On Sunday, February 24th I rode the Niner at Hall Ranch. This is the third ride and the second legitimate mountain ride on this bike. I got started a bit into the afternoon. It was sunny and approaching 60 degrees when I left. Something was rolling in because it was spitting rain off and on about halfway into my ride. The photo indicates a bit of the mud I got into. I’d rather not trash a trail if I can help it, so I turned around at the upper loop without riding it because it looked like slop. I did ride the antelope connector trail though, and that’s where most of this stuff came from.
To borrow terminology from another rider I crossed paths with, my technical riding that day was ugly. Thankfully it is only February and I have time to get good again. I was never flawless on the technical approach to Hall Ranch anyway, being that this is not my home turf and I’ve ridden there only infrequently. I didn’t feel like the kind of superstar I had hoped on the new bike, especially when I was grinding some chainring teeth down on a rock. That felt like it looked. I have yet to get fully accustomed to riding the big wheels. I don’t know how far I can push it in the corners nor how much more easily it rolls over the rough. I did notice the tendency for the front wheel to try to flop over to one side or the other when it was precariously perched on the high point of a rock or when some leverage was being put against it in this same situation. Everything is stable to a point, but when it lets go it goes farther, having the larger wheels. This is an early observation; I’ll see how it holds up. As far as fitness, there was the requisite early season slowness to contend with. I think my near four hour ride last weekend outdid anything I could do to myself during this short hour and a half. There were the obvious leg pains especially on the grinder sections, but I never felt out of my element. I wasn’t killing it, either, as some guys who came up to the loop behind me appeared to be doing. This is February. There is plenty of time to get into the red zone before racing begins. Right now I’m concentrating on building up some endurance but even more importantly just getting out there with even as little as once a week consistency. I’d like to be putting in three days on the bike, but that is so dependent on weather, light, and perceived time that it isn’t happening. I was getting into a rhythm of at least doing a trail run or some type of run once a week also. But there was that weird sharp pain in the middle of the outer part of my foot… weak excuse, or is it important to listen to your body and avoid injury? I’d rather work in the studio and be healthy for the entire season than lay it out in February and damage something that takes months to heal. Anyway, I’m glad I got out on the mountain bike. Maybe I can take it in to get the fork and bars cut down and the cables shortened. It seems like the riding position is comfortable and my cables are stretching out enough. The guys at Blue Sky wanted to be sure no one knew they put this bike together until after the hydraulics were cut back. Everything got longer when Rob shortened the head tube stack so things look a little goofy for now.
Anecdote: sweatpants story
I never updated these pages with the other rides I’ve been doing. I don’t know that I want to get into full details, but the ride I did two weekends ago comes with a good story. It was the longest this season by over an hour and incorporated the most climbing. I was trying to go slow and steady and get through it. My favorite part was riding up near Pinewood reservoir. There was this funny little guy wearing sweatpants and a walkman (yes, tapes) riding a rigid mountain bike outfitted with a handlebar bag (into which he put the walkman) and some odd assortment of other bags or something on the rear fender rack. He was standing up the entire time (appropriate for certain parts of a climb) in a low gear. I couldn’t seem to catch up to him. He looked like I should catch him, but without really trying to motor up there, my pace was about the same as his. I doubt he had been riding for an hour and a half already, but even that isn’t much time in the scope of things. When I was nearing the summit (nearing it, but not really all that close - there was probably a good half mile or more to go) he up and turned around. He passed by me and I nodded salutation. A second or two later his brakes squealed to a halt and he turned around. Sure enough, he’s riding right past me. I nod again, smiling. He is proud. I let him go, but I want so badly to catch up to him and smear the fun out of his ride like I should be able to do. But this is the fourth week and the fourth ride of my pathetic early season. As much as I try to edge up my pace, I can’t seem to do it. I’m not going to mash pedals for this guy; I should be able to catch him just by putting out a decent effort. But clearly my funny little riding buddy has me schooled. The next time I see him he is way up front. There is no way I’m catching him. I get to the top while he is putting on his jacket and readjusting his headphones. He beams his excellence and I wave my defeat. That is the last I see of him. I feel defeated. I eat something, but it doesn’t do much to energize me. I know what’s happening; I’m beginning to bonk. This hasn’t happened for a few years. I’ve pushed myself a bit too hard for this early. But after my descent I decide to reascend the back side of Carter Lake because I might as well leave it all out there and I don’t like the scenery and the boring road the other way around the reservoir. This doesn’t help, because 30 minutes before I get home I am reeling. I can think of nothing but food, imagining everything my kitchen has to offer. The little puffs off wind are likely to blow me over. I can’t believe I’m still on the bike. When I get home I take my stinky self to the kitchen and make a Nutella appetizer before having a turkey sandwich, balancing through a shower, and committing myself to what must have been a four day nap.
The other rides on previous weekends were not as interesting as this, but also quite rewarding for having done them and reminding myself about the cycling season to come.