"There are still a lot of people behind you," Beat assured me. "You're doing well, really."
"It's just, man, why did they make this thing so hard?" I grumbled, and immediately laughed at my own dumb question. "They" didn't make it hard. I made it hard by pushing my own limits to the jagged edge just to remember what that felt like, and really that was the point. If it were easy it wouldn't hold the same interest, wouldn't feed the same addiction.
Pedestrians flickered in the shadows of my peripheral vision, taxis rushed past me, palm leaves swayed in the breeze, and I took deep breaths with every pedal stroke, wondering if I could hold it together. I was drunk on my own fatigue and culture shock, and I was frustrated by how out-of-it I felt. This city after two hard days and 200 miles of desert — what a strange transition.
After the sun set, I turned on my lights to hit up yet another fun trail system, the singletrack around Lake Hodges. My headlamp had a wash-out effect on the beige dirt and similarly colored rocks, and I managed to slam head-on into a decently sized boulder that I didn't even see. The jolt turned the front wheel just as I flew sideways over the handlebars, landing hard on my right shoulder. The reason I'm not a proficient technical rider is because I've never learned how to take a crash well. Under the best circumstances, I take crashing too personally and get frustrated and upset. When I am exhausted and muddled and just trying to fight my way from one point to the next, my strung-out emotions interpret crashing as the absolute end of the world. My shoulder throbbed and I was devastated, lashing out, moaning, "I can't ride this. It's just too hard." Yes, I did throw a childish temper tantrum. I worked through it, but it cast a pall over the rest of my evening. After that, timidity took over and I soft pedaled the rest of the singletrack, convinced that my shoulder was injured and I would need to reassess whether I could continue with the race in the next town.
Map from day three.)