Last weekend I was riding in the slushy southern snow and this weekend on some sketchy southern ice. Winter conditions can be challenging, both to ride, and to figure out where to ride and where to avoid. Finding “the powder” might mean trying to get out early while its still frozen, sticking to the north faces, or maybe just getting out on the road. This past week there has been a time for all of the above topped off with a ride on Squirrel Gap after a skin coat of freezing rain on frozen ground, just enough to have traction on the dirt but glare ice on the rocks and roots. That was enough to get me focused, and in the moment. I don’t think I thought about much else other than riding on that one, although I was thinking about racing, and getting fired up. I can’t help but think about racing when I ride. To be honest, it’s one of my favorite meditations. When I have a big race on the horizon my rides take on another dimension. Not that these rides wouldn’t be satisfying as is, but with a goal, there comes this obsessive sense of purpose that I fully enjoy. Having the Transylvania Epic on my calendar is an extra special motivation. It may be four months off, but now my winter days are filled with thoughts of summer and speed. I’ve been invited to share bits along the way as I gear up for the race, which I’m thrilled to do. I promise not to stick to the topic.
Mountain Biking for me, and my family, is a way of life. I’m a mountain biker first and I could live without racing, I did for a while, but its undeniable that I’ve had the most fun when racing is in the picture. When I’m racing, I’m riding more. I’m quitting work early a few times a week, or blowing it off all together and sneaking out after dropping the kids off at preschool. I’m making the rides happen instead of letting them slip by.
I probably did my first real mountain bike ride in Turkey Pen at the age of seven or eight. I rode an orange five-speed tornado that was built strong enough to withstand wheelie drops off the four-foot brick retaining walls onto our driveway. There was a tough climb about two miles in on South Mills River Trail that my dad called “Sam Go For It.” It takes about two pedal strokes to get over now. Being able to grow up in these mountains has been really special. We used to hike all the time growing up, every weekend. Looking Glass Rock, John’s Rock, Shining Rock, Slate Rock, Flat Laurel Creek, The North Face of Looking Glass, these were some of the more popular hikes. Even after years of exploring our sense of possibility underwent a tremendous expansion when we started riding bikes in Pisgah in the early 90s. Somehow we had never heard of trails like Caney Bottom or Laurel Mountain, sitting right here under our noses all along. I’m only now getting a grip on DuPont. Appalachia, like no other place, can hide its treasures.
I got into racing as a junior. I had a craving for competition. A generous community gave fuel to the fire, Mike Nix from Liberty Bikes was one of the first to offer my sister Willow and I support. More help followed with team Devo and then Cane Creek. Without the racing there would not have been anywhere near as much riding happening for us.
I still get really excited about racing my bike. That may be partly due to the fact that I never really went big time or may be just the fact that bikes are the finest human invention and racing bikes is about as intimate as you can get with a bike. So bring it on! Don’t expect any cutting edge training tips (I’ve just put on a heart rate monitor for the first time) but I will share some stories and some thoughts as I make my way towards the race. Join me for a ride; lets see where it goes.