The Core of Downhill

I was talking with a friend about downhilling, he was trying to figure out ways to go faster.  I’m pretty quick, I wouldn’t say it is because I’m some super exceptional rider, or that I have some killer skill-set.  I mean, you do get good at what you do and I’ve certainly spent a lot of time doing it, so I am faster than your average bear.

Anyway, I told him one of the things that helps me go faster, aside from all the normal good riding techniques you should have mastered: proper braking, looking through turns, counter steering, all that good stuff; is that sometimes you have to just commit and throw yourself into the unknown and just believe in yourself and that you will have the ability to handle whatever comes your way.

So from that conversation, I came up with this quote:

You might not know what is on the other side of a turn, or over some ridge; but you have to hold onto your speed and commit to it, and just believe in yourself and your skills.  And when that unknown reveals itself in a blur of flying dirt and rocks in your path, autopilot kicks in and riding it is second nature.  In that moment everything becomes crystal clear, not just on the trail, but in life.

Of course, sometimes things come your way you can’t deal with and you wad it, but that’s just part of riding.  If you’re not crashing, you’re not progressing.  If you’re not progressing, you’re just riding in the safe zone.  And maybe that’s what you want to do, I know a lot of people that just want to ride in the safe zone.  But most of the time, that’s not for me, and I have a lot of friends that don’t want to ride there either.

So throw yourself into the unknown, believe in yourself and you will achieve.  It’s not just about the ride, but life. ;)

Rockin in Rockville

I sat there in my swivel chair, staring at my monitor.  The Boddingtons pub ale getting warmer by the moment as it was slowly sweating a small pool of water onto my desk.  Glaring at it, as if to say I’m better than you, a half full bottle of Jack Daniels sat perched off to my right.   A mild fog clouded my thoughts as the two battled it out in my bloodstream while I lounged, trying to think of something more entertaining to write than my usual rambling merely describing some ride I’d gone on.  Ironically, I’d actually done a pretty fair amount of riding recently; certainly more than I had ever done before in a weekend and while a huge portion of it was road, it doesn’t detract from the fact that I’d ridden 50 miles over the course of just three days.  Surely not a huge feat for many, but for me, that really was the most I’d ever ridden in a weekend.

It started with this crazy bike to work idea.  See I’m not roadie, I mean, I really am not a big fan of riding my bike on the street; but if I pause to give it a fair amount of thought, I’d spent a huge part of my life riding on the road just to get to dirt jumps or around town.  So I suppose it wasn’t an entirely abstract concept, but just the same, riding to work was a good 15 miles each way for me.  A buddy of mine I work with rides a mountain bike on the road, in fact given his lack of dirt experience, even he would call himself a roadie on his mountain bike with street slicks.  He lives roughly at the midpoint between my house and the office, so it made sense to hook up with him at his place and ride in on bike to work day.  Though, considering that I had a good 20+ miles in store over the next two days, I probably should have just driven to his house and ridden the rest of the way.  What can I say; sometimes I hear that voice from Gattica in my head saying,“save nothing for the ride home.”

So I pedaled off to his place, and sparing you the boring details of a ride some of which I’d later come to lament, we rode in to work together without major incident, and on that same token I made it home without any problems either.  I did however learn something about targeted fitness.  See I‘ve got big quads, I don’t know, must have come from BMX biking so much as a kid, combined with 25+ years of martial arts.  I have spent a lot of time on bursts of power, exploding to hit enough speed to pull a jump, or to overwhelm an opponent with kicks and punches, but truly sustained activity eventually wears me down.  So for example at a green light I can pretty much dust most cars leaving behind any roadie, but after the turn and just a few feet beyond, they, like my friend, pick up and maintain a pretty high speed cadence I just can’t hold to save my life.  At least for now that is, which honestly is why I started doing these pedalfest XC type rides.

However, enter day two of my weekend mile-fest.  So that same buddy who was pretty much leaving me behind on every long stretch of road, went mountain biking with me on Sat for a nice 12 mile loop.  And needless to say, while I sat at the top of basically every steep climb just casually sipping water from my camelback, he reached the top looking like he was ready for Charon to ferry him across the river Styx.  We finally rode out the rest of the trail, and he had a good time overall, aside from some issues adjusting to grip shifters.  My riding didn’t end there however, as I was to meet up with one of my mountain bike clubs for a Sunday ride-fest at Rockville.

Now Rockville is pretty awesome, and honestly, everyone in my group that went, all 23 plus of us, were pretty damn fine riders. Rockville has some pretty ridiculously challenging stuff as far as your average rider is concerned, and to see self proclaimed newbies riding the stuff we were hitting out there, all I can say is that I am thoroughly impressed.

We rode a pretty good variety covering long drawn out climbs that had even the fitness buffs dismounting to push their bikes uphill, to some sweetly rocky downhills that had me wishing I had a full face helmet on.  But at the end of the day, when all was said a done, and we’d ridden most of the park, we all had a damn good time, and in spite of the fact that my legs didn’t fully recover till about Thursday, I can only say  I had a great time with some great riders.  Of course, it did mean I didn’t really get any riding in during the week, but there’s always tomorrow.  :)

I’ve inserted a couple pictures from the ride that were taken by other riders, I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you who took what, but credit does not belong with me for any of these pictures.

Caught mid-chew lookin’ gimpy at the head of the table; that’s me with the tattoo back there :)

09/22/11 Local loop

So the saddle time I’ve been putting in has really been making a difference.  I did my local training ride today, this will be the second time on this exact route, the third time on roughly the same route.   I was 20 minutes faster than the last time, and 30 minutes faster than the time before that.  I was really moving coming down the trail once I got there and honestly was in motion almost non-stop short of stopping for traffic lights.  I have definitely been trying to push a little harder each time out and what is awesome is seeing and feeling the difference from one ride to the next, whether it is these local training rides or the couple trail rides I’ve done out at Salmon Falls lately.

When I hit that first stretch of rolling singletrack as I pulled off the paved bike trail, I just mashed down on the pedals and hammered through the turns.  It was awesome, I was really moving down the trail.   Pumping where I could, keeping my speed and fun levels up.  Of course, this is a shared use trail, so I keep my jingle bell on the bars, you know just in case.  :)  I’d still like to really start getting in more of these during the week, at least a couple times a week should be doable.

Back to the falls

Funny how time flies right by you if you aren’t paying attention.  I mean, before I knew it, the weekend was upon me and I hadn’t gotten in a ride all week with my last ride being at the Salmon Falls trail the previous Saturday.  As it was now getting late in the day on Sunday and I was still reeling from a visit from both my mother and mother in law at the same time, I decided there was nothing like a good ride to clear the senses and come back to reality.  So after packing up my gear and loading my bike, I headed for the trail fighting the setting sun as I drove.

It was actually much easier parking this time, as I pulled into the dirt area before the bridge just after 5pm there really weren’t many cars there at all; and by the time I returned from my ride, I was only one of three.  The one thing I hate about Salmon Falls however is the fact that it is also a popular place for break ins, and so far every time I’ve been there I’ve seen broken glass where you park, not very confidence inspiring.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I rode away from my truck towards the trailhead, but what can you do.  I clicked on the GPS and started across the bridge of death as I headed towards my church.

My first thought once I hit the dirt was that man my seat sucks, no padding at all.  I know it is supposed to be some kind of lightweight race seat or whatever, but seriously- so not comfortable.  That, and who was the genius that decided white was a good color for a mountain bike seat?  Anyway, started the climb in; at present I’m still dropping down to my granny gears on a lot of these steep climbs but I am finding each time they do get a little easier.  Reached the rock wall of death, started to crest up it, but like last time just couldn’t make it, and with the loss of momentum that meant the short climb right after was out too.  I think once I’ve gotten my fitness level higher and I can carry some more speed up the initial climb in a higher gear. Oh that wall will suffer unto me, yes it will.

Dropping the first short rocky descent I got into a good rhythm, and cranked away through the first section of the trail at what was a pretty good XC clip to me at an average of roughly 10mph, a speed which would later dip overall to 6mph thanks to some slow climbing.  This time I took a slightly different route than before and rather than hooking off to the right for a long climb, I decided to see what the trail to the left was like and found that it was a pretty fun ride.  Though it had a lot of ups and downs, it did eventually drop off into a smooth coaster like descent that put me down where the big climb and descent did last time ended up.

Alas, I didn’t have lights and it was starting to get darker under the cover of trees back there, so I decided to head back out.  I turned to go up and out the way I came in from the last time, and found that this time I was able to power my way up much more of the climb than last time.  In fact generally speaking everything was a little easier which is nice.  Unfortunately, as I approached the final quarter of the climb I just couldn’t make and had to push the rest of the way, but I was rewarded with a nice fast singletrack descent back to the main trail.  Where I suffered the blazing dry heat of an exposed climb last weekend, this time with the setting sun and simply warm weather, it was just fine.  I have to admit however, I was glad I brought a Camelback this time.

Cranking away and winding my way back down the trail, following the weaving singletrack under a canopy of trees I felt like I was right at home.  I remembered joking once long ago about the solitude and “at oneness” you feel when riding alone, just you, your bike and the woods.  I think I said something like “it is more than just a ride; it is practically a religious experience” and in what was some of  the weirdest timed music to randomly get selected in quite a while, my iPod clicked to the next random song and “Personal Jesus” starts playing.  I smiled to myself as I pedaled along; yeah, I guess you could say this is my church.