The triathlon season has ended for me. I am officially not signed up for another race in 2011. It’s been a long year. For the last two years, this late fall season has been the time that I’ve been plotting and planning my goals for the following year. I have loved planning the year ahead, dreaming and hoping for what could happen. This year though, I’ve been struggling a little. I know I don’t want to do another Ironman next year. I need a break. I know I need some down time, but I also know that I will be completely unfulfilled if I don’t have a goal other than to keep weight off. In a completely random moment, with no previous thought, off-road tri popped into my head.
I’ve spent the last two weeks researching local xterra races, reading about mountain biking and coming up with a tentative plan of attack for the season. I’ve even gone so far as to look up race results to try to get an idea of how I think I would stack up. It’s difficult to guess, though, when you’ve never ridden on a trail. That’s right. I’m planning my trip to Maui for the Xterra World Championships and I’ve never even been on a trail. Gurl, please.
So, today, the most perfect of fall days, I dusted off the ole Mongoose mountain bike I bought on a Walmart special 10 years ago and set out into the trails. I was pretty nervous because Ryan was at a Raven’s game. I’d have to go it alone on this adventure.
I knew I was in a different world when I had trouble lifting it up the stairs to get out of the house for a ride. It’s definitely not the light, carbon tri bike I’ve grown used to. The thing is a tank. My neighbor was outside washing his car. I asked him to keep his fingers crossed that I didn’t kill myself. He promised he would.
The first challenge was the curb I came up to on the way to the trail. Oh, man. I can’t get off my bike to walk over this. I envisioned myself biting the dust 20 seconds into my ride while my neighbors were watching out their window, but, SUCCESS! I jumped it and didn’t fall off. Then, down three stairs on the other side. Another success!
I ended up riding about 13 miles. Some of it was horse trail, some of it was mountain trails, but all of it was muddy and fun. I didn’t fall, so I’ll consider that a success. There were a few times when I had to get off on the way up a hill because I just got caught in the wrong gear while going up a rocky and rooty incline and just couldn’t shift in time. I opted to walk across the rocks at the creek that was a foot deep. I opted to ride around the log jumps that other riders had set up, but all in all it was a total success.
It’s shocking how hard it is. I fancy myself a decent cyclist, but, whoa, is this completely different. It’s humbling. I have a lot to learn.
For starters, if I’m going to keep this up I need to tackle the important issues first. I need to not look like a complete moron. I might have to get a pair of mountain biking shorts. Roadie gear stands out like a sore thumb in the woods. I mean, really, I have my priorities in order at least.
I also need to just commit and do the whole clip-in thing. That’s a scary proposition, but it was crazy how much power I felt like I was losing on the uphills when my feet flew off the pedals.
The coolest part of the day is that it’s confirmed that this is definitely something I want to get better at. It would open up a whole new world of goals and races that can be added to the bucket list. Earlier this year, a friend did a 100 mile mountain biking race. At the time, I told him that I had no interest in EVER doing something that ridiculous. After my first 13 mile ride, I already think it sounds like a cool idea. I’m starting to think that 2012 would be a really great time to learn a new set of skills and give myself the opportunity to see where it goes.
It can be so easy to just stay in your comfort zone. Nothing exciting ever happened in your comfort zone, though. I’m looking forward to trying something different for a little while. Up next, I’ve learned there’s a cyclocross race in my town coming up in December. That will be a fun thing to look forward to. Hopefully I’ll be tackling log jumps and creeks in no time.