New River State Park Bike Trail Marathon

New River State Park bile trail

On the (mostly) hot and sunny Saturday of July 24, 2021, Ranger Bob (me, Bob Laney), Gerianne Hannibal and Rose Pawlyszyn biked the New River State Park, VA, trail.  We went downhill from Dannelly Park to Fries Junction, and then back uphill to Fries, VA.  We encountered one intense rain fall, but it only lasted about 30 minutes and did not harm anything.

Rose was our leader.  She had been there a half dozen times. Gerianne and I had been on other NRSP sections, but this trip was our first to this section.  We covered 26 miles on a smooth, gently rolling trail which was a converted railroad bed.  The uphills and downhills were well graded and mild.

Ranger Bob lost at least two outdoor sports merit badges, maybe three, on this trip because of my poor performance. I have been on many long, tough trips; like backpacking 60 miles through the Wind River Range, WY, in deep snow drifts and many places with no trail; or canoeing 70 miles on the Shenandoah River; or backpacking the Highline Trail in Grand Teton National Park.  But this trip was the most exhausting and painful I have ever experienced. 

The trouble was not the trail or terrain. Rose and Gerianne handled the entire trip easily.  I was operating under several disabilities.  First, I am about 40 pounds too fat, which is a lot of weight to push even 5 miles. Next, I was carrying a 20 pound pack full of gear, like a bicycle tool kit, a first aid kit, a repair and survival kit, rain suit, head lamp and a half gallon of water.  But I did not bring excess water; I ran out about two miles from the end and should have brought a little more. Finally, such a trip would be easy for a biker with a modicum of training.  But I had no training.  I had not been on my bike for two years, except for one day the week before I pedaled 5 miles - not nearly enough training.

By comparison the ladies were slim and trim; carried about two pints of water and no equipment; and had plenty of recent training.

I have seen videos of people running marathons who cannot make it and give out before the end. The runners’ muscles cramp up all over their body, their knees buckle, their arms and legs go spastic, they fall down and sometimes they get nausea or diarrhea.  Their body has shut down.   To a lesser degree, I suffered many of those symptoms.  Four miles from the end my body tried to shut down.  I had to stop every few hundred yards to rest.  Two miles from the end I had to stop pedaling and just walk.

Rose kindly hung back with me to assure I did not get left behind and further in trouble or lost.  When I had to walk she walked with me. When I ran out of water she gave me a pint canteen.  Then she carried my pack for a while.  A half mile from the end Gerianne came back to find us, took my bike and let me just walk.  Then at about a quarter mile Gerianne came running back, took my pack from Rose, put it on and ran back up the trail.  She reminded me of videos of Marine boot camp.

I was more exhausted than I have been in my entire life. I was in major pain in my thighs, hips, butt cheeks, triceps and wrists. Gerianne kindly put my bike in the back of her truck because my triceps were too weak to lift it onto my Jeep roof rack. Then she drove out of her way to bring my bike directly to my house.  Rose and Gerianne are my heroines.

Other than my travails, it was a fine trip!  The scenery of mountain shrubbery, wild flowers, creeks and the immensely wide New River were beautiful.  Rose and Gerianne pedaled coolly and quietly the whole time. We had a lunch at the NRSP family park at Fries, where Rose bought a hot dog loaded with all the fixings. There was a car show and music festival getting organized as we ate.

A good time was had (mostly) by all! Two good things are I have been suffering from plantar fasciitis in my left foot for several months.  It was gone!  And, I lost four pounds!  Only 36 pounds to go.


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Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.