It was three years in the making, but I finally did it.
I biked The Loop.
I first wrote about my plans to bike the Wissahickon loop on December 30, 2009.
That day, Brent and I traversed the 17-mile trail circuit on foot for the first time.
He had been riding it with the GOALS crew for more than a year with some degree of regularity, but I had been too intimidated.
The trails are hilly. And rocky. And twisty-turny.
I’ve biked individual segments of the park dozens of times, but the prospect of putting them all together?
It just seemed like too much.
Much safer to make the rounds on foot, where the risk of the technical terrain coming up to bite you in the butt can be minimized, if not completely avoided.
I never even attempted it.
But this past January, GOALS captain Bruce threw down the gauntlet.
In his first team planning email of 2011, he wrote a list of questions and predictions for the upcoming season.
“Will Abby clear the Wissy Bike Loop?”
Oh no, he didn’t.
Oh yes, he did.
And with that, I knew what I had to do.
Of course, then came months of snow and ice, followed by weeks of feeling crummy.
Finally, this morning, with six days before the first race of the season, it was time.
I met Bruce in the middle of the park at 9:00 AM. There was supposed to be a group of us, but Brent’s been sick and Bill had family obligations, so in the end, it was just me and El Capitan.
And you know what?
It really wasn’t so bad.
Sure, there was the rough fall I took two miles in when my tire snagged going uphill and my right foot wouldn’t come out of the pedal. I slid backward, my knee cranking on a rock, and my bike landing on top of me. I got up and jumped back on, but afterward felt a bit more timid on the technical terrain than I’ve felt in recent months.
And, unlike my last two long runs (last weekend’s trip around the loop on foot and yesterday’s two hours out on the trail with Laurie) where my spirits remained high throughout, I definitely had a couple down moments today. While physically I generally felt strong, the endless stretches of rock gardens and ledges were mentally exhausting. There were points where I hauled my bike over an obstacle and, knowing that I’d be getting off again 50 feet down the trail anyway, I elected to push rather than trying to jump back on and pedal through.
When we reached one of the access roads on the east side of the park that led back up to my neighborhood, I even contemplated bailing on the final third of the circuit for a few seconds.
But I was so close. And this needed to end. So I pulled off my fleece, downed some gummy something-or-others, and clipped back in.
Two and a half hours after we began, with less than a quarter mile to go, we reached an impasse. Construction arrows directed us down a trail to the parking lot, away from the official end of the loop. We had no choice but to follow.
“Well,” joked Bruce as we clamored down the rocky descent, “looks like you won’t get to do the loop today after all.”
“This trail is far more technical than that final stretch,” I told him. ”I think it should count.”
“But you didn’t officially finish it,” he countered.
“Okay, then,” I said. ”Let’s go back up Wise’s Mill [the long paved hill where we began]. That should make up for it.”
I thought he’d tell me it wasn’t necessary, that I’d done enough to call it The Loop, but no such luck.
We spun back up the access road, and when we reached the top, we decided to turn back onto the trails to try to find a backdoor entrance to the rest of the circuit. We rode for another 10 minutes, along a fun stretch of smooth, rolling single-track, until we found ourselves back at the construction entrance.
We turned left, headed back down the trail, and coasted into the parking lot.
“Nice job,” Bruce said in classic Bruce nonchalant enthusiasm, and held up his hand for a high five.
We chatted for a few minutes about the upcoming race, and then parted ways as Bruce went off in search of the water bottle cap he’d lost on the trails, and I biked back up out of the park.
I smiled to myself the whole two-mile ride home.
Ten minutes later, I walked in the front door, racked my bike, and headed into the kitchen to find Brent grading papers.
“How did it go?” he asked
“We biked the loop,” I shrugged, grabbing a challah roll and filling a bag with ice for my knee. ”No big deal.”