I was 40 miles north of Milwaukee, Wis., on the first of what would become an annual bike ride from my home in suburban Chicago to Fish Creek, Wis. I was seventeen years old and my panniers were heavy with what I realized were excess comforts as a Lake Michigan-born storm sprayed my face with the dirty road and the garbage bag I stole from a rest stop bathroom served as poor rain gear. I wasn’t thinking about planning another bicycle tour any time soon, to say the least. But then the storm moved over the broad lake to my right and I hugged miles of sunflowers on my left with a rainbow shooting between. I slept in the grass over a bluff as my clothes dried, wondering where bicycle touring could take me next.
This year, the 280-mile ride became a training session. My Cervelo P2 was my horse and I carried just enough gear to fit in my jersey pockets. The back-to-back 140-mile days on smooth, flat roads gave me an unmatched base training for my summer racing schedule. I credit this ride to giving me some of the fastest bike splits in only my first year with the sport.
I had been planning a bicycle tour to Boston when my good friend and fellow University of Iowa triathlete Alex Libin mentioned that USA Triathlon’s Age Group Nationals would be in Burlington, Vt., right around the time I would be hitting the East Coast. What was a 100-mile detour through the Appalachian Mountains to race on one of the biggest stages in the country? The wheels were in motion.
On August 1, I take the 6:30 a.m. ferry from Milwaukee across the great lake to Muskegon, Mich., before rolling east on a 900-mile trek taking me through Ontario, Niagara Falls, Lake Placid and the many small towns that always prove to be the most fulfilling part of the trip. It will be a fully self-supported tour and I will be riding alone (much to my poor mother’s dismay), but by taking advantage of websites such as couchsurfing.com and warmshowers.org, I can ensure at least a few nights with a solid roof and friendly conversation.
While cycling will prove as the primary means of training for the planned two week trip, my lightweight Vibram running shoes and triathlon suit for swimming will keep my mind on the multisport aspect; especially for the few days I have reserved for camping in New York’s Adirondack Mountain range. I am not unlike many other triathletes I have talked to, who are always looking for new roads to ride or trails to run. This trip will provide an unparalleled sense of new places to train, but perhaps more importantly, stories to tell.
When talking about my trip, the common question that arises is how do I expect to perform well in a race that I commute 900 miles to on a bicycle? Truthfully, I do not believe this race will be my best athletic performance. I have planned several easy days including a few rest days once I arrive to Burlington. But even at 20 years old, I don’t expect recovery to come so quickly after the most grandiose of my athletic achievements. I am simply looking to inspire thought about a different means of training. I want to toe the line with some of the top athletes in the country having lived an experience I will call on for many years to come. I love the sport of triathlon, but as with anything else in my life, I need to keep it fresh and exciting. Naturally, I will do so with a characteristic immoderation.
In these preceding weeks, my time is spent gathering my gear and continuing to reach out to people along my route to plan for a place to crash, while trying to convince my mom that I don’t need every single GPS iphone app that is available. I guess you could call it preparing, but in reality, there is no way to truly prepare for such a trip.
You may not see my face on the podium so you may not hear my story in a post-race interview, but follow me here or on Twitter (@YacksonParr) to see how I manage this crazy commute!