Monday, June 11, 2012

Pain and progress

     I still see myself as young. Even at the ripe old age of 29 I feel  young. Ihave been the guinea pig on multiple occasions and have come out with nothing more than a few scratches and some funny stories.  My friends  joke me about how much I crash and why. They make fun of my rubber bones  and ability to roll out of any crash. But the years have taken their toll.  I seem to still have rubber bones, but the wounds inflicted on my body  seem to take just a few more days to heal. The sore shoulders and tweaked  joints just a tad more painful in the morning.  I had a friend tell me once  If you are not crashing, you are not riding hard enough. I guess I have been riding hard all my life.  I suppose there is a little truth to that,  but at the same time you need to wonder, when will I learn to stop the pain?
     A fresh new bike, a sticky trail and a beautiful May afternoon. What  could be better? My job affords me the opportunity to pursue my passion on  my mountain bike.  I am usually able to take the afternoon off, when I  like and head out for a ride. I was not about to let this gem of a day get away. So I packed up the car, got my bike and gear together and headed out for a climbfest on my new Goblin. I have had a few after work shakedown  rides and quite a few small runs around work. But I was looking for a real test  of this bikes ability. Like all of you know I am a new convert to the  29er scene. This day I decided to start with some long climbs, and long descents. I always tell the kids at work that you have to earn your  turns, and today would be no different. 1000ft climbing and a little more to  the valley floor on the other side of the mountain. It was going to be a  good day!           
     The day started off like most the long climb up the  mountain was uneventful. My only surprise was how fast I could complete my leg  burner on a 29er, and how many tough switchbacks I was able to clean. It¹s a  whole new world on the wagon wheels. After making it to the top I decided to  take a trip down the Gauntlet. A favorite trail of mine that follows a long  finger off the ridge and the curves around down to the valley floor. The  Gauntlet has 2 entrances. ³Old and New² I decided to take ³New Gauntlet² for a  spin. It is a singletrack dream. Fast ,smooth, buffed trails. Nice and tacky  and plenty of elevation to lose before it re-joins the old trail. I hit  all of it with stride. I may have been a little slower than I would have on a  full boat All MTN rig. Once you rejoin the trail you can either head up a  small freeride section of continue down the trail proper. Well my gravity  roots were calling. Why not see what this bike can handle. I know what your thinking, why are you going to go ride a 29er XC bike down a freeride  trail? That¹s stupid, the bike is not designed for that! I thought the same  things as I was cranking up the trail to get to the start of the features. I  guess my rots were in the mountain too deep. I can only stray so far from  the home my tires grew up on. I needed to try it, If only once.          
      5 minutes later I was laying in a heap at the end of a transition at the bottom of the trail. I made it down all the  features. Tables, kickers, straight gaps and some rock chatter. At the bottom of  the trail a new jump had been sculpted out of clay and dirt. It was  begging me to try it out. I should have known to wait till someone else was  there. But the thrill was in me and I needed to try it out.  Try it I did. And I  failed miserably. I carried way too much speed and I was too over confident  in my ability as well as the bike. I knew as soon as the rubber left the lip  that I had made a horrible mistake. I was way too high and it seemed like I  was not going to hit the ground again for weeks. When I finally did touch  down I was a little nose heavy. I would have landed perfect if I was another  6ft back on the lander. My hand blew off the bar and stars filled my eyes.  The all to familiar taste of blood and dirt were on my tongue and I was in  pain. I layed there for a while taking stock of what happened and trying to  figure out what was injured. My arm was bloody shoulder and hip were hurting  and my bell was ringing.
     20 minutes I was at the bottom of the mountain. I  was in pain but also in one piece. I cracked my helmet and I can only imagine what the other  riders were thinking when the passed me on my limp back to the car. I am  still nursing a little pain from that day.  My cuts are not entirely healed,  and I need a new AM Lid. But I don¹t regret a thing. I may be getting older  but I still have not learned how to stop. Getting hurt is part of the game.  It lets us know our limits and pushes us to be better. I don¹t think it  is a matter of riding hard enough or not. I like to think of pain as a  teacher. ³kind of the school of hard knocks for mountain bikers.².  it is going  to guide your decisions, and influence the way you ride. Different people require different teachers. Some need gentle guidance, and some  require a stern hand.  I may not be as young, and my bones are no longer rubber.  But for me the pain will never stop. It reminds me I am human, and I can  make mistakes. When I make it out of the woods with no pain I know there is nothing more I can learn. I think that will be a sad day.  For now I  will be ready. For the long days in the saddle and the pain that comes with  effort. I have a lot more lessons to learn, and the mountain is the only place  I can be taught.

P.S. In case anyone is wondering. Yes you can in fact,  whip a Goblin. Just be sure to catch the lander!


  1. Nice writing, per usual Dan!

    Pain, and the experience, reminds me a bit of Fight Club - not the entirely the same message as here, but in the ball park.

    Keep it up buddy!

  2. at 43 somethings never change,camel back mules make for softer landings