Sunday, June 03, 2007

I could get used to this

Date: June 1
Mileage: 21.4
June mileage: 21.4
Temperature upon departure: 63

You know, there is definite appeal to the lifestyle of a recreational rider ... heading out once in a while - when the weather's nice - bent on taking it easy, soaking up some sun and splattering a little mud on the cycling clothes that hardly see the outside of the drawer.

Deep down, part of me still wants to play the part of the hammerhead: pounding up mud-slicked slopes in the driving rain in an effort to convince myself - and my reluctant muscles - that somewhere inside this soft body is a person that still has a little grit in her teeth.

But there's another part of me that's glad to just enjoy mountain biking for the luxury it is, in the role of a person who can spend all morning chipping away at 21 miles, touring the entire Mendenhall Valley and guiltlessly embarking on trails that are little more than a mile long.

There are other roles I missed out on when I was a trainin' fool:

The role of a mediocre technical rider who would really, really like to be able to hit hairpin turns. Even though I realized that making this turn would require completely lifting the back wheel off the ground and pivoting it 90 degrees, I still tried it a couple of times - hoping that somehow the laws of physics would change.

The role of a caution-to-the-wind summer rider who can't believe how much &#@$ snow there still is below 1,000 feet, but took a couple of slushy spills trying to bomb through it on the downhill coast.

The role of a sightseer who spends a lot more time on break than is really necessary, and a trail guide who was stopped by and gave lengthy directions to no less than seven tourists.

These recent weekend rides have been vastly different from the ones I left behind - centuries that hugged the darkness on both ends, plowing through five inches of fresh snow and loneliness in a world that knows enough to go inside when it's cold.

And I'm not complaining.


  1. I am going to buy a mountain bike now.

  2. Jill,
    I wanted to take a moment to thank you. I’ve been reading your Blog for a little while now and it’s become a sort of therapy session for me. I’ll get back to home base here on Taji, and once I’m showered and ready to hit the rack I surf to Alaska via the web and forget for a little while that I’m in Iraq. I forget how tired I am, how hot it is, what I just did, what I have to do again later… instead I’m on a ride with a friend in Alaska. It’s great to get away from this place like that…

    -a sincere thank you.

  3. Jill,

    I was going to write about something but then I read the previous comment and my post flew out of my head--WOW-- you are inspiring the troops now! The way in which people from all over, on and off their bikes, feel they can relate to you is a real tribute to the quality of your writing. Have you ever heard the radio show This American Life? I was a loyal listener when I lived in Chicago, where it is based. I think you would be a great contributor-- their stories are very much in your style (to wit: a sense of narrative, and a lightly applied moral, elevate an everyday experience into something emblamatic of the human condition). You may want to check it out at some point.

    Now I remember I was going to give you an update on my knee woes: I got back on my bike yesterday (a few days early, if you're counting). It was SO FUN to be out there, and predictably I rode too long (50 miles) and too hard (hills) and today my knee hurts. I was so out of shape that when I got home from my ride I fell asleep for 4 hours in the middle of the day!

    Carry on,

  4. In some ways I'm also enjoying being a recreational rider. Life as an ultra endurance freak isn't easy especially when you throw in a full time job and family. The long hours in the saddle are mostly fun but they also hurt. There is so much exhaustion after putting in a 400 mile training weekend. I'm not a big fan of sleep deprivation but you got to do it if you want to really push the limits of your body.

    As much as I'm enjoying being fat and out of shape, I'm really missing going out and hammering all day or pushing just a little harder to hang on to the fast guys on a group ride. I will be back. I think I've almost ridden more in the last 2 weeks than I have the rest of the year.

  5. I think days on the mtn bike w/ no agenda, other than fun and enjoying nature, are about the best days a cyclist can have in life. On my road bike I'll race, ride centuries, hammer up mtn passes, etc., but I usually reserve my mtn bike for pure fun. That's not to say that I don't do long or difficult rides on it, and I still record my stats (HR, distance, ctc.), but I don't ever really go at it w/ a "training" attitude. Some things still have to be fun, and I think it's often too easily for we cyclist to get caught up in our training mentalities that we forget that we really started riding just for fun. I think we all need to keep some aspect of it reserved just for the fun of it.

    That said, I do plan on doing a couple mtn bike races up in Winter Park this summer, as I've grown a little tired of road racing. However, I'm still going at w/ just the fun attitude, not really caring how I place, but just interested to see how I stack up against the competition, and maybe set a benchmark for myself to compete against next year. The only one I need to beat is me... :)

  6. Wow ... thanks mil_trucker. I am honored.

    And Shawn, you should!

    Agnes ... bummer about the sore knee. I've made the mistake of too much too soon many times. Right now I'm just trying to up my mileage slowly. Some days, I'm so tempted to just crank out 50 miles. It can be hard.

    UltraRob ... I do want to start training again, eventually. But these past few weeks, bicycling has been both forbidden and a luxury, which makes for some great rides.

    Fonk, someday I want to try something competetive on a road bike. I'm going to be the rider with a silly grin bringing up the rear.

  7. I have just found your blog and like all the others above- I also find it very inspiring - our entire city where I live is being redesigned as a bike friendly city and we have hundreds of trails now. - I love the pictures also. Cheers.


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