Day 6 of the Holiday Challenge: Veering off the beaten path

tundrabiking02It’s Day 6 of challenging my beliefs, my comfort zone, and the prevailing winds of my thoughts.  I’ve been a ‘regular’ at the BWI Trail in Hanover, MD for more years that I care to admit.  It’s just a great trail.  Not too crowded, and mostly filled with happy endorphin-crazed people.  It’s paved – making it perfect for running, skating, bicycling, walking, and riding an elliptigo…  Week after week, bouncing from one sport to the next –  rinse wash repeat on the BWI trail.  10.5 miles of trail encircles the Baltimore Washington International Airport.  And, if that’s not enough when you’ve got some miles to crunch – then continue on the connector trial that will take you to the B&A (Baltimore & Annapolis) trail – part 2.  2 miles of connector plus 13 miles on the B&A gives you a round trip of just over 40 miles of exercise bliss.  All without interference from vehicular traffic – except for a few pesky intersections.

And for all of these years of trail-blazing and getting on an exercise vibe, I realized that I, along with my trail enthusiasts com-padres – never depart from the paved path.  I have become a trail zombie….never venturing off the pavement.  And until today – never even considering that to be an option.

At 30 degrees, it is too cold (at least for me) to ride the bike on the paved trail.  Wind chills from the bike would put the real feel in the lower 20’s.   That’s below my lower limit.

Joined by my workout partner Fluffy – we decided to venture off the beaten path at the highest point of the BWI trail with our bicycles.   We are mostly driven by a desire to stay warm – but also driven by curiosity.   What would happen if we went off roading with our big wheel mountain bikes – crossing the tundra fields that connected the BWI trail summit – to the trail base?

We started this adventure at the summit, and headed downhill on our bikes crossing the tundra.  The tundra is an uneven, partially frozen hill that presents challenges of unexpected sinkholes and patches of extra thick, tall grass that slows your momentum to a crawl.  By the time we reached the base, we were both toasty warm.   So far, this method beats wind chills in the 20’s!

“Do you think we can make it back up to the top of the hill over the tundra?” I asked Fluffy.   Fluffy is not one to shy from a challenge – and before I knew it she dipping, diving and climbing.

Let’s just say – it’s challenging enough to ride down the tundra from the summit, but the ride in reverse to the top is a lung-blaster.  It takes your breath away.  All of it.  15 feet from the top you begin to wonder if you’ve used up all of your reserve Oxygen.  If you’re lucky, you see stars and keep on going.  And when you reach the peak – which puts you back on the paved trail — you do a double take on the trail to make sure no one is in audio-proximity to your gasping sounds.

“OMG – Do you think we can do it again?”  I huffed out broken words to Fluffy.   There was no response, so I assumed this meant yes.   And off we went – downhill….to repeat this drill until the gas in our legs and lungs runs out.

Over and over….we descended off the BWI trail down the tundra…reaching the trail base…and then return by ascending back up the tundra.  Each time, likely getting slower and slower.  Each time, gasping for air.   Never once questioning our sanity.

And, as we reached the summit – for the 8th and final pass – we were greeted by another bicyclist standing on the trail.  She was waiting for us.  She had been watching our movement.   We did our best to tone down the gasping sounds as we approached her.

“Are you following a path” she inquired.

No.  But you can make your own.  We just figured this out.

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