I know the cross season is over, and most folks are heading into the road season. As the winter days turn to spring, everyone’s getting out on skinny tires and gettin’ all fast and stuff. I know others are dusting off mountain bikes and getting ready to head up into the trails and trees. And while I love the sunny days on the road too, I feel pretty comfy on my road bike — I’m not as strong as I’d like to be, but at least I’m comfortable on it. Yes, there will be many more days on my road bike, that’s such a love of mine, and I look forward to them. But up until this week, I’ve never really been off road, so for me, training for cross 2009 starts right away! On Monday, in the cold and rain, I got my first schooling….
Over the weekend I threw on some Michelin Mud 2s, popped in a couple slime tubes (lots of thorns where we were heading) and set up the Dominators with the cleats for the Eggbeaters. I did all this while the sun was shining, in between a couple of nice day rides. As if to remind me of what the fall can really be like, it started coming down on Monday as I was gearing up to head out. One of my business partners questioned my sanity as I was heading out the door of the office into the rain in the middle of the day.
I met up with Ellen and Martha (again, more fun announcemets soon that they’ll be part of) knowing full well that today I was going to be shown up by a couple of gals on bikes. I’ve never raced. Martha raced last year for the first time, and Ellen will be racing in the A group this year. Both of them are miles ahead of me, and I knew they’d have plenty of information to digest over a day of riding. After a couple turns around Bush Park, in the barkchip trails and across some grass, we headed down to the frontage road along the River Road train tracks and out to Minto Brown park.
In case you don’t remember, I’m still a big guy. Both my instructors for the day could have doubled up on my bike, and it’d have been about the same rolling weight as just one of me on my bike. Today was just about getting comfortable off of pavement. Everyone has said, “most important, feel comfortable on the bike.” And I keep thinking, “it’s a good thing I’ve got several months to drop the rest of my weight, and do just that.”
Over the course of the couple hours we were out (some of that time riding to and from the park) I got my taste of gravel, sand, dirt, mud, grass, puddles, blackberry bushes, barkchip piles, tree roots, and anything else I may have put out of my mind from the ride. On more than one occassion I was sure my heart was going to explode, or just give up, and everytime I’d think that, I also was realizing that the two leading the charge were likely not feeling the same pain. This was probably more of a walk in the park for them, to help me out, get me comfortable. At those moments I was motivated to just keep cranking and keep working hard.
In fact, Ellen is a gazelle. I swear she thinks about where she wants to be on the bike, cranks twice, and gets there. At one point, while sludging through some mud, I looked up and she was a hundred yards out, one hand on the bar, cell phone tucked between ear and shoulder checking in with Pat, the other hand doing some civil engineer drawing for a client, all while cranking away in the biggest gear possible. (And with a thorn taking air out her front tire…no kidding.) Girl Power indeed.
Every time we’d get off an upaved trail, up onto pavement I’d have a moment of relief thinking, “Ok, I made it!” Then our tour guides would find the next trail or muddy path, and we’d be off again. At the end of one such path it felt like my tires had both lost all air pressure, and I was mashing like a large winemaker in vat of grapes just to stay up. At the end I asked if it was just me, or if that last part had gotten tricky, and they confirmed it was indeed a hard section. I was glad to have cranked through.
And then, before I knew it, we were back up at the road. I was beat, but I was feeling really good. The rain was still coming down, I was significantly covered in water and mud, and I still had to ride back across town to get home. On the way home I think I was just thankful more than anything.
Thankful I had kept both tires face down all day, and myself upright. Thankful for the flexibility of schedule to get out in the day to ride. Thankful for the health and ability to power a two wheeled vehicle across town and back, with a heart pumping mud fest in between. Thankful for a family that supports my love of riding. And in a weird way, thankful that it was cold and rainy on my first day out.
It’s raining again today, maybe I ought to see what kind of trails I can find out behind the Keizer Rapids park.