Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bike stoke returns

Ripping down the Braille Trail. Photo by Leah. 
When I went to prep my Moots for a short ride on Tuesday, I discovered both tubeless tires were nearly flat. "That's strange," I thought, until I considered it some more. After finishing the Stagecoach 400 on April 30, I had that period of post-race malaise that I described as recovery fatigue, but was really more like mild shell-shock. Then there was the week of road biking with Keith, the motorcycle collision that further sliced into my bike passion, and a much-needed retreat into running. As it stood on May 29, I had ridden my beloved Moots nearly 1,000 miles in the month of April — and zero in May.

Leah set out to help me change that sad statistic by suggesting a Wednesday ride at Soquel Demonstration Forest, an out-of-the-way but nonetheless popular mountain biking spot for its "deliciously technical singletrack" and "black-diamond" trails adorned with teeter-totters, log bridges, and jumps that will launch the braver freeriders into outer space. Honestly, if I had done any research on the area before we headed out there, I probably would have tried to talk Leah into riding somewhere else. But she had ridden there before about three years ago, and assured me from what she remembered, it was fun.

The day was warm and sunny, and both of us were coated in globes of sweat as we climbed an exposed fire road toward Santa Rosalia Mountain. I felt apprehensive about the technical portions ahead, until we launched into the singletrack. Tunnel vision closed around my dread, and I felt renewed excitement emerge from the ashes of burnout. A pleasant breeze wicked the sweat from my skin as all focus narrowed to the trail — a ribbon of hard-packed dirt threaded through a thick canopy of young redwoods. The singletrack was steep but flowing; turns clicked naturally into place, and the A Line features were entirely avoidable. We had so much fun that we opted to climb 1,500 more feet just to ride another piece of tasty singletrack, the Braille Trail, which was even steeper and yet more fun. By the end of our three-and-a-half-hour ride I was buzzing with bike stoke, and I can't wait for the next time I can get my Moots back on some dirt.

Of course, I have some running to do first. Beat and I signed up for the Mount Diablo race this weekend. He's running the 60K and I opted for "only" the trail marathon, which has "only" 8,000 feet of climbing. I plan to "run" this one exceptionally slowly and use it mainly as heat acclimation and a final shake-out for the Laurel Highlands Ultra, which is the following weekend. Ask me what I'm expecting out of that race and I'll admit that I try not to think about it too much. I'll leave it at that until I have no choice but to panic, which will probably come around 3 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (midnight Pacific Time) next Friday. After that I'll probably be seriously burned out on running, after which I can return to regularly scheduled summer plans of hiking and bikepacking. Ha!

On the way home from Demo Forest, Leah's car started making a loud humming noise, and we confirmed the front tire was flat. It had been more than ten years since either of us had changed a wheel on a car, and our efforts to work through all the steps based on vague memories — unloading the entire trunk rack and trunk for tools, jumping up and down on the tire wrench, wrestling with the jack crank — were rather humorous. And took a ridiculously long time. We had the car jacked up and all the bolts removed — so we nearly had it — when a man drove by and asked us if we needed help. Our response was likely less than confidence inspiring, so after he drove away he returned five minutes later to help us finish the task because "you don't want to be out here after dark." As we drove home, we debated the "damsel in distress" phenomenon — whether he would have stopped if we were two men instead of two women, whether we were annoyed that our self-sufficient efforts were thwarted so we can't bask in that satisfaction that we fixed our own flat (and yes, I realize how elementary school easy it is), or whether we were glad the man was nice enough to stop and help two strangers stalled on the side of the road. I tend to agree with the latter conclusion. It's nice that there are still helpful people in the world.


  1. I had my first solo tire changing experience on the way to my first marathon, and I was plenty happy to have the nice state trooper finish up the job that I had a good start on. Definitely nice that there are good, helpful people around still, and empowering to learn that I could do it if I had to.

    That's an awesome picture of you on the Braille Trail.

  2. I had a guy I met on a ride mention this trail last time I was in your area, but I didn't get enough info (nor could I remember the name when I got back home). It's NOW on my MUST RIDE List next time I'm up there! Thanks for the pics n writeup! And good luck (ie: DO NOT HURT YOURSELF!) this weekend...and same to Beat!

  3. Oh...and I'm still chuckling on the tire change...I know my wife couldn't change a tire if her life depended on it, and she has NO desire to learn (that's why she has AAA).

    Good on ya' both for getting it even that far...though I admit it prob would have been rather fun to be a fly on the wall (car door?) watching you both flail around jumping on the tire iron and such.

  4. Thanks for the trail info.
    "damsel in distress" phenomenon, two guys with car problems...tough luck. Any person(s) on bike(s) I always stop whether on bike or in car. I trust people on bikes, my bias I guess. Have given away many tubes. Car always has floor pump, tubes, patch kits, wet wipes and even a couple of worn but rideable tires to get a person home. Even helped a microsoftie fix his first flat on his Pinarello.

  5. Thanks for sharing all your trail stories and other adventures. I've read your blog for years as a lunch break thing to keep me stoked on my own endurance pursuits, and now that I'm very pregnant your blog is my escape. I want you to know how much I appreciate every detail so that I can run and ride with you until my body is able to do so again. I especially look forward to hear what you think of the laurel highlands trail, I've seen a bit of it and didn't know about this race--best wishes and hope you enjoy this bit of the east!

  6. Have just been wondering - how is Keith doing?

  7. I'm glad you enjoyed the trail ride. Sounds like fun or at least a great day with Leah.

    Men always stop to help me change my flat (happened a couple times in my Subaru near the end) and I am always happy to let people do things for me. I am lazy.

  8. Anon: Thanks for asking about Keith. He's recovering well. Much of the pain in his back has subsided and he's also working with a physio on some hip and leg issues. He still has limited mobility but has been cleared for a road trip, so he's planning to use some of his down time to visit friends. He's working with a lawyer and the motorcycle rental company's insurance to recover medical and bike damage costs, as well as lost wages. As far as I know he hasn't hit any snags on this front yet.

    Matt — Thanks. I feel deeply apprehensive about these two running races coming up. I'm not even moderately prepared for Laurel Highlands, but of course that's part of the fun for me — jumping head first into big unknowns. My ultimate goal is always not to hurt myself. However, I did find myself feeling slightly less risk-adverse during my bike ride with Leah ... maybe because I hoped a bike injury would get me out of the running obligations. Ha!

    When I was learning how to drive, my dad ensured that I knew how to fix a flat, change my own oil, cool down the engine, and even flush and replace some of the fluids. (I've since largely forgotten this last one.) The flat fix is particularly easy (once you get the bolts off) so I don't really understand why people prefer to call AAA and wait rather than do it themselves.

  9. That's what I love about mountain biking - the more risk averse you feel, the more fun you have. You were killing it by the end of the day! Can't wait to do more mtb rides. Already thinking about where to take you next...

    The flat fixing thing is pretty funny. I know female cyclists who are so worked up about changing a flat on their bike that they don't like to go on long rides alone (the guys probably do it anyway and end up stuck). It's funny how much we as a culture have lost touch with the mechanical side of our world, and how it works. I count myself in that category. Many of these things turn out to be simple enough to figure out, but most of us aren't well practiced in thinking through these kinds of problems. I could start a rant about our testing-centered public education system and how it's partially to blame now (being a public school teacher, it's one of the worst things about the job), but that's a whole other topic.

    Anyway, good luck this weekend!! I'm glad you will be thoroughly sick of running and ready for more riding soon.

  10. I wonder why you "don't want to be out here after dark." Sasquatch?

    But I get it. Stuck with a vehicle on the side of the road after dark is (sadly) far more dangerous than being out after dark in the middle of the Divide.

    What a world. A beautiful world, nonetheless; and the fact that the farther you get from places cars go, the safer you are.

    That photo of the trail is driving me crazy. I gotta get out there.

    Thanks, Miss.


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