Monday, August 08, 2011

Peeling off labels

The first five miles were so bike friendly that they could have been an attraction at Disneyland — smooth, swooping singletrack that plummeted from an arid grassy ridge into a green abyss of a canyon. At the bottom we discovered the opposite of friendly, a kind of bike purgatory where mountain bikers who overindulged in the sinful descent are forced to shoulder their bikes across a streambed of large jagged rocks for a seeming eternity. By the time Beat and I left the canyon and pushed our bikes up steep horse trails, rode along the searing rollercoaster of a ridge and returned to the car, 15 miles, 4,000 feet of climbing, three liters of water (one liter too few), and four and a half hours later, I had forgotten all about Disneyland. This loop in Henry Coe State Park came fairly well recommended but in my opinion was at least 50 percent unrideable (most of the uphill and flat sections were a bust.) "Singletrack obsession is such a sham," I grumbled to myself. "When am I going to admit that I just don't belong to the cult of mountain biking? I'm a bike tourist who likes dirt."

I've actually been training quite a bit on my mountain bike this past week, in preparation for the upcoming (too soon upcoming) Capitol Forest 100. There's kinda a reason I haven't blogged about it. For whatever reason, I haven't been feeling particularly strong or well-motivated in my riding this week. Or my running for that matter. I've been working my way back into regular trail running as well, but nearly everything I've done since the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 has just felt flat — shriveled to a shape much like my Camelback bladder after I sucked every cubic millimeter of air out of it in my futile search for moisture during our Henry Coe mountain bike adventure. I feel like the same thing has happened to my willpower in running. On Thursday, during a 10-mile trail run in Castle Rock State Park, I lost my mojo at the halfway point and spent 10 minutes photographing rock formations (none of the photos turned out very good at all), trying to work up the motivation just to run back. "When am I going to admit that I'm just not a trail runner?" I thought to myself. "I'm a hiker who likes distance."

I'm frustrated by the way I feel so I slap these labels on myself. "Not a mountain biker ... not a trail runner." Of course, negativity never helps. I know that. I'm just working through my annual August slump. I actually had a pretty good one last year, too. I remember coming home from TransRockies 2010 and feeling inexplicably busted and struggling with even my favorite Missoula mountain bike trails. Thanks to those struggles, and the persistent encouragement of a certain Swiss ultrarunner who I had recently met, I took up trail running as a way to break out my summer slump. It worked in the most beautiful way, and I need of to just keep the faith that a little patience and persistence will re-inflate my mojo back to its overabundant norm, much like my Camelback bladder today after I filled it with way too much water for my short ride. And I actually felt really good today. I chased roadies up a steep paved climb on my mountain bike and finished the 25-mile Steven's Creek Canyon road-to-trail loop in 2:22, nearly twenty minutes faster than my usual time. I'm still intimidated by the Capitol Forest 100, but I'm getting there.


  1. Thank you, Jill, for keeping me motivated. I'm a newbie at 48, but I love this new journey. And I love your honesty, sharing your struggles as well as your victories. Thank you!

  2. Eh, I barely survived my hike yesterday. Feelin' good and strong seems to come and go. Also, technical single track isn't fun mtn biking for me either.

  3. We all have our slumps. But when it does turnaround, it can be quite unexpected and quite remarkable! I've never done Henry Coe park when up there in my travels, mostly cuz I KNOW that Purisima Creek open space is SO AWESOME that it never fails to bring a smile to my face (and I'm always time limited it seems). Of course, I don't find any new and awesome places that there is that.

    It's actually quite humorous seeing you write "When am I going to admit that I just don't belong to the cult of mountain biking? I'm a bike tourist who likes dirt."

    You know why it's funny? Cuz after reading about YOUR exploits on knobby tires, I say to myself "there's no chance in heck that I could EVER keep up with Jill for more than a few hours...after that she'd just ride away like the energizer bunny while I bemoan the fact that I just can't hang for any really long distance/time...cuz I guess I'm not REALLY a Mt biker. The mt biking cult is a wide and varied thing my 2 wheeled sista.

    There are those who ride walmart bikes on dirt trails suitable for baby strollers. There are those who ride uber expensive latest and greatest chi-chi-ti/carbon/whatever on some nasty-gnarly stuff that makes great youtube videos. There are those who race. And then there are those who do not only attempt but FINISH insane events like TransRockies (I hope I remembered the name right), or GDR, or Iditabike.

    Speed and style/skill are all very personal things on a bike. Getting out there and RIDING on 2 wheels is what the brotherhood (sisterhood?) of it's really all about. That's why I still wave to ALL my 2 wheeled bretheren when I'm out there, whether it be on my road bike or my mt bike. Sometimes they wave back, sometimes they don't.

    I'd be PROUD to ride with you anyday, and I may hold my own for a few hours, but after that we'd start to enter YOUR arena...and most of the TRUE (ha ha) Mt bikers I know would cry like a baby after about 7 or 8 grueling hours...while you are just getting started.

    Basicly what I'm saying is don't be so hard on yourself...cuz if there is such a thing as a definition of what a Mt biker is, all I know is that it should have your picture by it.

  4. I think you will come out of this slump to become one of the nations top ariel motocross free-stylists. Really though ... just being there is good enough. Dont try to fit into a mold because you will break "their" precious mold. I never liked molds ... I mean why does a cookie have to be round anyway? 2 dimensional molds never work for a 4 dimensional world.

  5. 1. What trails did you do at Coe? That place can massively suck, or it can be a fun day of suffering, depending how you do it.

    2. If the August slump is what spawns the new adventures, then slump away.

  6. You have a few weeks until the Capitol 100. I predict slump long melted away by then - enjoyable race as a result - with a great post and pictures to follow.

  7. The Spanish named those mountains the "mountains of deception" 'cause they looked easy but kicked their asses. Hmmmm.

  8. A. Fog ... I'm actually having a tough time remembering the names of those trails. The latter part of the ride was on Hobart Road — the rollers that were mostly rideable but tough having been out of water for an hour or so. The first singletrack descent we did was indeed fantastic. I can see the possibility of stringing together some great rides if you know the area better. But I can also see how those trails were not built with bikes in mind.


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