Sunday, October 14, 2007
Soaking Wet and Frigid Bits
Last night was the first Frigid Bits mountain bike race of the winter. Before Brian and I headed out the door to ride over to Goose Lake we noticed that it was pouring down rain. We thought about just bagging it and getting in the hot tub with some beers instead, but I was too excited for the first race.
We were already pretty wet when we arrived at Goose Lake. The race was a relay. One person heads out from Goose Lake to Westchester Lagoon and back. The second person rides from Goose Lake and up to the Hilltop Ski Chalet and back. You can go any way you want as long as you stay on the trails (no sidewalks). I decided I wanted to do the dirt portion of the race, so I found someone to do the road portion. Since it was cold (about 35) and raining, the race director decided to let us all go at the same time and we would add up our times at the end.
There were more than a few things I hadn't really thought about before I entered this race. I had done this ride many times over the past few months, because it is the direct route from our house to most of the good singletrack in Anchorage. But this time the ride was a bit different. Here's why:
1.) It got dark about 10 minutes into the race 2.) The trails had been torn up by mountain bikers this fall due to all of the rain, so they were heavily rutted 3.) Those ruts were...frozen...solid 4.) The rain that was piling up all day was now freezing in large pools in the middle of the trails, but only on the surface 5.) It was pouring so that made the frozen trails and roots extremely slippery.
These five things added up to the most technically difficult ride of my life. As soon as I got on the Tour of Anchorage Trail I knew it was gonna be tough. My light was bright but it was so dark under the trees, I could barely see the trail. The trail was so torn up and frozen in most areas that every other pedal stroke I would hit a rut and my handlebars would get turned sideways. I also never knew when one of those "frozen on the surface" pools of water would come, so I'd be pedaling along and then smash! my bike would break through the ice and come to an abrupt stop throwing me onto the handlebars (see picture above). When I got on Rover's Run, this happened about every 20 feet.
And then there was the darkness. This is something I didn't completely think about until all of the other guys had passed me going back to the start and I was alone. I had to point my bike light straight down for most of the ride in order to see the obstacles, so I couldn't look far enough ahead to know if there was a moose (or a bear) on the trail, or if I was even still on the trail. The light didn't really help in warning me when obstacles were coming, though. It was like skiing at Alyeska when the fog comes in. You have to learn to ski or ride by feel. If your handlebars get turned sideways or your back wheel skids out, you adjust, recover and get ready for it to happen again. I just attached the light yesterday and must not have tightened it enough, because it kept sagging or pointing straight up in the air, needing adjustment about every two minutes.
But I have to say, this ride really kicked ass. Somewhere along the way I thought about the human power to adapt to any situation. By the end of the ride back I was singing and was thinking I was master of frozen, rutted, soaking wet, break through ice pool, complete darkness, frozen toe, moose in the shadows, bike light in my eye technical mountain biking.
When I got back Manny and Brian had started up the trail looking for me. I guess I didn't win, because everyone else had gone home! But I finished.