Maintaining flow

Tamarancho always teaches me about flow. It teaches me how trails are built to flow and how I can teach my body to flow. It is my test flow, you might say.

I approach the switchback. Climbing from this angle, the approach is tricky. I choose to swing outside the six-inch ledge grown from a root crossing the trail. The ideal line would take me right over this obstacle. I am not confident enough in my strength to take this line, so I hope my handling skills can help me swing around the tight corner requisite for my chosen line. I turn the front wheel hard to the right. I falter. Unclip and my foot is on the ground before I know what happened.

I did not try sufficiently. My confidence is shaky after the fall ten minutes ago.

Two men emerge from the turn above me. Trailshapers.

Fifteen minutes later the logs and root are gone. I ride the turn with ease and exuberance. My flow is restored. This is one rare case where in a short period of time it is the trail that changes in order to make flow. Most often it is bodies, sometimes bicycles.

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Ghosts

Today, I was haunted.

Tired, I saw how a trail can change without moving a stone.

I rode with the ghost of myself. She trailed behind, seeing tough switchbacks and scary downhills where I saw escapade.

Then I encountered the haunting tendrils of the ocean. She reached out to me with thin wispy fingers. She lurked up the gullies, working her way inland far beyond her typical watery bounds. Her foggy tendrils seduced me into believing that perhaps there was nothing beyond her misty depths. That I would stay forever in her cool embrace. She fogged my glasses, and yet when I removed the lenses the mist remained.

It’s hard to capture a haunting in words.

Skilled elation

I rode the same trails two days in a row. This particular trail is probably the most technical (legal) riding in Marin county with a few nice rock gardens and numerous tight switchbacks. The first day riding I cruised along in a higher gear than in the past, and made a number of problem areas that I hadn’t in the past. I swung around corners with less braking. In short, I rode more confidently. The next day, I rode the same loop. Faster and better. I found myself giggling and vaguely delirious. I thought, this feels familiar, yet slightly frightening. Then, I realized this was how I often felt running. But now I was going faster. The sensation left my lightheaded, such that periodically I had to stop and catch my breath, or my mind, or whatever part of me it was that seemed not quite in my body. I felt immensely present and yet not quite safe. Excitedly reckless, yet still cautious. This was a new sensation, and I wanted us to get a little more familiar with each other before we took things too far. My skill made this newfound emotion possible, but was my newfound emotion equal to my skill? In short, could my skill keep up with my feelings? Could my reactions match my euphoria? What if I got too excited and just careened into the ravine? Over-enthusiasm can land you in the hospital.

Tamarancho loop

Day one with father and son, Day two chasing two fast men.

Equipment

Going on a long mountain bike requires a significant amount of “gear.” Yesterday I planned to go on a ride after an interview, so I loaded all my “gear” in the car and took off.

Gear Checklist:

  • Bike: Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail (old)
  • Helmet: Fancy Bell
  • Shorts: SheBeast brand with a lovely chamois (crucial)
  • Top: Sports bra and jersey
  • Socks: light wool
  • Ponytail holders: Two for pigtails (stays out of the way of my helmet)
  • Sunglasses: Scratched but functional
  • Backpack: Camelback style, with full water bladder.
  • Repair supplies: Small pump, patch kit, spare tube, multi-tool, lube
  • Food: frozen burrito (thawed by lunchtime), gel, Larabars, and a homemade jelly bar (not made at my home)
  • Care products: sunscreen, lube for body chafing
  • Emergency supplies: long-sleeve jacket, leg warmers, iodine tablets, matches, space blanket, compass, map, lighter, more food
I am ready to go! Bring on the 20 mile adventure over the ridgetops! Wait.
I forgot my shoes. My special, SPD clip-in shoes. And I’m about 20 miles from their current location, on the bedroom floor.
Goodbye 20 mile ride, hello 5 mile hike.

Appropriate motion

Sometimes I think that our bodies desire to move through different landscapes at different speeds. Usually while driving in my car, I don’t feel particularly connected to the landscape. It is just the space that I happen to be moving through as I get around. Then I drove through the Salt Flats of Utah. Wow. I remember thinking, “This land wants to be moved through at a minimum of 90 mph.” The long expansive flats of nothingness were a joy to speed through. I felt that at that great speed I really saw and appreciated the land. For me, there are few places on the planet that I’ve known like this.

Where I rode today was not one of those places. The trail I rode today was better experienced running than biking. At least for my body. Other fitter and better technical riders no doubt relish the technical rocky climbs of Upper Upper. I did not. Instead, I found myself wondering why whenever I dismounted from my bike and found myself on foot I started grinning like a fool. As I struggled over the up and down rocky terrain I suddenly realized, This is a perfect running trail. Of course! I should be leaping off these rocks, rebounding off the turn with a swiftness and stealth of foot that I cannot match on bike.

Unlike most in this biking town, I remain at neuron more a runner than a biker. How long until synapses change?

Tony’s Trail and Upper Upper Loop in a T fashion, 8 miles?

Not a champion

First, I dawdled on the computer.

Then, I slowly got dressed.

Then, it looked like rain.

Then, my rear brake cables weren’t working right.

Then, I said, this is pathetic. Just go ride.

Then, I almost turned back early in case the sun set in record time.

Then, I started riding faster.

And faster.

Less braking.

More cranking.

Ah! Flowy! I get it!

Cranking + knowing the trail + feeling good + a send of urgency – braking = better flow

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lower lower loop & upper lower loop, 9 miles?

Expectations

I’ve learned that when I say, “Let’s go for a short run,” this means something different to me than to most people. Experience matters a lot in any athletic endeavor, particularly for endurance activities far from home. And for newcomers, uphills can be especially tricky, particularly if you don’t know the way. Etiquette can vary too. How often do you stop to wait for those trailing behind, or do you even let them fall behind at all? Such differences in expectations can lead to unfortunate results, such as in this ride. We lost a rider, who we probably should have waited for sooner.

Sometimes expectations turn out surprisingly pleasant, though. Despite my memory of Snodgrass as a flowing downhill, it was not the killer slog when ridden in reverse. No, I dont’ mean backwards on my bike, silly. I’d need a mountain bike fixie for that, and that is just CRAZY (though I hear some folks do it). As it turns out, Snodgrass is a lovely ride uphill, though with some killer ups that my tired legs just didn’t quite make. That might have been expectation too, though. I expected to be tired today, and rode cautiously.

I did not expect rain. I certainly did not expect hail. Yet, on that final ridge we rode, “just for kicks…why not?” we saw both. I grinned and giggled my way down, though damned if I rode any faster. Giggling idiot, soaked and pelted. Very fun ride.

Monday, July 19, 2011

Up the rec path, to Washington Gulch, up Snodgrass, down Snodgrass, to Lupine, down to Slate River Rd and back to town.

14 miles?

with Mark