One mile at a time: Riding the Pinellas Trail

Our amateur athlete celebrates the anniversary of her first triathlon with a long solo bike ride.

click to enlarge Safety first: Make sure you know the rules of the road before riding the Pinellas Trail. - Philipp Michel Reichold via Wikimedia Commons
Philipp Michel Reichold via Wikimedia Commons
Safety first: Make sure you know the rules of the road before riding the Pinellas Trail.
It’s hard to believe it has been one full year since my very first triathlon. This year has been full of firsts: First one mile open water swim, first road bike purchase, first time placing in my category at a race. I decide to celebrate my tri-versary with another first: A long solo bike ride on the Pinellas Trail.

Riding my bicycle alone is a daunting idea, especially considering my bike’s history of frequent flat tires. I get freaked out just thinking about it — but if triathlon training has taught me anything, I know I can push through my fear and come out ahead. One of my worst traits is I am scared of pretty much everything; one of my better ones is I no longer allow my fear to stop me. 

And so I ride.

The Pinellas Trail stretches nearly 40 miles from north Tarpon Springs to south St. Pete. I don’t have a specific distance in mind, but figure I’ll at least try to get several miles in. I slather on SPF 55 and pack a couple of water bottles, along with an energy gel just in case my ride goes longer than planned. Florida law prevents the use of headphones while riding a bike, but I scored one of the best finds of my life on a recent trip to Target: A fanny pack with speakers. Fanny packs are kind of like Crocs in that they’re hideous and absurd but too convenient to not try out; I knew immediately upon seeing it that it had to be mine.

click to enlarge When preparing for a long ride, make sure you pack the essentials: Water, energy gel, fanny pack, spokey dokes. - Resie Waechter
Resie Waechter
When preparing for a long ride, make sure you pack the essentials: Water, energy gel, fanny pack, spokey dokes.

I turn on some tunes, hop on my bike and prepare to take on the trail. It takes me a couple of miles to find my rhythm, but once I’m there I’m good. I crank up the music and pick up my pace. Despite the heat of the blazing sun (there’s little shade on the trail), I am motivated to continue my ride even after I get several miles in. I ride through parts of Pinellas I’ve seen a million times — Tyrone Mall, restaurants and running stores — and parts I didn’t even know existed: There are beautiful bayous and campsites right next to the trail. I see other riders and runners every few miles or so, but for the most part have the trail to myself. 

At mile 10 a certain calm washes over me. There’s something special about cycling; I move fast enough to carry myself to a different city, yet slow enough to absorb my surroundings and appreciate the beauty of Florida. I am grateful for the birds, the water, the peace. 

I feel like I could go on forever as I ride the high of endorphins, sweat and salty air, but I know I need to turn around soon. The sun is getting stronger as afternoon approaches, and I want to end my ride while still feeling strong. I pause for a swig of water and down my energy gel before I turn back and head towards home. I come across a broken bike pedal in the middle of the trail and pick it up, thankful to have not experienced any malfunctions of my own. 

The next hour passes quickly, a good thing considering my hunger and growing fatigue. When I pull onto my street and coast towards home, I am absolutely filthy and covered in dirt, sweat and smeared sunscreen. My fanny pack stereo has held up impressively and so has my attitude. I cruise to a stop and check my watch: 25 miles. Another first.

Riding the Pinellas Trail is a really cool experience and I vow to return for another ride soon. I know with time and training, I will continue to grow more comfortable on my bike. I know one day I won’t be so nervous about riding alone. And I know in the meantime, I will embrace pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. After all, that’s where the magic happens.

About The Author

Resie Waechter

%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="5bccb9c0b38df12e008b45d6" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%Resie Waechter is a recent USFSP graduate who majored in English literature and cultural studies with a minor in history. She is a fumbling fitness junkie with a special...
Scroll to read more Sports & Recreation articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.