The Spoked Traveller | Suffer well?
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Suffer well?

Suffer well?

Mountain biking law #1: never grab both brakes, hard. EVER.

I know this.  Yet, as I am slow-mo in the air, flying off my bike after grabbing the brakes, I wonder one thing: how can I land without hurting?

***

On Saturday myself and Epic Israel partner, Karen Duff, mountain biked 80 kms on singletrack through a rainstorm at the first annual Albion Enduro (Albion Hills Conservation Area). Options included 25 km, 40 and 80.

We chose the longest as a test of what we’re going to experience soon at the Epic Israel Race. Gulp. It’s less than one-third of the distance we’ll be doing– and then getting up to do it again, and again. Another GULP.

Starting off, the over-eager 20-year-olds were passing me like it was no one’s business. That’s ok, I told myself, I’m in for the long haul. I won’t go into every detail of the ride, but enough to reveal that I felt ok with riding that long– it took me over five hours (six?) And to answer your question, did you actually land without hurting yourself? Well, I landed on my belly and the bike bounced off the back of my helmet. Good thing I was alone: those mishaps are embarrassing. Luckily, the rain started and soon my mud soaked jersey was clean again.

After the first lap, I’m alone. Most of the riders signed up for the 40 km. Smart.

But soon into the second lap, about two and a half hours (more? I forget), I run into Karen? What. She passed me long ago. Turns out I missed the extra five km loop. Hearing this deflated my spirit considerably. But it is all part of riding. You have to suck it up: it doesn’t change that I still have to keep riding. Deal with it.

It was great seeing her, though. On the flat paved road, that lasted for about two kms, we zoomed down the country road, and just when we needed it: a fuel tent appeared. Shots of coke, jellies and energy bars. And my favourite: “you’re doing so well,” says the lady filling up my water bottle. Thanks.

Back on, it’s not long before Karen is ahead. But I’m ok. The rain is warm and refreshing. It’s nice to be alone. Me and my bike. But the rain starts to get heavier. Going down a steep hill, with a sideways root, the bike slides and my handlebars hit a tree, bucking me off the bike: arse-first onto the dirt. Ouch. Bruise for sure. Giant bruise.

Looking down onto my Garmin GPS, I have 20 kms to go. Watching the hours go by and the kms accumulate is actually quite satisfying: progress. Soon another rider comes up from behind. “Just keep the legs moving, right?” You bet. Soon I hear voices. And coming out onto the grass, I hear Paul’s voice. I’m done. It’s such a nice feeling.

A hot shower and then a crappy Kelsey’s dinner (hey, I’d eat a shoe at this point), and it’s all done.

***

That was Saturday. I teach a spin on Monday and then Karen and I meet for rides Tuesday and Wednesday at Kelso Conservation Area.

But, this time I got new wheels.

Specialized Bikes, of which Karen is an Ontario Ambassador, is loaning me an Era Carbon Comp 29er (29 inch wheels) for the Epic Israel race. I currently ride a 26 inch wheel Norco Faze. So, everyone’s been telling me that it takes a while to get used to the feel. With such a big wheel, it certainly takes a bit more energy to accelerate, but once I do, it moves much faster than a 26er. And, when I climb rocks, the wheel lurches over the rocks, effortlessly. Do I even have to pedal? But, moving around tight and twisty trails is harder. “You have to work the bike more,” says Karen. It’s not as manoeuvrable as the 26er.

Mentally it also helps having a better machine. But machine aside, it helps having a partner.

We add in a few road climbs (about three kms, and one of them is 18% grade– that is nutso). At this point, I feel like throwing the bike off the escarpment and laying down on the grass.  “One more time, Mel,” says Karen. Yes, one more, Karen. Suffer-well, my friend.

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