As we were travelling to FtD, I realised how much last Sunday’s exploits had shaken my confidence. There I was, contemplating doing the full loop of Follow the Dog (well, of all the parts that are open), and I was filled with a palpable sense of dread. Although I’ve done FtD more times than you could shake a stick at, I was mentally picturing all manner of terrible accidents I could have.
I could fall off the boardwalk! I could come a cropper on the jumps on section 8, or fall off on the log slope! It didn’t matter to me that I never had before – that was last year!
I was torn – do I face my fears head on and get back on the trail? After all, I did a couple of sections last Saturday no problem. Or should I wait until I’m a bit more comfortable on the bike, and then get back on the trail. But wait! What happens if I delay getting back on the trail, then I mentally build it up to be far worse than it actually is?
In the end, I decided on a compromise. I missed out the boardwalk section, and went straight up the fireroad hill to section 8. I did the old downhill version instead of the newer one, not due to fear but because I know my fitness isn’t quite up to it yet.
And…I had a blast. I’ve lost quite a bit of speed over the past six months’ hibernation, and a bit of confidence – not only in terms of biking, but in common sense. I felt that my tyres were a bit skittery, but I didn’t want to let any air out in case I ended up running around on them under-inflated. As it turned out after the ride, Mr Toast pointed out that the front wheel was far too high. But it didn’t stop me from having a whale of a time.
I’ve recently been re-reading Mountain Biking Essentials, which I picked up in Glentress. The main thing that stuck with me when I was riding was ‘Looking Ahead’. I’ve mentioned before that I have a chronic habit of looking at the ground immediately in front of my wheel, rather than the trail ahead. I noticed I was doing it again, and marvelled at how much faster I went when I wasn’t staring at my front wheel.
I did Ill Phil’s Hill (section 14) for the first time since September, and it was fantastic. The Chase Trails chaps have obviously put a bit of work into it over the winter – like section 13, it felt a lot smoother and faster than at the end of summer last year. I did the entire section with a huge grin on my face. Pausing at the top, naturally.
I’ll admit, once I got to section 16, I was seriously knackered. Never mind keeping my head up and looking at the trail ahead, I was struggling keeping my eyes open (particularly my right eye, as my contact lens was playing up…). It’s a very narrow section of singletrack, and my moment’s hesitation caused my handlebar to clip a tree, sending me off the bike. Fortunately, I was going so slowly at this point that injury was always going to be fairly unlikely on the soft, soft foresty ground. It was like a big snuggly duvet…
So, overall, it was an awesome ride. I can see I’ve lost a bit of confidence and a bit of fitness since the operation, but I’m in a better position than I was this time last year.
Ride: Cannock Chase
Trail: Greens up to the top of the fireroad hill, then the remainder of FtD
Highlights: Ill Phil’s Hill.
Bad bits: Still not fond of section 16. I guess I’ll grow to love it if I ever get good at riding it!
Post ride food snaffled: Food had stopped at the cafe, so it was a cup of tea and a delicious, delicious cookie.
Good dogs seen: A sweet little Westie pup, and and an awesome collie that dived into a water…outlet…thing. Er, one of these:
Mr Toast saw him on the trail, described him as ‘an awesome mountain biking dog’. Apparently very well trained, and very fast…and doesn’t lose speed on ascents!