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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dirty Snowy Girls Bike Ride: A saga in 7 chapters

Warning: This is a long post that, like Seinfeld except not funny, is about very little.  If you want to know the Cliff Notes (am I dating myself with that reference? My kids use Spark Notes now.  See, even my disclaimer about how long my post is is long.) version of the ride, it's like this: I went biking today.  We were out for two hours.  It was snowy and hard and fun.  I didn't fall or get hurt, and I even maybe got a little better.  P.S. I also watched volleyball and bought new running shoes.

Prologue:
I've been excited about today's ride ever since I saw the information about it online. So excited that I even got a small group of girls together to go along, and I never organize anything! I stayed excited, even when my friends looked at the snow on the ground and decided that, in this instance, discretion was the better part of valor. I was excited, even though I was also dreading it a little; as much as my youngest child's reluctance to do new things/meet new people annoys me, he must've gotten some of it from me. I was excited, even if it meant getting up early on a Saturday.

Chapter 1: I am an average awesome wife
I got up around 5:10 to help Jeff get J ready for their trip to the Cardinals Winter Warmup.  OK, to be honest, that's not proof I'm an awesome wife; it's proof I was really hoping he'd put my bike in the van for me (I was going to take it on my bike rack, but my sister-in-law, who was going to take it home for me so I didn't have to leave it out in the open while I went to N's tournament, had to go to Mexico this week for work...let's all take a moment to feel sorry for her...or jealous.) I managed ed about 20 minutes more sleep and then got myself ready to head out (and Jeff didn't load up my bike, so my plan failed...that said, I'll probably get up and help him out again tomorrow.  Maybe I'm not so bad.)

Chapter 2: Breakfast
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A lifetime abstainer from oatmeal, I've recently taken a liking to it.  Healthy, filling, and super cheap if you make it from the big ol' tub o' oats.  I've been throwing in frozen cranberries before microwaving it.  Once it's finished cooking, I add cinnamon, brown sugar, and almonds.  Soooo good.

Chapter 3: I dress right

Dressing for the cold is still a challenge for me, but today I got it right.  Upper body: compression top, fleece top, long-sleeved bike jersey, gloves. Lower body: running tights over bike shorts. Feet: two pairs of socks, the inner pair running socks and the outer pair thick hiking socks, and my old running shoes.  My toes were a tiny bit chilly by the end, but overall I felt good.  Today's weather was beautiful for a ride: overcast, but in the upper 30's.  It felt like heat wave!

Chapter 4: Where is everybody?

Participants in the ride were to meet at The Alpine Shop, but when I got there a few minutes early there was only one car in the lot with a bike on it.  I parked next to it and waited, hoping there wasn't some secret parking lot on the other side of the building where all the cool kids were congregating.  A couple minutes after 8, Tracy (the bike shop manager/ride leader) came out looking for riders.  We waited in the store (My budget sense was tingling...I could spend a lot of money in there!) for about 5 more minutes before leaving for the Lost Valley Trail.

Chapter 5: The ride

We got a few inches of snow Monday night/Tuesday morning (keeping my kids out of school Tues./Wed. while I resentfully drove to my teaching job in a less wimpy district), and since the temperatures have been low all week, it was still there.

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Just as we were about to take off, Tracy's friend Jackie showed up, so I pedalled around while we waited for her to get her things together.  I've never ridden in the snow before, and even tooling around the mostly packed (snow packed, although there were a LOT of cars, too) parking lot showed me that it was a very different experience.  I never really felt like I could trust the ground.

From the parking lot, the trail is wide doubletrack that leads into a gradual, though long, hill.  Riding in even that minimal amount of snow, plus uphill, was challenging for me and I was already feeling like a big wimp as I was breathing heavy pretty quickly.  Eventually the trail levelled out, and then it was easier going, though the snow still made you pay attention.

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As we were talking, it turned out I'd already met Jackie.  She had competed with some other ladies from Team Revolution in the Castlewood 8 Hour and had been none too happy when we told her they had to carry their canoe up to the parking lot.  I believe her exact words were, "You've got to be kidding me!"  She was telling me about other adventure races in the area and suggested doing some smaller ones in order to have some experience by the time Jim and I do Berryman.

Chapter 6: I have three brothers, and they got all the balls in the family.

After riding on the doubletrack for a while, we came to a turnoff for some singletrack.  Tracy and Jackie asked if I wanted to try that out.  Now, riding singletrack scares me, and the idea of riding singletrack in the snow really scared me, but what else was I out there for?  We went for it, and Tracy told me that when I got too far out of my comfort zone to let her know and we'd turn around.

Almost immediately after we turned onto that section of trail, there was a steep little down-and-up section on the trail.  A few feet down and up, maybe? Not huge, but it looked like the Grand Canyon to me.
bike scream
[dramatization]
But they said go for it, so I went.  I made it down and up just fine...except I was so scared about what I was doing that I didn't pedal, so I made it juuusssst to the top of the hill and then stopped.  Think Wile E. Coyote, just before he realizes he's standing on air.  I started to slide back but managed to stop myself, but even after climbing off my bike, I couldn't get it or myself up the snowy (steep) (OK, and not very long) hill.  Tracy had to grab my bike and give me a hand up. 

I never would've tried that hill if someone hadn't been there saying, go ahead, you can do it. I can't say enough about how nice and patient these ladies were.  They had helpful advice and encouragement, but they also just let me ride.  I was so slow and just focusing on staying on the trail and trying to remember to look where I wanted to go rather than where I was worried about going.

Flashback:

I remember in driver's ed when I finally got to drive a car, how ridiculously hard it was to keep the car in my lane, how much steering I had to do while trying to keep steady? (Maybe that was just me?) I remember being nervous in the beginning whenever I had to turn, back up, merge.  And now I don't even have to think about what I'm doing.  I get in the car and go. 

That's kind of how steering was for me.  There was normally a pretty nice swath of packed snow on which to ride, but somehow my wheel kept finding the edges of that or going off into fresh snow.  I mentioned it to Tracy, who reminded me about looking ahead, just following my front wheel, and not clenching my hands so much and oversteering.  It was like being back in driver's ed again.  I realized that I'd basically been staring down right in front of me and trying way to hard instead of just riding.  After that, it got a little better.  Whenever I got nervous (OK, that was most of the time), I tried to concentrate on clenching my abs rather than my hands (so I fully expect to have a flatter stomach tomorrow!).

Flashback 2:

Long, long ago, when the earth was still flat, light bulbs hadn't been invented, and Jeff and I had been dating for such a short time that he didn't yet realize we were dating, we went camping together.  That weekend, despite the fact that there had been a lot of rain and it was (in retrospect) a pretty bad idea, we went exploring in a cave he and our friend Gary had previously been through.  With all the rain, it was pretty wet inside.  We started off walking in water.  As the pathway became smaller, we began crawling in water and eventually were on our bellies doing an army crawl.  We were wearing hard hats, and towards the end, my hat was touching the cave roof and my chin was in the water.

Gary and Jeff had made it clear that they were fine with turning around whenever, I just had to say when.  Except, I didn't want to be that girl who's scared and makes everyone turn around.  "Do you want to go back?" Gary asked. 

"No, I'm ok," I answered, and we went on a little longer. 

"Would you like to turn around--" Jeff asked.

"No, we can keep going," I squeaked out.

"...because I'd kind of like to turn around," he finished.

"Ok, sure!" (Whew)

I started feeling slightly more comfortable, though still moving at the speed of a lame turtle. And then the hill below the side of the trail became steeper and the trail started heading gradually downhill.  Going downhill scares me.  Going downhill in the snow scares me.  Going downhill in the snow with a dropoff to the side of me (and, to be clear, it wasn't some cliff...it was just a steeper section of hill, and I'm a wimp) scared me.  And whether it's that I'm older and wiser, or older and wimpier, or older and not trying to impress my new boyfriend who doesn't yet realize he's dating me, I was ok with saying, "I think I'm ready to turn around now." 

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Feeling good

Chapter 7: We return from whence we came

Heading back, I was feeling more comfortable.  I still took it slow, but it was maybe a faster slow than before.  I tried to remember everything Tracy had told me, and I did fine.  When I came to some dips in the trail, I had the confidence to go for it.  After tackling a bigger dip, I wondered (hoped!) if that was "the" dip that had almost tossed me back at the beginning, but then Tracy told me it was coming up.  Gulp.

Pedal.  Weight back going down.  Pedal.  Look where you want to go.  Pedal.  Weight the wheel.  You can do it...you can do it...

And I made it down and up, though I lost a little confidence at the top and put my foot down.  Oh, well.  I definitely improved over the course of the ride.  We headed back down the doubletrack to the parking lot, and I'm happy to report that I had a blast today.  All in all, we were out for about 2 hours.  Riding in the snow was definitely a challenge for me, and while I'd do it again, I'm looking forward to tackling some trails without the snow.  I was really happy with how my bike did.  And, my friend Kristen and her OCD will be happy to hear that riding in the snow cleaned all the dirt off my bike and it looks practically brand new....for now.

Epilogue: (OR, Why I should buy stock in a gas company)

After the ride, I had to hightail it to my son's volleyball tournament (and thanks to my ex-husband for agreeing to take N today so that I could go to the ride first).  Naturally, today's ride was the one of the furthest Dirty Girls locations from the high school where he was playing, but I made it in time to watch their last two matches (they took first in their initial pool and lost the first match in the secondary pool, remaining matches and tournament play to conclude tomorrow, in case you care).

Because I was only about 10 miles from a Fleet Feet store, I decided to go look for trail shoes.  With the Castlewood Cup and its water crossings coming up in a little over a month, I'd decided that the trail shoes got the top spot on my needs list.  I lucked out, because two of the three pairs they had were $10 off, AND the cheapest pair felt great.  AND I had a $15 voucher.  AND $50 from Christmas.  So my new shoes cost me $16. 

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Aren't they great? Wendy, the socks are for you!

Oh, and why the stock in a gas company?  Check out my driving today.

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I believe I was on every major interstate in the St. Louis metro area.

8 comments:

  1. Funky socks and trail shoes would make anyone happy! Way to get out riding in the snow, thinking I might actually try it this winter.

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  2. First of all I want to thank you for your kindness in not saying that your partners just wimped out. I was thinking about it yesterday morning and decided that I was just being a wimp.
    Also I thought I should tell you that I think you're a good writer. All the blogs of your are very well written.

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  3. ALL that and a post?? You are CRAZY!!!Thanks for the tip on Cliffs notes,,, I didn't know! ;)

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  4. With all the stuff you do, far be it from me to say you wimped out of anything. You, not requiring remedial bicycling, just had less need to go. :)

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  5. You are brave for sure! I haven't biked in many years. Trail shoes are very important. They really make life out on the trails easier.

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  6. This could be a book or a special issue for a magazine.
    Great "snowy" pictures.

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  7. Riding in the snow is so much fun, but it's always a bit unnerving to know that there are angry rocks hiding under the snow..waiting to wreck you.

    I love the socks.

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  8. I agree with what Bob said. Riding in the snow is a blast, but it's way scarier at first. Kudos to you for getting out there and doing it!

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