Thirsty Thursday: Riding Smiles

Rambler: Beth Drink at Hand: 2009 Lockwood Vineyards Malbec

Hey Welliver Photography fans, its Thirsty Thursday once again...time to pour something yummy and plan something awesome to do this weekend. This week's installment is a bit unique--the story happened today, but the photos are from the same location, just a few weeks back.

As I prepare for the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, my cycling coach is giving me me all kinds of fun/crazy/tough workouts to get me ready. Today's mountain bike workout was short in length (only an hour and a half to 2 hours) but pretty intense with some max effort hill repeats mixed in the middle. Luckily I have about 30ish minutes of fun trails and fire roads to get to my hill, and it was a great morning to ride. I was having a blast. Then the hard part...a few minutes all out up a 6% grade, still fewer minutes to recover back down the hill, rinse and repeat 3 times. I was stomping on the pedals, drooling, snot streaming, panting, grunting...let's be honest, I assume I sounded like and looked like a rabid dog in heat. After the 2nd effort I had no idea how I was going to survive the 3rd effort. I could barely even figure out how to get my bike turned around on the reasonably wide double track fire road. Back down I went, and then started the final effort. The sun came out. Bonnie Tyler belted out "We Need A Hero" in my right ear. Bunnies scampered along the trail beside me. I clawed my way up the hill the final time. Done. Exhausted. Gasping. But done. Now just a ride back to the car.

I rounded the corner by Laguna Seca. One more small climb and then the route is mostly downhill to the trailhead. As I topped that last little pitch a smile slowly and unexpectedly crept across my face. I was invigorated. I'd finished that last effort just a few minutes before yet I felt fresh.

I bombed down the gravelly fire road. Then a decision. The quickest way home is straight. I turned left. One of my favorite single tracks was to the left. Turning left added an extra 20 minutes to my ride. I didn't care. The smile grew bigger.

I flew down a trail winding through tall grasses dappled with dots of wildflower color. The transition from green spring to golden summer is fast here. The poison oak stays green for a long time though. Its the only thing that slows me down as I try to navigate to the side of the narrow trail away from the toxic oils. Soon I'm on a new trail. Bermed corners. Railing. Pushing the limits of my tires to grip the loose fresh soil. The unseasonable weekend rains created a little tackiness in the dirt. A rear tire slide here and there, but I stay up as I edge closer to out-of-control. The wheels stick. I stay up. I keep cruising.

Across a fire road and onto the Goat Trail. I fly down the upper part of the trail. Its wide open, hard packed, fast. The wind gently whistles through the helmet straps against my cheek. A quick digger of a hill up to my favorite tree in all of Ft Ord. It looks beautiful this morning in the fresh sunlight, green leaves against the golden grass. But I didn't stop. I couldn't stop. The riding is too much fun. The smile isn't fading.

More flying. I look for spots to catch air off little lips in the trail. I lean my bike under me through the turns. I bounce smoothly over the washboarded corners. I've never gone this fast down this section of the trail. A blur of trees and grass scream through the peripheral vision, but I only see the single track in front of me. Low scrub oaks and prickly thistles scratch at my shins. I'm surprised by how quickly I reach the bottom of the trail. Surprised and disappointed. I wanted more.

At this point I am supposed to take the long fire road route back to the trailhead. Terry doesn't like me riding down the poison oak-infested, yet shorter and incredibly more fun trail back to the trailhead. He sorta forbids me from riding that trail. Today, I don't care. I want that trail. Its another of my favorites in Ft Ord. And today was one of those magical dog walkers, no hikers, no runners, not even another mountain biker on the last fun trail down to the parking lot. And the BLM guys had trimmed the poison oak away from the trail's edge. More flying. The smile, now huge, squeaked out a few giggles. I completely forgot about how miserable the intervals had been. As I popped up onto the pavement from the last bit of dirt fun for the day I smiled a little more...that was a hell fun of a ride.

I'm looking forward to another fun mountain bike ride this weekend. This time with some of my favorite riding friends at my favorite place to ride. Its going to be great.

Thanks for reading...And get out there and do something that makes you smile this weekend!