Sunday, 25 April 2010

Souvereign Moab...

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." -Lao Tzu

After a wonderful dinner with the gang, a good nights rest, and a skookum breakfast, our fearless heroine, the five-foot-two-of-fury-ninja-princess-she-ra-soon-to-be-mountain-biker, (that would be me) was ready to take on another of Moabs biking trails! I was not going to be put off by Slickrock!

On this, the second day of biking, my buddy Dave and I chose to ride 'Souvereign'. I was told it would be less challenging than Slickrock. Considering Slickrock is one of the most difficult rides, something 'less challenging' could have meant many things!

After almost getting lost trying to find the trailhead, not to mention Dave getting caught in a wee sandstorm in the desert while asking for directions from a family camped in a Winnebago we came across (while I stayed ensconced in my car), we finally found the spot we needed to be.

Let the adventures begin!

This trail was definitely more my speed...and at the same time it had it's challenges. I loved that it was so free flowing, with some sharper climbs and descents, as well as the rolly stuff. The first part of the trail was the slickrock and had little ups and downs to get over.

I was amazed that I actually could get up and over a lot of this stuff and the more we did the more I trusted my bike. Of course there were some bits were I still got off my bike and walked, but today I was a bit more brave because Dave was with me and I took more chances.

It paid off. I felt much stronger and my confidence started to build. At one point I was doing some more technical downhill and was being hesitant so told myself, "Just let go of the dang brakes already!! You'll be fine". I'm pretty sure I emitted a wee squeal as I did so, but I did survive and it was a blast!

The biggest problem I seemed to have, on all the days I rode, was my lungs. I'm not sure if it was because I hadn't done a lot of aerobic work in the last bit since the end of training, just normal asthma stuff, or because some of the climbs were short but steep; however I was majorily sucking wind and had to stop after some climbs. It was a bit of a bummer, but hey, it is what it is and I was happy I was riding...and posing for photos!

We only made it to Link 5 when I realized I was zonked and couldn't go further. We had stopped for lunch, but it didn't give me enough gusto to carry on. I didn't want to bonk somewhere in the middle of nowhere so asked Dave if it would be cool to turn back.

I had a feeling the food I ate might kick in on the way back, and it pretty much did. Ah well, lesson learned. The way back to the car was AWESOME! My confidence was definitley higher so I was riding a lot faster on the downhil. It was like being on an amusement park ride...only better! We were out there for about 3.5 hours, so it was a good day!

The second time out to Souvreign, and the fourth day of riding, was even better than the first. Good thing as it turned out to be a bit of an epic 'wherethefugawi' adventure! It all started out well and fine... Having a great ride, checking out the flora and fauna and the scenery. Kicking a little slickrock butt...

We rode back to the same spot we went to last time. It took less time this go around because we stopped for less photos, but also because we knew the terrain a bit better.

This made it all the more fun because we could go faster. Well, at least we could after my lungs warmed up. The first little bit of climbing we would stop so I could either get a hit of my inhaler, or just let the lungs relax on their own. The time we'd have to wait got shorter and shorter, much to both of our relief!

After a few hours of riding we stopped on a ridge and had a wee snack in the shade. It was much hotter out this time, about 30 C. Not much shade along the way either. Actually. No shade, except when we got off our bikes and tucked in near a big rock! Our bikes took a well deserved rest too.

Yep, that's my bike with the streamers hanging off. Well, my cousins bike on which I put the streamers. Figured it would make me look like a real mountain biker... What do you think?!

I was excited to press on and check out the area that we didn't ride in last time. We didn't have a map this time so were going on what we remembered. Not always the best plan, but very good if you are looking for adventure.

We had some good riding then saw this awesome, super long downhill section.

The first part was steep with a lot of rocks and beyond my ability, so I got off my bike and scooched down it quickly. As soon as it turned to dirt only, I got on my bike. I'm pretty sure riding down it I let out a Speedy Gonzales cry 'Andale Andale!' It was a blast!

When we got down to the bottom we followed the trail a little ways until Dave stopped and said, 'If I recall correctly, this just goes to the northwest and doesn't loop'. Hmmm. Okay then, let's go back to where the downhill ended and the other trails branched off.

So we did.

We met up with a couple of other cyclists, who, lucky for us, had no idea where they were either. We borrowed their map, which was in less detail than the map we had used before, and decided to follow the ATV trail a bit to see if we could meet up with the bike trail again.

Granted, we could have gone back up the hill, but that was a super long up!

Here's the thing about the ATV trail...98.7% of it is sand. Have you ever tried to ride a bike in sand? I was spinning like mad to get going only to hit a deep part and come to a complete stop. The funny thing is the bike wouldn't fall over or anythign, because the sand was that deep! I'd just come to a halt and be in suspended animation.

If that wasn't happening then I'd be working on my bike handling skills and turning into whichever direction my front wheel would twist to without my help. It was insane. We had brief moments where we'd hit some hard pack and make time, but mostly it was just sand. Lots and lots of sand.

Did I mention we were in a desert and it was hot out?

At one point we came across a dude sitting on a huge flat rock with his lawn chair, iPod, a book and some water. We decided to ask him if he had a map. While Dave and he were conferring, and I was trying not to wonder why someone would come to this spot to sit and read and whether or not he was someone that America's Most Wanted was interested in, I noticed some vehicles way off in the distance.

After squinting to see more clearly, I noticed it was the highway. Quite a distance away because the big rigs looked like Tonka trucks. It was at this point I heard Dave saying, 'I think those dotted lines are a road?' I tried to get both their attention to point out the highway, but to no avail. Something about men and maps I guess?

I finally told Dave when we bid the desert dude a fond farewell and headed back onto the sand path.

Now, it's times like these when one can either a) decide 'Hey we are on an adventure!' and go with it or b) get pissy that you can't do the downhill portion you wanted to and blow a little girl hissy fit.

I'm proud to report that both Dave and I chose option 'a'. Granted it'd be pretty funny to see all of Dave's 6 foot 2-ness blow a little girl hissy fit.

Instead we embraced our adventure, the sand and sang songs as well as tried to figure out if we were indeed going in the correct direction.

See anything Dave??

Just rock and sand!

One good thing was we could tell, once we got out of the valley, that we were headed in the right direction because we recognized the mountains so could determine our east and west. Phew! At every corner we figured we'd hit the bike trail and zip back to the car. But it didn't happen.

At one point Dave mentioned he'd run out of water. We'd both taken 3 L with us. I knew I still had some and told him I'd share...but if we ran out then he'd have to sacrifice himself so I could forgo being vegetarian to turn cannibal and survive. Nothing like a little motivation to survive eh?

After about 4 miles of riding in sand I spotted the Winnebago that Dave had asked directions from days ago. My excitement level was starting to rise. Could it be we are somewhere near the parking lot???

Sure enough we hit the dirt road, took a left and within no time were back at the car. It was at this point I thanked every God I could think of and jumped up and down for joy. Then we high fived and hugged. Not that I thought we were going to be in trouble, but dang, riding through sand is hard and I was getting pooped! Total ride distance for that day was about 14 miles of up/down/up/down/up/down/sand.

It was a fantastic time and I'm so glad Dave was there to share it with me! When I go back to Moab, Souvereign will absolutely be the first ride I do!

Peace out my lovely friends!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Humbling Hills...

"Every new day is another chance to change your life." ~ Unknown

Day two of my trip to Moab had finally arrived. I would get to do the one thing I've been dying to do for so long...mountain bike. And not just mountain bike, but mountain bike in MOAB.

After a hearty breakfast with the gang, we hopped onto our trusty metallic steeds and ventured off. I said to Shauna, as we rode away from the campground, "I'm giddy. I'm mountain biking in Moab." She laughed and said "Just wait till you are actually mountain biking in Moab and not just on the roads!" So true...

Our first ride was going to be on the Slickrock trail. It's likely a good thing that I didn't look up anything about this trail...

First off though, I had to ride up about 6 km of a steep climbing road...on a mountain bike. Dang! This was the ONLY time I wished I had my road bike. I slugged along sucking wind the entire way. Perhaps I should have kept going on the trainer even after I quit triathlon??

Finally we were in the parking lot. My excitement was hard to contain. At least it was until I read the sign. No, not the sign that said where we were...the other one, with a trail description.

Ya. This sign. Unfortunately I cut off what it said at the bottom. However, the first sentance pretty much captures the essence of this ride. "Physically demanding and TECHNICALLY DIFFICULT."

Oh ohhhhh. I think I'm in trouble. See the thing is, if you recall, I hadn't ridden a mountain bike in the last 14 years. Give or take. For those who are used to triathlon bikes and have never ridden a MTB, trust me on this one. Its very very different. Your body position is different and what you are riding over is most obviously different.

I was starting to get a wee bit nervous.

Then we took off. Our group was seven in number. All but two of us were pretty advanced when it came to riding skills. The only other person who hadn't been on a bike much was my buddy Dave. The big difference between Dave and I is he sees someone else doing something and he figures "I can do that". I see someone doing something and think "Holy crap, how'd they do that??"

Within the first 3 minutes of the ride I had gone off a drop higher than I'd ever gone before. My heart was racing! The short climb up to the part where the trail branches off from the practice loop left me sucking wind big time. I decided then and there that I was going to stick to the practice loop.

I didn't realize at that point that the practice loop was just as difficult as the trail route, only it was shorter. We made a plan for meeting up after our rides and I set off on my own. I wasn't worried about being on my own as there were many people out there. Plus, the gang knew where I was. It was likely it would take me just as long to do the practice loop as it was for them to do the regular route anyways!

The route itself was gorgeous. How could it not be? This is Moab! I was okay for about the first five minutes. Then I came up to the first techinical part. I was shaking trying to get down the first drop. I had been told that although it's called slickrock, your tires actually stick to it. I was still hesitant though.

The first big climb I came to I tried to ride up it, but my lungs were not cooperating. I thought asthma was supposed to be better in the desert?? Apparantly mine was not. I'd already taken a few hits off my inhaler, so couldn't do much more than try to recover as fast as I could. So I got off my bike and pushed it up the hill.

With each section of the trail I'd take a deep breath and attempt to conquer it. At least there were white paint marks to let me know where the trail went or I'd have gone off a cliff within the first little while. Oh did I mention my fear of heights and being on an exposed cliff?

Sure, I'd tamed that fear a smidge with my climbing, but out here, the fear seemed to come back. You'll note the photo below with the little white markings that seemingly lead you right off the edge of a cliff! Gulp!

It was on these sections that I'd get off my bike, put it down, and walk to see where the path went. Then I'd decide if I could ride it or not. At this point I felt like I was doing more walking than riding and I was getting a bit frustrated.

I'd managed to do ok on some parts of the trail, but others I let my fear get the best of me. I started to think that maybe it would have been a better idea to go with the gang. That way I might not be as afraid. Then again, I'd likely hold them up and that wouldn't be fair to them either.

After who knows how long of doing a bit of riding and a bit of walking and getting frustrated, I decided to find a little spot on this cliff, put my bike down and then I sat down. I sat there just focussing on my breathing for a while, kind of like what I do when I meditate. That's when the tears started to roll.

I'm not really sure why I was crying. I remember thinking that even, "What are you crying for?" I know I felt afraid, but I wasn't sure if it was the bike route, or the thought of not being able to fulfill my Moab dream, or if it was just being overwhelmed with all that's gone on the past couple of months. Whatever was bugging me though, I thought it best just to let the tears stream down and release all that I was feeling.

I didn't cry for long. Just enough to feel a bit better. Then I took a look around. Wow. It's so beautiful here. Well if there is ever going to be a place where I just sit, this is not a bad one!

I think I sat there for about a half an hour. It was then that I heard some voices. A guy and a girl. The girl was saying how stupid she was for falling off her bike and how she sucked at riding. I felt so bad for her and wanted to tell her that it was ok and hey, at least she was out there trying!

It didn't take me too long to recognize I had been saying the same thing to myself - about not being good enough to be out there etc and questioning how the heck I was ever going to be able to ride here. They stopped to say hello and I watched as she braced herself to do the next descent. I told her she could do it and not to worry. So did her friend. She took a deep breath and went down the hill and beyond. Then the guy went.

I watched them ride till the next section, then I dusted myself off and got back on my bike. I can totally do this! I may be scared, and I may not be able to do everything on this trail, but I can at least do this with a positive attitude.

For the rest of the ride I had fun. Sure, I had to walk up some bits, but I made it down almost all the descents. That was a big step for me.

I made it through most of the sand that was there and even stopped to take some fun photos. I was in Moab - YEAH!!

When I reached the main trail loop, I decided not to go back to the car, but to see if I could do a little bit of the main trail. I got to the first descent, which I must say was INSANE! I watched a bunch of people struggle just to ride up it. Most didn't make it. Then I walked down the first section to see if I felt I could ride down the rest.

I couldn't. I was ok with that though! I turned around and made my way back to the trailhead. Already I could tell I'd gained a wee bit of confidence in my riding. I knew I'd have to grab some more if I was going to do the type of riding I had come to do.

I decided I'd talked to a couple of the group that new the area and explain that I would need a bit easier ride for the next day. I was completely humbled by this adventure, but I was not about to turn tail and hide. Afterall, was I not a five-foot-two-of-fury-ninja-princess-she-ra-soon-to-be-mountain-biker??!!

Tomorrow would be a new day and would bring even more adventures...

Peace out my gorgeous friends!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Road Trippin...

"There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate." ~ Robert Brault

I can't seem to get Willie Nelson's song 'On the Road Again' out of my mind. Perhaps because that's all I've been doing!

I made the big move back to my home province, British Columbia, the first week of April. As much as I am glad to be home, it was harder than expected to leave my wee town. Or more to the point, leave the wonderful friends I have there.

Thankfully, I had two caring friends, Garney and Shelley, who helped me by driving a Uhaul packed with all of my possessions, while I drove my car out. How do you thank someone for doing that??? Not only did they help with the drive, but also with my emotional well being. I give many thanks!!

I was home barely a week when I was 'On the Road Again'. This time I was off on a wee adventure to Moab, Utah. I have wanted to go to Moab since about 1993-ish, when I first learned of it. It was then that I was quite into mountain biking (MTB) and got all the magazines. As soon as I saw Moab I fell in love and wanted to go. It only took me 17 years to finally get there.

My friend, Stephan, who I climbed with in Calgary told me that he and a group of friends go every year. Then he extended the invitation to join them. Hmmm....let's think about this...I am about to make a HUGE change in my life with my move, I'm emotionally a mess, I haven't had any contract work for a month...but it's Moab and a dream come true...COUNT ME IN!

So off I went on my wee journey. The rest of the group were either flying in from Montreal or driving from Calgary. This left me driving on my own from Vancouver. Good thing I'm an only kid who knows how to keep herself amused for a 20 hour drive!

I did the drive out in two days. It was uneventful, thankfully. Finally, on Saturday afternoon I arrived in Moab. One word: breathtaking.

Driving through town was like being in a small town in the Okanagan during a triathlon event. There were mountain bikes everywhere, as well as dirt bikes and 4x4's. I was in a mountain biking mecca!

As I was checking in I met the couple who would be my cabin mates for the first 5 nights - Noni and Reid. Then we found the others, two of whom were my friends from home, Stephan and Dave. Also with us would be Kim, Trina, Shauna, Mike and Richard. The rest of the group, Cedric, Karl-Eric and Stephan 2 were arriving the next day.

As soon as I met the gang I knew I was in the right place! Everyone was super friendly and enthusiastic about being there. Most had been there before, so they would be our guides for the week.

The first night was spent just getting to know one another as well as getting some groceries and setting up camp. "Camp" were some cabins, or chalets as we jokingly called them, located in a campsite off the main strip. It was surprisingly quiet even if it was off the main highway!

The night seemed to fly by and everyone was pretty pooped from our drives. So after a yummy meal of Mexican food we all bid each other adieu and headed off for a slumber before the next day.

Day two was to be a bit more of an adventure than I bargained for. A tale that I shall tell next time...

Peace out my lovely friends!