Monday, March 4, 2013

Cross Training- Part 2

Okay, now that I've gotten my shiny, new CycloCross rental, as per my last post, it was time to put this thing to the test. The BIL, otherwise known as the leader of this expedition, wanted us to go to Draper Mountain Bike trail.

A short note on mountain bike trails:
Many public mountain bike trails are of the 'single-track' style. This basically means that the trail is only wide enough for one bike at a time. If the BIL and I had plans to ride side-by-side while holding hands, the chosen path made it absolutely impossible (probably the reason why he was the leader and not me).

A second short note on mountain bike trails:
The presence of a mountain is optional. This is good since mountains are in scarce supply in Oklahoma.

A third even shorter note on mountain bike trails:
The presence of a mountain bike is also optional. This was evidenced by our cyclocross bikes.

Here's the description of the trails that we were riding:

Having checked out the website ahead of time, I couldn't help but giggle. They expect 13 miles to take 92 minutes while averaging 7.1 mph. Um, my PR for running 13.1 miles is (a very weak) 98 minutes. How in the world was this even possible? Biking should be significantly faster than running.

Problems from the First Minute of Riding
We unloaded the cyclocross bikes and get ready for our adventure. I had considered leaving my helmet behind because I was willing to believe no harm could come to me at our projected pace. However, biking without a helmet seems as awkward as driving without a seat belt and I planted my noggin protector firmly in place. We were ready to ride.

After my second pedal stroke, things got interesting. If you read my shpeal from the last post, my shoe cleats were supposed to clip in to my pedals. I went through the motions of placing the front end of the cleat into the groove. Then I pushed down. Normally, this would result in a satisfying 'click' as the clipping mechanism engaged and I would be firmly attached to my pedals. It didn't happen. I tried the other foot. No clicking sound. I tried standing up and jamming down on the pedals, hoping to force a click on maybe an old or unlubricated set of pedals. Nothing.

Then, something rather amazing happened: I hit a tree and promptly fell to the ground. See, unlike most paved areas of riding, mountain bike trails are purposely curvy. I was spending so much time trying to get my shoes to attach to my pedals that I had taken my eyes off the trail. Bam. Down goes the Banter.

If at first you don't succeed...well, in this case I was destined to fail again and again. I started to ride with the BIL firmly in the lead. Meanwhile, I had doubled my lifetime falling-off-the-bike totals in less than 2 minutes of riding. Here's a shot of the BIL waiting impatiently while I struggled to upright myself. After stepping to the side and really trying to analyze the cleat/ pedal conundrum, I was ready to accept my destiny that my shoes would not be attached to the pedals for the duration of the ride. This left us with 2 options: Suck it up and ride or Call it a day and return the faulty merchandise. Since there is a vast amount of evidence showing that I suck, we went with option #1.

Let's Ride
I was sincere when I said that the trail is anything but straight. Here's what the posted map looks like. The differing colors, in case you couldn't figure it out, meant different trails. We, being complete rookies at this whole off-roading adventure thing, opted to start with the Green "beginner" trail. This was perfect.

After I came to an understanding with my pedals and developed a technique that almost allowed me to ride some, I noticed some remarkable differences between cyclocrossing and real riding. You actually have to use the brakes. On my bike, braking is done maybe 3-4 times per ride, depending on the number of stoplights encountered. On the trails, braking is done 3-4 times per 15 seconds of pedaling. The turns, loops, and obstacles ensure that there is absolutely no way make the cut without hitting a tree. For the record, I hit at least 9 trees on the ride. (Aside: It was learned later that the brand of cleat that I use was the 'older style' and they put a 'newer style' pedal on the bike. That was their explanation of why I couldn't clip in. I have now learned that I need to actually check that sort of thing before leaving the shop. End Aside.)

Upon concluding with the green trail, we had to make decisions. The legend of the map above informs us of the trail difficulty. We hit all of the colors, almost in order. I believe that we missed the Orange trail (mostly because orange is for pansies and, while we definitely fit that description, we were running out of daylight to conquer the color).

Here's what the Garmin had to show for the ride. If you look at the middle of the map, you'll see a relatively straight line. That marks a link between 2 non-consecutive falls. I had stopped the Garmin after the first fall and remembered to re-start it some time after the third, which I think caused the fourth.

The Intracasies of the Wilderness
I'll hand it to the caretakers of the trail, they do a real good job of trail maintenance. The trail maps are posted multiple places. They have cute little signs that give names to certain parts of the trail. Some of the signs were silly names like "Grandma's Kitchen". This section looked exactly the same as the other sections, but I may have spied an old stove off in the bushes. Others were more descriptive like "Over and Under Bridge". This section actually had a wooden bridge that you went over, looped around on the trail, and went back under. What didn't make sense was our surprise at the presence of said bridge and the requirement to go over and then under, especially after reading the name of the section.

Then, for some reason, they had this sign (pictured right). If I recall correctly (which I don't), we were no where near any roads. I don't remember seeing any cars on the trails. Therefore, I have no idea why they placed this sign out in the middle of the forest. Plus, I'm not even sure of it's function. In other places, they actually give you advice, such as "Don't pick up hitchhikers". Here, they just warn you as to their identity as if that information means something. Further, I'm pretty sure that I couldn't pick up a hitchhiker, inmate or not, on my cyclocross bike. I was having a hard enough time pedaling and staying upright on my own without needing the extra challenge of a second person.

Getting close to the end of the day, we had conquered all but the most challenging of the trails. We could either re-do another color or choose between the Red/ Orange trails. We picked the most challenging Red trail because it was right next to where we were standing at the time and, well, see note above on Orange.

At one point, the BIL was in the lead. Our experience on the day had taught us that it was safer for him to be in front since I was apt to fall. One time, I fell off my bike while leading which led to the BIL crashing his bike to avoid from crashing into me. It was a hard lesson for us both. He led more often than not after that. The Red trail was indeed more challenging than what we had thus far experienced. It was prone to biking us down small ravines with blind turns, quick sand, jutting spikes, and poisoned arrows. The pic on the left is an example of one of the Red trail's challenges.

The BIL, being smarter than me, decided to stop and monitor the situation. Had I been in the lead, I would have tackled it without abandon. Of course, I fell off my bike in an effort to not slam into the back of the now-stopped BIL. Since I was already down, I allowed myself to scope out the obstactle. The BIL was able to make it down and catch some video of me making it through.

Ta Da!

When I crunch the numbers, it came out that we had accomplished the following:
  • Distance=11.6 miles (actually, we rode a little more due to early crashing and me turning off the device)
  • Time= 1:24.30
  • Average Speed= 8.2 mph (take that posted average!)
  • Amount of Climbing= 356 feet (not sure where the trail guide came up with 1300?)
  • Number of times falling= 12
  • Number of shoes ruined= 2 (one from hitting a tree, the other one from slipping off a pedal and jamming it into a tooth of the front ring)
List of visible injuries on my body
  • Left wrist (pictured)- gashed from a tree
  • Outside of right forearm- trail rash
  • Inside of right forearm- different trail rash
  • Right quad- bruise from bike landing on me
  • Right upper foot- puncture wound (see note on ruined shoes) (unhealed as of this post)
  • Right Ankle- bruise (cause unknown)
Don't let any of that damage/ injury talk mislead you. I absolutely had a great time. I've gone on literally thousands of bike rides, most of which I have forgotten. It was a great day. The weather was perfect. The company, IE the BIL, was amazing.

The road rash has healed. The bruises have faded. The puncture wound will close (hopefully). I'm not sure if I'll ever do this whole cyclocross thing again (certainly not on my own). Having said that... This was one of those experiences that I will remember and cherish forever.

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