Up and Down and Back Again

21 02 2009

Original Post: Wednesday, August 29, 2007

#2: Hashawha Environmental Center, Yellow & Blue Trails
falls = 0 (v.g.) stops = at least 6 (b.)

I took a little too long making my decision to go on this ride last weekend. I knew it was hotter than hell and really humid outside, even at 9am when I was looking at Hashawha’s website. I read a review that talked about the trails being somewhat-rock-free singletrack. It sounded doable enough for a hot day, so we loaded up my truck and headed out.

Looking forward to another two-wheeled adventure, I pulled into Hashawha and picked up a trail map on the way to one of the parking lots. To my delight, there were only a few of cars in the lot and two were leaving as we unloaded. To my dismay, the trail map was hand-rendered with no compass star or legend — very frustrating for a graphic designer!

Being the overachievers that my husband and I are, we decided to take the blue trail from our parking area, meet up with the yellow trail, continue to the green trail and make a wide loop of the entire park, ending up back at the parking lot. I added up all of the funky distances for each trail and came up with about an 8 mile ride. No problem, right? I don’t like eating much before exercising, so breakfast consisted of a small yogurt and frozen (organic!) waffle, plus the Luna bar I scarfed on the way to the park. Little did I know that this would matter in the hour to come…

The ride started out nicely enough. Just as the reviewer said — smooth trails through some nice wooded areas, a nice downhill to get things going. We followed the blue trail a short distance past the raptor cage ( ! ) then connected to the yellow trail. Rolling along through intermittent wooded areas and corn fields, we had to stop periodically to double check the map as the trail posts are sometimes double marked (ie. two yellow arrows pointing in different directions).

The paths we were hitting were definitely singletrack, with trees and sticker bushes nice and snug against my legs as we whipped through. There wasn’t much in the way of scenery, but I was too busy paying attention to the trail in front of me to mind. Things began to get a little hairy, and on more than one uphill climb, I ran out of gas and had to walk the bike up. All the while, my show-off of a husband pedaled on ahead of me, waiting at the top of each hill. I was starting to appreciate our less-than-perfect map because it was giving me lots of excuses to stop and rest. I really wasn’t expecting so many hills! Thankfully, the rocks and roots were still at a minimum.

As we made our way further along the yellow trail, I became painfully aware that I was bonking. I was taking in plenty of water, but my energy was gone. I barely made it up a really steep rocky incline (walking!) midway through the ride — one where Chris even dismounted his bike. By the time I reached the top, I could not form a complete sentence without stopping every word or so to inhale deeply. “Maybe I could lay down for a while…” I thought. After taking a 5 minute break, we were off again.

I started formulating a plan as we rode through some rockier descents. Recognizing the jello-leg feeling I get after a strenuous yoga class, I wasn’t exactly trusting my body to return me safely to our starting point. It took a while to figure out when to tell my husband that we were going to skip the green trail, because every time I was about to say something, I was met with another hill to conquer. Conquer them I did not.

Here’s how the soundtrack went in my head: “Okay, hill. Shift to granny gear. Pedal. Pedal, girl! Keep moving. Oh. No. Why aren’t my legs working? Am I going backwards?!” Followed by an audible, “Uuuuuugghhhhh.” Followed by me getting off of the bike and pushing it — rather, dragging it — up the hill. I was starting to feel a little defeated.

We stopped so many times, making the ride take longer than anticipated, that my husband agreed to my plan of following the yellow trail back around to the blue trail to wrap up our ride. Sigh of relief. However, I still had to navigate a few more hills. This ride was giving me great experience in shifting and using my momentum to get me back uphill — two things I desperately need to improve.

The descents that remained were a feat of leg strength for me. Even balancing on my (jello) legs was proving to be a problem at this point. After nearly skidding into a nice poplar tree, I was ready to smack myself. I gained my composure and zen’d out for a second then continued pedaling on. Every descent that followed came with the internal chant, “Ass behind the seat! Easy breaks!”, until we found ourselves back out at the cornfields. Never in my life was I so happy to see a cornfield.

At this point, I didn’t need the map anymore. I was sniffing my way back to the truck like a bloodhound. We did take a break at the raptor cages, which house several birds of prey with permanent injuries. Since they wouldn’t survive in the wild, they are taken care of by the preserve and used for educational purposes. If you want to stand within a few feet of a bald eagle, I highly recommend.

I knew now that we only had a short distance left, and feeling a new energy, I was ready to continue. I made it down the next hill without relying heavily on my breaks and actually kept enough momentum to pedal my way up the following hill. If anything gave me a sense of accomplishment for this ride, it was my success on this last hill…

…even if I did step in dog shit on my way back to the truck.

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21 02 2009
Another Go « Bacon Betty

[…] knew what to expect on the trail and was looking forward to giving it another go. After the ride in Hashawha, I was eager to see how my perspective had changed for the watershed. Would I actually prefer the […]

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