….And hilarity ensues! Nothing like some falls in the mud to keep oneself humble. I consider myself a competent cyclist, but sadly this does not translate into mountain biking. The experience of riding in Short Hills with my triathlon training partner Nate (Karen Natho) was fraught with challenge, fear, excitement and loads of mud, but we eventually accomplished trails 1 and 2….
WHY? I think it is excellent to keep challenging oneself throughout life. When I turned 40 I tried triathlons for the first time ever and promised myself that rather than resigning to old age and the gradual loss of abilities and fitness, I would try something new every year. At 40 I did my first triathlons and a half ironman. At 41 I did my first Ironman. Now at almost 42, I am preparing for my first adventure race with my trusty training partner and our 14 year old sons. The Storm the Trent Trek Race will consist of 42 km of mountain biking, 9 km of trail running and 9km of canoe paddling. This big event is now less than a month away – May 14th.
Mountain Biking the good, the bad and the ugly…
- There is a definite thrill component to mountain biking that does not exist in road cycling. Shaking and bouncing down steep, uneven terrain and wondering if I will remain on the bike is a scary experience for me. I am braking more than I should on most descents, but at least I am remaining on my bike most of the time. There is the constant fear of, “will I make it over that log?”, or ” Will I get through this patch of mud?” I am sweating from fear almost as much as from exertion!
- There is a huge technical component to mountain biking: maneuvering over logs, rocks, streams and sloughing through mud is extremely treacherous. It requires specific strategies to remain on the bike, rather than experiencing the natural elements up close and personal. Nate and I did our share of walking, but I am pleased to say, we did considerably less dismounting and more plowing through the mud and elements as the kilometers rolled along. By the end of our ride, we were managing to get through many challenging sections, while staying on our bikes!
- The Pacing of a mountain bike ride is much slower than riding (and Running?!) on the roads. The fluctuating, hilly terrain means one is covering far less ground than on the roads – at least for us, that is! I cannot speak for a true mountain biker, but I was shocked at how few kilometers we had covered after what felt like hours! Our entire ride did not take hours—it was more like 80 minutes—but the exertion felt comparable to hours on the road and we had covered far less ground. The humility element strikes again: our average pace was slower mountain biking (5:35 per km) than for our RUN the morning before (4:40 per km)! Not quite sure how that is possible. I blame it on all the muddy puddles.
- Mountain biking is great for building strength and agility. Hills are so steep on the trails – inclines can be much steeper on the trails than on the roads and there are more frequent fluctuations in elevation and speed along a mountain bike route. We rode up very steep sections that we never experience with our road bikes. Great cross-training for our primary sports.
- Mountain biking forces you to take yourself and life less seriously! You have to roll with the hills, flow with the mud, embrace some dirt and tears… life is not serious on the trails. Mud in the face, grit in the teeth – it forces you to laugh and let loose and let go of any pretense of looking good and all put together! A thorn bush ripped my tights and Nate fell into the woods as she tried to make it through a muddy patch. Thankfully we laughed and enjoyed it all and nobody got hurt.
Tomorrow we are off to Martinedale Pond to practice our paddling…