Posted tagged ‘Blue River Trail’

all that and breakfast! ~ part two

July 2, 2019

Continuing my thrilling account from yesterday, the point where I had failed a third time on a hill happened to be, ironically, beside milepost 3. So I had ridden 17 miles by then, and the intensely focused chaffing had been my companion for nearly that long, but I began to consider the possibility that I could do this thing and in fact nearly had.

So onward. About a mile ahead a massive water (sewage) treatment plant is being rebuilt, and because the trail passes close to it, that part of the trail is currently closed (in fact, gone altogether). This requires a detour, but it happens that a spur of the trail, in exactly the right place to do this, had been there for years. I knew the route; I’d run or ridden on it a few times. It added a half mile or so to my distance, but I still wasn’t feeling any serious fatigue. I was, however, feeling a little worry as I remembered that this detour connects with the end of the Tomahawk Creek Trail, at the point where it joins the Indian Creek Trail. And what is notable about this junction is that it is just below one of the serious hills along that part of the trail.

I had ridden up this hill before, and it’s not long, but near the top you pass under a busy road and for some reason, the trail is really bumpy just as you come out from the darkness, still ascending the last twenty feet of the hill. When I did this on Sunday, there were two runners there, which required me to steer to the outside (cliffside) of the trail, but that wasn’t bad because the pavement was actually smoother there.

And after this, another long downhill with gentle curves that were fun to lean into, followed by a trail bridge to cross. And then I was rejoining the part of the trail that the original trail would have taken me to had there been no detour. And there on my left was milepost 1. I had gone 19 miles that morning, and while I was beginning to feel the heat finally, I knew I had it in me to keep going.

This part of the trail goes through a nice park with lots of activities including fishing, a large pool, tennis, and various ball fields. It’s fun to watch the little ones chasing around after a soccer ball when I pass, but it was too early on a Sunday morning for that, and I zipped along. One other activity at this park is an off-leash area for dogs, which meant that for a while I was sharing the trail with humans who held dogs on leashes. Most are aware of the need to share the trail, and all of them held their dogs close as I passed, but it’s always a possibility that a dog will stray into my path or lunge at me. But I made it through without mishap, and soon I passed milepost .5.

This was part of my Sunday-morning route when I was running so much. I knew what was ahead, including passing under the interstate a third time, and then a slight rise onto a bridge at State Line Road, where I would pass into Missouri and pass milepost 0.0. Not far ahead.

And I did. I’d ridden 20 miles that morning!

But the trail didn’t stop there, and neither did I. The Indian Creek Trail continues in Missouri for about three miles, and since my goal was to ride the entire length of the trail, I continued into Missouri as well.

The nicest waterfall along the whole trail comes soon after this. It was the site of a watermill back in settlement days, and some of the structure of the mill is still visible right beside the bike trail. Because the rains had stopped a few days before, the waterfall was not as impressive as usual (or as frightening as recently), and I didn’t want to stop anyway, so I rode on.

The trail here is good and bad. There is one turn that is insanely bad, and while I’ve never had a mishap there, I suspect others have. You come down a steep hill to make a hard left turn. There are large rocks piled on each side of the trail, and the outside of this turn has a “curb” about four inches high. If you don’t turn tightly enuf (after coming down that hill) and hit that curb, you’re likely to get thrown from your bike and onto the rocks. I’m really surprised it’s allowed to remain in this dangerous shape.

But I survived the turn by squeezing my brakes and creeping along, and then it was back to mostly smooth, mostly level asphalt. The next mile or so passes under two major roads, and the recent floods along the creek had left lots of mud beneath the bridges. Most of that has been scraped away, but there are places where the mud, furrowed by bike tires, has dried, and if you hit these unaware (such as passing from intense light to sudden dark), you can get thrown into one of these furrows, whether you’re balanced for that or not.

Although I have ridden along here a couple of times, I had only run this far once, so I wasn’t as familiar with this part of the trail. There was a point where the trail was fenced off because the stream (ten feet below) had eroded the bank such that the asphalt seemed to be suspended in the air. Fortunately, other riders had made an obvious path in the grass beside this, a path I suspect the city will use when it redirects this part of the trail.

I was passing mileposts along here — it seems that Missouri wants to help you calculate your distance better because they have a post every two-tenths of a mile. I still wasn’t seeing a lot of people on the trail. In part because it was still relatively early in the morning but also, I think, because the heat was getting serious. At around mile 2.4 into Missouri, I first felt real fatigue. I had known for a long while that I was getting tired, but I always felt that I had the energy/drive/foolishness to press on. At this point, though, I began to question that. I think in part this was due to riding a long stretch in the sun. Most of the Missouri part of the trail to this point had no shade. But I was so close to reaching my goal, and I knew that cool(er) shade was ahead, so I didn’t relent (though the part of me that was trying to convince me it was my rational self was also trying to convince me to stop).

Things get a little confused here. Not in my head, but on the trail. While the maps all say that the Indian Creek Trail continues for about three miles into Missouri, the trailside mileposts had begun calling it the Blue River Trail. So had I ridden the entire distance of the Indian Creek Trail? Or did I have more to go despite what the trail signs said (every two-tenths of a mile)?

It didn’t matter because when I had decided to ride the entire distance of the ICT, I had also decided to ride the entire distance of the BRT (which from this point is only about four miles).

The Blue River Trail is a nice place to ride. It’s still new, and while runners with working lower joints don’t prefer it, it’s paved with concrete rather than asphalt, which makes cycling easier. Except for the half mile that isn’t paved at all but is still gravel. But while that was rough for a little while, I kept on, and soon my tires kissed concrete again. I passed twice (thrice?) under railroad tracks, and the approach from both directions had steel canopies over them. I suppose trains can rain down gravel, which wouldn’t be good to hit your head even if you were wearing a helmet. (I was wearing a helmet.) These canopied stretches were also fenced, which I suppose is somehow related to the safety requirements of the railroads.

But onward. Soon I passed under the interstate for the fourth time that morning and was in a large park with lakes and ball fields and an RC field and picnic shelters and one of two cricket pitches along the trail. (The other is near the beer school I attend.) A game (match?) was underway, with shouting and cheering in a language I did not know.

I was tired. I was nearly done, but I could feel what I had done. My legs were angry with me, and I found that standing on my pedals, while challenging my balance, actually felt very good in my legs. So in the last mile or so, I did that whenever I could (tugging down that faulty bit of wardrobe too).

When I saw the tennis courts ahead, I knew I had nearly reached the end of the trail. (Actually, no. The trail continues off the pavement through forest and field, but that’s not for me or for my bike.) I could see the parking lot that marked the terminus of the trail. I had ridden 27 miles that morning. And just as I approached the very end of the asphalt, the very end of the trail and the parking lot where I could finally stop and call my goal achieved, a park service vehicle pulled into the space and parked, directly blocking my way. I couldn’t ride to the physical the end of the trail.

Fortunately, as I looked to the left, I saw the Prolechariot parked in the shade nearby. I cut across the grass and rode over there. My wife emerged from the air conditioning as I stopped beside my truck, and then I just stood there for a long time. My legs were grateful to be fully extended again and the rest of me was too tired to do anything. I just stood in the shade and managed to make some semi-coherent conversation. Soon my wife asked me if I was ever going to dismount, and I guess I must have because I remember lifting my bike into the bed of my truck (with what strength?).

I didn’t make an exact note of the time I began or the time I finished, but approximately two and a half hours had passed. I don’t think the time lost to stopping three times (or the turn I missed that added maybe a quarter mile to my distance) added much to that time. And I don’t know if that time was respectable or not. I just know I did it.

My wife had a big glass of ice water waiting in the truck for me, and I sucked it down as we drove home. But in my running days, after I’d complete a half marathon, I would treat myself to blueberry pancakes. This seemed like a comparable accomplishment (or at least a credible excuse).

The problem was, I was a sweaty, stinking mess dressed in wet plastic clothing (including a large hole in an unfortunate place) with hair flying everywhere. That meant our usual breakfast retreats were out, so if this was going to happen, we needed to find an informal place with outdoor seating. Fortunately, there was one not far from our house, and while I suspect their typical demographic probably wears red caps with white acronyms written on them, we tried it.

I was disappointed. The pancakes tasted like biscuits, big biscuits. I couldn’t finish them. And they were not prompt with the iced tea (unsweetened, of course).

But then I was home. The bike was hung again from the garage ceiling (with what strength?) and the truck was parked below it. I was soon in the shower, stinging where the hot water found a certain chaffed place, then into loose-fitting, cotton clothes and a day of indolence. All this before many people have even gotten out of bed on a Sunday morning.

Later that day, I crashed hard. I very suddenly felt weak, and I began sweating all over, even on the top of my head. Unfortunately, I was at the grocery store when this happened. I managed to get home, but the rest of the afternoon and evening was lost. I sat around, too tired to do anything. The weakness and cold sweats eventually passed, but the absolute exhaustion stayed with me until my even-earlier-than-usual bedtime.

I’m glad I did it, and I want to do it again. But first I need to get my bike in the shop for a tune up. It doesn’t shift well from third to second, and the gears make far too much noise as I pedal (compared to everyone I pass or who passes me on the trail). And the front brake screams when I apply it. And I’m worth a good bike if I’m going to keep riding.*

*My bike is hardly top of the line, but it wasn’t cheap, and in my running days I could easily spend as much on new shoes in a single year as I spent on my bike.

so I did a thing

September 3, 2018

As you probably know, I haven’t run a step since last October. That was when I did the Kansas City Half Marathon (with essentially no training) and did so poorly that I asked myself why I was doing it at all. (I still haven’t found an answer to that, but I think I need to; I have a 5K coming up later this month.) I don’t know if I’ve walked away from the noble sport of running or if I’m merely taking a break. A break is not uncommon from what I understand, but the longer my break lasts, the harder it’s going to be to get back into running.

Perhaps to alleviate that or to find an indirect way back, I got myself a bike. This is the latest in an almost unbroken series of bikes I’ve had since my earliest memories, perhaps the most memorable being a gold Stingray bike with raised handlebars and a banana seat. I called it Tiger Paws. I went everywhere on that bike when I was a boy. My last bike was taken from me when my son moved out, as I recall. It had hung from the garage ceiling for several years, untouched because I was, well, running. When that stopped, I no longer had that bike, and with the nagging in my head to get back to running increasing, I knew I had to do something to find a way back, so I got the new bike.

It’s nothing fantastic; it’s a cross bike, halfway between a mountain bike and a racing bike, meant for pavement and casual, noncompetitive cycling. It suits me perfectly. I’ve had it for a month, and in that time the heat has traded places with rain storms frequently. The times I was free for an hour or two ride didn’t often coincide with tolerable weather, so I was only able to get out on the bike (which I haven’t named yet) three times. Twice were rides of more than ten miles, and once was a rain-interrupted jaunt that had me sheltering under a park pavilion with about forty female high school tennis players doing various stretching and jumping exercises.* (I looked at my phone.)

But yesterday, before the heat got too intense and the forecasted rain came (but after bagels) I jumped on my bike and took off. I road on the Indian Creek Trail, a place where I have logged literally thousands of miles on foot (and may again). My vague idea was to ride it to the east, beyond where I ever ran. That meant going at least ten miles on familiar trail first, which was fine. I enjoyed revisiting the old places, zipping around walkers and runners (“On your left!” — I should probably get a bell) and bouncing over walnuts. This took me into Missouri (after mile 8), which made me feel like I had gone a respectable distance. And I kept going. Soon I was riding on parts of the ICT** I had never seen before. It appeared that the trail had very recently been repaved, and not cheaply either. The trail was paved with concrete rather than asphalt, which is certainly more permanent, and less prone to cracking and heaving as asphalt will do, and I suppose that’s better for cyclists, but among runners the conventional wisdom is that concrete is harder on the lower joints than asphalt. It’s a commonly held assertion that I’ve always been skeptical of, though I like to think I could feel a difference betwixt the two when I ran on them.

The ICT runs under the interstate three times, and the extension I took when I reached its end passed under the interstate a fourth time. The trail also passes under two railroad bridges, which I don’t think I’d ever run or ridden under before. The approach (from each side) to the railroad bridges was covered with metal canopies going out fifty feet. Does a lot of debris fly from railroad tracks when a train passes? When I passed under the interstate for the fourth time, the trail I was on was diverted through a shipping container (those metal boxes you see on the back of semi trailers or stacked perilously high on cargo ships). The highway bridge is under construction, and I suppose there was a risk of falling debris here as well. Thus the short passage through the cargo container. Odd, but effective.

I kept going, telling myself that at the next landmark I could see ahead (a bridge, a soccer field filled with grown men shouting plays to each other in a language I did not know, a certain rise or dip) I would stop and turn around. But I kept going. Finally, when I paused in some shade (the heat was rising) and checked my phone, I found I had dinner plans with my son. There was more trail ahead, but I knew I had to cover all of the distance I already had just to get home, so I thought best not to add any more to it. I turned around and tried to find my way back, which wasn’t easy since I wasn’t familiar with this part of the trail and there were many spurs leading from it. Plus I was going the opposite direction, so many things that ought to have looked familiar didn’t from this opposite direction. I managed to get back to the part of the trail I knew from my running days without mishap and the rest of the way home.

I did not wear my running watch to log my distance and time. If I had, I could have plugged it into my computer and gotten a map of my journey, including mileage. Instead, I visited one of the sites that distance athletes use to record their runs and mapped my ride. It turns out that my morning adventure was 28 miles. (It would have been longer, but my house is at the top of a hill. I think you can figure out what I mean.)

So, pretty good ride. The other conventional wisdom is that the ratio of cycling to running is three to one. Three miles of cycling is equivalent (in energy used? in wear on the joints? in conditioning?) to one mile of running. Thus my little ride was a bit more than nine miles of running. If I truly am building back my heart and lung capacity (and my quads), then maybe I’ll be (somewhat) ready for that 5K later this month.


*I’ve had a number of interesting, even spooky happenings at this shelter.

**I’ve found that there are some subtle but compelling differences between running and cycling. Hills for one. I’ve found that if I haven’t built up enuf momentum and I’m not in the right gear (and even if I have and am sometimes) I can’t always ride up a steep hill. I had to stop and walk rather than try to crank the gears into a hopeless fight against gravity a few times. With running, a steep hill ain’t pleasant, but it is manageable enuf to keep moving afoot without stopping even at a walking pace. Turns are another. At cycling speeds (even my speeds), there is less room for error. And with the luxurious growth of the trees and scrub that line most of this trail, there are some more or less blind turns. Were I running, they wouldn’t be a problem; I would simply hug the right side of the trail and come upon whatever was beyond the turn with a complete ability to deal with it (usually slowing or side stepping). On a bike, there is less time to react (stop quickly!) coming around a blind turn. I didn’t have any mishaps, but had there been a young parent pushing a stroller suddenly coming into view, I might have had to steer myself into the trees rather than something worse. So my point is that rather than call it the Indian Creek Trail, I think they should call it Insufficiently Clear Turns.