Monday, April 26, 2010

At last DIRT!

It's about the easiest place to ride on dirt. Double Lake Recreation Area. But easy to ride is exaclty what I needed for my first post-elbow frx trail ride.

As I drove to the trailhead I was both nervous and excited. Also curious how I'd do off road after a 5-month absence and an unsure elbow.

It took 5-seconds before I became all smiles! It was absolute beautiful weather. The first half lap reaquaints me to the sights and sounds of trial riding. The hum of the tires through the ground cover, the squish-squish sound of the suspension, and the rush of wind through the trees that sounds like the roar of a cheering crowd. No worries about being mowed over by a car. No red lights. Just me, my legs, my bike, and the trees!

There is precious little to impede progress at Double Lake. That makes it perfect for testing out the elbow. It also makes the trail *fast*. Because my joint strength isn't 100%, I deadman the handle bars a lot. As a result my turn-ins and apexes are more yanked than smooth. I struggle at picking lines, and make a couple of decisions that nearly put me into the trees. Today, my legs can easily propel the bike faster than my cornering skills can keep it on the trail. I use the brakes today. A lot. The flow just isn't here.

After the first lap... I use a trick I haven't used in a long time. I pretend I'm going twice as fast as I really am. Such a simple trick. It works for me. It forces me to move my eyes up the trail. That makes everything feel slower, because perception of speed slows as things are further away. That inperceptively draws me into riding faster.

This trick also makes me smoother on the trail. Looking ahead I don't see all of the smaller trail obstacles. Our brain tries to "solve" for the smoothest route. Trying to calculate a route with too many options, leads to routes that wiggle across the trail too much. Looking ahead dissolves those details. They wash away into the context of trail. You simply float over any insignificant bumps and roots rather than trying to avoid each of them. By seeing less of the trail, the brain is more clear. Less cluttered. And the riding improves. It's quite Zen actually.

I rip 12-minutes off the first lap's time. Limiter remains trail techniques and not my legs. That helps me form the plan for my next training bloc. By the end, my elbow's a bit sore. Clearly still not upto full strength. Wheelie hops are unpossible at the moment, for example. But what the heck. A "bad" day on the dirt... after a long abstinence... is a great day no matter what! It's a wonderful feeling to be out in the forest again! From the moment I awoke it was clear this would be a special day. I'm solidly on the trail to recovery and working toward being a better rider than ever before!