Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Opposite Ends of the Drivetrain

Being both a roadie and mountain biker, I have experienced my fair share of the two worlds. Two very different worlds where few inhabitants have dual citizenship. You could say Raja and I have dual citizenship, but we definitely consider the United Fatty Treads our mother ship. In the past few days, I've ridden in the two different countries, and the contrast could not have been more stark.

But first, a big Thank You goes out to my friend and fellow cyclist, James Bigler, for all his IT help with my photo blog and for getting my Life on a Bike header pic up and running. James, you're the bomb! I didn't think he could do anything with this ancient photo, but he did. It dates back to our first cycling trip to Colorado in 1996 with good friends, Marvin and Don. That shot was taken on a trail in Durango. I'll always remember our ride on the Hermosa Creek Trail. I achieved one of those rare zen like moments and felt as though I were a riding in a dream. It was beautiful.

I don't have many pictures of myself riding, and that is by design. In my mind's eye I imagine a svelte super cool strong looking chic. But the reality is I'm not. The camera and I do not get along when facing each other. It is better if my body is behind the lens. Then we are friends. This way I can remain a legend in my own mind. Maybe one day I'll get an acceptable photo of myself on the bike, but until then this old memory from Colorado will have to do.

My thoughts are with our overseas friend, Jeff Grant, as he ventures off to Morocco for the greatest foot race of his life, the Marathon des Sables. I still cannot wrap my little mind around the concept of what he is doing, or even the training he has done so far. Go Jeff!!! More about this friendly alien on my next post. (photo courtesy of Becky Grant, HF photography)

Back to my ride of opposites! Saturday was another fun day on the mountain bike with good friends. In the Fatty Tread Country, you don't have to be fast, furious, and riding the latest million dollar bike in order to "fit in" with the gang.

The only qualification I know of for residency is to have a passion for mountain biking. There is complete freedom in how one expresses that passion within the camaraderie of fellow countrymen and women. Once again, our riding posse included a wide range of ages, abilities, and experience. Did that bother me or anyone? Don't think it crossed our minds. Did the slower ones have to prove their worth before the faster ones would acknowledge their presence? You pull that trick, and you won't have many friends in that country.

We had a great time revisiting our old haunts. Bull Mtn was where we used to do a considerable amount of our riding 10 years ago and prior. But eventually the erosion caused by the horses soured our enjoyment of the trails. Having horse poop fly up in your face as you trudge through rutted out trail is not our idea of fun. Now we rarely go there. But when we do it is like riding down memory lane. Just make sure you avoid certain trails in order to stay out of the green stuff!
Those of us that wanted to hammer ahead were free to do so, but didn't mind waiting up at the top of the climbs. Got nothing to prove to anybody. Just out enjoying the spectacular weather and having fun with friends.
When you spend all your time riding fast, you miss out on special moments like this. For 20 years we rode past this beautiful water fall and never knew it was there. What a shame, but not anymore. We did something wild and crazy. We took the time to set our bikes against a tree and hike up a few yards to get a better view. Robin impressed us by naming out the fancy fungus amongus names of her botanical friends as we trampled upon them enroute. She knows her stuff and I was amazed that someone could remember so many words. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear she was making them up off the cuff (but I know she wouldn't do that).

We continued on Bear Hare and blasted down the heinously rough descent. Raja was loving life as he sailed down the bumps effortlessly on his demo bike for the day. Forever in pursuit of the ultimate full suspension bike, he was lucky to score the Mojo from Dahlonega Wheelworks thanks to a push from Rusty and a set up by the owner, Jon Dalman. Jon was super nice and helpful in allowing Raja to test the bike out for the day. Like I always say, mountain bikers are like that...good folks.

The Mojo brought a big grin to Raja's face and he enjoyed what would have otherwise been a most uncomfortable ride down a very rough trail. He climbed the long technical Jones Creek climb with great ease as well. That climb is a humdinger too. By some small miracle I made it, but my quads were super sore the next day.

We had another special moment after popping off of NoTell trail. I thought Cyclesmith was yanking my chain when he described an old dilapidated cemetery near Turners Creek. But sure enough, there was a sign pointing the way.
A sign we had passed by for years and never took the time to notice. A steep little hike up the hill took us to the oddest sight. This cemetery was so old and neglected that only 2 of the headstones remained. The rest were only recognizable by the fact that they lined up in little rows, appearing at first to just be rocks sticking out of the ground. I would love to know the history behind this out of the way placed memorial ground in the middle of nowhere. It gives you perspective in the middle of your adrenaline packed fun day as you think the world revolves around you. Life on this earth is a fleeting thing......make your impact in a positive way. All that will be left is a tombstone and the investment you made in other lives. Nobody cares how fast a rider you were. That fades into the background once it's said and done. No, it's these memories that matter and last....simply time spent with friends having fun.

After having nine long days off the bike, it was good to be back in the saddle again and no longer feeling like death warmed over. But after only 2 hrs and 40 minutes of riding, my legs were ready to take a rest. It had been just what I needed and wanted. A good workout with lots of fun thrown in for good measure.

Sunday was Easter Celebration and no time for a ride. Seeing as how I could barely walk from my sore legs, it didn't really matter.
Monday was a spin day to get the legs going again. I needed to recharge them for Tuesday's workout....the crit.

After taking pictures last week, I decided to quit my bellyaching and get back out there. Five years absence was long enough. Besides, Raja is getting motivated to do it again, so I had better follow his lead.

I got my passport and headed for the other country...United Skinnies. We're lucky to live close enough that I can ride over to the office park. Daryl, Tim and Dave served as my escorts and we arrived in plenty of time to join in the prologue. So very different from arriving at a mtn bike ride. You can cut the tension with a knife. No chit chatting and hi how are ya's. Only the few I know from the Fatty Tread Universe would acknowledge my presence. Young Julio, from Uruguay, was about the only roadie that said hello.

Raja pointed out that we were the only ones sporting all black cycling shorts. We were definitely showing our outsider status by not wearing a team kit of some sorts. I have a Hammer kit at home. Is there enough time for me to go get it? Geez, who has time to worry about what you wear! I used to have a friend that always wore a t-shirt to the crit. He would only wear a jersey when he deemed himself fit enough and therefore worthy of a jersey!

At the start line everyone hovers in little groups. Raja and I stood with Mikey, another mtn bike friend. He whined about not having done this in 10 yrs, but I knew good and well he would hang just fine. My goal was to make it 10 minutes and then I'd be happy. Somehow I wasn't receiving any warm and friendly vibes. Rather I felt as though I were about to be thrown before the lions.

It was a cool evening, but once we started I completely forgot about the chilly air. All the adrenaline rushing through your body is more than enough to keep you warm. Things didn't seem so bad at first. Hanging out in the back is not the wisest of things to do, especially if you aren't real strong. Being a former crit racer, Alexis goes nuts when she sees me in the back. "It's much harder back there", she says as she tries to convince me to stay on her wheel up front. But I refuse to move up in the pack and get in the mix. So many years I have been right behind a crash, and it always freaks me out. All it takes is to see one downed rider and my nerves are shot. Sure, you waste all your energy in the back having to sprint out of every corner. But I look at that as an extra interval workout.

The back of the pack is also where the sketchiest of riders seem to be. Not only was I trying to hang on for dear life, but I was trying to avoid the seemingly drunk riders around me. Then I knew I was hallucinating. A car was overtaking us. Surely this is not happening! Never in all my years of doing the crit did we ever have to contend with a competing car. Dang, if that didn't happen at least 4 different times. That did not sit well with me, at all.

After 10 minutes, I knew my time was limited. My heartrate was not climbing very high, a sure sign that my legs were not able to deliver the goods. Each time we climbed the hill, I was having to work a little harder to keep the pace. Yep, I knew it wouldn't be much longer before I was going to blow up.

13 minutes, the timer went off and I was done. I have the experience to know when it's over, and it was over. There was no fight left in my legs, and I had to helplessly watch as the pack pulled away. It seems that you could catch back on the downhill, but not when they are going over 30mph and you're already dying.

It's okay. I made my goal of 10 minutes.

I recovered a few laps and then jumped back in for a little more thrashing. Surrender was inevitable and I got dropped like a bad habit after 3 laps. Everything was so intense. Mentally and physically. You certainly don't do this for pleasure or relaxation! I'm a warm and fuzzy person, and there's nothing warm and fuzzy about this atmosphere. You've definitely lost that lovin' feeling when you come to the crit. And you lose a lung and a leg and a.........it's exhausting.

Why did I do this? Purely for the sake of fitness. So I can go back to the Fatty Tread Country and have a good time. I like to have a little strength and stamina when I mountain bike. Not so I can shred my fellow riders, but so I can ride all day and feel good while doing it.
So I can sprint ahead, hop off the bike and take some pictures. So I can ride on Saturday and still have energy to do it again on Sunday.

Those United Skinnies can train all they want. I do not seek permanent residency with them. Just a visit or two every week is all I can take and still survive. I'm not tough enough to reside in their world. I can only live on one end of the drivetrain, and that's the dirty side!


Robb Sutton...198... said...

Great Post!

I figure if I don't buy a road bike...I don't even have to worry about keeping up with that croud!

We are all glad that you guys call the fat tire haven home...

jmilliron said...

Great Post!

I have to wonder if there are any fun road rides with less pretentious people.

Becky said...

Awesome post!!

I feel the need to defend my fellow skinny-tire countrymen(and women)- There definitely ARE fun road rides with nice, friendly people out there (at least there were!).
Of course maybe those friendly ones all just really MTBers at heart and just don't know it yet... ;)

chocolate girl said...

I thought I'd shake the bushes and see what happens. Yea, there are some fun road groups out there. We're keeping them to ourselves though. Don't want them being tainted by the more uptight crowd. Many of our friends are at the crit, they just take their cycling more seriously than I do. You have to at that level. But the 2 types of cycling still remain very different...doesn't mean one is better than the other. Just different.

cathi said...

it was great to finally meet you at the jungle party! love your writing and photography. i look forward to hitting the trails with you sometime!