Monday, January 15, 2007

Haw Ridge Ride

Despite the dire predictions for a weekend full of rain, I got in another ride this morning. This, of course, following my ride yesterday and the running of the KnoxieCross race on Saturday, also in the dry. Today’s ride took me to Haw Ridge for my first ride there of 2007. I met John B., Monty, and Larry at the trailhead parking lot, and also Tommy from Georgia. Tommy was up visiting his girlfriend, but she had to work this morning so he decided to see what the fuss about Haw Ridge was all about. He was parked closest to me in the parking lot and asked if the trails made one big loop.

Hmm. Well, Haw Ridge is a little more complicated than that, I told him. I directed him to the kiosk and the trail map on the big board and pointed out the maze of possibilities. “Well,” I said, “You could try this route, or you might try this route, or … well, you might try coming with us.” Thus Tommy became our fifth man. He rode pretty well today and kept up pretty well.

As for me, I did great today. I was off light a flash from the start, flying over the singletrack as fast as I’ve ever gone. I felt invincible. I stopped to wait at all of the intersections, but nobody could actually stay with me today. Even all the way up the ridge to the highest elevations, I felt like I was riding on air. I was …

Okay, let me admit at this point that the preceding paragraph is a complete fabrication. Let me emphasize the word “complete” here. I was the slow man from the start and it only got worse. I had some traction problems on West Shore, so I stopped and let some of the air out of my back tire. That helped a good bit, and I was able to stay on with the group for the next several trails, along Lake Road, Twister (always a favorite), New Trail (sad that we never came up with a better name), Red Hill, Briar Loop, and part of the way up the Power Cut. But that was where my real trouble began.

I overheated a little on the climb up that part of the Power Cut. I asked for a water break, but quickly realized I was a bit dizzy. So I got off of the bike and sat for a few minutes, hoping that would help. Was I suffering some lingering effect from the cold I’m still shaking loose? I don’t know, maybe, but the rest I got there was not enough for what was coming. We started off again and Monty led us along Middle Road to the turn onto Low Gap trail.

Low Gap. That sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? Sure it does. But it isn’t. Low Gap is a long climb up the ridge. And it did me in today. I was actually in the saddle for the first good bit, but when I caught up with Tommy walking his bike I sensed that solidarity was in order and climbed off of my bike and started walking as well. There was a brief gradual down gradient where I got back on the bike, but the previous overheating returned and I didn’t stand a chance at the last bit where the slope of the climb cruelly increases near the top. I took a quick nature-break, almost as much as a chance to extend the stop as to get relief from a semi-full bladder.

And then we started along the ridge, which is a little bit more climbing, though more gradual. It didn’t matter. I was spent. I was riding like I was drunk or something: slow and slightly wobbly. The wobbly part was my biggest concern since the trail was narrow and plunged off down the hill on the right. Still, I was doing my best to hang in there and finally made it to the intersection with K2 trail. From there we went downhill for a while and I recovered a good bit, but the damage was done. Oh, and somewhere in there we found Alan and he joined the group.

Yes, I was cooked by Low Gap and was in ‘limp-along-home’ mode. However, from where we were, it made more sense to follow everyone East to East Edge trail and then up to where there was paved road I could follow back to the parking lot way back on the other side of the park.

I was happy to see that John and Tommy were waiting for me at the paved road (Old Edgemoor Rd), and they rode along with me for the first part of my trip back. After I convinced him I’d be okay, John took Tommy back in on another trailhead to ride with the rest of the guys as I continued on toward the parking lot. I felt better riding back, until I hit Edgemoor Rd (the new one, I guess) and turned to face a stiff headwind for the last ½ mile.

I got to my truck and put my bike in the back, and then just slowly started getting ready to leave. I was in no hurry to actually drive away until I at least had a chance to drink more from my waterbottle and get a small bit of food in my stomach. But right when I was ready to go, I saw Tommy coming back out on the main trailhead and stopped to talk to him for a while, explaining where all we had actually been vis-à-vis the map. I think he was rather happy to have gone in with us. His eyes were a bit wider with wonder as to just how many different possibilities there are at Haw Ridge, and how easy it might be to get completely turned around and lost.

Maybe I’ll see Tommy out there again. Maybe I won’t blow up quite so badly next time. One thing is certain; I need to get my stamina back up and fast. I can’t continue to suffer like this on rides I know I should have little problem with.

One from the "You Gotta See This" file. Can I go ahead and put this on my wish-list?

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