Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Me and horses

Date: Nov. 13
Mileage: 26.4
Hours: 2:00
November mileage: 304.6
Temperature upon departure: 37
Rainfall: 0.07"

I was speeding down a steep descent on the North Douglas Highway, tears freezing to my cheeks in the windchill and ankle still throbbing from an earlier spill, when I saw a dark figure in the distance. At first I thought “jogger,” but it was going to fast, approaching me with shadowy urgency, and my second thought was, “Oh crap! It’s a moose!” My heart shot into danger mode as my eyes darted back and forth, confirming that, yes, there was still a cliff directly to my right and the channel on the left. I had no way to escape and this moose was coming right for me and surely it would stomp me to death right here on the road before I ever got the chance to visit Antarctica or catch up on my New Yorker reading.

But wait ... there are no moose in Juneau.

I squinted at the figure and realized there was another animal right behind it, and behind that, headlights. It took me several seconds to figure out they were two horses - like moose, an animal I have actually never seen in Juneau - that were apparently either being chased or herded by a Department of Fish and Wildlife vehicle. It was hard to tell which. I pulled all the way off the road and watched as they went by, their wild eyes fixed forward as they pounded across the pavement. I decided they were being chased.

Not even ten minutes earlier, I had been writhing in pain on the Rainforest Trail. The trail, which is best ridden in laps, is a short, narrow stretch of raised singletrack that is more fun that can be justifiably had in a half mile. It was built for walking, not cycling, and its turns are really tight. If I don't hit them right, my rear wheel falls six inches off the log-lined gravel - a drop I have not yet learned to take without tumbling. I took two slow-speed spills while riding down. Then, while climbing back up with a maximum heart rate clouding my vision but gravity on my side, I somehow tipped over without even leaving the trail. My right foot stayed lodged in the cage and my ankle wrenched sideways. The initial shot of pain was awe-inspiring ... the kind if quick, intense moment in which you taste metal and see angels. It was a moment in which I convinced myself my ankle was broken, and I laid in the mud, still lodged inside my bike, gazing up at the silhouettes of trees in a sea of white shock.

It’s strange how sometimes the most intense pain ends up being nothing at all. I have limped for months on nagging soreness, but after a few seconds of stillness on the Rainforest Trail, my ankle pain had subsided. I slowly removed my foot from my bike and rolled it around a few times. No pain. No injury. Perfectly fine. Strange.

And then the horses. Those were strange minutes, those ten minutes. I essentially spent all of my adrenaline for the day, and the ride home disappeared into a sleepy blur.