Ask my wife and she will tell you I always have one thing on my mind…that’s because I like to focus on one thing at time, complete it, and then move onto another. Right now my focus is single track…oh sure, I’ve got some upcoming gigs and I’ll get out and do some fly fishing locally, but for the next month I’m focused on single track. That’s because my eldest son has talked me into entering a local mountain bike race.
Years ago I did a bit of racing, on a road bike. I did plenty of organized rides and tours, a few cat 4 and 5 races, some duathlons and even one “mini” triathlon. I liked doing these events because it gave me a goal, something to focus on in order to keep me riding. During that time I purchased my first mountain bike…it had no suspension and was beefy, but I loved it. Mountain biking provided a great change of pace…no cycling computer, no log to track my rides, just me and my bike in the woods.
So why would I want to enter a mountain bike race? Well…two reasons I guess. First, it’s a great way to spend time with my son. Second, it gives me a focus…a reason to make sure I ride, even when the days’ stress tells me to head to the pub rather than the trail. However, I refuse to add a cycling computer to my mountain bike, and I refuse to keep a log. I simply don’t want to taint the joy I find single tracking through the woods. That’s why my goal for this race is simply to finish. I don’t care if I beat anyone, I just want to finish…in one piece.
That will be a big accomplishment. It’s been almost a year since I went endo and broke a rib. I was riding a private trail that I helped build last fall. I was riding my new mountain bike and was getting pretty comfortable on it and decided I could bunny hop this log across the trail. The log was wet, and a little slick…my rear tire didn’t quite clear the log. The rear tire slid sideways and the bike stopped abruptly, and I didn’t.
I remember it felt like I was flying through the air in slow motion. I was admiring the fall foliage as I went over the handle bar. For a brief moment, time stood still and I felt like a cartoon character that just realized I went off a cliff…suspended in mid air, then crashing down…hard. The impact knocked the wind out of me, but otherwise I seemed ok. My new bike came through without a scratch. I climbed back on and tried to ride. I knew something wasn’t right. Later that evening, I sneezed…that’s when I knew this wasn’t a bruise.
I got back on my bike in December but it has taken me eight months to regain my confidence on the trail. In the past year, log crossings scared me, skinny’s scared me, drop-ins and whoop-te-dos scared me, but no longer.
This past week my son and I rode our home trail…the “hard” loop ends with a rock skinny, a wooden banked turn with an “up and over”, followed by a rock step over a big log, finishing with a skinny. This all happens in about 100 feet. I may make one or two, but usually ride around the skinny’s and walk the log. This ride however was different…while a couple of climbs still beat me…I was determined to ride all the obstacles. As I got to the end, I hit the rock skinny, caught just a little air went into the banked wooden turn and proceed to run right up and over the rock/log combo rode the last skinny. I let out a satisfying yell!
While my stamina is still in question, I feel like my bike handling skills are back…but let me qualify that…these are 47 year old, don’t like getting hurt, not ashamed to walk around an obstacle bike skills…but hey, I rode that combo and my 17 year old son didn’t!
So for now I have a single track mind. I’ll will enter my first mountain bike race next month. Sure, I’ll be in the beginner, over 40 category, along with a bunch of other old farts trying to act 21 again, but that’s what keep us young at heart. I just hope my heart, lungs, and legs hold out for the duration. If not, I may have to change my focus.
You’ll know how I did by watching out on Craigslist under “mountain bikes for sale.”