I’ve been watching my hard-earned muscles get a little doughy, but for the first time in about a year they don’t protest whenever I try to move. I even caught myself hopping off the doorstep the other day- hopping! There is literally a bounce in my step again, which feels weird.
Of course I already find myself magically wishing for trails. Sure, the ones I’m really yearning for are in Colorado, but as one of the requisites I’ve added to my off-time is a pretty severe attitude adjustment, I’m trying not to focus on that. I can’t describe exactly what this adjustment entails, but to give you an idea, my training goal on Friday was not to complete any intervals, ride for any definite amount of time, or maintain any particular heart rate. Instead I went pedaling with the sole purpose of “appreciating San Clemente.” Sure this meant that I stopped a lot to smell the air, look at the view, and take pictures, but I also felt like a superhero on the bike and did some weird little intervals just for fun. Maybe this is what they mean when they say we should ride with joy.
Today there was a little more appreciation on the menu, and I set out for a ride with Squirrel in the Santa Anas. We climbed for roughly two hundred miles of singletrack, snaking through a shady-ish tunnel of those big bushes that seem to love it here so much. I became an accidental assassin of no less than three lizards, but I also miraculously cleaned a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t have even considered a month ago. I’m taking this as a sign that my shoulder is finally coming back from the dark side. Possibly with something against lizards.
Once we popped out of the bushes, we climbed a little further on the Divide road. There was one particularly loose, steep grinder, complete with a lone traveler struggling along through the scree. He was walking his bike, and as I rode up behind him, I could see that he was absolutely (as my pals in the Springs say) sucking dicks. Meaning his entire face was contorted so that his mouth could suck in the maximum amount of air. You see it a lot at altitude, but I was surprised to see a specimen here so close to sea level. He also happened to be hiking on the only feasible line, but I didn’t want to add insult to injury as I rode by so I asked in my sweetest voice; “Hey there, could I get by ya?”
He glanced back with what could only be described as a look of panic, and without stepping out of the track began to bleat, “I just came from the 91 freeway! I’m having a hard day!”
Not, “Oh sure, I’ll get out of your way with my walking” or “What a lovely day for a hike-a-bike” or even just a “Hi.” No way. This dude saw himself about to get chicked and switched faster than anyone I’ve ever seen into full-on excuse mode. Didn’t even waste time with pleasantries. I was floored. What was I supposed to do? Give him a hug? Wait for him? Offer him a Luna bar?
I dug around in my head for something witty to say, but as the excuse-dispenser was forcing me to climb through chunder I gave up pretty quickly to focus on forward motion. Shortly after I passed him I heard the click of pedals followed by a sound like a cow in labor- apparently he was attempting to race me. That stopped eventually- I assume he either faded out of earshot or spontaneously combusted. I do not care- pleasantries are like the chocolate chips in the scone that is mountain bike trail etiquette. This guy was a bad scone, and bad scones suck.
So yeah. Since I can’t ride fast enough to beat up on girls I’ve had to resort to beating up on male tourists. Good for me right?
We finally reached our trail, which dived off the road again into a tunnel of greenery. It was fast and flowy, with a lot of loose rock, which I usually am not a huge fan of but which seemed to work strangely well here. We plummeted from the higher altitude low-bush-and-shale climate into a shady green drainage with some good rock problems and stream crossings. I was finally riding fast enough that I didn’t have time to doubt any of my lines, and for the most part I was just trusting my first instincts, which hasn’t happened since my shoulder got sliced up. It felt fucking great.
I’ve got some pics here from my first appreciation ride, but the second appreciation ride involved too much appreciating to stop and pose. You’ll have to imagineer it instead, which is probably best anyway.