I set out on Saturday with the intention of doing two laps of Follow the Dog. With Mountain Mayhem and Sleepless both firm realities now, I need to get more miles in, need to get back up to speed and get my fitness to something slightly above embarrassing.
Despite the forecast predicting only light showers and sunny skies throughout the day, I arrived just as a downpour was starting. I quickly got my bike off the rack and set of in pursuit of mountain biking excellence.
It didn’t start well. First section seemed unduly slippy and annoying, and I had to come to an abrupt, precarious halt on the exit to two as a small child from a walking group that had stopped to let me exit decided to do a runner. I shuffled the bike down, slightly shaken – it would have been a remarkably low speed collision if it had happened, but I don’t like to think who would win out of an 11 and a half stone woman on a lump of aluminum and a three year old. On the plus side, his mother apologised and thanked me for not ploughing into her wayward progeny. And that’s why you don’t come screaming out of sections at warp speed.
The lap continued to be a royal pain in the arse. Everything just felt very skittish, and I began to wonder if I’d somehow lost all ability over two weeks, or maybe the Orange 5 had ruined me with its comedy wide bars. The litany of ineptitude was unrelenting and horrible. I realised at the start of the fireroad climb up to 8 that I had my rear shock completely locked out, so I was hoping that perhaps that could explain the horror. I completely failed to exit section 8 twice, as every time I approached it my front wheel hit the same pebble and poinged off to the side. I nearly came a cropper on the most inconspicious of corners. On section 11, I managed to clear the two smaller steps, albeit with some rear wheel spinning on the second, but by the time I got to the bigger steps, I just couldn’t arsed. I was riding rubbish, and I had a persistant stabbing pain in my left knee. I eventually bowled up at Swinnertons feeling fairly surly.
Jez was there, so I had a good whinge at him, and soon he was joined by other members of the Chase Trails posse. Andrew asked about my tyre pressure, and gave them a squeeze. There was then much laughter, and theorising that Al (who had recently switched my wheels for his spare Hope/DT Swiss combo) was trying to kill me. Something like minus 20 psi later and my tyres were noticably squidgier.
I’d been pondering the second lap. Obviously I’d set out with the intention of doing two laps, but I’d had a terrible ride and my knee was a bit stabby. But the weather had finally turned nice, and… well, it would have been rude not to try. I decided to do at least the first section, to see if matters improved with less pressure. I’d probably only do the first section or so, as I’d promised my mom I’d pop in and I had a roast dinner to cook in the evening.
Lap two felt better – I’m assuming it was thanks to the lowered pressure rather than the trails drying off, but I was skidding about the place a lot less, so felt able to go faster and lean into turns without fear of the Professor deciding to go his own way. The exit to two was still a bit shakey as I clipped my pedal as I went down, but other than that – splendid. Less poinging off pebbles, exiting section 8…OK, it took me two attempts as I clipped my pedal again, but I had to keep telling myself that I couldn’t get a mental neurosis over something I’ve ridden countless times just because the weather’s a bit grim. After successfully clearing the exit and chastising myself for being a bit stupid, I took a few moments to take a photo of the Professor with his new red grips.
Section 11 was a bit of a revelation – all steps taken with no skidding, spinning, or slipping. IN YOUR FACE, UPHILL STEPS! By the time I got to Tackaroo, however, I started to feel a bit off. My knee hadn’t played up as much on the second lap, but I was starting to develop a bit of an ache in my left arm for no real reason, and my thighs were protesting. Still, aching from “Oh, exercise!” is better than pain from “You’re fundamentally broken on a genetic level”. I was also feeling a bit woozy, possibly because it was about 3pm and I’d only had a bowl of cereal, a cup of tea and two bottles of water that day, which for a cake fiend such as myself is a bit of a break from routine. Although not really on biking days – I always end up eating less on biking days than on workdays.
According to Dave and Andrew, who caught me up at the end of Hugh’s Bridge, I’d done my second lap in roughly an hour (they’d given me about a 20 minute headstart). So, that was better than a poke in the eye with a horrible stick. Incidentally, it was Dave’s birthday at the weekend. You should totally help him out trailbuilding on Sunday to celebrate. I’m pondering if we can get Benny to carry materials and tools like a small pack donkey, but I have my doubts.
After my second lap I rushed around my mother’s to say hello, and to steal her bacon. She didn’t have any bacon. She did have chicken soup though, so that wasn’t too bad.