Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bad Day on the Bike

Today was only fun in retrospect.

I decided to do the Alpine/Tire Mountain combo trail because I'd heard good things about the awesome descents amid really cool old growth forests.  I knew there would be twice as much climbing as the Alpine trail alone, so I wanted to do it on day one, before I got tired.

I slept most of the way on the shuttle ride up, which should have been a clue as to how the day would go.   Last month, when the shuttle reached the trail head, the groups for the different routes would split up and have their riders meeting.  I had just gotten my bike and had time to pee when I heard the call for Tire riders to 'meet over here.'  I saw a few straggling riders heading around the corner and hastily followed. 

I was soon dropped and riding alone on the road.  It turned out that, 'meet over here' actually meant a mile up the road at the actual trail head.  I started getting nervous that maybe they'd already left and I would miss the trail head and have to go back and ride with the other group.  I even started yelling “Hello!!!” but got no answer. 

Finally I saw the group, bunched up at Kate's cut in, the start of the trail.  By the time I pulled up, I was feeling cranky, rushed and pissed off.  Not a good start to the day. My legs already felt like lead, and my seat was way too low for the mile of climbing I knew we would do to start.  I dug around in my seat bag and fished out my tool to raise the seat.  By this time, the meeting had ended and the guides were shouting “let's go!”  The whole group headed up the steep dusty cut-in and soon it was just me and the two sweep guides.  To make things worse, the Alpine only group came up behind us.

“Come on Kronda, hurry up!” said Paul, a guide I had liked last month, but hated at that moment.

“Dammit, I'm just trying to get my shit together!” I shouted, most frustrated than ever.  I stowed my tool, with my seat still too low and headed up the trail.  The first section is steep and incredibly loose and dusty.  Though I knew what to expect and had geared down accordingly, I still didn't make it.  I got off and walked the 30 feet to where the grade became more reasonable and kept going.

I felt like I'd already ridden ten miles uphill.  My knees hurt from climbing with a saddle that was too low and I was already panting and out of breath.  But with the sweep guides breathing down my neck, I didn't feel like I could stop and rest.  To make matters worse, Paul was riding a single speed and I know from reading several people's blogs that climbing on a single speed with someone slow in front of you is pretty much torture, if not impossible. Because you only have one gear, you can't just go slower.

Paul apologized and tried to explain that he was just kidding around about rushing me but the damage was done.  I felt incredibly bitchy for pretty much the entire ride, and it was hard work not to snap when anyone said anything to me.  I probably didn't entirely succeed.

Bitchiness aside, there were some gorgeous descents that improved my mood slightly, but generally speaking, my head was not in the game. I kept thinking how if I'd done the Alpine trail, I could have spent a lot more time going downhill.  And I did a. lot. of. Walking.  When we got to the clover patch section of the trail, there are several steep switch backs that I had no chance of making in my condition.  I finally quite bothering to get on my bike between them, knowing I'd be off again in a few yards.  The rest of the 'slow group' was waiting at the top where the trail turned to double track.  I heard Paul's radio crackle.

“Are you guys OK?”

“Yeah, we're coming.”

A few minutes later.  “Paul, put it in the big ring.”

“I'm riding the gear I have.”

And again, “I'm not trying to put pressure on you, I'm just trying to get you to hurry up.”

Any shreds of good mood I may have gained from the descent evaporated at that point.  I wanted to take the radio and tell the other guide to fuck off.  But I just kept walking.  Eventually, we caught the group, and then, after all that rushing, he deigned to wait a few minutes for me to catch my breath.

The riding got a bit easier for a little while, and then everyone was off their bikes while we traversed a gravel road section with a lot of downed trees from a recent storm.  From there, we started going down again, and I fared slightly better.  At least I didn't have any falls and I didn't go off into any of the poison oak that grows rampant on the side of the trail.  I made sure to have someone point it out to me so I would know what it looked like.

I made it down the whole trail but instead of feeling stoked on the ride, I mostly just felt tired and afraid.  I'm normally OK with some exposed trails (trails that have a steep drop off to one or both sides) but today I was just done.  I was sick of feeling inches away from death (most an over-dramatization of the actual risk) and sick being afraid of the trail.  I counted the miles until we finished the single track and was actually glad to get to the gravel road that signaled the start of the 17 mile ride back to camp.  Although I couldn't relax too much on that either, because Davey, the lead guide warned us about loose sections where we could easily skid out if we didn't control our speed.

When we got to the bottom of the road, the sight of the shuttle waiting for us was about the most welcome thing I've ever seen.  We had been told in the morning that there might be a shuttle available to save us from the 12 mile pavement ride back to camp, but not to hold our breath.  But Paul had called ahead and they were waiting for us.  There wasn't room for everyone, but three people were willing to ride back to town.  I didn't care, as long as I got a seat.

On the way back to camp, Davey started talking about maybe going to the top of the Larison Rock trail—a quick 20 minute decent that ends right in camp.  Surprisingly, I found myself willing to go along with this plan.  As long as there was no climbing, I figured I'd be OK.  Plus that would put us back at camp right before showers opened up.
Larison Rock turned out to be a lot like (the grossly misnamed) Flat Creek trail—unrelenting downhill with just enough technical spots to get you in trouble.  Despite being warned about some spots where the trail gets really narrow because of people wiping out there and washing out the trail, I couldn't avoid the trap.  Just as I recognized that I was probably going a little too fast, I saw the trail get very tiny and a big pile of super fine, loose dust to the left side.  I looked at the dust, and it was all over.  A stupid, newbie mistake.  I slide into the dust and landed on my right side, just like I was sliding into home plate on a baseball field.  I was annoyed, but the damage was limited to a tiny patch of road rash on my elbow.  I got up and kept going and made it down the rest of the trail unscathed.

At the bottom of the trail, I rode directly to the bank of the river, shed my camelbak and walked in without even taking off my bike shoes.  The water was definitely warmer than last month.  That combined with the hundred degree temperature, made the dip more on the refreshing side and less a torture session for my own good.  There were several dogs playing in the water, including Sierra, the adorable German Short hair Pointer. 

After a few minutes in the river to cool down, I went to the kitchen and ran into Lauren, one of the GSP organizers.  She asked about my day of course, and I responded in my now usual grumpy manner.  “Well, would this mocha frappucino make you feel better?” she asked.

I actually perked up at that.  “It definitely couldn't hurt.”

I took the big cup she handed me and it was chocolaty and sweet.  Things were starting to look up.  From there I headed to the shower van.  When we got dropped off, my team mate was just coming out of the showers and solemnly warned me that the showers were 'boiling hot.'  And that the coolest one was on the far left.  I didn't bother telling her that a hot shower was just fine with me.  It opens up the pores.

Being clean after two days, plus the chocolate coffee goodness made me feel for the first time as though I might actually get through the day without killing someone.  Soon after I got back to camp, I got in the dinner line.  It was pizza again, which I hated last month (it doesn't survive the 40 minute trip from Eugene so well), but a few seconds in the microwave made it much more palatable.

The rest of the night I spent in limited socializing and trying in vain to rehydrate myself.  I did OK drinking during the ride, emptying my 100oz camelbak plus water bottle but then made the mistake of not drinking for a couple of hours back in camp.  I got a headache and never did shake it.  I went to bed at a fairly decent hour, hoping to sleep it off and in general, have a much better day tomorrow.

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