Tuesday, March 22, 2016

And Then I Rediscovered Love

So the Keyesville Classic race was fun and all. It had all the ingredients of a great race weekend and the whole thing was a blast as always, but sometimes bike racing can start to become just that, racing. I get caught up in the competition, the suffering, beating boys, warm ups and cool downs, trying to eat healthy so I can be skinny, training plans, heart rate... all those things that are actually good, but can take over a bit sometimes.
Well after the XC race and devouring an amazing cheeseburger plus home fries and a baby coke on Sunday, Menso, Alfredo and I took off for a little bonus ride that pretty much reset my pure love for this sport. I was supposed to log a few extra miles as per coach, and Menso thought it would be fun to hit the Kern River Trail, 17 miles of single track that parallels the Kern River in what was supposed to be a net down hill point to point kinda situation. Brendan and Fiona would meet us at the river with the car, and from there we would drive home.

We were all tired, having just raced 24 miles of pretty tough trails in the sun. Menso smelled like a middle schooler who didn't understand that showering and changing your shirt every day is a necessity, and I had salt crusted all over my jersey. So we headed out at a conservative pace and just soaked in the scenery, made steady, even work of the climbs and let it go on the descents.

At the turn off from the XC course onto the Kern River Trail. We didn't know how much suffering lay ahead of us at this point. 
The total mileage ended up being closer to 23 miles, and despite the 'net downhill' promise, we ended up climbing 3,000ft. It hurt, and we had to stop a few times to eat and for Menso to top off my water bottle from his camelbak, but holy cow was it pretty. The hills were bright green, the sun low in front of us and the trail was carved into the hillside in a way that afforded us vast views of the river valley and mountains beyond it pretty much the entire time. The trail itself was smooth and bermed and flowy in a way I mostly only dream about. One minute you were flying across the hillside, the next pumping through a fun, flatter section then hitting a bermed turn or stream crossing, navigating a small rock garden, then flying down the hillside again. We have nothing like it in Orange County where the climbs are all crazy steep as are the descents, and the speed I was able to maintain made me giggle constantly.

Towards the end there were fields of wildflowers on either side of the perfectly narrow trail, and it felt more and more like a dream as the ride came to an end. This extra credit adventure was the highlight of my weekend, because as soon as we turned off from the XC course onto the Kern River trail I forgot about heart rate, about training, and about setting PR's. I followed two very fast boys across miles of new to me trail with a stupid big grin on my race and laughed out loud at Alfredo's antics and mishaps. We suffered together on the climbs, and shared in the beauty of the remote canyons and valleys, meadows and streams of southern Sequoia National Park. It was the perfect reminder that this is the heart and soul of what we do. Yeah, sometimes there are hours of intervals and warm ups and dieting, and I do honestly love racing bikes, the work that goes into becoming fast, the sacrifice and the pain, but this ride was a particularly special moment to remember to stop and smell the wildflowers and bask in the nature and giggle on the descents :) And not a bad way to wrap up a race weekend either!

Perfect light and perfect riding partners. 
You can't see all the flowers here, but they covered the hill side!

1 comment:

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