Saturday, August 31, 2013

when good rides are gone...

Scrub Mountain...5 or 6 years ago, this was a classic ride

Several minutes after this, we hit the "singletrack" and shit got downright ugly...

Overlooking the Lehigh during the Broad Mountain Loop

Trail pout...this used to be a super-fun stream crossing

It's weird to have been riding long enough to witness some remarkable changes out there in the woods, on the trails.
I've seen trails abandoned, shut down, developed, or overtaken by irreparable storm damage.
No surprise it's easier to accept the naturally occurring changes than the man-made ones...
Last week, I was saddened to experience a little bit of both while sneaking in a few rides during our family vacation in the Poconos. 

My dad pulled out his weathered guide book and we decided to introduce Bill to the tried and true out-and-back Scrub Mountain ride, killer downhill included.
Sadly, it became apparent in a matter of minutes that nobody is riding Scrub Mountain anymore.
The trails were completely washed out and unrecognizable, but we made the best of it and explored some offshoots from the main double track, weaving our way down, down, down into the valley.
Weather, time, and neglect had erased the ride my dad was so stoked about, but at least the three of us got to ride together (a rare treat these days).
A few days later, I anticipated some redemption over in Jim Thorpe.
Broad Mountain and Glen Onoko were my first rides on a mountain bike and my first taste of Jim Thorpe.
Ten years ago, on my dad's Bontrager, I navigated the rolling trail nervously and plunged into that stream crossing with naive abandon.
Such fun.
On that ride, I followed my dad determinedly for what seemed like hours (a relatively tame 10 mile ride).   
I was hooked, but had no idea just how greatly this new love for riding would shape my identity over the years to come.

I was all too happy to share the storied ride that started it all with my husband.
With our kids happily hanging out with Grammy and Grampy, Bill and I giddily set out for a late afternoon adventure.
It broke my heart, however, to find the Broad Mountain loop virtually "paved" with crushed stone and signs of actual pavement in some sections...
the whole. entire. loop.
Clearly, it's a different ride now (a loose, churn-y, crunchy, noisy ride) and not one I'll repeat any time soon.
Or ever, for that matter.
The scenic overlook is still beautiful, though, and can still only be reached by a small, tight, rocky trail (my first piece of single track, way back when).
"We could just go back and forth on this all day," Bill joked.
I wasn't about to let a virtual paved woodland highway spoil our time together, but it was quite jarring to find another good ride...gone.

Next time we're in Poconos, we'll forgo nostalgia and head straight to the American Standard.
(that hasn't changed, right?)  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

showing up (Fair Hill Classic 2013)

Sometimes (well, twice this season, if we're keeping track) I get the urge to show up at a bike race and test my mettle, check in with myself, mix it up...
Can I finish?
Will I pass anyone?
Is this going to help me be less afraid of going fast these days?
What does a hard twenty miles feel like now?

I showed up at Fair Hill, fully expecting to get shelled, yet willing to leave it all out there just the same.
It's weird for me to feel this way about racing after all these years, but I am okay with it.
As far as testing my mettle and answering those questions:
Yes, I can finish...of course I can finish a twenty mile race. Not very quickly, apparently, but not last either.
Yes, I passed a few women...I reeled in three, which was no easy feat.
I may be a tiny bit less afraid of going fast. Before I got pregnant, I finally began to feel confident enough to really let it go and try to be a stronger descender. Then I had a baby and I'm back to riding like a wuss. I don't know why I am so scared to go fast because I trust my ability and I know I am a pretty decent bike handler...I'm just scared. (so, wait...I'm a wuss with skills?)
Twenty miles feels brutal to me right now. I'm not used to riding much more than an hour and today, I started coming unglued around the ninety minute mark (no...actually, it was sooner than that).
I've been riding alone mostly and I'm sure that hasn't helped with intensity. While I may think I'm doing these hard rides and crushing it, I'm simply not. I really need to ride with (admittedly, faster) people to push myself.

So, that's that.
I showed up.
I rode some parts like a wuss {braaaaaaaakes!!}, but I rode some parts like a racer.
I wanted to quit with just two miles to go.
I got off my bike in the last open field grassy climb and walked for a few minutes, cursing my cramping legs and aching hips.
I wondered if Bill would be at the finish line with our daughter (he had stayed home this morning and would show up depending on when Maeve woke and got their day started).
Reluctantly, I climbed back on my bike and pedaled onward in no man's land...not another racer in sight.
Finally, I reached the road and realized the finish was really, mercifully, near...
and there, indeed, were Bill and Maeve (all smiles) cheering me on.   

It's taken me the past few seasons/years to figure out how I feel about racing my mountain bike...
I'd been conflicted for so long about working my way up through the ranks only to feel dejected and anxious once I reached the top (the top being "expert" or "elite"...I'm not implying that I was at the top when I was racing at that level by any stretch of the, no).
It's taken a while, but I've finally made peace with the fact that it's just not for me...
I'm not comfortable riding that aggressively or that fast.
I don't think I ever will be.

I love to ride and sometimes I love to race.
I was out on that course today for a long time.
For a while, I felt strong and for a while, I felt awful.
I was second to last. {edit: I wasn't second to last...I fared a little bit better than that, having seen the official results now}
I navigated South Park with more prowess than I've ever ridden it before.
I hit a few downhills without grabbing the brakes.
I careened swiftly through tight trees over chattery roots without imagining the worst.
I showed up.
I did my thing.
...and it was fun.

Several random post-race reflections:

It was really nice to see some familiar faces in a sea of strangers. I've been out of the scene/loop for quite a while and didn't even recognize most of the people milling around, let alone the women I was staging with.
While I was busy feeling like the shy newbie fiddling with my watch at the start line, Sandie and Angie put me at ease with some kind words and unsolicited encouragement. {thanks}

Watching one of my dearest friends wrap up an impressive season was nothing short of inspiring...Kathleen Harding is a force. (she is clearly not afraid to go fast...I could stand to take a page or two from her book)

Maeve doesn't seem to mind hanging out at bike races...she made herself right at home under the team tent.

Bill should race. I didn't get the sense that he was wistful or anything about missing out on today (or this season in particular), but I know he needs to get back out there. I'm excited to see how that plays out for him. 
my only picture from the day...Bill doting on his baby at the TBR tent

On the way home, I stopped at Wawa for a pretzel.
On a whim, I treated myself to a Coke slushy, too.
I haven't had one since I was a teenager.
It was amazing.
That's all.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Taking a short blog pause while we wrap up these last few weeks of summer...
Max is beginning third grade soon.
I remember when he was at the bus stop for the first day of kindergarten and the third graders were big kids.
And Maeve.
Making moves like she's thinking about crawling.
I just don't feel motivated (or the need) to be over here, inside my little blog right now.