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.

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