….like I like my eggs; Poached.”
It was Sunday evening, the end of my first Sea Otter, and as I knocked back another Baja Fog I’m pretty sure I cheerfully vowed, more than once, never to race again. I stuffed myself with delicious fried Hawaiian food, set my alarm for 7:15, and promptly curled up on the hotel floor.
By nine the next day I was in Aptos with the remaining Bike Mag crew and representatives from Fox and Salsa. For the first morning in six months I’d rejected my oatmeal, eaten a huge scone with coffee, and proceeded to feel really sick for the entire car ride. It was misty and cold, and as I wearily fished my gear out of a car that had become one giant laundry basket, I wondered cynically what mysterious obstacle my body might present for the day. I was thrashed but, as always, ready to pedal.
I’d been running on the opposite vibe all week. In fact just ten days earlier, after a totally inspiring weekend with the nation’s Luna Chix at their annual summit, I’d even thought I was starting to turn my rough-start season around. It had been two awesome days of ripping through the woods of Marin, discussing nutrition, and generally having a good time with 200+ enthusiastic, health-conscious women. Hanging with those ladies made me feel like being a girl in this sport isn’t such a hopeless cause, and by the end of the weekend I was sure I could shape up my nutrition, (no more pretzel binges!) my life and my attitude. I was ready to start living better.
That was ten days ago. Back in Aptos, as my bike and legs creaked into motion, I knew my attitude was once again in bad shape and my liver was pissed; if anything I’d started living worse. The first bit of riding wasn’t going to be fun. I settled in for a slog.
After the Luna weekend I’d descended upon my unsuspecting family in Pleasanton for a few days of clean laundry, good sleep, and homemade peanut butter. My aunt and I had whipped up an incredible stew, my cousin had shared his birthday, and my uncle had found me some great information on the area trails. It felt really good to leave the bike world for a few days, but not good enough to resist a Tuesday ride with some friends on the legendary Mount Tam.
I’d heard mixed reviews about Tam, which I’m assuming are probably due to people’s level of comfort with (or knowledge of) less-than-legal trails. I don’t want to get into the usage debate, so I’ll leave it at the fact that the trails I got to see couldn’t possibly get bad reviews from anyone with a soul. Over the course of five hours I think we had accomplished a pretty thorough tour, and by the end of the day it was definitely a ride for my record books. Top it all off with Tecate and some epic Mexican food, and I was living well, if a few hours outside my planned ride time for the day.
Back in the mist, the ride in Aptos was starting to resemble the beginnings of another epic. We’d been climbing fireroad through a thick green tunnel of trees for about an hour, still with no summit in sight. As we stopped for a breather at a bench bearing a sign that said something like “DO NOT PEE HERE,” I crunched down the rest of my rice crispie block and hoped I wouldn’t need it later.
After one more day with the fam I’d dived headlong into the circus that is sea otter. Armed with my handy HD flip camera, I’d set to work interrogating every vendor unwitting enough to make eye contact with me.
For the next four days I was fuelled almost solely by lara bar samples, corona and dennys dinners; my Luna epiphany fading quickly into the baja fog. I was also totally starstruck; three nights before the race I was meeting Steve Peat and Tyler Moreland at the Sram launch, and two nights before the race I was pretending to be Darcy to get in to the Follow Me afterparty. The day before the race was spent mostly standing on the Dual Slalom course wishing I had a big bike. I knew I wasn’t behaving much like an xc racer, but the night before the race I was good. I ate a great dinner with Steve, Tom and Mitch, put on my fast pants, drank a bottle or two (of water) and went to bed early. Like that would actually work.
Again, I’m not going to dwell on the negative. There was nothing fun or redeeming about the Sea Slaughter race for me. The course was about 30% pavement, and the rest was fireroad with a token stint on some rutted, poison oak-ridden single track. Not even significant help from my pals at Giro and Hutchinson could save me. It was hot, short, and miserable. It ended in fog.
Back in Aptos we’d finally made it to the top. Everyone’s jerseys had gathered a fine layer of pearl-like dew, and the forest all around was dripping. I rode off the road to check out the trailhead while we waited for everyone to accumulate, propping myself up on a sign so I could peer down the trail a bit. It was one of those textbook single tracks, framed on both sides by greenery and twisting invitingly down into the fog. I listened to my heart beating, my breathing, and the soft click of my hub as I spun a pedal back. It was then that I finally felt what’s been missing all season. I felt like it was okay to be on a bike. Because who could argue with that kind of peace?
Our local called the (again) semi-legal route down “absolute nectar” and he was right. I finally forgot about my hurt wing, my hurt ego and all my weird nutritional hang-ups, and for the next three hours could focus on nothing more than making my bike go as fast as it could. We were in some of the coolest woods I’ve ever seen, let alone ridden in. The trails flowed like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and you could just straight rail most of it. The dirt was loamy yet tacky with the occasional drop or root ball to break things up and keep you guessing. It was a hero trail. Absolute Nectar.
When we finally rolled back into the parking lot, we went to the “local” jump jam, which featured all the big dogs fresh from Sea Otter along with a liberal sprinkling of groms, all throwing pretty big stuff. I was impressed but also starving and getting sick, so I couldn’t muster up too much enthusiasm. One more hotel night, a hangry twelve hour drive back to San Clemente with a fever, and I was back home.
I’m currently on day three of my hiatus from racer land. I melodramatically told the trailmaster I was going to break up with racing, but I know I can’t do that yet. I am, however, considering switching my schedule around to include fewer of the UCI-sanctioned, spectator-friendly short laps, and more of what I actually like about mountain biking. Possibly looking at something like Downieville, and maybe even a Downhill camp with Darcy in the Fall. I want more point-to-points, more time in the woods, more fast stuff that scares me a little. (and I don’t mean Lene Byberg’s legs) I just found out that I’ll be racing in Germany again this summer, so I’ll have to git revved up on short laps for at least two weeks, but other than the really important races I plan on making more time for soul rides this season.
So that is that. Thanks for reading and keep checking back for some better pics. It was one of those weeks when my camera was the furthest thing from my mind, but I know the Salsa guys got some good ones.