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.