Hills, on a Monday

11 06 2009

Last weekend was pretty uneventful, but surely relaxing. The Mr. and I got away to his mom’s place at the beach. A great thing about living in Maryland: mountains to the beach in less than 3 hours. Salt water runs in my veins, so this is my key requirement for any living situation.

We left Friday after work, and got up early Saturday for a ride around the seaside state park on the cruisers. We doubled up on the bike loop and found a few beach access spots that are walk-in/bike-in only. Sweet! We rounded out our morning with a nice lunch on the terrace at the Lewes Ferry terminal. Drinks were had by all. I was able to catch a few rays on the beach that afternoon before dinner, making mine a perfect day.

photo courtesy destateparks.com

photo courtesy destateparks.com

Making up for a weekend of no mountain biking, Em and I headed out to the watershed Monday after work to try some of that new singletrack we scoped last week. The trail is full of switchbacks and obstacles, and I had turned into a wuss. Of course, when you’re on foot and imagining what it will be like to ride something, it seems like a breeze. Not so! Add two wheels and 11mph to my speed, and I’m easily jacked. A few of the switchbacks were crazy and I couldn’t get myself over one of the little rock gardens, but I’m going to keep trying this one so I can improve my skills on windy-er trails.

The new trail does NOT look like this.

The new trail does NOT look like this.

The new piece of trail spat us out onto a section that I rode a lot last season, and the climbing began. I had my mind set that the rest of the ride was not going to kick my ass. Maybe I had conserved my energy from wimping it on the singletrack, but I was taking the hills in stride and with good pace. There’s something about climbing a hill. My husband hates them (although he conquers them with ease), but I relish the challenge. Stating the obvious, I’m not a fan of the rocky decent. Give me a hill to climb, and I’m all for it. I gauge my progress on certain hills throughout the riding season, noting how far I make it each time before taking a short breather, or how winded I am at the top compared to the last ride.

There are two long, steady, rocky climbs and one short, steep one that wrap up the loop we rode on Monday. Em and I tackled them with force, encouraging each other and giving praises along the way. I was mentally encouraging myself, too, since these are heart-pumping, leg-burning ascents. I get a little philosophical when I ride lately. I think of things like, “If you can run a business, you can handle a little hill on a bike.” “Think about how you’ll feel when you reach the top – keep going.”

Biking a hill as a metaphor for running a business? Sure, I take my little “victories” with me for back-up when I’m having a rough day in the office. Instead of compartmentalizing (wow! college vocab) these things I do to “feed” myself, they’re mixed together to make a stronger me. Can’t argue with that.

Swampfoot and Pee Crumbs

9 06 2009

The last weekend in May included biking on Saturday and hiking on Sunday – pretty typical of the season for us. These weekends are coming at us fast as the summer begins, so it seems like I’m already starting to play catch-up on my recaps…

When I first started mountain biking I fell. A lot. It was mostly due to me getting used to my pedal clips, and falling over because I couldn’t get a foot out fast enough when I stopped pedaling through a rock garden or my quads quit on me going up a hill. Needless to say, I ended up with some pretty interesting bruises that made for nice accessories to my summer attire.

I hadn’t fallen since last year – until last Saturday. It was a stupid fall, too. One of those where you’re left thinking, “How did I even do that?” We had just left one of our rest stops, Rattlesnake Rock, when I was slowly pedaling and about to clip in my other foot. Before I knew it I was tumbling over, landing with my right ankle pinned between my bike frame/chain ring and a hefty root, with my body weight moving the rest of my leg even further toward the ground. “Great. I’m going to break my ankle falling from a standstill,” I thought. Once I hit the brush with my shoulder, though, I was able to pull my bike and legs up with my left hand to get the weight off my right foot. The only thing injured was my ego. Of course, I had a bruise, lump and bloody cuts on my shin to go with it.

It’s little shit like that, that frustrates and distracts me during the rest of my ride. I need remember to “shake it off” just like my dad used to tell me when I’d hurt myself fishing or hiking with him as a kid. So as I rode on, I admonished myself to start wearing my bumps and cuts as trophies of days spent doing something I love. In fact, later that day we went to the Maryland Brewers SpringFest, where I wore shorts proudly showing off my purple and green shin and ever-present “pedal slap” bruises on my inner knee.

The last half of our ride still remaining, we set off from Rattlesnake on the rolling, technical (what else is there around here?) trail ahead. I had eaten a small breakfast and was starting to get tired. Not wanting to be defeated, I sucked it up and kept pedaling, but I knew that we would come to the spot where the trail crossed a fire road. I also knew that the Mr. didn’t like the climb on the piece of trail across the fire road, so I made a plan to ask him if we could wimp out and ride the road for the last third of our trip. It was when I stopped to ask him this that I plunked my left foot down into a 6″ deep mud puddle. Hence, swampfoot. Swampfoot dried pretty quickly, so I didn’t have to worry about getting blisters or anything.

Swampfoot, post-ride

Swampfoot, post-ride

I was immediately disappointed in my choice. The road was much tougher than the trail would have been, and it was becoming apparent that my 800-calorie workouts from the week had caught up with me. I grunted my way up one long hill, to the next shorter one and a car rumbling up my ass. We made it to the gate where one of our favorite pieces of singletrack resides, and I knew I was almost finished. I contemplated heading to the truck instead of following the Mr. It was so close! He encouraged me to keep going, and I was glad I did. I left feeling an accomplished sweaty mess.

The Brew Fest was fun. I was a happy girl, downing blueberry beer samples and a fresh crab cake sandwich in the company of good friends, live music and a nice breeze.

Wanting to further explore some of the new singletrack being cut in our local riding area, we set out Sunday morning with Emily and Rischie. What we found was the cushy-ness of a fresh, new trail that will probably only last this season before it’s tamped down enough to become hard and packed. The new section of trail made up the first half of our hike, twisty and windy with a few obstacles and mini rock gardens. I’m really looking forward to riding this one. We followed the trail to its end at the road, crossing it and picking up an existing trail that the Mr. rode a few times years before I started riding.

Old Beetle on the aptly named Volkswagen Trail

Old Beetle on the aptly named Volkswagen Trail

The second half of our hike would complete the loop and bring us back to our parking spot. The dogs had a great time chasing each other back and forth across the trail in front of us, occasionally herding us to move along with them over the small hills, dips and big flat boulders. Derby cracked us up, as usual, marking his territory so frequently that he wound up only letting out one or two drops each time. Emily’s personal dictionary dubs these “pee crumbs.” Totally fits.

We were out for a little over an hour and a half hiking at a good pace, and so felt we deserved to go home, put our feet up and eat some lunch.

Summer ’09 Starts…Now

2 06 2009

If I had to choose one word to describe this weekend, it would be packed fun. While it was busy, it typified the kind of weekends that usually make up my summers.

Getting started early, my oldest friend, Melissa, and her finance, Bob, made their way down from South Jersey around lunch time on Friday. I was able to get out of work for the day (#joysofbeingtheboss) and the Mr. had the day off, too, so we all headed over to the park (Catoctin Mtn. National Park) for a hike. Derby didn’t know what to do with himself, going on three hikes in less than a week. We hiked to the Blue Ridge and Thurmont vistas for a round trip of about 2 mi. or so. Melissa and Bob got some photos at the two overlooks, and I think they enjoyed the breeze that we found at the second. I know I did. With the heat and humidity already present for the season, we had worked up our appetite for fajitas on the grill. Of course, the fajitas were preceded, accompanied and followed by wine…

Which brings us to Saturday and more wine! We headed over to the first wine festival of the summer where we listened to a couple of Caribbean pan bands and had some local wine before giving into the sun and heat. You’ve got to get there super early if you want to get anywhere near a piece of shade. The sangria was cold, though. Our guests had to make their way home late Saturday afternoon, so it all worked out. It’s so cool to think that Melissa and I’ve been friends for almost 28 years. I’m so thankful to still have her in my life.

Melissa (left) and me at the festival

Melissa (left) and me at the festival

No sooner did we arrive home to see our guests off, we got a call for another party. I had a little time to re-compose myself, which included a washcloth bath and shaking my hair out of my ponytail. And we were off – but we only lasted until about 11pm when we had to come home and crash. Besides, I had a truckload of mulch to spread on Sunday, and I did not feel like doing it while dry heaving.

Finally, on Monday, I was back on my bike. We headed out around 9:30 to meet Emily in the Frederick Watershed to do a quick loop that has a mix of singletrack and some technical/rocky downhill and uphill sections. Despite the full parking area, we only passed some hikers with dogs and a single mountain biker. From the other biker we learned of some new singletrack that had been cut by a trail crew and decided to check it out after we were finished with the loop. (It looks like I was riding when I took this shot. Alas, I was not.)

new piece of singletrack

new piece of singletrack

The loop we rode was actually the subject of my very first blog post. While there will always remain a good bit of eye-jiggling on the rocky decents of this trail, I am now handling them more deftly, and without screaming things like, “ohmygodwhythefuckamidoingthis?!?!” Though, I did dismount near the spot where I went over my handlebars last year. That big, flat rock still psychs me out. We had fun blasting through the muddy puddles and wide, running stream before having to dig in for the steep uphill sections that make up the last third of the ride. An “aha” moment hit me while shifting to prepare for one climb, boosting my sense of accomplishment for the day. I haven’t mastered the last, and steepest hill on this trail yet, and it irks the shit out of me to watch my husband pedal his way up. I proceed on foot, which the Mr. has dubbed “bike-hiking.” I think I actually get more of a workout pushing the bike. The end of the trail is sandy/packed singletrack with some stacked log obstacles here and there. I am working my nerve up to try some of them out, but right now it’s all in my head.

The short piece of singletrack we rode after the loop was fun. It was nice and narrow, with a couple of little rock gardens. Oh, and there was also some barbed wire that got caught in Em’s chain ring, stopping her immediately in her tracks. She was able to hop off her bike unscathed, and we pulled the buried pieces up and bent them safely back off of the trail. We made plans to return the following weekend to scope out the rest of the new stuff that continued on the other side of the road that intersects the trail.

I headed to the shop to drop my bike off for a tune up and derailleur part replacement to get it ready for the next ride. While there, I tested out an Electra Townie 7D, and it was love at first pedal…