Sunday, August 07, 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.