Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Catching Up: Mtn Bike Camp and Short Track Week 5

Two weekends ago I attended the Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camp in Hood River Oregon. I read about the camp in Bicycling Magazine in 2007 and decided that some intensive instruction would really help me get over the skills and fear plateau that I'd sitting at for two years.

I have a checkered history with mountain biking. I bought a mountain bike when I was in college after I met my now ex-husband, who was a great mountain biker. Unfortunately, when it came to mountain biking, their idea of a good time was to slap on a head lamp, smoke a couple bowls and bomb down something in the middle of the night while looking for Sasquatches. No thank you, stoners.

Understandably, this was not the best learning environment for a new rider who had a serious aversion to going downhill fast. And that crew were not patient instructors. After one broken wrist and numerous screaming matches, the bike was shelved until I moved to Eugene. I used it for transportation and was only slightly annoyed when it was stolen around the time of my divorce.

Fast forward to three years later. After my first season of cyclocross, three things were immediately apparent. One, I loved cross. But, two, I was not fit. And three, I needed to learn to stay ON my bike. Someone mentioned that a lot of the good cross racers used short track mountain biking as handling practice for cyclocross. So, in 2007, I bought a 43-pound, circa-1985 Gary Fisher and started "racing" short track.

"Racing" in quotation marks because, for the first two years, short track was more about survival, band-aids and arnica cream than it was about the competition. From the end of June through the beginning of August, my body looked like a two-year-old had picked out the bruise colors from the paint box and went to town on my legs.

This year I wanted things to be different. I was sick and tired of feeling uncoordinated and like I needed to be wearing a grizzly suit every time I rode on the dirt.

So, camp.

Great things about the camp:
  1. It is an all women's camp. I left mountain biking in 2001 partially because the men I rode with had neither the patience or ability to break skills down for beginner riders. And they were a bunch of non-helmet wearing flaming idiots that did not feel like a ride was worth doing unless there was the certainty of maiming and the threat of death. And lots of weed. Fuck you guys, seriously.
  2. The riders are divided into groups for both skills practice and group rides and the instructors are flexible moving riders to different groups. I was in the almost-remedial group for the entire weekend and was happy as a clam.
  3. If you attend the entire camp, you get almost 20 hours of small group and one-on-one instruction.
  4. I rode Post Canyon and Syncline for the first time. Whoop!
Opposite-of-Great Things About the Camp:
  1. It is an all-women's camp. As in, heavy on the rah-rah-rah and girl power. Although I did appreciate that element when I was working up the balls to ride my first rock face, at times it got to be too much.
  2. It was over 90 degrees the entire weekend. Summer can go blow itself at this point.
Things That I Learned at the Camp:
  1. I can't do switchbacks. A lot of the braking and balance required to do switchbacks is the exact opposite of what you would do on a road bike. My brain and body really struggled with how counter intuitive some of it was.
  2. I may not like switchbacks, but I rode a lot of stunts, bridges and rock faces without blinking twice. My riding group ended up nicknaming me the daredevil. If someone needed to be the first to go try something stupid, everyone looked at me.
  3. Flat pedals may be the way to go with more technical mtn biking. I was a lot more confident when I knew how easy it would be to bail out.
They tell you at camp orientation that one weekend at camp is like an entire season of riding on your own. As I don't ride anything close to a full season of mountain biking, it ended up feeling like two years. I still feel only partially competent, but its closer to 75% competent as opposed to 75% incompetent.

Somehow I felt like short track the following Monday in temperatures close to 95 degrees was a smart idea. Wrong. I had a decent start, but had too little air pressure in my back tire. After skidding and sliding for a lap and a half, my body decided to remind me that it doesn't like racing in sub-Saharan temperatures.

Didn't feel so good after that. Scratch that. I felt awful. I finished the race, but it took an hour before my the skin on my face faded from a deep coral, and I threw up the first few times I tried to put cold water in my system after the race.

It was 105 degrees at short track yesterday. I took the smart route, rode in the morning and spent the worst hours of the afternoon and early evening at the Kiwi Missile's going-away pizza party. Sometimes I am capable of making good decisions.

Next up: My report of Lindsay vs. Nature vs. Tequila at my parent's cabin at Crater Lake.

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