Wednesday, December 07, 2005

And Then I Fell Off a Cliff

I did decide to go on said 'Epic' mountain bike ride on Saturday morning in Pasadena California. The day started out safely enough with a 1 hour drive to the mountains in Pasadena. Everyone met in the parking lot of the trail head. There were about 8 guys and me. I was pretty nervous about being able to keep up with all these experienced mountain bikers on their home turf. The ride started unassumingly enough with a lazy roll on a gravel fire road. Then the single track started. I had to 'get my balls back' as Jordan would say, as I hadn't mountain biked since the beginning of August. It is weird to accept the fact that if you just keep pedaling, you will roll right over those foot-tall boulders and right through that 8-inch-deep mountain stream and right up that 45 degree ascent (at least it looked that steep!). Well, some of those things are easier said than done, and I ended up walking most of the first section of trail. I was quickly dropped and thought about turning around. I didn't. The group met up after each section of trail to make sure everyone was okay and keep going.

There were three main single-track sections at the beginning, and then we turned onto a fire road and started climbing. And we climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed. This was probably one of the longest climbs I have ever done. I kept thinking the road would pop into some single track, but the fire road continued and was never less than 10% and probably got up to ~20%. I was loving my granny gear! I was also able to prove that I'm not a total chuffer as I did beat some of the dudes to the top of the mountain.

After about 2 hours of climbing, it was time to go back down. I debated about telling everyone I'd see them at the bottom and taking the fire road back, but against my better judgment, I popped into the single track along with everyone else. The first section wasn't so bad. It was wooded, and slightly sticky since it had just rained the day before. I made it through unscathed and slightly more confident about my ability to make it to the bottom in one piece.

The second section was basically my worst mountain biking nightmare. It was a narrow trail switch-backing sharply down a steep mountain side with loose dry gravel. I was unable to make my bike go slow enough for my comfort level without the tires sliding out on the loose gravel. I crashed several times, each time managing to fall into the mountain side. At one point, I crashed into this prickly plant that stabbed me in my head through my helmet. I believe the mountain was attacking me. So, I was riding along trying not to die when an incredibly narrow section with a steep drop off came along. I was too scared to ride it, so I tried to stop. I slid and managed to come to a standstill teetering right on the narrowest section. At that point, the mountain won. My teeter tottered the wrong way, and I tipped straight over the edge. I screamed--an involuntary reaction that I didn't know I had--and landed about 10 feet down and then started rolling. My bike somehow separated from me, and as I continued to roll, I noticed some little shrubs passing by me at an incredible speed. It occurred to me that I should try to grab a branch of one of these little shrubs in order to stop my uncontrolled rolling down the mountain. I reached out and got one, and then just sat there in an unreasonable state of panic. After a while, I managed to get myself together and climb back up to the trail. Jordan had heard me scream, and he eventually made it back up the trail to help me get my bike. Needless to say, I walked my bike for the next several miles. Each time we came across another ledge/drop-off section, I started to hyperventilate. I realized that this was totally unreasonable and that I should just ride my bike, but I couldn’t. I have never had an anxiety attach before, but I wonder if that is what it is like? When we made it back to the next junction where I could choose fire road or single track, I chose the fire road!

Eventually, we came to the point where I had to ride the single track in order to get back to the car, so I sucked it up and went for it. This section was more wooded and muddy, so there was plenty of grip to my tires and no cliffs to fall off, so I made it to the bottom.

It was quite a day. Basically, I experience my worst fear on a mountain bike when I fell off the cliff, had an irrational phobia for several miles as I started hyperventilating every time I even walked over a narrow section of trail with a drop-off, was forced to face my fear when the only way back to the car was on single track, and actually had fun in the end. I don't imagine many people can say they've done all that in one day! Anyway, I'll be confining my future mountain biking to nice Wisconsin forests where you can never fall further than a few feet!



Blogger Cowgirls Cycling Team said...

Jeeeezzzzzzzzus Eikes! Glad you survived that ride.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, does your Dad know about this?????

4:08 PM  
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5:38 AM  

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