Sunday, July 6, 2008

Time to Get Serious

In 2 months, Raja and I will be packing our bags for Swiss Bike Camp with The Hillseekers. We bought our tickets back in February, so I've been lulled into the mindset of, "there's plenty of time to get ready."

In the meantime, we've spent every spare moment playing in the woods. Each ride we do lately ends up being a mountain bike adventure with our wild n' woolly friends. It is no secret that playing in the dirt is our preferable form of entertainment. It is also no secret that it is more difficult to make the cross over from mtn bike to road bike. On the contrary, roadie fitness and training translates perfectly to the dirt trails, as long as one has good technical skills on the mtn bike. All that to say, too much time riding my 2.4" wide tires has made me a bit soft on my 700c tires.

We had joined Mike of Cartecay Bikes for his annual Fourth of July ride. I had not yet committed to our next day's ride in my mind. Therefore, I approached the mountain bike ride at Tanasi with total abandon. Not a smart thing to do when you have to wake up the next day and expect your legs to deliver again. Larry the Shredder joined in our A- group ride, and I could not resist trying to stay with him on the climbs. As I was turning myself inside out to stay on his wheel, I told myself this move would be regretted, but pride got the best of me.

By the end of the ride, I was toast. Usually at Tanasi I am good for the full 34 miles with energy to spare. This time I barely eeked out 27, and was content to call it a day. Let's blame it on the heat. I was anxious to get to the real challenge of the day....the food fest under the pavillion:-)

idoc brought a killer black bean salad which Raja and I demolished singlehandedly. We left the unhealthy Chocolate Rocky Road Bars for everyone else to fatten themselves up with while we indulged in the healthy goods. I got the recipe from idoc for the salad. Thanks!

The next morning we were up again at O:dark hundred. I'm so over getting up this early. Damyankee sent me an email pleading for us to join them on a new road route that included a heinous climb up Paris Mtn. I could see his tear stains on my screen. We better not let him down. It had been a long while since we had joined our shaver friends, and I felt guilty for neglecting them. However, my legs were not feeling the call, and I knew before I got out of bed that the day's ride was not going to have a happy ending.

Seeing familiar faces at the Rambo trailhead was pleasant enough. For a brief moment I actually believed I would be able to pull a rabbit out of my helmet and pull this thing off. In the old days, I was considered a trickster. Gerry used to always accuse me of being able to pull more rabbits out of my hat than anyone he knew. But, as soon as we started down the Comet for our warmup before hitting Vinson Mountain, it was obvious no magic tricks were going to be least by me. Dang it. I hate it when this happens. Really.

You notice a theme here in my pictures? They are all from the back so far. What does that tell you? Does OTB mean anything to you?

Cam and rlaz were present. Fast, but I'm not afraid of them. They will humor me. I am afraid of Michael though. We were teamates back in the day when we raced mountain bikes. Michael has always been demon fast on the climbs, but I could always take him on a the dirt. The road is different. Michael and I are friends, but I really do not like to see him on the road, especially if it means he's riding with me. He only has one speed, and that is ridiculously fast. I'm not embellishing the truth here, just being brutally honest. I won't even ride with him these days because he just doesn't know how to go a mortals pace. With each passing year, my ability to ride and hang with my usual group of roadies continues to diminish. And I don't need to be so rudely reminded of that fact by getting demolished by him.

Anyway, we started up the dreaded Vinson Mountain climb. Raja told me he was going to try his best to hang on for the climb, and then he was going to back off. I responded to him by saying, "I'm not even going to try because it ain't happening today." Later I learned that Damyankee overheard me and thought I was snapping back at Raja, so he quietly slipped by me. Noooooo, I was just letting Raja know not to expect me to be on his wheel. Guess I need to work on my tone when I'm tired! I had already come to terms with this yucky performance day.

Ironically enough, 3 different friends had each emailed me recently seeking advice on training and dealing with the recovery aspect. I had just sent off a message to one about listening to your body, allowing it to rest, not fighting the process, and not beating yourself up in your mind. It made me laugh as I pedaled along ever so slowly trying to swallow my own medicine. Easy to hand it out, harder to receive it.

Somehow knowing my day would be one of suffering, I had chosen to wear a jersey that had specific instructions for those in my riding group.

Can you believe it, they all just pedaled on past me. Not one person was able to follow directions! Bye-bye now. All I could do was watch as they rode away. That was the last I saw of the group.

Having climbed Vinson countless times, I was convinced the road had been lengthened since my last visit. Would this climb ever end? For the love of all that's good in life,, enough already! As I neared the KOM mark, a rider coming back in my direction came into view, but it did not look to be Raja. It was Michael. Why the heck he was coming back for me, I do not know. Going back down for stragglers is usually my job! Today was opposite day. Humble Pie was the only thing on my plate so far this morning, and I was growing tired of the taste of umbles.

Thanks for checking on me Mikey, but I'm going to bail on ya! I need to be resting, and this ain't resting. I tried to persuade Raja to carry on with the group, but he insisted on turning back with me and my umbles.

Raja towed me back to the comet.

He towed me back to Rambo trailhead where I collapsed and slept the rest of the day;-) (Lots of looking at people's backside for me today.)

I had no intentions of riding the next day. Next day: Raja suits up and starts out the door. Where you going? Blankets. Awwwww, aahhhhhhhh, alright, load up my bike, my singlespeed. Are you sure? You can barely stand up? Fine, pack both bikes. I'll decide when I get there.

Geez, what else am I going to do? Sit around and stare at the walls, clean the house, wash clothes, buy groceries, prepare meals? Heck no! If I'm going to suffer, I might as well have fun doing it! hehehe. Truth is I could not bare the thought of him out there having a good time & inevitably running into some of our buddies without me. Even if I sat in the parking lot, I would have fun just waving at everybody as they came in and out of the trailhead.

I did not wear a camelbak or carry anything at all on my back. That meant no Nikon, no small child riding on my shoulders. The tiny Canon was tucked in my jersey for a sense of security. You just never know when a camera will come in handy.

Before we left the house, I had emailed a friend about my wasted condition & my plans to Rest! Oh well, I can rest tomorrow. He'll never know.

Immediately we ran into some friends, James & Amy, who were out with his nephew, Christopher. Two bright eyes were beaming out from underneath his full head of luscious curls. He looked to be having the time of his life. It made me think back to the days when we brought my nephew to Blankets. They grow up so fast. You have to catch those moments and cherish them. It passes by in a flash.

Raja and I headed off to the VanMichael Loop. Don't you want to start off with Dwelling and get warmed up on the singlespeed? No, I'm an odd bird. I like to do the hardest thing first and then enjoy the easy stuff.

It was a rare luxury, riding just the two of us, all alone, no throngs of laughing silly friends. The starkness of the solitude struck me as I realized we rarely ride by ourselves in the dirt. Just me and my man in the woods.

Riding with my friends is definitely one of my favorite things to do. But riding alone without any distractions of keeping up or trying to impress takes one to a beautiful place. Raja and I can ride together and not be concerned with what the other one thinks. If he wants to go faster, or vice versa, then we do what we want. He was on a geared bike, and I was on the singlespeed. Insisting I ride in front, it was not long before I found myself ahead and in my own world.

The beauty of a singlespeed is the sense of focus you develop. My legs were weak and it required all I had to get up the slightest rise, and yet the effort was rewarding. I thought of what it is that separates the really good riders from those of us that are average or even "above average". It is all about focus. That's what sets apart the pros; to cancel everything out, become one with your bike, and flow through a trail. Tremendous focus is required to make it an effortless continuous flow. That's what it is like when you get in a zone, it's effortless. I can count on my left hand the number of times I have had that experience in 20 years, and to think there are cyclists that feel that more times than not.

After one lap of Van Michael, I decided a Dwelling would be in order. Oops, who's this I see? Uh oh, busted. It's the friend that I told today was my rest day. "Yea, you can give the advice, but you don't live by it," he said accusingly! I've got to start charging for my coaching tips. He forgave me, swore not to expose my double life, and we did a lap of Dwelling and another Van Michael together.

By the end I was ready to call it a day. Saw more friends. Robin, Colin, James, John. Time to enter the socializin' phase of my training.
The trails were a might bit dusty. Guess I need to give up my day job as a leg model.

Does anybody know who did all this fancy wood work for the mega sign?

This is so cool and so fun! Thanks for all your hard work!

Monday I did rest. I promise. Didn't do a thing but stretch and go for my weekly visit to Janusz. I affectionately refer to it as going to the torture table. About 6 of my friends have been going to him, and they all agree, Janusz doesn't mess around when it comes to muscle work. Treybiker apparently just learned that the hard way too this week.

A few days ago when I realized I need to get serious about my training, I decided to do a road ride on Tuesday nights instead of the usual Big Creek fun. Now it's Tuesday night, and guess what? I'm already having second thoughts. You know I'll end up at Big Creek on my mountain bike.

There's always next week to get serious, or the next. Then it will be time for Swiss Bike Camp, and I won't be ready! Look at Becky here, little Swiss Miss.

She claims not to be a mountain biker, and dang, look at her go! I am so proud of her! That is at a day skills clinic in Switzerland.

I was dismayed to hear her comments though of how she felt at the clinic. I feel way out of balance with skills vs. power. It's especially frustrating. This is a common theme I seem to hear when it comes to women trying to learn the art of mountain biking. Lately, there has been a barrage of women asking me advice and tips. But when I am in person trying to help them, I can smell the fear and anxiety pouring from their souls. I've thought about this alot these past few weeks. It's more than just teaching women to ride a bike. It's understanding where they are coming from and how their mind works. Generally, men have a one track mind. This is a good thing in mountain biking. Remember how I said that focus is so important in riding? Guys can just shut everything off and concentrate on the task at hand. Whereas, we ladies are thinking about 40 different things, of which getting hurt is at the forefront.

It is a challenge to teach someone bike skills when they are afraid. I used to be afraid myself, but have somewhat lost that connection of how to reach someone in that state. I would love to attend one of these European bike clinics and see what they teach. My other biggest problem is finding the time to teach a clinic. Though I'd rather work one on one with a person than in a group. Maybe most people are just too scared or intimidated or it's too awkward for them to take me up on it. This is perhaps an area that I will explore more in a few years when my riding hours start to slack off.

As for getting serious, I'm going to get serious in having fun. The Hillseekers will show us a good time no matter how lame we are! I'm so excited, I can hardly stand it.

Here are the pics of our July 4th ride at the Tanasi Trails in TN.


regularjoe said...

You're "training secret" is safe... :-)

Becky said...

Great post! I think another reason guys are usually more comfortable with MTB'ing is because often they do it more as kids. We need to get little girls out on bikes more when they're young, before they even know to be scared!

We can't wait to have you visit and share the "Swiss version" of life on a bike soon!!