I groomed the pump track this weekend. I pulled out the clumps of grass from the inside figure-eight that rarely gets ridden. I mowed the grassy bits, swept away debris and then my son sprinkled it down with water to let everything set.

Then we rode.

First, we slipped into our alter egos – Me: Thunder Bolt. Seven-year-old: Lightning Bolt. Three-year-old: Gingerbread Baby.

“Mama,” calls the little one, “You say GRRRRR! And try to catch me.” He then takes off faster than ever, taking the berms a little higher each time, leaning his whole body into them. I growl and he starts cracking up and wipes out. I throw my bike to the side and begin gnawing on his legs instead of tending to his false cries.

The big one is working on catching air. He flies through the turns with enough speed to lift his wheel up as he cleans the first hump. “Mom! Thunder Bolt! Did you see that Lightning Bolt move?!”

I decide the inner figure-eight needs to be ridden in better. I force myself through it and realize how awkward I am. This is why there are grassy patches on it. I also realize that on the trail, my weakness is in the turns. I don’t feel stable. I brake too hard coming in to keep a flow through the apex, which prevents me from getting enough speed coming out of it as well.

Each time around I aimed for a smoother entry and exit, leaning into it more and more. It was so much fun. By then I’d sent the kids in to do their chores so that I could have the track to myself. I came back and did it again after I put them to bed.

I forgot about it until I went riding the next afternoon. I felt like I used my brakes a whole lot less. I was able to use the momentum of the trail for a great flow and I wasn’t all freaky in the turns. Flowing into them really allowed me to spring out of them faster, which got me through whatever was next. The double s-curved berms at the end of my ride made me particularly giddy with that new comfort. The technical rides I’ve been doing probably helped too.

All of those skills came in handy when during the last part of my ride I got stalked. I had just passed a couple guys sitting by the river and saw a few riders up ahead of where I was turning. Nobody was with me when I made my turn. About a half-mile down the wide trail someone came up on me. I got over because the trail was plenty wide for a pass, but I didn’t slow down. I was hoping he’d either make a move or drop off. I came around a corner to meet a huge log-crossing and then chickened out. This irked me, so I turned around to get momentum so that I could do it for reals. This guy decided he would do the same. I didn’t look to see how he did, hoping this was my getaway. I didn’t really give eye contact, but heard him say he didn’t know his way around. “It all goes back down to the same place,” I wisely advised as I took off.