Exploring the Schuylkill River Trail Again

I must have passed the Smith Run Ravine too many times to count. It’s nestled in between Conshohoken and where the pavement ends and the towpath to Manayunk begins, easily missed on my numerous training rides for Ironman Maryland as I made my way back and forth from Betzwood. I stashed extra food in my parked car near Valley Forge, so it was vital to pass it every two hours to get a solid 5+ hour training ride in where it’s safe from drivers and flat and windy like the race course in Cambridge, MD. The Schuylkill River Trail is one of the flattest stretches nearby, compared to the 3,000 feet of elevation gain possible in 30 miles on the roads of Gladwyn.

But by the time I passed Smith Run during Ironman training, I was almost an hour into my ride–fresh legs spinning into the headwind. The second time, there was a crosswind, and all the other times after that, my head must have been down from sheer exhaustion. Sure, I noticed it, but I never stopped. I never read the sign. I never looked and wondered.

I learned a lot from my Ironman training about what it takes to do something that is really hard, but I also learned how important it is to slow down and enjoy the ride. I’m currently training for the Ohio 70.3, but I have a much more relaxed approach, scheduling easy rides and making sure they are easy and doing the hard training solo on the trainer or outdoors without distractions. I’m consistent, but not perfect. And, that’s OK.

I’m glad I stopped in the middle of the ride to read the sign for the Smith Run Ravine, and, if next time is a longer ride, I’ll stop and eat my snack there too so I can enjoy the view.

Learning to Ride

I thought I knew how to ride a bike, but riding a mountain bike is a totally different experience. On the road, I avoid potholes, debris in the shoulder, and look out for drivers all while riding fast and holding my line. I corner and brake properly and know how to climb massive hills. My body is narrow and the pedals are spinning as fast as I can go. Not much of what I know about road cycling applies to mountain biking; however, riding a mountain bike will make me a better roadie, and it will make you a better cyclist too when you head for the trails.

Fortunately, Deborah Leedale-Brown of dlb2-Full Potential was ready to teach me the basic skills needed for tackling some of the local trails with ease. We started in sloped field filled with cones and a sky blue ramp that didn’t look all that intimidating until I realized that the ramp is about as wide as the handlebars on my new Fuel EX 8 GX, and every time I approached it, I noticed the downward grade to the nearest tree. I would like to avoid hitting trees and falling off the ramp entirely. The ramp was only a foot high, but when Deborah took off the 2nd ramp that drop seemed much, much higher off the ground.

Of course, I didn’t start on the ramp. She reviewed everything from proper body position on the bike with my heels down and wide knees to how to shift and brake while I slalomed in and out of the cones. I soon realized that on my previous mtn bike ride, I was gripping the brakes with all available fingers–white knuckles all the way down. When I did ride the ramp, I practiced different positions on the bike, and was able to do a nice peak and push when that second ramp was removed, placing the front wheel where I wanted it to go. I surprised myself when I did it, jarring my brain a bit the first time.

At the end of the lesson, we did ride some of the trails nearby. Rocks and roots were scattered about like forgotten toys. Logs crisscrossed the path, and I had to pay attention, holding my line and ignoring the drop off to the left. I didn’t second guess myself and knew so much more about how to handle my bike thanks to Deborah’s expert coaching. Mountain biking allows me to be comfortable and take up more space as I roll over all the obstacles in my way. That’s why I love it. And, I’ll be signing up for another lesson soon.

Birthday Ride

The best birthday gift is warm weather in March and a ride with Phil. We headed out after a leisurely breakfast and made our way down to the Philadelphia Museum of Art before heading to Manayunk for coffee at Volo. This is an easy ride to do with Martin Luther King Drive closed to cars for the time being. Usually, it’s only closed May-October on weekends for cyclists and runners, allowing more room than the Schuylkill River Trail on Kelly Drive that tends to be filled with people.

With temps in the mid 50s, on a Wednesday, it wasn’t too crowded. Recent snow melt and rain filled the Schuylkill and there was the usual headwind throughout the ride. The sun was shining, and it’s always a good day when you’re on a bike.

If you’re interested in rethinking MLK Drive in Philadelphia, check out the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia’s post and sign the petition at the bottom:

https://bicyclecoalition.org/the-future-of-mlk-drive-your-questions-answered/

First Day

About once a week or more, I’m up at the bike shop, chatting with Anthony about upcoming rides and bikes. It’s always about the bikes. During the past year, I’ve been a Trek Women’s Advocate for my local shop and have led rides, planned events, and made videos about bikes with the goal of getting more women out on the road and trails.

Because when more women ride: more families ride, more kids ride, and more people will continue to ride. Women are the forces of change in the cycling world.

Now, I am still the women’s advocate for the store, but I also work there. Yesterday was my first day, and I’m thrilled to be able to talk to other cyclists who come into the shop about bikes, bike accessories, and how to properly fuel while out on a ride. If you have questions, I may not have all the answers, but I’ll learn more and more about bikes as time goes on.

Of course, I’m still coaching athletes, who I often see at the shop. Ride on!