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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
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.
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?