I’m so pleased with myself for having an Epic Sunday all by myself.

I tend to keep people with me when doing technical and long rides late in the spring afternoons when storms can hit, old bikes can collapse, and nights can be really frigging cold. In fact, I think the pink fleece trail booty was probably the universe telling me to be prepared. At least I had extra gels….eww. I was planning to be out for no more than three hours, so I packed for six hours, making sure to pack a lighter in the worst-case scenario.

I really needed a ride, not only on a physical level, but a spiritual one. I was on a sleep-deficit and hadn’t eaten well, but Sundays are my only day to escape, and I had just spent a very stressful two days traveling alone with the children. The other thing is that I just couldn’t bear the thought of doing Bent Creek, yet again. I realize that I sound like a spoiled brat when I say that – but it’s because I am. Bent Creek is an absolute blessing for which I am grateful on a daily basis. The thing is, I tend to get a little caught up in it being “enough” until I ride something like Laurel Mountain.

Laurel Mountain spanked me. I kept stopping to check my suspension, thinking, surely my bike is set up rigid right now. I couldn’t possibly suck this badly…but no. It kept being on ultra-squish, and no, the back tire was not flat. I nearly toppled off the cliff doing those silly angled trees fallen across the path and into the abyss. My shins were pedal-shredded within the first mile. Part of it was me trying to ride faster than I was capable because I was trying to keep some riders off of my wheel. They were beginning to get on their bikes as I turned up the trail, so I didn’t stop at my usual places and kept thinking I heard them. By the time I was confident they were no longer there I had exhausted myself and was bleeding from slow-speed crashes uphill.

It was probably fear that allowed me to clean the Connector. Walking that treacherous plunge through rocks, log crossings, and grabby rhododendron is far more dangerous off the bike than on. I made it to the bottom with quivering thighs and welts across my throat, yet still able to climb up the torture of Pilot Mountain. It’s just the torture I needed – bliss, drowned out by bubbling creeks, scampering squirrels and mountain ranges through trees still bare from winter.