Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bears and wasps and me trying to mountain bike

I enjoy taking my mountain bike out this time of year. It is completely different from the tri bike, and so, it challenges my brain to fire neurons along new paths. I think this is a good thing. :) :)

There is a great hill one minute and 30 seconds away from my house -- it starts on pavement and then changes into dirt/loose rock/loose dirt. The grade is steady and significant, and the road is not technical by any means -- but technical enough for me.

To those who TRULY mountain bike, I must look like a total tool. I have a really nice mountain bike -- a really, really nice mountain bike that I do very little mountain biking on. I go up logging or fire roads and still end up falling off much of the time. I've accepted it.

I suppose my mountain biking skills are the equivalent of a noob triathlete decked out with carbon goggles, disc wheel, and $8000 bike and coming in dead last at the races. Yup, I'm pretty bad. Hahahahaha!

And I am completely unashamed of it too -- When I have to ride my mountain bike between two rocks or I go over a big boulder and my wheel spins and I am momentarily stopped in my tracks, my heart pounds and I pedal like a maniac to keep going. I feel exhilarated!! I feel like a REAL mountain biker!!

You should see me when I go downhill -- again only on fire roads. I stand, put my bum over my rear wheel and feel like such a stud. I am way too chicken to really let 'er loose on the downhills -- I save that fun for triathlon. No, for me, mountain biking is all about getting out in the bush and getting off my tri bike.

Also, I am a big wimp. I HATE falling off my mountain bike. I HATE getting bloody elbows and ugly bruises -- which is why I like to stick to the widest roads possible.
Even with all these precautions: big roads, easy routes; I manage to tip over every now and then. Tuesday was such a day.

I was happily pedaling up "my" hill -- I had already had a couple of close calls... The gravel was deep in places and the rocks big. Sheer terror kept my legs spinning uphill so I didn't fall over though. Plus, I'm always worried that a truck or ATV'er is going to come by and I won't be able to move out of their way on an uphill part because the gravel is too deep for me to ride on.

Can you imagine? Driving behind this chick on a dirt road --- who is riding up the middle (flattest, safest) part of the road and won't pull over to let you by? The thing is, the hills are steep enough, where I can only go UP not across. If I veer sideways for even a moment, down I go. So, these are the thoughts running through my head as I pedal like a mad fool to get to the top.

On Tuesday, I was approaching the ultimate *top* of the hill, and was getting excited. It would have been my first time to the top this year...

That said, the road was in rough shape -- it had deteriorated quite a bit from last year. There were big ruts all over the place, lots of thicker dirt and rocks. Many times I was pedaling like crazy and my wheels would just spin. My heart rate was going like a mofo -- my animal instincts took over. Reality dimmed, and a tunnel vision set in: I so desperately didn't want to fall, I pedaled, pedaled, pedaled. My whole mind, sense of being, very existence was rooted to this one effort -- of moving forward and not falling down!

I started to panic the closer I got to the big rutted bit. Left, right, straight ahead? There was no easier or safer place for me to go! NOOOOO!! My eyes darted back and forth trying to pick a path. Time was running out...

I was inching close and closer. Suddenly, I had no choice, I valiantly tried to go down one rut and up the other side, when I fell over. $HIT!!!!! I HATE FALLING OVER!! I always fall over going uphill, so when I fall over it happens in slow motion. Which is the worst. Because you get to savour how much of a knob you are as you tip over to the side. LOL!!!!!

I lay there in the dirt and looked to see if I was still clipped in. No. Yet I couldn't unlcip when I was going over -- what the heck good does that do me??? I want to unclip BEFORE I fall over!! LOL!!!

Just a bit of bloody elbow and bruised legs -- that's another thing -- I probably don't fall properly either. Any sin you can commit on the mountain bike, I have most likely done it! Hahahahahaha!

I was shaking from adrenaline (pathetic isn't it, when the adrenaline kicks in because of a super slow motion tip over? I felt like a sleeping cow who has been tipped over by some drunken redneck!), and decided to head back downhill.

I talked to myself a lot here: "Take a deep breath, Julie. Just get back on your bike and ride. Just breathe. You're fine, get your head together and keep your wits about you."

I employed my usual mountain-bike-descent posture which never fails to leave me feeling like a mountain bike hero. I used the brakes a lot, but I was getting into my stud groove when up ahead I saw Mama and baby black bear emerging from the forest.

I just about pooped my pants, I kid you not. They didn't see me at first -- I was coming downhill at a good clip and was simultaneously thinking, "Do I yell to get their attention? Do I slow down? Do I speed up? WTF?????"

Suddenly, Mama heard/saw me and they both bolted across the road right in front of me. There were far enough ahead of me, that I slowed down a bit to see if there was another baby that was going to cross. I DID NOT want to be in between the bear family for even a moment. No baby, so I bolted.

Funny thing -- the very next thought that occurred to me was this: "I bet I could have pedaled up that rut if those bears were behind me." Hahahahahahahaha!!

See why I like mountain biking so much? There are many lessons to be learned about oneself....

Yesterday, I went for an easy 20 minute jog, up the highway and back. Right after I turned around, from across the river my two bear friends said hi. I couldn't believe it -- this is a sketchy spot for bears -- there is a bald spot on the mountain that is vertical scree and after that, the mountain is vertical. Nowhere else for the bears to go. They can only go up so far, before they have to backtrack.

Last year Mike and I watched as a conservation officer shot flares to scare a little back bear from crossing the river and possibly the highway. The little bear would scramble up the scree, have nowhere else to go, and then come back down, only to be scared by the flare gun again. And again, and again. Talk about an exercise in futility.

As for the wasp - I was minding my own business driving my car with the windows rolled down, when I felt a stabbing pain on the left of my back. You know that place that itches and you try to scratch it but it is just out of your reach? Right there.

I had no idea what was happening -- I pulled over and threw my 4-way flashers on. It was then I saw this wasp crawling around on my emergency brake. I got out of my car and using a map, flicked it out. HOLY CRAP did that sting ever hurt.

I've been stung by wasps before while cycling, and while they sting, they never really hurt. I think it might have something to do with getting stung while working out -- your blood is coursing through your veins, you don't feel it, I don't know. All I know is that this sucker stung me HARD and I was a big baby all afternoon because of it. LOL!!!

Wonder where I'll go biking today?

:) :) :) :)


Jenna said...

I read this post exactly like you likely wrote and in one breath. You on speed or what? If anyone ever says you live a normal life I will argue that is a lie until my last big gulp of air. 1) PLEASE let me video tape you on your mountain bike. It would be a great youtube vid!! 2) I sould have pooped if I saw the bears. I would have crashed. The bears would have feasted on my hamstrings and I would have died on the side of a big hill. Julie seems to get out of her little predicaments quite nicely - Yeah!!
3) You crack me up!!
Love ya! and where will you bike today?

Keith said...

I had a sandwich in hand (BBQ turkey breast with 5 year old Balderson Cheddar on a Tuscan Herb Thintini bun) while reading your blog, but didn't dare take a bite till I was done. I figured the spit potential was much too high, and I wasn't far wrong. Your life never ceases to amaze me. And you wonder why millions of people visit your blog every day!?

Amber Dawn said...

You ride your mtn bike clipped in? Wow, you are my new hero! I am terrified to try, I fall off so much I think I would kill myself if I was clipped in...
Your hill sounds fun though- well other than the bear encounters!

Amy said...

I love the term "knob" and forgot all about it until your post. However, you are NOT a knob.

I can't believe you saw those bears and weren't scared!!! I was scared just reading your account of them.

And the wasp? I hate being stung!!!!

runningman said...

Julie you have the most amazing adventures. I've ridden the mountain bike a few times too, once with friends in the mountains and it was really frustrating for me. As much as I loved being outside with friends, I'm so bad at riding over rocks and roots. Although I already know part of my problem is that I pump my tires up too full. I think it's the roadie/triathlete in me that is too stubborn to go with the lower air pressure. Maybe this is somthing you need to check?? It really does make a huge difference for bike control. Oh and your blog made me remember somthing I forgot to write about in my RR. I won't steal your thunder by writing about it here, but you will seriously laugh your ass off.

Cath said...

You make me laugh very very hard! Be careful out there girl - or is that the scardey cat English girl in me talking :)

See you real soon - can't we wait to catch up properly

Lots of love n hugs

Me xxxx

Susi said...

you are my hero miss julie!! total rockstar on the MTB - you gotta fall sometimes! oh, very glad you didn't have an issue with the bears though. i gotta get my bike in shape so we can go!!

oh, and i am amazed sometimes that mike let's you out of the house, haha. (just teasing!!)

KK said...

OMG so many interesting/funny things in this post. First of all, WHAT? TWO bear sitings!!! LOL at the pooped your pants part. And I think you're supposed to play dead when you see a bear, but not sure how the mtn bike factors in to that...I used to love mtn biking, until I always seemed to end up with bloody knees and elbows and subsequently discovered the merits of road riding. You are a stud though!!!

Keith said...

Today is the first day of Julies new training regime building for something or other. I'm sure she's going to post about her adventures. Any time now.

Soon. Just hang on.

Like, really, any time now.

I'm sure, any minute.



I mean, how much longer can it be?

The wait will be worth it.

Meanwhile, we all stand around, holding our breath, wondering what new adventure will afflict Julie, what critters she will meet, what stories she will have to tell that will amaze and astound us.


This internet thing must be good for something else while we're waiting.