Thursday, May 24, 2007

May snow and thorn ride

Date: May 24
Mileage: 12.3
May Mileage: 115
Temperature upon departure: 54

I did not have a destination or a mileage goal in mind today. Just wanted to do a ride - any ride, anywhere. These days, the details don't mean as much to me as the simple act of pedaling.

But because I'm still unsure about whether this act should continue, I decided to make the day's ride a good one and travel out the road to the Herbert Glacier trail. I spent a decent part of the morning prying my super-tight studded tires from the rims of my mountain bike. It was a Herculean effort that I had to recruit Geoff for; even he struggled with that carbide-tooth monster for a while; I was two steps away from grabbing a burly pair of scissors when he finally freed it. Then I cut my thumb while putting the summer tires back on. And for all that effort, and all that driving, I was less than a mile into the ride when the trail started to look like this:

This is not an elevation ride. It's a couple hundred feet above sea level, tops. But here the snow lingers, an unseasonal blanket of soft sugar and hollow drifts. I made an effort to ride it ... a futile effort at best. I'd frantically pedal a few yards, eventually dig myself into a deep hole, hop off and hike-a-bike for a while, repeat. I like to think of it as an interval workout. It took me another mile to realize that my heart rate wasn't high enough to justify all the pointless postholing.

After I returned to the trailhead, I pedalled a half mile up the road to the Eagle Glacier trail. For some unknown reason, the trail - located at the same elevation - was almost completely snow-free. But what it lacked in slush, it made up for in sheer technical hardship.

It was a lot of fun at first - bouncing over root after rock after root, skirting the narrow corridor along the river and willing myself not to fall in. I never made it more than 1,000 yards without having to stop and hoist the bike over deadfall trees. It wasn't the most difficult trail I've ridden. But when I started making mistakes, I really made mistakes. The root piles seemed ever higher and slipperier. I wished for the studded tires, but what I really needed was sheer leg stregnth to power over all the slimy obstacles. I'd clear my front tire only to lose traction in the back, skipping sideways and overcorrecting until I nearly fell over. Then, eventually, I did fall over - right into a huge patch of spiny devil's club shoots. The rush of stinging pain was everything I needed to remind me that I was here and this was now. There was nothing beyond the immediacy of dozens of tiny, mildly poisonous thorns piercing my skin.

By the time the claws of death subsided to a dull throbbing, I was back on the road (with a few dozen thorns still lodged in my skin; it took me a decent part of the afternoon to pick them out, and I still haven't gotten all of them.) I continued pedaling up the pavement because I had come all that way and wanted to justify the ride somehow. It was shortly thereafter that I realized my knee was sore - really sore. I think in all of the snow swerving, root hopping and thorn preoccupation, I hadn't noticed it before.

It makes me think that technical mountain biking isn't really the best form of recovery riding - and could be worse than just putting in long miles. Who knows? The day's ride was a bit of a failure all around, but at the same time, I still prefer the adventure to the void.