One Bike Path Two Ways On The Mount Vernon Trail

I often run on the Mount Vernon Trail, and while I sometimes ride my bike on the Mount Vernon Trail, I don’t usually do both on the same weekend, and it’s even more rare that I run and ride on the same section. But that’s exactly what I did last weekend, when I experienced one bike path two ways.

Bike Path 2 Ways

Running On The Mount Vernon Trail

My run was first. Since I ran with one of the speedier women from my MRTT group, my pace was faster than it would have been if I were on my own.

Running Summary

Still, we were able to chat a bit while we ran. One thing I brought up was how the other end of the Mount Vernon Trail and the running routes into D.C. are so much flatter than the section near Mount Vernon, where we were.

Running Profile

This graph makes it look like the route was mostly flat, but miles 4-8 were pretty hilly! I love how steady our pace was–that one blip is when we stopped at our turn-around point to make some wardrobe adjustments. 😉

Cycling On The Mount Vernon Trail

The next day my husband and I went for a bike ride. I asked him to choose an hour-ish route, and he decided we should park in Old Town and ride towards Mount Vernon.

Cycling Summary

I agreed to his suggested route, but told him that I did not want to go all the way to Mount Vernon, because of the steep hills at the end. I was pretty sure I could handle the hills I’d run on the day before, but we would encounter one more hill that I was worried about.

You see, for me, cycling is still about fear. I am afraid of hills. I am afraid that I won’t be able to make it up a steep hill, that my bike will stop, that I won’t be able to unclip in time, that I will fall, and that I will get hurt–or at least embarrassed.

As we were nearing the top of the first hill (one of the ones I wasn’t too worried about), I bailed. There were two cyclists, a runner, and someone pushing a stroller up ahead, and I didn’t think I would be able to maintain enough momentum to stay upright. I unclipped my shoes and walked my bike up the crest of the hill. The fact that I was able to make a last-minute decision and unclip safely while climbing a hill was an accomplishment in itself. Every ride that doesn’t end up like this is a good one. 😉

Clip In Fail

I spent much of the next mile psyching myself up for the hill that I was worried about. It comes after a steep downhill section and a sharp turn, so again I was worried about building up my momentum. I slowed myself on the way day, coasted around the curve, and then rode like hell to get up the steep and curvy hill. I was so thrilled when I made it to the top! But before I’d caught my breath I realized that it would be even trickier on the way back!

In that direction, I went even slower on the downhill approach because of the sharp curves, and had to start from almost nothing. I learned that the hill in that direction isn’t quite as steep, but it goes on for a bit longer.

Cycling Profile

 It’s that sharp climb before/after 7.5 mi. It doesn’t look as bad on the graph!

The uneven pacing on my bike ride shows how often we had to slow down or nearly stop because of “traffic.” That’s one reason that this end of the Mount Vernon Trail is not my favorite place to ride.

Two Ways, Different Challenges

Running and cycling on the same section of the Mount Vernon Trail makes me realize how running and cycling challenge me in different ways. With my long runs, I usually know ahead of time how far I am going, and set my pace based on how I feel after the first 1/2 mile or so. While hills might make my run more challenging and impact my pace, they aren’t something I give much thought to after I’ve chosen my route. The challenge with my long run is in the endurance–maintaining my energy level, form and pace throughout my run.


The sign before the hill I was worried about.

My bike rides are a different story. I usually have a general idea of how long I want to ride, but a few miles more or less doesn’t make that much difference. I like to ride at a steady pace, but it’s usually others on the bike path, not my legs, that decide how fast I go. The only thing I think about is the hills. Which hills. How many hills. Planning my approach. Figuring out who I need to pass before I get to the steepest part. Building my momentum. Deciding if and when I need to shift gears. Convincing myself that I’ve got this. Maybe by the end of this cycling season I will be comfortable with all of the hills on our cycling routes
–or at least not obsessing over them so much!

Do you do any activities that scare you?

Do you have a favorite walking/running/cycling route?

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15 Responses to One Bike Path Two Ways On The Mount Vernon Trail

  1. Carla says:

    “cycling is still about fear”
    thats me.
    with running.
    it’s so interesting to me how we all fear different things (from fitness to life) and yet since we FEAR we are able to connect on that feeling even if someone else (you) embraces what we face with trepidation.
    Carla recently posted…4 reasons I’m jealous of my dog’s Cone of Shame.My Profile

  2. Riding clipped in still scares me! I totally get it. But I’m glad you continue to face your fear and are conquering it bit by bit!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…27 weeks pregnant updateMy Profile

  3. I used to be afraid of the hills on the bike too. I’ve kind of gotten used to them but when it’s really crowded with kids they make me really nervous. I run faster with my MRTT group too.
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Cinquo Vegetable tacos & Homemade salsa #Cinquo de MayoMy Profile

  4. Kim says:

    So are you going to try some duathlons?
    Swimming would be my sport that scares me – I don’t really like to put my face in the water.
    Kim recently posted…Sometimes Rocks CrackMy Profile

  5. I have never ridden clipped in because that does scare me.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…Weight Watchers UpdateMy Profile

  6. That’s a really interesting experience to be able to compare running and cycling along the same route and be attuned to how you approach both of them. I’m still afraid of riding clipped in especially in NYC!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Ask a Yogini: What does Vinyasa Mean?My Profile

  7. Valerie D Meyer says:

    Your story illustrates why I rarely ride on trails – the pedestrian traffic, the dog traffic, the runners with ear buds. I ride on roads most of the time, and on trails some of the time. Hills are easier with clipless pedals, and they are really pretty easy to get unclipped from. You will likely feel more comfortable with them the more you ride. Interesting comparison.

  8. jill conyers says:

    I can’t think of anything I do that scares me. Hmmm. Something to think about. My favorite route is pretty much any trail.
    jill conyers recently posted…Realizing the Beauty of ImperfectionMy Profile

  9. Pingback: How Can You Be Afraid Of Running? - Got2Run4Me

  10. I used to fear the slopes on the bicycle as well. I’ve sort of gotten used to them yet when it’s truly swarmed with children they make me truly anxious. I run speedier with my MRTT aggregate as well.

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