As I ride up to the group and unclip, I straddle my top tube, legs slightly bent and trying my best to look relaxed and at ease…..evidently I didn’t quite pull it off as the first thing Tracy said to me was “why are you standing all funny and grimacing?”
The reality was, I was fighting to keep my legs relaxed and trying to figure out how to lift my leg over the bike without them completely locking up from the cramps I could feel winding up in both quads…..it was a battle I was losing as I could feel the muscle fibers firing off like electrical charges and my legs continuing to tighten and loosen….oh please God, don’t let me cramp up and fall over in front of everyone……luckily, I was able to dismount, stretch, grab an electrolyte gel and some water from my camelback as battle swung in my favor. Eventually victory over the cramp monster was mine as the firing synapses and electrical charges slowed and then stopped altogether….whew….embarrassment averted….for now.
How did I end up here? Well, Saturday we had decided to ride Skeggs which, I was to find out is one of the most amazing riding spots in the area, and since my fitness level isn’t quite up to par these days, it was pretty tough.
The ride itself starts with a short climb on a road followed by a nice fast swoopy downhill on a fire road. As usual, when we first start out, I was a little tentative. As we finished the downhill and started to climb though, my confidence was up and I was in my groove.
The first climb is singletrack uphill with some tight switchbacks. It was a good workout and a couple of the switchbacks had me off the bike and walking but for the most part, it was awesome.
And of course once you’ve climbed, there’s the reward of the downhill…..narrow, fast, single track, swooping along the hillside surrounded by trees and greenery….simply fantastic! The only worrisome part was when I happened to look away from where I was headed and noticed that we were flying along on a very narrow trail on the edge of a very steep hillside…..even a minor mistake here would have major repercussions…..and possibly involve a long, painful hike out…..focus Rich, focus……
Not long after this thought went through my head, I came upon Troy, Nick and John stopped on the side of the trail. Well, technically Nick and John were stopped on the trail, Troy was laying right next to the trail. Evidently he had gotten some decent air and had come down on the hillside along the trail instead of on the trail proper. Luckily he landed on the uphill side and not the downhill side or we would probably still be out there looking for body parts. As it was, he ended up with some decent roadrash and some scrapes and what I’m sure will turn into a couple of nice bruises.
As the morning wore on and we alternated between climbs and descents, I could feel my legs beginning to tire. The trail though begged to be ridden hard….One of the trails, the Salamander I think, was so perfect that as Tracy so perfectly said it, "it could have been designed with the 29er hardtail in mind"….it was like surfing the perfect wave or ripping down the face on a perfect powder day….it was like I was above myself watching a slotcar rail around the track as my bike rode itself along the face of the hill curving, dipping, climbing, railing…..my heart rate high, my legs spinning, my mind somewhere else…..
Eventually though, we came to what seemed to be the bottom….and the climbing began for real. By now, my legs were definitely feeling the efforts of the morning. We climbed…and then we climbed some more. I could feel the electrical twinges as we came up to the bottom of the last hill….I’m fine I said to myself….just pedal through it…..and I did….right up until I came up to the guys and had to dismount. Interestingly enough, I felt like I was going to make it… up until I twisted my leg to clip out of the pedals and all of a sudden I knew I wasn’t going to be able to dodge this one.
After a few minutes of stretching, an e-gel and a couple of big chugs off the camelback I felt better. Better enough that I thought I’d be fine for the rest of the climb back up to the top. I held it together, alternating between pulling and pushing and spinning and the pedals until with less than 100 yards to go, and in full view of the guys at the top waiting for me, I cramped again and was forced to get off and walk…..
After regrouping we finished the last little climb, enjoyed one last amazing singletrack ripper section back to the start and found ourselves at the road where of course there was yet another small hill before we got back to the truck and the beers within…..