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The Adirondacks and Arriving in Burlington

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Jackson Parr is riding his bike from Milwaukee, Wis., to the 2012 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, set for Aug. 18-19 in Burlington, Vt.  

The Adirondack Mountain Range

jacksonDay 10: 73 miles
Day 11: 58 miles
Day 12: 42 miles

After leaving from my three-day rest with fresh legs, a lighter load and a full stomach, I was confident that I would make good time as I headed into the Adirondacks. Not only would they be the greatest elevation of my trip, but also of my entire riding career. Despite the warnings, I sacrificed flatter roads to the north for the scenic views and more direct route to my final destination in Burlington.

The threat of rain was consistent throughout my days in the mountains. While the rain gear would protect me from the elements, it also proved uncomfortable and sweaty in the damp mountain air. For the most part, I made the decision to trade the rain shower for comfort of riding in just my kit. Yet despite to ever-present rain clouds, I stayed dry through the three days.

My first night was at a campsite in Cranberry Lake where I was able to mark down a swim set as the sun went down behind the rolling mountain tops. I also would not let myself pass through the Adirondacks without hiking up at least one summit. So I strapped on my running shoes and climbed the peak of Bear Mountain, rendering the usual strange looks from hikers in appropriate gear. Although the view was less than satisfying, I was content with my multi-sport day and tried to rest easy on the gravel campground after leaving my sleeping pad behind in the purging of my gear.

jacksonThe second day brought me into the heart of the mountains, skirting right along the High Peaks of the range, known as the dozens of ridges that mark higher than 4000 feet. While the wide-shouldered and well paved roads did their best to weave between the arching rock faces, I found myself with climbs that I didn’t know could exist. Sitting at a coffee shop on the main drag of Lake Placid, I dismissed the man warning me of a thirty minute climb ahead on my route with disbelief. In my Midwestern mind, a thirty minute climb could only put me past the highest summits in the state. Yet I was brutally mistaken as I crawled up the ridge for well over thirty minutes to the hill that my homestay would sit upon. After recalling hours of collegiate cycling memories with my host, I curled into my sleeping bag on an air mattress for what would be the last time of my trip. Burlington sat in the crosshairs for the following day.

Waking up early and hoping to make the ferry across Lake Champlain at noon, I enjoyed the six-mile descent to start the day, which I had earned from the climb the day before. While the mountains cut most of the wind on my route, I had the slightest of tailwinds pushing me northeast and arrived at the ferry in time for the 10:50 crossing while still having time to enjoy coffee and peaches at each of the roadside stands I passed in the morning miles.

jacksonOnce again, I found myself on a ferry, bike tied up below and a bit cold on the open water as Burlington came into sharper view across the lake. It was just as anti-climactic as the beginning of my journey. When I stepped on the Vermont ground, there was no one standing there to congratulate me on my touring accomplishment. I was in Burlington but nothing was different. I most definitely did not feel like it was over.

Stepping off the ferry in downtown Burlington, I looked north to the park that would be my transition area in just a few days. Seeing the tents raised and the USA Triathlon truck parked with sweaty staff members and volunteers fencing off the area, I realized that my finish line was not arriving in Burlington. My finish line would be running down that chute in a matter of days, legs in pain and stomach churning but with too much adrenaline to notice. I rolled down to the site and a man asked if I was lost. I replied, “No, Burlington is where I’ve been riding to for two weeks”. He gave me the familiar furrowed eyebrows of disbelief and I smiled before heading downtown to the local diner for some pancakes, just as I had done in Flint, Michigan or Rochester, New York.

I had arrived; now it was time to realize why I came in the first place.

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