OMG!! What a rush!!
For the past 3 or so years, I have played around with the idea of mountain biking. I would never commit to it nor was I total convinced that I would want to do it as I always had a big road biking goal looming in the near future. For the first time I don't have a major road cycling goal, so now is the time to give mountain biking a try. If I break my arm, then, oh well, I break my arm. It wouldn't mess up any major training.
So, for the past month, I have been trying to make arrangements to get to borrow a bike to take to the trails. Well, a borrowed bike never happened, but I did find a used one on Craig's list. So I took the plunge and bought it before I had ever ridden it in the dirt! I decided that if I hate mtn biking, I could probably sell it pretty easy.
This weekend was the Magee Lungbuster Mountain Bike race and festival. I really did not know what to expect, but it would be this weekend I would get to try my hand at riding a bike with big knobby tires in the dirt.
Somehow, I was able to talk Jay into taking me out Friday afternoon. The mountain bike trails are not far from the house and we drove over to them. There were several people there doing the last minute preparations for the weekend. Jay and I rolled out of the parking lot and into the wooded trails. I am on my new red and black Specialized Rockhopper a little trepidatious. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. First the trail is single track. This means only wide enough for one bike to get through. There are trees everywhere. Trees to the right of me, trees to the left with just a small dirt track that is only about a foot and a half wide. Not what I was expecting. The trail is also not flat - at least not in many places. To realize that this piece of property is less than 5 miles from the house and is as wooded and "in the middle of no where" astonished me. It is strikingly beautiful. There is one section that the mtn bikers call the cave - it is actually just a carved out area, but one would never imagine this small cut out (in sandstone?) to be just a few miles from my house.
So, we set out and head up. I have not figured out how to use my gears yet. They are somewhat different from my old Specialized road bike in that you have two small levers to push in opposite directions to change gears. I am keeping my eyes right in front of my tire - probably no more than 1-2 ft out. We are climbing a somewhat steep hill and all of a sudden the blue tape marking the course is right in front of me. I should have been turning to the left, but did not even realize I was suppose to be turning. Womp! Down I go - haven't been on the bike more than 15 minutes and I have already hit the dirt! Amazingly, it did not hurt at all. I jumped up and Jay and I analyzed my mistake. I should scan a good way in front of me as I check out the terrain right in front of me. This is something I had to do on fast descents on the road bike during my cross country, so once I figured out I did not need to look right at the front of my wheel, I was able to anticipate turns better.
From that point we would ride up and down and up and down. My heart was pounding with excitement and I was breathing as hard as I ever had. I was red lining big time. I did not have on a heart rate monitor, but I guarantee I was at or over 185 - my theoretical max - not once, but most of the time. It was exhilarating! At one point we see deer running along in the woods not far from where we are riding. Squirrels squirt across the dusty dirt trail regularly. My biggest difficulty was really sharp turns - especially when they are trending up steeply and there is a tree in the apex of the turn! Many of these turns I would have to unclip and walk up a couple steps to be able to get through the turn. My second issue was getting back on the bike after coming off during one of the turns. I would not be in the right gear to get the traction I needed and then immediately start climbing again - especially if there were roots in the trail.
We rode for about 2ish hours and Jay estimated we rode 5 or 6 miles!!!! HA!!!! We also rode again on Sunday afternoon. I was a little more apprehensive at the beginning, unclipping in some areas of the trail I did not have any problems with on Friday, but the longer we rode, the more confidence I had. I still was unable to climb the hill with the really sharp turn with the tree in the apex, but I got further up the hill before bailing. I also fell twice, but this time I either over cooked my turn and lost footing in the pine straw or lost traction in a turn and my back wheel slid out from underneath me. Neither fall was bad - I guess they were not really falls at all - just skids in which skin touched the ground briefly!
Mountain biking and road riding are worlds apart. watch out for that tree, ugh brake, pedal, push up this steep short hill, stand up to take the descent, brake, pedal, brake, yikes close tree, sharp turn, tree! I was constantly in thought keeping Jay in my vision, trying to look past him, but scanning the earth in front of me. It will be hard to learn to navigate through the trails without riding with someone for a while. It is easier not having to do the navigation totally on my own. I guess I need to have him ride behind me during the next ride for a little while so I don't get too accustomed of having someone to follow. Both cycling disciplines are amazing ways to exercise and be outside in our wonderful world. It is just fun right now to do something a little "off the paved path"!