We rode Rockhouse yesterday, a cold and gray day. The trails were icy, but it was grippy; snow textured into ice by the passage of mountain bikes. It took a solid 15 minutes for the fingers I’ve mangled in power tools over the years to stop aching from the cold. Sometimes they hurt so badly I’m not sure if I could have told the difference between normal cold and frostbite.
But my fingers warmed up, and so did I. My companions probably couldn’t tell I had warmed up, since they’re all a lot faster than me and were largely out of sight. Maybe I need to find some older, less-skilled pals to ride with. I hate being the guy who’s waited for.
Nevertheless, riding the icy trails at Rockhouse was a benchmark. The slight pressure to keep up I allowed myself to feel spurred me to ride harder, to take chances. That’s not the right phrase though. Nothing I did yesterday was outside of my ability. Some of it was outside my comfort zone, but not my ability. That comfort zone is a mental artifact of my torn ACL. Getting entirely rid of that artifact while retaining an accurate image of my ability is the goal.
One of the first rides I took when my knee first allowed was there, back 7 months ago. I walked all the bridges then. Yesterday, I was able simply to focus my mind on looking where I wanted to go and not where I didn’t want to go. Mountain biking 101. Yesterday, I rode all but one of the bridges despite them being covered in ice. Yesterday, I relaxed my shoulders. I rolled some rollers and popped over some logs I’d been riding around. Slowing almost to a stop, I threaded between boulders where I’d have once put down a foot. Each time I ride these things it is less an act of determination and more an expression of being the rider I want to be.
Sure, there were moments I felt nervous. But 7 months ago, in perfect conditions, the entire ride was an exercise in nervousness. Yesterday was an excellent opportunity to compare.