NWA Traverse: When you actually have to do the crazy stuff you make up…

With a date and time chosen for the Traverse attempt, there were only a few things to get taken care of. I borrowed the road bike that I rode from my boss. It had clip in pedals on it and being a complete novice I was not at all comfortable with that at all. So I went to Phat Tire bike shop by the Railyard in Rogers to have them switched out for a more standard pedal. Pete had a mountain bike but he decided to rent a bike better suited for the adventure at GPP in Bella Vista, AR. Other than that I just stuck with my normal commute running and stayed around 40-50 miles a week. It probably wasn’t the best idea but I actually never rode the bike before the actual day of our attempt. I knew that it wasn’t going to be comfortable on my “man stuff”, I some how convinced myself that it would be best to save all of it for the 24th. To help out I bought a padded seat cover and some biking shorts that had some padding as well.

The afternoon before the attempt, we met up with Pete to drop some water at a few remote spots on the Back 40 and go over the exact route we wanted to take. Like I mentioned in the previous post, we decided to run the “Back 40 Loop” trail in its entirety instead of the route taken during the Back 40 Trail Race. Looking back on it, Pete’s route suggestion ended up being a huge detail! Not only did it fit in withe the whole spirit of the traverse, by circumnavigating the Back 40 trail system, it was also the difference that put us over the 100 mile mark. Plus, we were able to hit some remote sections of the trail that I had never been on before. The Traverse may have been my idea initially but it was a team effort throughout the entire process.

During the week building up to our attempt, it looked like we would be battling the heat. As it turned out, we met up at a Wal-Mart parking lot in a thunderstorm. We made our way south to Wilson park in Fayetteville, hopped on the bikes and got the party started. It was 6:15 am start time.

The outbound bike leg actually went about as well as I could have hoped for. I didn’t have a real concrete time goal in mind, just to survive honestly. With the rain and the fact that I was trying to get comfortable on the bike, we stayed at a relatively comfortable pace. I hadn’t been on a bike in a very long time and had never went 5 miles, let alone 38+ miles. I don’t care if you have a padded seat or shorts, sitting on a little ass bike seat for hours is probably the most uncomfortable thing that I’ve ever done. By the time we came to Lake Fayetteville, 10 miles in, I was ready to never ride another bike as long as I live. Endurance wise things felt awesome and we pushed through NWA to the Blowing Springs trailhead. The rain stayed with us for a majority of the first leg, but cleared off as we were making our way into Bella Vista. For me, just making it there was a huge moral victory! At that point I knew that we’d make back to the start.

As we rode into the Blowing Springs parking lot, we saw Pete’s family pulling up. We put the bikes into the van, I swapped shoes and shorts, and we were off. Pete has 4 kids and it was pretty awesome to see how stoked they were for us. We decided to travel the “Back 40 Loop” in a counter clockwise direction, so the beginning miles were just like the last edition of the Back 40 race. It was a strange feeling to go from the bike to the run, but we settled into a pace and started to tackle the miles. I could tell that we were running more at my pace than Pete’s, so I was super appreciative of that. After going through some of the more remote sections of the trail system, near the Missouri border, we actually stopped at Pete’s house for what was probably the funnest aid station I’ve ever been to! It was just past the halfway point of the leg and came at the perfect time for sure. Miranda, Pete’s awesome wife, had PB&J’s all quartered up and watermelon ready to go. We filled up water bottles and took off towards Blowing Springs. The kids’ excitement was so infectious! I just remember heading through their backyard, down to the trail, feeling refreshed and smiling. We hammered out the rest of the miles on the Back 40 in a sort of “all business” fashion. Not much talking, just kept our heads down and got the work done. There were definitely some low, dark patches for both of us near the end, but we just kept pushing right on through. It was a welcome site when we popped out of the trail at the RV park and hit the asphalt to the trailhead.

The inbound bike leg is honestly a bit of a blur for me. I just remember thinking about how much my ass hurt!! After the run I really didn’t want to get back on the bike and it took my body 5-10 miles to figure out what was going on. The sun was out and the Greenway was dry on the way back. Between that and feeling more comfortable on the bike, we made better time on the Southbound leg. The highlight was most definitely our stop at the Workman’s Travel Center in Lowell. It was getting hot and as we rode by they had a sign that said “Free Water for Cyclists”. I filled up our bottles with ice/water and bought us each a BBQ sandwich that was calling to me from the deli. It was nice to take 5 minutes to sit on the curb and enjoy some real food. I’m not sure if it was the sandwich itself or how hungry I was, but there was some power in that sandwich. We hoped back on the bikes and they pushed us to mile marker 0 at Wilson Park.  I will have to admit, by the end of it all I was actually enjoying the biking.

All said and done, the Traverse covered 100.8 miles in 12:30:31. It broke down to 77.3 on the bike and 23.5 on our feet. It was unlike anything I have ever done before and I had a blast!! It was so awesome to get to know Pete along our travels, he’s such a cool guy. The MVP of the whole thing has to go to Miranda and the kids, without them this never would’ve happened. Thank you to Jon and Lyndsay at Ruhn Co., the shorts are the best in the game and performed perfectly for the adventure. Last but certainly not least nothing but love to my family, for listening to my crazy ideas and putting up with me trying them.

We hope the Traverse will become something that local endurance athletes will use to test themselves and it looks promising. Somebody just had to do it first…-JH

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