life love mountains

Mountain Biking is Hard

By on June 11, 2013

I know what you probably thought when you read the title of this post. I’m guessing it went something like this “duh, Sam. Mountain biking is supposed to be hard. Haven’t you seen how hardcore mountain bikers are?” Before this weekend my response would have been “Yes I know they’re hardcore, but if I don’t go super fast and stay away from technical trails it can’t be that hard.” I wrongly assumed (we all know what assuming makes of you and me) that mountain biking couldn’t be that hard after reading three books about it, all by Jill Homer. (If you’re looking for a good book, I recommend Ghost TrailsBe Brave, Be Strong, and Arctic Glass: Six Years of Adventure in Alaska and Beyond.) In all three books, Jill Homer talks about she was at best a recreational cyclist and yet still completed legendary races such as the Iditarod Trail Invitational and the Tour Divide. What I didn’t realize was that she had quite a bit of experience on a mountain bike beforehand. 

The view from my handlebars

Unlike Jill Homer, I had absolutely no mountain bike experience. In fact, I didn’t even know I owned a mountain bike during college until the BF pointed it out to me. With this vast history with mountain biking, I bought myself a brand new Trek Cali mountain bike back in April. My only requirements when buying the bike were that it would be comfortable enough for me to complete a 50 mile race and it wouldn’t destroy my legs so I could complete do decently well on the 50 mile run the following day. The Cali fit the bill. Since the beginning of April I had taken my bike out for a whopping 12 miles on the bike paths near my apartment in downtown Denver. Since this weekend was the end of my recovery week, I decided to take the Cali out for a real mountain bike ride on real mountain bike trails. With that goal in mind, the BF and I strapped on our helmets and hydration packs and set out on a 4 mile one way trail, the Eagle Valley Trail.

The BF riding on the singletrack

The first mile of the trail gains about 500 ft but is on a paved street. Then the single track fun begins. The rest of the trail climbs and descends ridge lines above the Eagle Vail golf course, offering sweeping panoramas of the Vail Valley. Thanks to the daily afternoon storms, the plant life is exploding and quickly taking over the trail. At points we had to walk the bikes up (and down) the trail because the vegetation made bike riding very difficult (for beginners). The last quarter mile before the trail rejoins the paved road is comprised of tiny, tight switchbacks. I was doing great on the switchbacks for the entire ride until I got to the final three. At the top one, my foot slid off my pedal and got caught on a bush, which sent me and my bike off the switchback and launched me off the second one. I separated from my bike and slammed my chin down on the gravel on the third switchback, my bike slammed on top of me, skidded off, and landed on the golf course 20 feet below me. Although the entire experience was painful and I shed a couple of tears of frustration, I’m glad that my first mountain bike crash only resulted in this:

My chin is now swollen and scabbed

On another injury note, my right hamstring has been bothering me since I went camping on Memorial Day. When I try to lay down in bed at night it feels like someone is ripping my leg apart. I’ve noticed that after about 3 miles of running it finally goes numb and I’m able to function normally but then as soon as I stop it goes right back to hurting. Despite this niggle, I decided to still run the 10K Spring Runoff (part of the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail). My newest running buddy Gaby, her friend Lindsay, and I all decided to run it together. I’m so glad that we did because hiking up the ski slopes multiple times (the race was approximately 6.7 miles and had over 1700 ft of gain) would have been miserable without their uplifting company. My only goals for the race were to not injure myself and beat the 70+ year old man that beat at the Vail Uphill in February. I achieved the second goal but now my hamstring is bothering me even more. After personal training today I received the worst homework ever: NO running until the Tough Mudder on Saturday. I guess this means I’ll be spending more quality time with my Cali and Moose-pup!!

Moose enjoying the beautiful day