This past weekend I finally got back out on the trails after a more than four month hiatus from mountain biking. It seems crazy that it has been that long but the last time I was out was a couple weeks before my London trip. WTF?
I received some new tires for Christmas from Lisa's parents that, based on the reviews, were pretty good all-weather tires and it turns out they lived up to their reputation in regards to muddy slopes. It rained ceaseless Saturday and we went out riding on Sunday so the trails were all pretty wet, slick, or boggy and the tread remained mud free all day. My old tires would have been filled with mud almost immediately because some parts of the trail caused the bike to sink in to the spokes.
I had sort of hoped that it wouldn't be so muddy because it was so damn cold out, in the mid 20's, but the mud and rain mixed stayed wet and soggy instead of firm and icy. I'm not sure which would have been better. I do know that the mud was exhausting to peddle through and my legs were dead like they've never been dead before. We went to Beachfork State Park; a park I'd only rode at once before, and I was dreading a huge hill about halfway through the ride. The hill is about 2 miles in length and sure enough by the time we reached it's base my legs were useless. There was no way I was going to be able to peddle up it; heck, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to walk up it.
This left me with a bit of a dilemma because we were about 5 miles away from the car so I could either try an unknown shortcut up the hill, take the main hill path, or backtrack. I really didn't want to backtrack because I would have had to ride through a small river 3 more times and risk getting totally soaked on a freezing day. I also didn't want to go up that monster hill especially considering I remembered the downhill part being pretty tricky and I was in no condition for a really tricky descent. With all that considered I decided to take the questionable shortcut while the other three headed up the long trail.
The shortcut wasn't too bad initially though it was much, much steeper than the long way. However, the trail on the shortcut disappeared a few times. Clearly it isn't a frequented trail by either bikers or hikers. However, I persevered and blazed my own trail a few times until I found a path that looked promising. We had suspected that the short cut and the long trail would meet up at the top of the mountain but I didn't see where the trail I was on would merge with their trail. I had talked to the others before the ascent and we had agreed that if I couldn't find my way I would backtrack so I figured they would know that I would be heading to the car if they didn't find me at the top of the hill. Thus I followed the trail I had found in the general direction of the car.
By this point my legs were feeling a little refreshed and most of the terrain was flat or sloping down so I was riding again. The downhill section I had to actually descend was pretty nice though there were a couple places that would have been much more fun if the weather were better (all of the wet leaves on the trails made traction very questionable). Eventually I found myself on a path that overlooked the trail we had taken out from the cars in the first place so I took another short cut down to it (another fun descent) and then started to backtrack from there. My circuitous route helped me avoid the three river crossings so all I had to do was one small stream crossing and then make it the 4 miles or so back to the car.
Along the trail I encountered a few hikers and 2 beautiful white tail deer. In general it was a nice ride except for the unusual pains I had been experiencing. The first was on the way out. I had tried to cross a large boulder and my bike didn't want to go and ended up crimping my pelvic bone between the bike frame and the handlebar post. That hurt like hell. Then, when I was about 2 miles from finishing my ass started to hurt. Beachfork's trails are criss crossed by a lot of roots and this constant bumping on a very frozen seat ended up really bruising my backside. It still hurts quite a bit today. Finally, by the end of the ride, my legs were pretty damn tight. The cold weather combined with my overall exertion caused my thighs to start to cramp up. However, I stretched out pretty good and I felt much better afterwards.
Overall it was a fun ride even though it was cold (I remained comfortably warm through the ride) and I'm glad I got back out there. My new tires are really nice and I have been reminded that I can't be taking four months off again. All of the gains I had made in leg strength and endurance were lost during my hiatus. Ed, on the other hand, has been riding non-stop and he has gotten a lot faster and stronger. I feel bad that I am holding the group back when we go out.
Speaking of holding the group back when the other three reached the top of their trail and I wasn't there they became worried and decided to split up and look for me. They sent Gilbert back to see if he could find me while Ed and Mike tried to find the trail I might have taken and they tried to follow it. I think they crossed behind me on my path a few times but we clearly took different routes because they saw some landmarks (such as large piles of coal) that I did not. Needless to say their hunt for me extended their ride by quite a bit and I was actually back at the car about 40 minutes before Ed and Mike (Gilbert rolled in about 10 minutes before them). I appreciate their effort on my behalf but hopefully they will just head to the car first in the future and then worry about me if I don't show up :O)