Thursday, November 17, 2011

Second Nature

It has been raining hard for the past couple of days with our area even being under a tornado warning yesterday.
Many states around us were hit with severe weather and destructive tornadoes but we thankfully received only wind and rain.
This morning I woke up to sunshine, very blue skies, and temperatures more than 30 degrees cooler than they had been only a few days ago.
Again, such is weather in Tennessee, and such is life in a region that shares its weather this time of year with Gulf warm air and Canadian cold air.
A couple of days ago I ran in the humidity and rain wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
This morning I got geared up in a short sleeved shirt, a long sleeved shirt, jacket, bike shorts and long tights, wool socks, gloves and a buff.
It was a beautifully clear day but windy and very cold, and I excitedly loaded my bike into the back of the truck and headed for the base to ride.
I had it in my mind that I would ride some of the single track trails.
Just some.
As with running I am unsure what I am still capable of doing on a bike.
Could I climb gnarly root and rock filled short and steep hills?
Could I successfully navigate winding and tight tree lined single track?
Did I still have the stamina, technical skills, concentration to be able to mountain bike decently?
I did not know but figured it was about time that I found out.
But first I needed to get my head into the game and so began slowly.
I parked my truck in the parking area near the entrance to the trail, unloaded my bike, put on helmet and sunglasses and bike gloves and headed down the paved road close to the water.
The road parallels many of the entrances to the mountain bike area - accesses to fire service roads and jeep trails that eventually hook up with single track.
The roads in that direction are very hilly and as I rode them I tested the waters.
Hill climbing was OK - not great but not too terrible.
I rode for a few minutes ticking off a series of short and steep hills and then pulled off so that I could take pictures of Woods Reservoir before crossing the road and heading into the woods.
This section of the reservoir is located in a quiet cove accessible both by road and by trail.
I rarely ride the trails on this side of the road because they are low lying and usually very muddy.
Today I simply pulled off the road and headed down a rutted dirt road, dumped my bike in the grass and walked towards the water.
It was beautiful.  Very blue.  Very cold. 
Calmer in the cove but generally choppy because of the wind and although LC and I had debated about heading onto the water today in his still new-to-him fishing boat we decided to wait for another day and until it warmed up a bit.
Standing in this quiet place on this extremely beautiful day I was glad that we had decided to wait.................
The paved road was up through the trees.
By the time I reached the tree line the gradual  downhill dirt road leading to the water was badly rutted out and as I made my way down I realized that I was again testing out my bike legs.
Testing out my ability to successfully "pick a line" - choosing the best route that would take me from Point A to Point B.
In this case that meant traveling from one side of the dirt road to the opposite side depending on where the big rocks and big ruts were on the road.
So far so good.
With each small hill, with each small and successful route choice as I was riding, my confidence in my abilities continued to gradually increase...............
When I was in Juneau I spent a lot of time standing by and walking by and riding by the water.
When I was in Cody I spent a lot of time doing the same, only in Cody there were frequent searches for water.
I stood this morning looking out over this scene for a long time and was very happy to be there.
Always drawn to water I love this place..............
The gradual climb on rutted and rocky dirt road back up to the road and it was time to move on...........
The view from the top of the short dirt road looking towards the bridge that spans the cove.
As I stood for a moment drinking water and straddling my bike I considered which entrance I would take to head into the woods.
I could have picked any one of a handful and decided that I would ride another mile or so further on the paved road before heading in.
Mostly because that decision would provide me the opportunity to ride a few more hills.............
I did not even make it to the bridge before unexpectedly stopping again.
Just before the bridge I looked to my right and saw this scene.
At the last minute and on the spur of the moment I pulled off the road, rode across the grass and stopped for a few brief moments to take in this view and then capture it in a picture.
I have driven by and ridden by this cove a million times over the years.
And never noticed just how lovely it really was.
Bike-ride-stopping lovely..............
I eventually pulled off the paved road and hit a jeep trail and slowly rode along the tree limb and rock and ditch filled gravel surface, debating internally how much single track I wanted to ride and where to go in.............
This road on local bike trail maps is descriptively known as "Woodpile Road"............
I knew exactly where I was.
I hit a corner of Woodpile Road every time I run the 7-mile loop I have been tackling since my Mountain Boy and I moved back into the house last month.
There are single track entrances all over this area and I stood beside my bike for a few moments again internally debating when I would head in.
I hated the feeling I was feeling.
The same feeling I had when I parked my truck for the first time last month and headed into the trails on foot intending to (and thankfully successfully) run my old 7 miler.
Second nature is no longer second nature.
Rather it is foreign and unfamiliar and fraught with self-doubt.
The running is getting easier.
But again today I was standing on a trail again wondering if I could still do something I used to be able to do without thought.
As without thought as breathing.
Still with no answer I continued riding the jeep trail heading further away from the paved road but still not ready to tackle single track...............
A gorgeous absolutely gorgeous day.
Not LC's kind of day but my kind of day.
I was dressed just right for the conditions - not too warm and not too cold - and I decided after taking this picture that I would not sweat the single track.
Just enjoy being where I was.............
Today this mowed power line trail was smooth and easy to ride because of the rain we have had.
But I have ridden these types of trails in the middle of the Summer and they are horrible to ride - rutted out, uneven, freshly mowed prickly, occasionally tube flattening experiences that I used only to move quickly from one road or trail to another.
Brief leg strengthening and hill climbing training sections...........
I straddled my bike for a few moments at a 3-way intersection, drinking water and debating which way to go.
I looked down at my beloved but very old and beat up bike shoes, thought briefly about the brand new shiny black bike shoes I bought a couple of years ago that are still sitting in their cardboard box and that I came across while unpacking a storage container the other day, and then took this picture.
There's still life left in these old bike shoes yet..............
Heading off jeep trails and beginning to wander on overgrown double track..........
A picture I took by accident while trying to stuff my camera back into a jacket pocket...............
After wandering around for a couple of hours I stood facing an entrance to a short section of single track.
There had been times in the past couple of hours when I sorta-kinda knew where I was, that invariably led to sections where I knew exactly where I was.
This was one such section.
It was a pine tree section of single track - only about 1/2 mile long, flat, pine needle covered, tight bends, a little closed in with trees on both sides of the trail.
I knew that this section of trail led directly to more single track that was hillier, root filled, rockier, more technical. 
I headed in.............
As I slowly but easily rode the pine tree single track I consciously realized that my head was the key to success.
I mentally talked myself through the section.
Don't look at the trees or you'll hit them.
Don't look directly in front of your tire - look ahead so you can choose your line.
Turn your head into the turns - the bike will follow your head.
Take your time and pace yourself - you can do this.
Not a problem.
I knew the rest of the way to the parking area and my truck like the back of my full fingered bike gloved hand.
I stood straddling my bike for a moment, took a drink, and headed first down and then up this unkempt trail...........
And then straddled my bike again, drank water again, and considered the rest of the trail ahead of me.
I was about a mile from the truck.
I was at the top of a hill looking down.
Steep downhill, long flat section, steep uphill.
Then a demanding combination of short steep uphills and downhills, small drop offs to my left, lots of rocks and lots of roots, a few small ditches, a few open and flat areas, some switchbacks, lots of trees on both sides of the trail.
I clipped in on one side, pushed the bike forward easily, clipped in on the other side, slid my weight to the back of and behind my seat and headed downhill...........
This picture of my slightly taco'd front wheel was taken at a navigation training event in a place called Bull Mountain in North Georgia a few years ago.
It was not long into a new year, was freezing cold, and every trail was deeply covered with leaves.
That important fact was not a huge issue while on foot but it made biking a horrendous experience because all the big rocks and big fallen portions of trees were hidden under the leaves.
Biking was a bone jarring, uncomfortable, dicey proposition.
Close to the end of the day I headed down one more trail, hitting rocks along the way as I had been doing for most of the training.
I did not see it until the last minute.
A huge log in the middle of the trail almost completely obscured by knee deep leaves.
At the last moment I saw a corner of the log, tried to ride around it but instead caught my front wheel.
I did a slow speed endo directly over my handlebars and landed softly in a huge bed of leaves on the back side of the log.
Lots of swearing but glad that I was uninjured I stood up, turned to pick up my bike and was surprised to see that I had trashed my front wheel.
I ended up carrying my bike much further than I want to think about until I finally hit a jeep trail where I knew volunteers were waiting to meet up with racers.
I got a ride back to my campsite from the volunteers and as usual LC shook his head at me and I knew that he was thinking "I'm just glad she's alright"
Sometimes free training events are not as free as you think they are. 
I ended up buying a new wheel the next week................
A picture I scanned into my computer of me after that training saying hi to my sweet girl.............
I missed one climb today because I was in too big of a gear but the ride went fine.
I can do this.
I can do this single track thing.
Running is going well and today I moved ahead in my biking in a way that I feel good about.
Not second nature anymore.
At least not yet.
One last picture of my so-very-beautiful cove.............

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