Brynn, Benjamin and I are now in Lake Placid and less than 24 hours from the start of the ironman! It was a long trip up but worth it just to see the town, which is one of the nicest towns I’ve seen in America. The mountain air is very refreshing and it’s just picture perfect.
To say I’m a little nervous wouldn’t be inaccurate, but I’m confident the training I have under my belt will put me in good stead to reach the finish line. My cycling has traditionally been my triathlon weakness and with the cycle leg at Lake Placid being notoriously hard I knew I had to do something to get some extra power and endurance in my legs. I found that little something on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.
The Skyline Drive was built during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal, which was an initiative to help America’s unemployment problems with big infrastructure projects. It travels for 100 miles through some of Virginia’s steepest mountains, providing some of the most spectacular views you’re ever likely to see on the east coast of America – and exhausting many an avid cyclists legs.
On the first of my three rides along the Skyline I was hooked within about five minutes. The road has 71 roadside lookouts and traffic is never heavy. Furthermore, the people driving through the park are there to enjoy it and are generally unaggressive towards bikes – a rarity in this part of the world. My only complaint was I didn’t see any of the black bears that the park is famous for on my ride.
On the second ride, however, I more than made up for it with three bear sightings. The first one I head a russle in the trees by the road and turned my head to see the top of a bears head, which wasn’t much but enough to get me excited. The second two made it seem pretty lame though as I got to see a mother and its cub walking off down a fire trial beside the road. When I first saw the mother I thought it must have been a baby, but then when I saw the baby I realized just how small black bears actually are. I have to admit I was a little scared of seeing one up until that point, but the truth is they are almost completely harmless.
Don’t get me wrong – black bears are wild animals and are both fast and strong. However, they are also very timid and the ones in Shenandoah are very used to seeing people. Provided you don’t do anything silly like chase them around or steal their babies chances are they will ignore you (there hasn’t been a bear attack in Shenandoah in 30 years).
That final ride ended as a 100 mile 7 hour epic that involved over 3000 metres of climbing (that’s higher than Australia’s tallest mountain and about a third the height of Everest). If I can get through that I know I can beat the mountains in the Adirondacks by Lake Placid.
On my third ride I was also lucky to see another three bears. One of them was a younger one that crossed the road about 30 metres in front of me and paused briefly to check me out. It was a really magical experience and more than made up for any fatigue I felt at the end of the day.
With the big day almost here I’d encourage you all to dig deep for the HER Foundation, who are really benefitting from the generous donations that have been made so far. If you’d like to make things interesting why not pledge a donation based on my performance in Lake Placid? You might consider donating a certain amount for every mile I complete or for every minute under 17 hours (the cut off time) in which I complete the course. Whether it’s a lot or a little, every donation makes a big difference and is truly appreciated.