Monday, August 8, 2011

Gilligan learns to ride a bike!

The Monday after the madness that was Crankworx, Kurt and I got on bikes and headed out for some mayhem of our own.

Now in the past, I haven't been that awesome on a bike. (see previous post). It wasn't for a lack of wanting or wishing, but as we've discussed so many times in the past, wanting, wishing and desiring is the easy part. Once I owned a car, I lost my waaaa for biking, I didn't spend every day on a bike, learning intuitively the balance and techniques.

Of course I'll race you to the bottom!
I've always been attracted to mountain biking, but I've never been part of the culture. Not being one of those people who is that great at getting after something all by myself (this was a learned behavior brought on by the necessity of getting strong for skiing... I'm willing and happy to go hike on my own, to go ski on my own, but learning to ride a bike is more fun, safer, a d less scary when you do it with friends.)

Consiquently, I only got out on my bike when I had people to do it with. I had a hardtail stump jumper that I'd bought years ago with the ridiculous and audacious idea of seeing all of Australia by bike, only to discover six months later that I was pregnant. So much for that grand idea! I sold the touring bags, bought a stroller, and watched my bike grow cobwebs at an alarming rate.

I remember one day a f years before that, must have been 95 or 6, renting a bike and going for my first lift served ride with my step dad at Northstar ski area in lake Tahoe. In true hopelessly clueless form, I followed my uuber competitive father figure down a black diamond trail on our second run, only to discover that I could ride through the sand and the gravel and the water, that I felt comfortable moving my weight around, that I was faster and more comfortable on a bike than he was. Which may or may not be why we never went again.

I definitely learned the value of winning at any cost, even that of personal injury, at my stepfathers side. This is a man who loved to race, loved to win, and who could come off the couch and run a marathon. Never mind at he looked like he was going to die at the end, he made it through by sheer force of will, determination, and the suretiy that he could accomplish anything that he put his mind to, no matter what other people thought. (hmm... Apple... Tree.... )

I loved that day of lift served riding, and several years later, with no practice in between, my husband at the time and I pulled our bikes out and accompanied some accomplished riders on the Downieville Downhill, a famous 26 mile single track downhill which required all day to ride, a stout constitution, and a complicated shuttle.

The road to Downieville, fun, evil, surprising, exhausting.
Of course, these guys decided it would be fun to ride up to the ridgeline and then add about 10 miles of climbing, in which we ended up getting (just a little) lost and portaging our bikes... None the less, I learned once again how fun it was to hang out with people who are so ridiculously fit that it seems not just possible, but actually Fun to add hours of climbing to an already epic day.

I remember following my friend John down a scree field full of polished boulders and having him look behind when we got down. I had just been following his wheel, looking carefully at what he was doing and trying my best to copy it, so I hadn't really noticed that he had veered of the trail and ridden the wash because it looked like fun to him.

"Holy shit, Kate," he said as I pulled up behind him. "You weren't supposed to follow me down that!"

Whoops. I looked around, and back up, to see the rest of the field winding down the switch backs that would lead them to where we had stopped. It hadn't occurred to me that there was another, safer way to go.

"It was fun! I liked it!!" I said, thinking how cool it was to be in the moment, just constantly practicing believing the bike would roll over those huge rocks, feeling the bike move around under me, staying imbalance, knowing I couldn't stop on that terrain, that I needed to just let it flow and believe I'd make it.

"Looks like we've got a trials rider!" said my friend, Sue. I glowed with pride. I had done something right. I had done something hard and done it right. Totally accidentally, sure. Having no skill or idea what I was doing (which is probably the only reason I could do it. See bumble bees and flying...)

I was on fire. I wanted to find out what a trials rider was and then become one. Right after pizza and beer.

Four long wrist pounding hours and two flat tires later, we pulled into the Downieville pizza company, Tom having pushed his bike, exhausted, for the last two miles. John and Sue were amazing, circling back around to check on us, riding along side, no judgments, no frustration, just encouraging all the way.

We moved away from lake Tahoe shortly after that, to Pasadena, and "real" life took over, we had babies, opened a business, and forgot how fun it was to ride.

Years later, two kids in tow, our mountain bikes had survived a huge fire, and my friend Mason at Bangtail bikes in Bozeman had cleaned and redone them so we could ride them again. We'd schlepped them all over the country, but nary a mile had been ridden. Never mind, now, I had a chariot. I would pull it behind the bike in spite of my screaming children who refused to sleep like every other happy kid in a bike trailer that I knew. We did it twice. I didn't have the heart to go a third time. 

Bozeman was a biking, hiking, skiing town, and all I could think was that to be good at riding, you have to ride a lot, and it's no fun for someone who is really into riding to go out with with someone who isn't. So while our new home in Bozman, Montana was full of riders, I was too fat and out of shape to brave asking anyone to go ride with me.  What if I went three blocks and pooped out before we hit the trail? What if it was too hard or too scary now?

Eventually, Tom and I split, (no it had nothing to do with mountain biking.) And after some time, I met and fell for a very cute boy who loved to ride his bike. He loved to ride it so much, he didn't even own a car!

Thanks to Kurt, I found a new excitement for riding. I lived in Montana, he lived in Aspen, and I was trying to find more new ways to get fit outside. I was also, years later, still trying to lose my baby fat.

I talked my excellent, super fit, really beautiful friend Angela into teaching me how to ride my bike again. We worked on switchbacks, cornering, breaking, and climbing. For a summer, we rode a lot trying to get me in shape to ride to Crested Butte with Kurt.

Of course, Kurt's level of fitness was leagues beyond my own, and so while I was training hard to go on a dirt path that suddenly scared the crap out of me (older, heavier, now I have kids...) he thought, maybe, I was training like an Aspen person. (older, thinner, Pilates instructor, hikes to the top of Aspen Mountain before breakfast, you know...)

What ensued might be called hilarity...

or not... your choice...

So this summer when Kurt got a job teaching downhill mountain biking I thought, oh, crap. Here's my opportunity to fight through two more years of pain and spills and maybe finally learn to like being scared and not be afraid of falling off my bike.

Turns out, its not like that AT ALL!! Yay!!

Yup, the Winter Park story is coming...

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