Monday, October 12, 2009

Fruita Day 3 - Mary's , Steve's and Handcuffs

After a few hours of trying to wake up and much cajoling and peer pressure from Tim, we finally got out the door on Saturday to ride. It would be our seventh straight day of riding and needless to say we didn't have much energy or enthusiasm.

But we knew it was our last day to ride in Fruita, so Heather and I eventually gave in. The ride proposed would be pretty mellow and the weather was perfect, so we couldn't say no. Huber was out due to a crooked back, Monkee and Tim Kelly were off to do a more difficult route in the same area, and the others had already headed back home.

So Tim, H and I planned to do Mary's Loop to Steve's to Handcuffs and then ride back out on the road. The parking lot was crowded when we arrived because it was Saturday. I crawled on the bike fully prepared to be hit with a wall of pain as we pedaled up the first big climb.

But the pain didn't come. I was tired, yes, but my legs felt surprisingly strong and my mood was good. My new rental bike in Fruita was a perfect fit and after practicing technical riding all week I now felt like I belonged on the bike. I didn't feel clumsy or awkward and I didn't want to be anywhere else.

I was sad that the vacation was ending. I was sad because we had such a good time with a great group of people. Because I Laughed more this week than I have in a long time. Because my mountain bike skills jumped up so many level and I wanted to continue to practice to see how far I could go. Because waking up in the morning knowing that all I have to do that day is ride a bike makes me happy.

Because the bike I was riding was awesome and I didn't want to give it up...

The last few miles on the road back to the car I was torn. I was exhausted, but wanted to keep riding. I don't know when I will get back to this area, but I hope it is soon, because I have more business to take care of here. I'm not done with you Fruita.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fruita Day 1 & 2 - Rustler's Loop and 18 Road

My body is completely trashed. My leg muscles feel like they are detaching from my body. My heart rate feels like it is constantly elevated. We are all counting our bruises and scrapes to see who has the most. But we are heading out the door to ride, because we'll only be in Colorado for two more days.

Today we road at the 18 road area. I have heard a lot about this area because Brian camped here for a week last year, so he knows the trails really well.

Kessel Run is a fast fun roller coaster of trail with little technical challenges and probably one of the my favorite trails we have ridden on this whole trip. Last week I would have said this was my favorite trail, but I just can't get the Porcupine Rim out of my mind. It pushed me so far past my comfort level on a bike on the start of the downhill, but by the end of the ride I felt completely comfortable. I say I grew the most as a mountain biker on that trail.

I'm in coffee shop now trying to figure out how I am going to muster up the energy to ride on Saturday and Sunday. I had trouble standing in line waiting to order coffee. I looked at the photos I took today and thought, wow that was really beautiful, how did I miss it?

So this is what it feels like to be over trained. It's not pleasant. Maybe a good 10 or 11 hours of sleep tonight will help.

Goodbye to Moab

You will be missed...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Moab Day 5 - Intrepid Trails

Most of the group agreed that after many hard days of riding in a row, it was time for an easy day. Tim got a tip from a guy at one of the bikes shops about the Intrepid Trail in Deadhorse State Park. He said it was a mellow singletrack ride around the rim of a canyon that was suitable for beginners, or people who were really f-ing tired.

That was us.

My camera battery died after the Sovereign Trail photo shoot and I forgot to bring the charger, but Tim let me borrow his spare camera. I barely had the strength to roll up the baby hills on this ride, so I didn't put much effort into picture taking this day.

It was exactly what we needed. The trail was about nine miles long with many stops along the way to look out over edge of the canyon.

There were only a few baby technical sections, but I managed to crash more times on this day than any other day we've rode in Moab.

Towards the end of the ride there were a few miles of smooth, fast and flowy singletrack. I was trying out some move that I learned while watching the downhillers on the movie "The Collective". Something about putting your knee out to the side to balance when going around a curve. I figured if I did that I didn't need to slow down into this curve. Note to self: I am not in the movie "The Collective", nor will I ever be.

I crashed right on the sticker I put on my helmet a few months ago that says, "Wear a Helmet, Live to Ride Another Day" courtesy of the Alaska Brain Injury Network. Thanks helmet and thanks Alaska Brain Injury Network for reminding me.

Moab Day 4 - Sovereign Trail

We headed out to the Sovereign Trail Tuesday under blue skies and 65 degrees. I had shaken my fear and knew then that I could handle (or walk) anything that these Moab trails could throw at me. Some of the girls from Palmer that we ride with had told me that their skills had jumped to a whole new level after they rode in Moab and Fruita and I was now beginning to understand what they meant.

The Sovereign Trail is a slow climb with plenty of technical challenges. Porcupine Rim on Monday was all about the rocky downhill, but Sovereign was the place to practice ascending rocky ledges.

After a few miles of playing around on the rocks, and numerous photo shoots, the trail climbed steeply up and over a rocky ridge. We had to get off and push the bikes here.

I walked most of the descent on the other side of the ridge. It wasn't too technical, but I seem to lose my nerve (and all skills) when I ride next to a cliff. It's like my bike just wants to steer out into the abyss.

Eventually we made our way through a sandy wash that ended on a wide open expanse of slick rock. Slick Rock. Those two words were enough to send chills down my spine about a week ago. Before we arrived in Moab, I feared the slick rock. I never thought that I would like to ride in a place where the rock never ended. Where every crash ended with your body falling against the rock. But slick rock is what riding in Moab is about, so I knew that I would have to give it a try.

In the past four days I have learned to love it. I have even started to wonder on each trail we ride, when the slick rock part is going to begin. And who can hate something that provides such amazing photos. The blue skies contrasting with the slick rock produced some of the best photos that will come from this trip.

After playing around on the slick rock and eating lunch, Heather and I were feeling tired so we found an alternate way back on a jeep trail. Tim's brother Matt rode with us. We figured the guys would have fun bombing back down the Sovereign Trail without having to wait for us.

I was just beginning to get comfortable with my new skills, but our time in Moab was ending. Only one more day to ride here...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Moab Day 3 - Porcupine Rim

Driving up to the trailhead I was feeling a bit nervous. I read the trail description for the Porcupine Rim trail and it said that this trail was technically very difficult to abusive.

Abusive. Abusive. Abusive. That word kept ringing in my head as we wound around the rocky dessert. I just wanted to get on the bike because I knew I would feel better once I started pedaling.

The first 3 miles were uphill, but not the kind of uphill we are used to in AK. I was able to keep up with the guys, because every 50 yards they would stop to play around on the rocks, competing with each other on who could ride up what. I would stop and walk up whatever ridiculous steep rocky ledge they were killing themselves on and take pictures from the top.

The three mile climb took about an hour, but eventually we made it to the top. I was feeling more and more comfortable riding on the rocky terrain and wasn't too worried about the downhill knowing that I could just get off and walk when the drop offs were too high.

The whole group at the top of Porcupine Rim...

Then it was time for 11 miles of downhill. One way to desensitize yourself to riding down rock ledges is to do it one hundred times in a row. I guess that's true with anything. As the day went on, I allowed myself to drop down progressively bigger ledges and became progressively more comfortable.

The boys continued to show off for each other...

The last three miles were a challenge. By this time Tim and I were bringing up the rear, Monkee had gone and forged ahead because he hurt his wrist on a crash and wanted to get back to the house, and everyone else was tired and just wanted to go at their own pace without waiting.

Riding the singletrack around the rim of the canyon was surreal. I walked quite a bit because it seemed the consequence for making a mistake at this time was great. I suddenly lost my nerve as I peered over the thousand foot drop down to the river. But since we were off our bikes a lot Tim and I decided to take advantage of the numerous photo opportunities.

In the end it was one of the best days of mountain biking I have had. The group we rode with was great, the views were unlike anything I have seen before, and I improved as a mountain biker ten times over. There were times when I was riding through rocky sections where I surprised myself. Sections that I would have gotten off and walked through the day before flowed like I had been riding them for many years.

Now we are at the start of Day 4 and I am feeling more confident. Not that I will be able to ride everything we come across, but that I will be able to work through sections and ride more and more of the "technically very difficult to abusive" stuff and not have to worry too much. More later tonight...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Moab Day 2 - Klondike Bluffs & Baby Steps

We rode the Klondike Bluff trail and Baby Steps today. The memory card in my camera died early on in the ride, so I couldn't take pictures and lost all of the photos I took before that. These pictures were taken by the two Tims.

So far Moab has been fun but challenging, and the rides we did today were considered easy to moderate on the Moab scale. On the Julie scale they were challenging.

It doesn't help that I'm carrying around 10 extra pounds that I have tacked on since surgery. But mostly it's the ledges. Here's me watching Brian drop down a medium sized ledge (that's medium on my scale, probably small for most). I rode up to it three times and could not get myself to drop off. I eventually walked down.

Later I tackled a few ledges of the same size, but mostly by accident.

So far my opinion on Moab is that it's beautiful, fun, and a little bit scary.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Arrived in Moab!

We ride tomorrow, more to come!