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100 Miles on A Bicycle

I'm ridiculously far behind on this blog, but it has been for good reason, people!

I finally rode my first century. Based on my conversations with friends I am apparently the last person to do this.

Kirstin in Pursuit
Enjoying the cool morning. Photo by Rootchopper.

Once again my friend John (Rootchopper) joined the fun. Having him along always makes me feel more confident. Why I don't know, I should know by now this means I'm going to get dropped over and over again by a guy on small-wheeled bicycle. Oh, my bruised ego!

Little Nellie, Weathered Church
The tiny-wheeled Bike Friday, AKA Little Nellie. Photo by Rootchopper.

The morning dawned cool on the last day of summer. Later on it turned into a truly summer-like day. I didn't mind a bit, even when the sun beat down in the afternoon. The course is pretty and bucolic and we pedaled along blissfully, drinking in the splendor surrounding us.

Photo Sep 23, 9 33 51 AM
Scenic view from the southern end of the course (I took this in 2012. Too busy pedaling to take any this year!)

I had good energy all day on my ride fueling with Epic bars, RXbars, sweet potato baby food pouches and Chapul cricket bars. At the 50 mile mark I was able to make a quick stop by my car to eat real food (meat, veggies and fat) which was probably crucial.

The rest stops were well-stocked, and I want to express my sincere gratitude to the sweet, thoughtful volunteers. The ice they provided kept me from overheating. I didn't eat anything because there are really a dearth of options that are gluten-free. I'm fortunate that I only do so by choice, and I'm happy to bring my own fuel. Just a little food for thought. (See what I did there?)

Photo Sep 23, 10 46 50 AM
Another 2012 shot.

The last quarter of the course is hillier than the rest, with one really long steep climb. What is it with these long road rides always ending with an uphill?

It was worth it though for the screaming, cooling downhill that preceded it. Steep descent and gravel ahead? Ride with caution? Oh, hell no.

Backroads Century
The descent and climb around mile 87.

Rootchopper's report of our ride is here.

Endurance road biking is wonderful. I love how far one can go and the different scenery to be taken in compared to a run.

I'm really looking forward to the Great Pumpkin Ride on October 25. Having ridden most of the course in August during my accidental metric century I'm eager to see the course in all its autumn colors. 

In conclusion, having run 100 miles  and biked 100 miles this year, I guess my next goal is to swim 100 miles. Should be doable, right?

Merrell All Out Rush and All Out Fuse Review and Giveaway!

A few months ago, the folks at Merrell were nice enough to send me two pairs of shoes to test, the All Out Rush and the All Out Fuse. 

Merrell has generously given me two pairs to give away to you, dear readers. 

If you'd like a pair, leave a comment below on which shoes you'd like to win and why. You may also Tweet or Facebook about this giveaway for another chance to win. Let me know you did so in your comment and be sure to mention @MerrellOutside in your Tweet or Facebook post.

Using RandomPicker, I'll choose two winners by the end of the day Thursday, September 25.

THE WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN! Congratulations to Elizabeth Cleary and Shelly Cable! Send your contact info and I'll have Merrell send you the pair of your choice!

Thank you, Merrell. I have really enjoyed running in both pairs of these shoes. Below is my review.

Merrell All Out Fuse

The All Out Fuse
I basically live in the minimalist-leaning All Out Fuse. 

They are very lightweight (just 13 oz - that's for the pair). They fit like a glove and they're what I want to run in on all my short to mid-length runs on pavement or dirt trails.

When I have worn them on rocky trails, they aren't so minimalist that this is a deal-breaker. I simply wouldn't choose them for exceedingly rocky trails like the Massanuttens or the Appalachian Trail in Maryland or Pennsylvania.

These shoes are fantastically responsive and light. They have surprisingly good toe protection and a tread that really grips. The more I run in these shoes, the more I fall in love with them.

Merrell All Out Fuse
Merrell All Out Fuse

Another bonus: I get frequent compliments on the All Out Fuse when I wear them with casual clothing.

The All Out Rush
These babies are noticeably more rugged than the All Out Fuse. This is the shoe for my rockier runs. 

The All Out Rush performed equally well on the super-technical, rock-laden Appalachian Trail and the hard-packed jeep roads and soft dirt trails of the Vermont 100 miler. They loved the trails of Rock Creek Park in DC as well as the George Washington National Forest in West Virginia. I can take these shoes anywhere and know I'll be running happy.

Merrell AllOut Rush
Merrell All Out Rush after a trail run in West Virginia
Once I had them on my feet I mostly forgot I had them on. That's the true test that a shoe is working well for me. They simply performed solidly.

The feel of the slightly low cut around the ankle took a little bit of getting accustomed to at first, but in the end I really liked that feature. Anytime I can find another couple of degrees of freedom, I'm excited about that!

They're lightweight and nimble at just over 14 oz for the pair. They run a little wide, I think; I have a narrow foot and noticed that the toe box puckers a little when I tie them. The rigid sole provides more than ample protection while still allowing me to feel connected to the trail beneath me.

The traction is top notch. Though I have not yet had the chance to run in wintry conditions, they handled everything else Spring and Summer threw at me with aplomb; grass, mud, dirt, big rocks, sharp rocks, wet rocks, gravel.

Jo and I took one short sitting break at Jenne Farm, mile 45.
Merrell All Out Rush at the Vermont 100 Miler 

These were both excellent shoes for trail running and I've already bought a second pair of the All Out Rush. I plan to buy another pair of the All Out Fuse after a few more miles, too. 

Don't forget to leave a comment to be eligible to win a pair for yourself!

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Trails in George Washington Forest

far end of Rockcliff Lake
Scene from Rockcliff Lake Trail, early September

I'm dipping my toe into the waters of race directing this Fall, bringing back an excellent 50K that has been on hiatus for the past few years. I'm not going it alone, thankfully, I have a veritable team of co-RDs standing behind me.

I've been lucky enough to visit the course three times over the summer. Each trip gave me the opportunity to observe the subtle changes in the forest and to appreciate the beauty of these trails.

Rays of sunshine
Chimney Rock Trail in early September

Long Mountain Trail, early September

It's frequently misty and cool here. Magical.
Misty Day on the Bucktail Cutoff Trail, late June

Pond Run Trail
Pond Run Trail in late June

Approaching The Big Schloss on Mill Mountain Trail.
Mill Mountain Trail, late June

View from the Big Schloss
View from The Big Schloss, late June

Overlook atop Tibbet Knob
Misty Morning on Tibbet Knob, late August

Tibbet Knob Trail, late August

Indian Head 46 Mile Ride

With the Vermont 100 Endurance Race done, I'm training for my first brevet. 

A brevet is just like an ultramarathon, only on a bicycle. Also, everything is pronounced with a French accent. Bruh-vay. Once I complete a brevet, I will be a Randonneur. Rahn-dough-nur.

I've set my sights on the Flatbread 200K based largely on its lack of mountain climbs. A 200K brevet has a time limit of 13 1/2 hours. I hope to finish a bit faster than that.

Just like ultrarunning, it's a lot more fun to train with friends. So I twisted Rootchopper's arm to get him to accompany me again. 

Selfie in the Morning Sunshine

This time we signed up for an organized ride, where it works out just fine to blindly follow color-coded arrows on the road. The Indian Head Century was held on another spectacular late summer day with low humidity and mild temperatures. Oh Summer, never leave.

We spotted @MrTinDC (Ted) of Friday Coffee Club who was nursing an inflamed elbow but determined to completed the full century nonetheless. Rootchopper and I were taking it slightly easier, he with his big weekly commute mileage and the 50 States Ride coming up and me with a house that desperately needed tidying before my Mother-in-Law arrived for dinner.

Me, Ted, John representing Friday Coffee Club!

Off we rode into the cool morning, starting off with a nice downhill grade. We chatted as we rolled through Charles County, a place time seems to have forgotten, at least since the 1970s. 

There were no McMansions here (yet), just small, older houses and an occasional trailer home, all with several late-model American automobiles parked outside. There were even some old houses covered in that awful multicolored Insulbrick stuff.

Off to a lovely start.

Cheery yellow wildflowers lined the road. The insects weren't as vocal as last week, just a few crickets half-heartedly chirping from the grass. Fall is coming.

Rootchopper was feeling pretty good on the hills, but my legs were feeling my mountain run from the day before. I still can't quite keep up with him but he always soft-pedals and lets me catch up again. 

The rest stops were well-stocked. The first one had fresh-off-the-grill eggs, ham, cheese on an English muffin! I was able to get a standalone egg but they sure looked good with all the fixins.

Egg muffin with cheese and salsa!

Little Nellie and Surly LHT.We briefly discussed opting for the 60 mile ride, but a rare sense of responsibility kicked in and we dutifully executed the 46-mile turn. We regretted it the rest of the way.

The big highlight of the day was the loud call and clear sight of a Pileated Woodpecker as we rode right past. What a magnificent bird!

I also rescued a turtle who was right in the path of cyclists on the bike path. His shell was shut tight so he might have gotten thumped before my arrival. Nothing looked broken so I set him down in the grass and we were on our merry way.

Traumatized turtle I rescued from the bike path.

Lovely marsh.

We also passed a nice marsh in the final miles. It's definitely the kind of place you could easily spend an hour or more taking in the scene.

Indian Head

Much too soon, we arrived at the finish, with 45 miles in the bag. We enjoyed a little post-ride food and then we headed back to reality. 

All in all it was a really good day on the bicycle. I'll be back next year to ride more miles in Charles County.