Although the daylight hours are dwindling and chilly weather is settling in for the season, one particular trail near my home beckons me to ride it. The short spur of the Nor-Bath Rail Trail through Wayne A. Grube Memorial Park is only a mile long but offers five steep hills to climb. This trail has virtually no flat segments save for the short tunnel atop one hill and the bridge over the creek at the base of another.
When I want an intense workout in a short amount of time, this is my go-to spot. Because this trail is almost entirely un-shaded and because I work up an incredible sweat climbing the hills, I typically only ride here when its cold outside. It’s just too intense to tackle when the summer sun is blazing down on me.
Today was the first sunny day during my week off from work. With temperatures stuck in the high-40’s, I decided it was the right day to challenge myself to climb all five hills. You might recall that I rode the easier hills as part of a longer sunset ride a few weeks ago, but that I did not feel ready to tackle the long hill on the southern part of the trail. That unmet challenge also fueled my desire to return here today.
There’s a flatter spur to a neighborhood street that I used to warm up. The zig-zag hill up to the tunnel wasn’t too difficult and I made it up without stopping. I turned around and returned to the north end which the steepest hill in the park. I had to stop once on this moderately-long hill to catch my breath, but it let me take in the stunning autumn scenery in the park and looking down into the Lehigh Valley all the way to South Mountain. After reaching the summit of the north hill, where the spur connects to the main Nor-Bath Trail, I took another short break before turning around.
I made it through the north half of the park, back up the zig-zag hill and through the tunnel before taking a break at the top of the long hill through the southern half. I was not feeling my strongest on today’s ride, so I had to consider carefully if I was ready to commit to this. I decided the worst-case scenario was that I could walk back up if needed, so I pushed off on the downhill run. Hill climbing is challenging, yet the rewards of racing down with the wind in your face always makes it worthwhile. I’ve typically topped out at 20 mph on these downhill runs, but the Me-Mover has always felt stable and inspired confidence on them.
At the bottom of the long hill, I took the short fork to the right out to Willowbrook Road and over the smallest hill in the park to ensure the completist in me would be satisfied. It looks like there’s a good rideable sidewalk across Willowbrook along West Bullshead Road that might warrant exploring one day. But for today, I turned around and crossed the bridge over the creek and began the climb up the trail along the parking lot to the playground. This climb at the southern end of the park rivals the one at the north end for steepness.
I took another good break to enjoy the view of the lovely autumn colors and to catch my breath before circling the parking lot and gliding back down across the creek. It was time to begin climbing the long hill on my Me-Mover for the first time. The lower half of this climb isn’t too bad, and I made it slight more than halfway up the hill before taking my first break. The hill steepens as it approaches the tunnel, and the real challenge begins. I made it only a short way up the rest before needing another break. My heart was pounding and my breathing labored, so it took a while before I was ready to finish. Finally, I did the remaining climb and took another well-earned break inside the tunnel atop the hill.
I knew at this point I had nothing left in me. My legs were weak and felt like jelly and I was sweating profusely. Luckily it was all downhill back to the parking lot needing only occasional lifts of the pedals to keep moving. I managed to do a short loop of the “flatter” part just to wind down before finishing the ride. At 3.55 miles, this was not my longest ride, but it was certainly the hardest.
Although this all sounds difficult, maybe even torturous, it is a testament to what can be achieved when time is short and the weather less than ideal for some of the nearby flat trails that are shaded and likely still wet from yesterday’s rain. I would wager that riding 3.55 miles on this hilly trail has given me at least the same fitness improvement as riding twice that far on a flat trail.
There will be no daylight left for rides on workdays until at least March of next year. I will have only my weekends for riding, but expect to see me riding here more often as I look to squeeze the most benefit out of every mile.