Got up at the crack of dawn this morning, ready to take Stella on her normal jaunt, when I decided to shake things up a bit. This really is likely to be one of the last rides of the year, as storm moves in tonight, so we loaded up the truck and headed across town to the West Mag area (Stella is not allowed near the highway no matter how obedient she is). Stella has never been here and I have not set foot on these trails since 2007. It's perfect…zero risk of cars and lots of quality woods time.
We started on the winding trail that was built as a small trickle back in 1999 and is now something of a phenomenon in the local trail scene. I've heard a lot of bitching and moaning about this trail, and a lot of it has come from me. I think I needed some perspective, because on a Monday morning at 7 am this trail is sweet. I guess when your biggest issues in life are how many people are on said trail…well, honestly, you probably need to live a little more. It's good to care, but it's smaller fry in big scheme of life, something I've learned with the events of the past three years.. No…this was 100% positive this morning. Swooping, rolling, everything a trail should be. It alternated between exceptionally tacky dirt and hard packed snow. Stella followed right in tow, galloping along with ease.
Onto a little jeep road, onto a new small trail with a cold stream crossing and then up the old litmus test for me, the jeep road climb to the Lone Star. I used to ride this 3-4 days a week and I was nervous this experience was going to be miserable in comparison. But it wasn't. I managed to clean it and felt good, which was somewhat shocking given I've ridden maybe 1/3 in 2010 that I did each year from 1991-2007. It wasn't always pretty…sometimes you are cranking along at 10 RPMS barely keeping it alive, but that's part of the fun. I'm starting to realize that I was pretty much perpetually overtrained when I was racing, that I don't need to do anywhere near that amount of riding to stay fit. Of course, I did love being in the woods – still do of course – which was the main reason I rode so much, but it's a good realization to not stress if you can't squeeze a ride in.
Past the mine, over the roots and onto some of my favorite climbing in the area…the open valleys before the gate to the nordic area. When the light is low and the small wild grasses frosted over like it was today, it's simply stunning. There is a sense of accomplishment at this point…you are still climbing of course but the grade has mellowed so you can kind of enjoy it. Fun stuff, all the way to the top.
And then onto a small singletrack trail and down. Down, down, down. The flow was there today, cornering, rolling over stuff, the bike and I felt as one. Today was one of those days where the excitement kept building, with each roll of the wheel, and it builds this ecstatic sort of energy that almost makes you feel like bursting because you are grinning so big. It requires a soundtrack, something large and anthemic, energetic, lifting. It's probably the main reason I enjoy riding bikes and skiing down mountains…the ecstacy where you feel like a mini god that, if the trail or run didn't stop, might actually explode.
It's a pleasure to ride with Stella. She's a working and running dog in her prime and she keeps up with ease. She banks her turns, speeds up when necessary, but for the most part just gallops along, five feet behind me. There is something basic about a dog and a human moving quickly through the woods that brings great, simple joy.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we reached to bottom and worked our way back to the truck. Onto the grocery store for the ingredients for Swedish pancakes. Elaine has never had them before, so I'm cooking her breakfast as we speak. Even splurged on some real Vermont syrup from Brattleboro. After breakfast, an afternoon on the divide making turn at Loveland, where hopefully the storm will move in and bring us a fresh blanket of white.
When Sunday is your Friday, Mondays are good.