instead go to the gym for a lap lane workout.  I had two fabulous runs and two very strong strength training workouts.  Next week is going to be a little funky; we are travelling Monday to Pittsburgh where we’ll unpack the bikes, leave the airport on the bikes, and ride the C and O canal to Washington DC.  I won’t add any running or swimming, but will use the 50 or 60 mile days on the bike as the training.  I hope to keep up the strength training by adding some body weight exercises through the week.  I intend to blog and put up pics of this most interesting ride, but internet access may be a bit sketchy. 

Back to registration.  The race website is and there are some great pics of the lake and bike/run courses.  There’s also a very menacing countdown clock in the upper left of the home page, that just ticks those seconds away, one after another.  I have the ability to request a refund, so no huge drama about having the money on the line, but it did have an impact on me to click through that registration form:  age, emergency contact, reason for competing, etc.  As if I weren’t before, but now I really am training AND registered for an Ironman event!

Form drills in the pool today, again thanks to Fran, then brick tomorrow.  No iPod today so I can focus more sharply on task at hand.

Thanks for reading!

My coach rocks.

“Swim in a tube”

“Add some plyometrics to your workout”

“Kick from your hip”

“To swim faster, don’t flail faster, make your stroke more powerful”

These are words out of the advisory bag of my swim/strength training coach, Fran Cegelka.  He drove to Murfreesboro today to help me with a session in the pool and the weight room.  Then, unlike MOST coaches, he also gave me the most wonderful massage EVER.

The direction in gave me in the weight room was so helpful, and the coaching in the pool was invaluable.  I can’t wait to apply all the tips and advice to my workouts.  I’ve  got someone lined up to help me with the running, and I’m good on the bike, I think, so I’m ready to improve, speed up, become stronger, and more efficient.

Brick tomorrow – bike 25, run 6 – I’ll try to have some new pics to add!

Thanks for reading!

The new trail bikes

I love my bike.  It’s a Lemond, I’ve had it about three years, and we are completely bonded.  I’m in an argument with my entire family about whether or not to purchase a new, fancy-ass, traithlon bike for this event.  Their argument:  “When else would you purchase a tribike if not for completing an Ironman?”  My argument:  ”       “.   I know they are right; I just can’t picture breaking it to the old girl that she won’t be making the trip to New Zealand.  But that’s a blog for another day.

Today’s bike-related issue is about yet another bike.  Jesse and I have purchased new trail bikes for an upcoming tip the end of October to the C and O canal.  It runs from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, and is an old mule path/rails to trails conversion, almost every mile of which is gravel.  Not appropriate for our road bikes, of course, which is why we’ve gotten the new trail bikes.  Nice, fat tires, upright posture, not quite a mountain bike, but not really a hybrid either.

This trip will take place in another two weeks or so, so Jesse suggested we take them out for at least a short spin before we’re out with no bike stand/tools/etc.  So for today’s 25-miler we hit the road (or Greenway in this case) with the new Treks.

yeah, they're even matching
yeah, they're even matching

We were on a paved surface, and did 25 miles, and even so, we were both bitching about them when we finished.  My back hurt, my hands hurt, my wrists hurt, my elbows hurt.  I think most of our issues can be resolved with some tweaking here and there, but miles and miles on gravel on this bad boy does not hold much appeal.

It was overcast and wet in Murfreesboro today, but the Greenway always offers its own brand of beautiful scenery…

by the new Greenway water feature
by the new Greenway water feature
up close and personal
up close and personal

It’s my intention to blog from the trail when we do the trip, but I don’t know about the cell reception for the internet, so we’ll see…

Today also included a strength training session, which, if you are keeping track, is my favorite workout, and today was a great one.

iPod random shuffle of the day:  Chuck Berry, My Ding-A-Ling

Thanks for reading!

How to du a triathlon

Well, my intentions were good.

After a week of travel, then a week of ill health, I decided to register for and participate in a little mini-sprint race at my local college campus.  One of the sororities, something-something-Pi, sponsored this little event:  300 yard swim, 10 mile bike, 3.14 mile run (get it?).  I missed online registration, so I just showed up this morning around 6:45, paid my fee, got my number, and set about getting all that crap in place. 

This is the inaugural effort for this event, and truthfully, they really did a great job overall.  They had door prizes, t-shirts, volunteers cheering you on through the bike course – lots of time and effort went into the race.  The one thing I needed, the one critical piece of information I missed was that there were 2 transition areas.  What this means to a racer is that when the time came to transition from the bike to the run, she is directed into the second transition area where she has no running shoes!  MTSU’s campus is not that big, but I didn’t even really know where the gym was.  After riding around for a few minutes, and after having started at the tail end anyway cuz of the late registration, I bailed on the run leg of the race.

Transition 1
Transition 1
yeah, it was cold, and that trisuit is still wet here!
yeah, it was cold, and that trisuit is still wet here!
I know, no color sense AT ALL
I know, no color sense AT ALL

Jesse and Aden were there waiting for me, and breakfast at Cracker Barrel sounded wayyy better than the door prizes looked, so off we went!

post-race breakfast at the Barrell!
post-race breakfast at the Barrell!
And now, a word from our sponsors…
This afternoon, again, remember the week of travel (wit limited workouts), the week of sick (with no workouts), and this morning’s events, I scheduled my bad self in for a massage (THE perk of owning a massage therapy practice).  My few days of being under the weather included lots of aches and stiffness in my neck, back, and shoulders.  This massage was absolutely delicious!  Colt is a relatively new therapist on our team, and he went above and beyond with his work today, and I was not an easy client with all those knots and chords.  He was gentle and patient and I feel like a new human, so…
Let this serve as a rounding endorsement to incorporate massage therapy into your training regimen.  This is what sent me to massage therapy school in the first place, this difference in recovery after a hard event, and my wanting to educate others about this affordable enhancement to a training series.  You don’t have to visit my practice, but visit somebody’s! 
No iPod today, of course…but thanks to all the girls of whatever-whatever-Pi (note to self:  find name of this group because they deserve the recognition, and I mean no disrespect).
Thanks for reading!

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