It’s not brain damage. No, no, I'm not concussed. The stars aligned and I rode two consecutive days at Skullbuster this week. I had meetings in Georgetown and took the lunchtime window of opportunity to ride.
For all intents and purposes I’m back. I thought it would take me longer to get back into the swing of mountain biking but not so much. Gasp, I even considered signing up for the Mohican 100 when I saw that registration was still open, and when Jeaph and I were riding at Jenny Wiley last week and he was talking about the upcoming race I thought, maybe…
But I had already committed to volunteering this year at Mohican. It’ll be good. I’ll still get to ride. I’ll still get a shirt and free meal. And we’ll all still be held hostage to the Proofer’s oddball routines and whims, crammed into The Tank for six hours one way, but having a blast all the same.
Yesterday was my fastest ride at Skullbuster ever. I attribute my speed to last week’s riding in new places, and having a second day to ride at SKB while the trails were still fresh in my bones. I maintain that Jenny Wiley is a challenging trail system. It demanded laser (not “The Lazer”) focus and was not as forgiving as I’m used to.
Ben Hawes wasn’t as demanding, but it’s flow-i-ness sucked me in and I rode with abandon there. I rode intentionally faster than I’m normally comfortable with. I tried to bust through the thin wall of fear that always hold me back. Speed in this case isn’t about winning Strava segments. I knew I wouldn’t do that. Going faster at Hawes and this week at Skullbuster was about overcoming hesitation.
My technical riding skills are decent—nothing to write home about for certain—but I have a lot of room for improvement. Not so long ago I did a lot of foot dabbing. I stopped for logs (no matter how small) across the trail. Since this time last year I’ve pushed myself to ride over bigger and more complex obstacles. On a side note: I’m really glad there’s a detour at Skullbuster around the notoriously narrow passage between the two trees. I could never clean that one on the way in.
Letting go at Hawes was about defeating the little fear, the mind killer, which holds me back all too often. This is not about abolishing healthy fear. We’re not talking about killing the “good germs” of mental health. I’m talking about pushing all unreasonable fear aside to maximize potential and enjoyment.
Two days ago I was somewhat disappointed with my showing at Skullbuster. I felt sluggish and sloppy at first. By the time I was gunning back on the Blue Loop after looping Orange I had finally started to find my groove, but I was getting tired. Based on the weather forecast that night I didn’t expect to return on Thursday. I took a chance and loaded up the bike in the MBDV and hoped for the best.
And my bet paid off. The trails were perfect on Thursday. My mind was flying free as I tore into the woods on the Green Trail. Right out of the gate I felt fast. American Pharoah wouldn’t have been able to catch me. I was able to keep up a steady solid pace until I was climbing out of the Orange Loop back to rejoin the Blue. I paused at the junction only long enough to suck down some water, and then I launched into the long return.
Quickly I found my second legs and pushed harder and faster to get back to the trailhead. I kept my fingers far from the brake levers and carved, glided, and rolled over everything in my path.
What scares me is that even if I were to misplace my thirty pound spare tire there is a limit to how fast I would be willing to go. Strava shows my max speed at 23 mph for one of those two rides. That’s darn fast when you’re passing millimeters from stout saplings. So when I look at how fast other riders are going I am skeptical. Space junk? Maybe. Admittedly I could ratchet up my overall times by climbing much faster. Maybe I’m not being outrun on the descents.
If that’s the case then I have nothing to lose by losing some mass. Unless that whittles away my descending edge…
It’s all so complicated! And then it does sound like I’m competitive.