Category: Mountain Biking

Off Road in the City (part2)….or Indianapolis #mtb trails.

017This week’s biztravel involved meetings all day Wednesday in Indianapolis and more meetings on Thursday at our corporate headquarters in Chicago. I was driving down to Indy on Tuesday and back up to Chicago early Thursday morning. Decided for this trip, I’d bring one of my mountain bikes, my full suspension Trek Lush. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t allow me to travel the extra hour south to the mountain biking mecca of Brown County State Park. However, I knew from reading threads on the forums at mtbr.com that there were a couple of trails in the Indy metro area, and fairly close to the hotel I usually stay at when in town. An added bonus is that Tania Juillerat, co-owner of Sub-9 Productions and organizer of the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic, lives in the Indianapolis area. Even better she was available to ride on Tuesday evening.

I fully credit my mountain biking to Tania. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had never met her, I would not be mountain biking. Period. Nor would I have the skills on a bike, any bike, that I do without her clinics. It is not possible for me to over praise the work she does bringing people (esp. women) into the sport of mountain biking, and being an advocate of BCSP, HMBA, IMBA……

Plus I just really like her.

8-24-2013 12-02-20 PMFor Tuesday nights’ ride Tania suggested we ride at Fort Ben, the two trail loops at Fort Harrison State Park on the east side of Indy. This is about an 8 mile trail system consisting of two loops. The original Schoen Creek loop and the newer Lawrence Creek loop. This year a connector has been opened between the two, allowing riders to easily combine to two into a single ride.

We began by parking near the main shelter and restrooms. Both to change into our bike shorts, and because there has been some smash and grab robberies out of cars in the more secluded trail parking areas. The Lawrence Creek loop was easily accessed via a short ride down a paved path. Both trails are fairly rocky, rooty with several log overs. Nothing too technical but between the rocks and such and the exposure to the ravine, more of an intermediate rider trail than Town Run (below).

Fort Ben reminded me much of Brown County, particularly the Lawrence Creek section. A bit more exposure than I am used to in Wisconsin (meaning the trail runs right along ravine drop offs, at times off camber). Nothing I can’t handle, but something I have to settle into. Tania naturally went into coach mode, reminding me to really look ahead on the sections with exposure, encouraging me to ride over the logs and through the rock gardens. The trails are well used by trail runners, hikers, and bikers with ped traffic going one way, bike the other. All groups were courteous to each other. And boy oh boy does Tania know everyone. We stopped several times to chat with other riders, Tania reminding them of future trail projects and work days, along with talking about the Brown County Breakdown in September.

Loved having an opportunity to ride with Tania, and afterward enjoyed a nice leisurely evening of dinner and beers getting caught up on family, all her projects and discussing how to get more women in mountain biking. Somehow despite having been to 5 clinics where Tania coached or organized (3 of hers and 2 at Rays), along with one of her race events, I had never ridden with Tania…barely had seen her on a bike. She spends so much time advocating for mountain biking, and works so hard at events helping other woman, that she doesn’t get to ride as much as I suspect she wishes she could.

8-24-2013 11-24-09 AM

Wednesday night, my meeting went late, and I was on my own to ride (versus riding Fort Ben again with Tania and her son). I wanted to give Town Run a ride knowing it sat literally behind my hotel (the X on both Strava screen shots). I’d been told there was a south trailhead off 82nd St. behind Bicycle Garage Indy (a bike shop) and headed first over there. New construction and retaining walls at the shopping center no longer allow access from the south. I headed north to find the north trailhead on 96th street. Drove by it a couple of times before I noticed the gravel road on the south side of 96th between Allisonville Road and Hazel Dell. Once I found the road to the park, I was surprised by the number of cars already parked in there. Lots of people out riding the trail. I got passed a couple of times, was aware of other riders, but never felt crowded or pushed for speed out on the trail.

Town Run Trail is a 7mile long hardpacked twisty fast flowy trail that utilizes going up down and around a river levee to create the speed and flow. Mostly smooth with some rocks and roots. Several man-made features from small log drops to a couple of larger drops, and a wall ride. All features has an easy line around them. In most places switchbacks and bermed turns take you up and over the levee, but there are a few spots of straight up and down the fall line. I enjoyed riding around this trail, would have loved to do a second loop if I’d had time.

018 020 021

The two trails are different, each fun. Would be great to have them both in my backyard to ride. Each brought smiles, challenged me in spots, made me whoop and holler in others. No doubt if I drive to Indy there will be a mountain bike along for the ride, even if I can’t get all the way down to Brown County State Park!

016 009

 

Mountain Biking Family Style

“Oh, c’mon Mom, you’ve ridden over much harder stuff than that!” That’s what you’ll hear if you’re around and I take the bail out, easy way around a trail obstacle. It’s the voice of my kiddo pushing me forward, urging me on, seeing skills and technique in me that I doubt in myself. We’re not your stereotypical mountain biking family….you know the ones you see at trail campgrounds and race weekends. The ones where the husband has been riding for years, the wife picked it up from him (or just watches from the sidelines), and the kiddos have been riding trails nearly as long as they could walk. Oh no. That’s not us. Not at all. At times I joke, we’re like the blind leading the blind.

But a mountain biking family we are.

A bit over 3 years ago after years of being a sloth, I started cycling as a way to get fit and lose weight. Road riding was good. I enjoyed it, but as a new cyclist in a semi-urban area, the traffic gave me pause. Riding paved paths was good, but still something was missing. On a whim in September of 2010, I attended a women’s mountain biking demo event. 2 hours later I was hooked. Convinced Hubby and Kiddo to try some local trails. In June of 2011, the whole family attended clinics at the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic weekend. Fast forward two years, we’re a month away from our third trip to this great event. We ride together nearly weekly. Have been season pass holders at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park the past two winters. Kiddo, now 13 but at 10 years old was afraid to ride his bike fast, will be attending his second freeride/downhill camp at Woodward at Copper in July. We plan vacations around mountain biking. Bought a bike or two (each). Even tried our hands at a couple of races. I won the women’s intro class of The Brown County Super-D, while Kiddo and Hubby both earned medals in their age class at the Fall Colors Festival in WI.

To say mountain biking has changed our lives, brought us closer, made us healthier is a huge understatement.

Last weekend was our first family trail ride of the season. I’d been out riding by myself a few times already this year. In fact having done the most riding I’d done in months combined with starting a new strength training program, I was in need of an easy rest ride. Well, a full rest day, but the sun was shining and the trails were open. Hubby and Kiddo were eager to go. Especially Kiddo. He asked if he could go ahead and push to see how far and fast he could go without stopping. Last summer, our rides consisted of resting at nearly every bench and the top of every climb in our main local trails, the John Muir system in the Southern Kettle Moraine of southeast Wisconsin. Kiddo wanted to see which bench he could make it to before he had to rest. We agreed to do a 5 mile loop of the brown&white trails and meet back at the shelter. Kiddo first. Hubby behind. I’d take up rear (knowing I was going easy and stopping to take pictures). They quickly dusted me. Never saw them after the first descent. Hubby got dropped at the first climb.

I got back to the shelter to find two smiling guys. Kiddo was still breathing hard with a bit of a flush on his face behind his beaming grin. He’d done the whole loop, 5 miles without stopping. Totally clean, no dabs, no feet down. The trail is flowing up and down with a challenging, root filled, sustained climb (yeah, yeah it’s WI, challenging and sustained to our scale). He was so fired up. Kept saying how glad he was he’d tried. That he had to prove to himself he could do it. The pride and passion in his voice made this Mom proud.

Yes, we’re a mountain biking family. It’s gonna be a great summer.

Dusted….

Boy was I right on Saturday night when I said I may have done too much too fast, and my body was telling me, “you need a rest day.” Before going to bed, I’d taken some Advil (which is rare for me as I really try to limit taking any drugs including NSAIDs, but I was sore!). And just crashed. More than 9 hours of much needed, deep, barely interrupted sleep. That felt great. I awoke feeling back like myself. Was calling the the trails hotline before even getting out of bed.

Got ambitious about cooking brunch. Leftover steak, sautéed spinach, poached eggs, homemade Hollandaise. Great ingredients, great real food. Eggs from a local farm that pastures their hens. Kerry Gold Butter. Fresh lemons. Yum…. In future this before a ride, might wanna consider a touch of carbs.

The ride was going to be the first of the year for Hubby and Kiddo. I was feeling cocky because I’d been riding more all winter and of course this past week. That cockiness was quickly brought back to reality on the warm up loop of the Muir Brown trail. I couldn’t even clean the freakin’ teeny little climb. Holy. Shit. My legs were dead. Kiddo blew ahead. Hubby stuck far too close to my wheel. Told them both to go ahead on the White trail. They dusted me by Richards Revenge, even if I did clean my nemesis that 90 degree turn, rooty little pop up just past the gate. Decided to just take it easy and turn the ride into a photo shoot. Was thrilled when I got back to find a super pumped up Kiddo. He’d cleaned both trails. Not dabs, no stops. Now he’s excited to get some real training in. Hubby also had a good first ride. Traditional family post ride stop at LaGrange General Store. Perfect day ( well, maybe more perfect with less dead legs)

But also looking forward to today’s rest day ….

Benchmarks

To really know if you are improving, you need some kind of benchmark to evaluate progress against. It’s as true in sports as it is in business. At work, we routinely set baselines or benchmarks, and this week’s first trail rides of the season have me thinking about benchmarks in my mountain biking. Every sport has its own ways to measure training and skill progression. As with road cycling or running, there’s the simple measure of time taken or average speed within a section of trail. More important than a speed measure in mountain biking is judging the development of technique and how that allows you to ride harder trails, tackle larger obstacles, get more air, be more aggressive. if you are only interested in speed it can be bench marked against your own performance or that of others. There’s tons of gadgets and smartphone apps that help you track this. Many of these allow you to compare how others rode the same routes. I find this interesting and a piece of the bigger picture, but my biggest competitor is myself. I need to measure my progress versus the trail, improvement in technique. I am at the point in my mountain biking skills development that increasing strength and stamina play a significant role, but I still have so much to learn in this sport. So much technique to develop.

By riding the same trails regularly, I can easily judge the progression of my skills. Now starting my third summer mountain biking, I’m realizing both what I’ve already learned along with an awareness of how much I don’t know. It brings a smile to my face when I look back at pictures like these from 2011 and remember struggling with a climb I can now top, being afraid to ride across rocks I barely notice, coming to a dead stop in front of a log, I now pop over without a thought.

As I rode this week, I remembered how we used to have to stop at each and every bench, along with at the top of every small climb to rest and recover. I’m working hard at active recovery, continuing to pedal while I catch my breath. Limiting rest stops. I continue to be surprised how much the line you take or the momentum you have going into a climb, descent or obstacle plays a part. There were places on Sunday’s ride I struggled due to a line that put me into bigger roots or rocks, or how by not having proper momentum, I had to put a foot down in areas I’ve cleaned in past. At the same time in a section of the Muir trails called The Beach, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to ride. I remember the first time we rode that section, stopping half way up to rest. It’s the first time I’ve actually felt like I was enjoying a climb. Minutes later Hell’s Kitchen reminded me why it has the name it does.
But with increased confidence and skills, also comes increased chances for error. I’m riding faster. Attacking sections more. Weaknesses are being exposed. At the Ray’s Women’s clinic, I struggled with both speed and bike angle/position in the bermed turns of the pump track. At Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, I did better at speed, but Kiddo chastised me for not leaning the bike, for going through upright. On Sunday’s ride, in a section called Bermuda…. Damn bermed turn. I just don’t trust myself to lean the bike through them. Towards the bottom of the section, the final left turn, took the turn too high on the berm, upright, no real lean. On the exit there’s a small tree to the right. Because I was high I was on the right edge of the trail and bbeing upright meant my handlebars were not leaning away, I clipped the tree. Leading to a face plant and a bloody nose. Funny how many thoughts go through your head in a millisecond. ….Don’t look at tree! You’re gonna hit tree. I’m flying. Splat. Oops there’s gonna be a bloody nose. Get off bike off trail before someone barrels into you. Feel blood begin to pour. Pinch nose….
.
Still work to do. Benchmarks set, and continually updated. I’m super stoked about this summer’s riding. Here in Wisconsin  I hope to do some rides with other women in addition to the family and solo training rides, there will be rides and the Women’s Clinic in Brown County, IN in June, riding on our family vacation to Breckinridge, CO in July and another prior to my nieces wedding at Killington, VT in August. Plan on doing a WORS race or two, The Brown County Super-D, Fall Colors Festival. Hopefully we can sneak in another spot or two, like maybe a trip up tp Copper Harbor, MI.
Tho, face it, even with a desire to more formally train this summer, I still want to stop and smell the roses so to speak…pausing to snap a few pictures and enjoy the view will always be a part of my enjoyment of mountain biking.

Lunch ride…

Wednesday wasn’t a lifting day, and I knew Kiddo had another Little League game tying up my after work time. I’ve accepted I am kidding myself to think I will ever work out after dinner, maybe start throwing in some light yoga. But even that is really that’s a fantasy. For several reasons, I’ve been a bit reluctant to pick back up on the bike commuting. The new commuter bike is not as comfortable as I’d hoped. I still need to do some fit tweaking. I’ve got concerns about fitness and stamina, if I make the round trip. Most of all, I’m still a bit tentative about the traffic, both in that section of State Street, I’ve had issues in past, and with all the construction.

Yet, I wanted to ride.

Solved it by throwing XCal on he car, and making it “Bring Your Mountain Bike to Work Day”. The Oak Hill, Hoyt and Bubba’s Woods trails are close to the office. Hoyt is close enough to bike from the office – via that above mentioned section of State Street. I drove over the tosa and parked by the Oak Leaf. Got in a nice 10 mile spin. A combo ot paved path (Oak Leaf) and dirt a lap and a half of Hoyt. Rode about halfway home on the commute to confirm my path was still open despite the construction.

Not sure when I’ll start bike commuting again. Still have to work out the traffic scare demon. But damn it felt good to ride over “lunch”. Doing it again today. As I continue to strive for consistency in training, his is a great option when I’m not travelling.

%d bloggers like this: