Mountain Biking in Moab: In Over My Head, but Not Over the Handlebars
This lowlander found out he's not in the kind of shape he thought he was. Here's what else I learned on a mountain biking trip out West in Colorado and Utah.
I felt like I was 12 years old when I asked for a bike for Christmas in 2007. I was beginning to get into shape and thought I might like mountain biking. I did.
For several years, I rode occasionally with friends at places like Fort Custer. Then, I reconnected with my best friend from high school and started riding a lot more- more often and more challenging trails. I've had a couple of bad crashes, but still was excited at the chance to check Mountain Biking Out West off my bucket list.
I'm glad I didn't watch the YouTube videos first.
The plans were made to celebrate a 50th birthday. The birthday boy flew out to Denver to meet his brother, while two of us made the 1,500+ mile drive in a brand new Subaru. After spending the night in Lafayette, Colorado, five of us made the 6 hour drive to Moab, Utah. Over the course of 4 days, we pedaled almost 40 miles, riding Slickrock, Navajo Rocks Chaco Loop, the double black diamond Captain Ahab trail and then a route called Red Pig in Breckenridge, Colorado.
I am not in the kind of shape I thought I was.
Quick detour: I ran my first 5k race in 25+ years in 2009, followed by a half-marathon, then the full 26.2 miles the next year. Since then, I've run the Kal-Haven Trail Run a few times, finished a couple of 50 milers and was even training for a 100 mile race in the summer of 2019.
If that seems like a humblebrag, let me tell you- I was humbled by the desert.
I rented a $10,000 bike, but the equipment couldn't compensate completely for my lack of ability. The unbelievably steep rock-strewn climbs sucked the wind out of me immediately, and the altitude made it nearly impossible to recover. I have never panted so hard in my life. I also found myself walking the bike. A lot. Nothing prepared me for mountain biking in the actual mountains. Sure, the downhills were fun, but it was terrifying not knowing what was behind that rock or around that blind corner. I rode some of the biggest drops I have ever ridden- not on purpose.
Now that I've had a few days to think about it, I realize that I missed some of the incredible view because I was hanging my head in shame, walking the bike up yet another hill I had failed to climb. I was busy cursing and trying to catch my breath and not always paying attention to the breathtaking views.
I also think I stretched myself and learned that I can do things that maybe didn't think I could do. I decided that after the trip out West, I should be able ride almost anything in Michigan. I also learned to listen to that voice in my head; that one you hear that sometimes says, "nope." I've ignored that before, and those are the times I've gotten hurt.
I do have a couple of scars from this mountain biking trip, physically and emotionally, but everything heals in time. I'm planning on getting in touch with a physical trainer and working on my stamina so I'll be ready for next year's trip to Copper Harbor.
It's like riding a bike...