Zen On Dirt

Empty on Adrenaline

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We were pedaling up towards Starr Pass on Monday when Alexis dropped the bombshell on me, ‘The weather looks rainy for the weekend.’

‘How can that be? We’re in Tucson?’


While I don’t really remember much from living here as an 8-10 year old, I was assured that Tucson had nice weather in the winter, all the time. It can’t be so, I decided of the impending rain. We continued our our ride, climbing Stonehouse towards Starr Pass where we debated the merits of Cat Mountain versus going to the backside and coming back on the wash. We’d decided that we’d had plenty of tech for the day in climbing Stonehouse. We’d both cleared lines we previously hadn’t, and I’d made some half-assed attempts on some rocks that seemed impossible a week earlier, but now seemed to hold some potential.


Of course, the moment I let my guard down that we weren’t going to ride Cat Mountain, I promptly crashed descending Starr Pass, smashing my left knee on my bars. Serves me right for relaxing for a second. As luck would have it, it turned some beautiful shades of black and blue later in the night, and made sleeping uncomfortable, but didn’t seem to affect pedaling at all, which was a relief after all the issues I’d had with the knee earlier in the summer.


On Tuesday, I did an energy assessment after determining that the weekend weather looked fairly dire. Do I have the energy to ride every day this week? Probably not. If I take today off, can I pull off good rides on Wednesday and Thursday before the rain hits on Friday? Most likely.

Of course, instead of taking the day off, I allowed myself to follow Scott up part of a trail that had a switchback that I was batting a pretty low average on. I was determined to try a different line, and figured that it could entertain me for a solid 20 minutes. When it went on the second attempt, I was halfway disappointed. What am I going to do now? I pedaled home in the daylight, a rare occurrence, while Scott continued on his first single speed ride.


The single speed has proved to be great. For purely selfish reasons, it’s fun to see Scott struggle, somewhat, with stuff that he normally flies over. He also has to rest more, which gives me a chance to rest more.


Under warm skies, we climbed Stonehouse and Scott let me hit the offending pile of rocks I’d tried with Alexis over and over and over. Pretty early on, I made it up and then bobbled out of the sheer surprise of making it. I decided it didn’t count, so I tried again, and again, and again. Finally, the stars, or more like my pedals and the rocks, aligned and I had my wits about me to keep pedaling over the top, straight into the next two sections of rocks that I’d also never cleared before. They, too, went cleanly. I buzzed off that adrenaline rush for a good bit.


On to Cat Mountain where I’d spent far too much time working on the rocky bits by myself a few days prior. Apparently, the work had paid off because this time through took far fewer attempts. And the two sections that I’d given up on before went, with the security of a spot from Scott, but I’ll take it.


With one more day to burn and a mountain bike movie premier across down later in the evening, we made the trek to Lemmon for the afternoon.

Up Prison Camp  (because if there’s trail, it’s against my moral code to take the road), and then up the  highway to Bugs. I grudgingly undertook the hike-a-bike up the steps, tried to ride some of the non-stepped part of the trail, fell off the trail, banged up my left knee, again, and then continued walking. The blood contrasted nicely with the still black bruising. At the top of the hill, I put my kneepads on.


I used up my final shot of adrenaline for the week on a steep, rocky section of trail where once you go down the first little drop, you’re committed for the long haul. I’m still not really sure how I survived it…and declared at the bottom, ‘I really didn’t want to ride that.’

‘But you did,’ Scott pointed out.

‘Eszter scared.’

I remember riding the descent last spring and struggling with several of the sections, and declaring that I’d never be able to ride the section that I’d just unintentionally bounced down. It’s pretty amazing what five inches of travel and a big bike can do for confidence. Still, whenever we stopped, I felt the need to repeat the refrain, ‘Eszter scared.’


Eventually, we made it back down to Prison Camp where I knew I didn’t have to be scared anymore. From there, it’s just fun. Chunky, Tucson, rocky fun.


We beat darkness to the van by 5 minutes and beelined it to Trader Joe’s for snacks before the movie.

I wasn’t too concerned when we woke up the next morning to rain. While the legs could have kept going, the thought of scaring myself silly yet again seemed less than appealing. It was time to let the body recover, physically, mentally, and most important, adrenally.

This big bike stuff is hard. But I’m starting to fall just a little bit in love with it.


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