Lee and I rode Paradise Valley on Wednesday night. We each fought the overwhelming urge to sit on the couch and watch TV; so easy to do this time of year. Not only does it get dark around 4:30 but rain has been falling off and on for several weeks and so it came as no surprise that it started to rain again around noon on Wednesday. Yuck. Oh yeah, and it’s cold. These are not the most encouraging conditions to jump on a bike and go for a ride: wet, cold, and dark.
At the trail head we shuffled around, getting our gear on and chatting about the day as the rain came down. Helmet, pads, gloves, fenders all being put on wet. As if we needed any more of a deterrent, the rain pounded harder to test our resolve. Once you’re wet, well, you’re wet. We saddled up and off into the black forest we rode.
When everything is soaked with water riding becomes more about keeping in contact with the bike and less about getting fast section times. My grip is tighter because my gloves and grips are wet and slippery. My feet are tense because my shoes and pedals are covered in muck. My glasses are fogged by the mixture of body heat, dripping rain and sweat. Not that it matters because it’s foggy and it’s cold enough to see my breath so each time I exhale I push out a cloud of steam in front of me that obscures my already diminished vision.
It was under these conditions that I broke it. For the first time I broke a small piece of Paradise. All the conditions were awful and I felt sapped and unmotivated; being cold, wet and shrouded in darkness does that. Somehow, I managed to set a personal best on one section of single track, Cascara is about a half mile of up/down, twisty-tight trail with plenty of roots and obstacles. I shouldn’t have even come close to my best time and yet I beat it and by a respectable margin. This is the kind of thing that keeps me out there, keeps me going, and keeps me interested. Not because I’m looking to get record breaking times but because even though I didn’t “feel” like riding I did it anyway and I proved to myself that I can still produce excellent results despite having the odds stacked against me.
True to life, my exuberance was short-lived. About 30 minutes later I barreled in to a corner covered in slimy roots and my front tire gave way. My bike slammed flat to the trail and I lurched sideways against a dead tree stump about as round as my thigh. I broke the top two feet of the decayed tree off with my ribcage. It knocked the wind out of my body but not my spirit. I picked up my bike and kept riding, needless to say, I did not break any time records after that. Paradise giveth and Paradise taketh away.