Invigorating is the word that came to mind several times this morning. Of course, the thoughts came in waves that were interspersed with thoughts like "overwhelming". What would cause such strong emotions? Well, let me start with a brief flashback. The following paragraph is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent my brother, Keith, Tuesday about the upcoming Attack on Swayback mountain bike race. It is included as background to my experience today;
" The course for the “Attack on Swayback” mountain bike race has finally been marked and I rode it for the first time yesterday after work. WOW! All that confidence I had been building the last few weeks and the delusions about being a competent mb racer was gone long before I reached the portion they call “The Zipper”. That is the loving nickname that PROFESSIONAL mountain bike racers gave it. Again I say “WOW”! You remember those feelings you get on the craziest rollercoaster ride of your life as you scream down, around, up, and around some more….over and over? Then, you tell yourself “This roller coaster has been ridden by thousands and inspected regularly—it can’t possibly derail.” This is like that except for the “can’t possibly derail” part. In fact, I remember a voice screaming “You are going to shoot off this trail and cut a large tree in half with your body!” Finally, I recognized the voice and stopped screaming. Did I say “WOW!”? I had just about reached the point where I could “clean” the 7 mile loop I was riding—ride all the way without putting a foot down. Then I followed the small signs for this course and discovered I had apparently been riding the course for 3-year-olds. The race course plunges down ravines and, in theory, you are supposed to RIDE your bike back up the sheer vertical cliff face on the other side. What? I can’t even PUSH my bike up that. Anybody who even attempted to ride this course would have to be insane. Those few who would pay to race other crazies on this course have absolutely, positively lost their completely mind! (family joke)
I will let you know how I do."
That update to my brother gives you some idea where my mind was as I began today. Also, a reminder that I work a crazy schedule so today was my "Saturday". That means that this was the last day for me to "train" on the Attack on Swayback (AOS) trail. I planned to learn better how to anticipate some of the more difficult climbs and avoid any dismount. And I hoped to ride the "Zipper" once more while attempting to suppress the urge to scream like a schoolgirl. As anyone in the southeast knows, it has not rained here in, ooohh about 11 months. Naturally, a cold front has been headed this way for days and rain was certain at some point. I was hoping that point would be about 10 or 11 a.m. Not so. Around 5 or 5:30 it began to rain in Montgomery--light and steady. I watched the weather channel for a looong time looking for a break in the radar. Finally, I decided I was riding--rain or shine. I arrived at the AOS trail-head about 7:15 in the semi-dark of a steady rain. I quickly donned my helmet and gloves, hid the truck keys and was off. Initially, riding in the rain is unpleasant because the tires are throwing wet sand on your legs and it sticks. Because it is our nature to avoid activity in the rain, I had to acclimate to the droplets that kept forming on my eyebrows and running down my face. Both hands are very busy so there is little opportunity to wipe rain from the face. As the ride progressed, I got used to the rain and it began to feel, well, invigorating. It became a great feeling to know that the rain had not stopped me. The challenge did not stop me. The probability of bodily injury did not stop me. Even the spider webs did not stop me. Why were there so many today? Do spiders sense the approaching cold front and built more webs in anticipation? Do they have a built-in work ethic that sets them into motion when the barometric pressure drops to "make webs while the sun shines" so they can seek cover and relish the raindrops glistening on their newly constructed webs? Also, where in the world did all these turtles come from? I have ridden this area a half dozen times without seeing a single turtle and today I encountered THREE box turtles on the trail. By the way, if any turtles are reading this; STAY OFF THE BIKE TRAIL! I am heavy enough to do serious damage to you and your slick, round shell could certainly end my high-speed descent. Also, I know you don't expect some idiot barreling down the hill in the rain before full daylight but that whole "retreat into my shell and hope for the best" defense is not working for you. Sure, quick response is not your forte, but at least attempt to move to one side or the other so I have a chance to avoid certain death for both of us.
Back to addressing humans. I can't speak for everybody, but having ridden the "Zipper" one time, I am sufficiently impressed that I am anticipating it long before I get to that point on the 8-mile trail. I did not remember from Monday that the "Zipper" appears suddenly after a very difficult climb. That make sense, of course, that you need to climb a long way before dropping off the face of the earth. I was panting hard when the sign suddenly pops up--ZIPPA! As I positioned my tired, wet body for maximum control I realized that the sound of the rear tire on the gravel and sand of the narrow trail sounded different--off key. Since I have already cascaded over the first drop, I can't take my eyes off the trail directly in front of me to check my tire. Suddenly, I realize the tire is flat. Not low. Flat. One of the many sharp rocks or roots has won the jousting match with the tire. I manage to come to a stop only to realize that I am somewhere in the woods near Lake Jordan with a flat tire and only two options. Push the bike the way I am headed or push the bike the way I came. Either way is a looong way. You would not find the details of the walk back to the truck interesting, but once you are completely wet and dirty even what would normally seem like a defeat can be.....well invigorating.
Why don't we walk in the rain more?