Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sadly, Summer Girl Rides Winding Down

There is something special about a group going out into the woods to explore new paths and experiences. While searching for any number of things, we find: fitness, laughter, stress release, speed, gravity, gravity defiance, fear, courage, wind, sweat, tears, blood, beauty, truth and most importantly, friendships. Watching seasons change, watching lives change, it all blends together as one grand set of experiences. Thanks to all the women that have joined me on this journey.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rumble in the Jungle

Racing at Jungle Habitat, has got to be one of the highlights of the year for many mountain bikers. The defunct 1970’s drive through safari theme park has taken new form, with 30 years of new growth and vines entangling trees and structures of another era. Jorba, the main force behind the extensive trail planning and building in the park, has done a great job on the trails, that now allow the public to bike through. Racers were certainly challenged with rocks galore and tight off camber single-track with trees nipping at their handle bars the whole way. And if that wasn’t enough to keep their attention, racers could also take in the historical sites along the route as they would ride past a monkey cage, an amphitheater, to the top of a hill, in between tiger and baboon pens, through fences, past the umbilical cord, through a tunnel, into the deer pen and around the 80 acres of crumbling parking lot.

Although I felt a little light-headed, my day got off to a good start. Lots of friendly people milling about, a very relaxed endo on the pre-ride, and it was looking like it would be a great day for me to return to racing after my short Lyme break. Once departing the start line and being released into the jungle, I found myself overwhelmed with the fast start and instantly fell to the back of the pack. This only lasted the few hundred feet of pavement, as I was amazed how quick I came alive when rocks appeared in front of me. It was like the mountain biker in me was stronger than whatever negative forces were working against me.

Near the end of my first lap, with adrenalin rushing, I was close to finding my rhythm in the single track, but a split second of indecision and I was down. Now with my knee screaming at me, I reeled myself in and tried to temper the adrenaline. My second lap was disappointing, and I questioned whether I could complete three laps, but I kept going. The humbling thought of having to succumb to using my granny ring on the road climb did enter my mind.

Once on my third lap, I was too tired to waste any more energy on negative thoughts or anything other than finishing the race. With negative forces cleared from my head, I climbed the road in my middle ring. Being too tired to let the adrenaline get out of control, I found my mantra in the single-track. Winding between the trees, looking ahead, less brakes, less pedaling, I just flowed. I’m not sure if I actually got faster or just wished myself into thinking I would find the end of this journey sooner. As the trees wooshed by, my knee no longer hurt, and I felt nothing but a relaxed smile inside. Feeling like I was riding on the wind, completely entertained, I found the finish line like every other racer that day. It’s good to race.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Road Ride to Recovery

After an eighteen week break, I finally dusted off the road bike, and went out for a road ride. Thinking back now, I’m not exactly sure how this all came to be. Although I am a mountain biker, a good portion of my riding time is usually spent on a road bike, and for some reason, I felt a tad of road burn-out in late spring, and took a break. Once spring had arrived in the woods, I became totally immersed in mountain biking. Then a new 5 inch Moto-lite arrived. Needless to say, mountain biking felt great and I had no interest in the road. I had my sights set on Nationals, and was excited to try Super-D and hoped to hang onto enough residual fitness for a XC victory. Once the goals had been accomplished, I lost my drive, or that is what I thought. I did make an effort to get out on the road once, but I had no energy. Later I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. So here I am, two weeks of doxycycline and 18 weeks later, once again swinging my leg over the Pinarello. It took a bit of arm twisting on the part of Art, Willy, and Marianne to whom I am indebted for these efforts to get me on a road bike once again.

Spinning down Long Meadow Rd towards Harriman, my plan was to do an out and back to my scale and not have the group wait. As it turned out, my humble plan was not needed as the group started out easy and I hung all the way up into the park for the 35 mile loop. I felt almost normal again on the bike and I enjoyed being back up in the park once again. The season is certainly changing, with cool breezes and bits of reds highlighting the forest. Climbing up 106, I watched acorns roll down the road. The black water of the lakes contrasted the pond plants, now turning gold. While the changes are exciting, they also bring sadness, as they remind me that summer is coming to an end. Pedaling through the hero stretch on the way home, we hit the usual 29 mph with the wind against our faces. It's good to feel better this day.