Sidelined as I have been from long distance running, I have not been able to reap the mental and physical benefits of hours of exercise. Often when I'm out I wish I could go further, but my IT band and loss of conditioning dictate otherwise. Every meandering bike ride around the city leaves me with a thirst for more, and one day out on the Eliza Furnace trail with Barbara we hatched a plan to get out and do a long ride. So plans were made. I decided that we should head out to the Youghiogheny river trail, close to Pittsburgh, picturesque and flat, it stretches for many miles, perfect for a long meandering ride.
We headed out on Saturday, the first day of the long weekend -- which would give us plenty of time to recover by Tuesday if 50 miles left us in less than stellar shape. We started out at the Boston Waterfront loaded down with plenty of water, snacks, and a modge podge of bike repair accouterments.
The day could not have been more beautiful, sunny with a smattering of clouds across the sky. We unloaded our bikes from the car and got moving. Here's a shot of our starting point:
Cycling along we passed several baseball fields alive with Saturday little league games. The trail goes through bits of neighborhoods as well as more natural settings. Our first stop was at a small cemetery / campground -- the farthest point I'd biked too the last time I visited the trail. We walked around the headstones pondering what life must have been like in the little mill towns along the trail. Continuing onward, we entered a forested area lush with spring growth and little purple wildflowers. Several small waterfalls cascaded down the hillsides.
We continued to ride buoyed by the flat trail and beautiful surroundings. At West Newton we decided to stop to fuel up, relaxing on a bench overlooking the river. After our repast, we headed back to the trail with a little over ten miles to go until we turned back around.
We continued on feeling our oats, at 25 miles it seemed like we could go on forever. But instead we turned around and headed back, a decision we were thankful for at mile 40. The last ten miles seemed more difficult than the first thirty, my knee began to ache and it felt as though the bike seat had suddenly lost all padding. Thanks to some ibuprofen and a snack stop on some bleachers we were able to make it back to the car, tired but triumphant.
Giddy from the ride, I got a bit turned around but still managed to make it back to Pittsburgh in a reasonable amount of time. The ride helped to clear my head, at least for the 6 hours on the trail. Peddling away from the burdens of sadness and processing and just day to day carrying on. Riding helps me appreciate the beauty that is around me as well as my potential. Each day it gets a little bit easier and I grow a little bit stronger.