We woke up bright and early on Sunday morning because we had to take Sandie, Blake, and Matt back to the marina to go home. The Dirt Fest vacation would go on for Heather, Larry, George, and I. The mood was a little subdued. I was sad to see half of our crew leave.
After a breakfast of egg sandwiches cooked by Heather (and Dennis who had joined us), we pushed off and took to the water. Even though the trip was over for some of our group, we couldn’t help but enjoy the pleasant breezes as we sailed across the lake.
We commented how it felt like being in the Caribbean, only with different plants surrounding us. The mild humidity kept the 80-degree temperatures just perfect. All weekend, it had been warm enough to swim and walk around in a bathing suit, but not so warm that you’d sweat in the sunshine. Riding in this weather was perfect. Just warm enough to induce a mild sweat, but the cool shade under the trees kept you comfortable and undistracted.
As we maneuvered the boat in between the small islands in our area, I kept thinking, “I’ll be riding soon!” This day was still going to be awesome even though part of our group was leaving.
We helped Blake, Sandie, and Matt offload their gear and said our good byes. Then we sailed back to Dirt Fest. Mooring the boat in the same spot did not work. I think our hull had carved out a small rut in the ground and now the wind affected the boat differently. Every time we’d pull up to the shore, the back end of the boat would start swinging around toward the boat parked next to us.
George decided to park in a different spot. That worked much better. You just had to be careful of the poison ivy that intruded onto the corner of the front deck.
I said, “Let’s ride!”
George said, “It’s lunch time.”
Ug. So we ate lunch. I ate very lightly so I wouldn’t be bogged down for my ride. I have found that I digest pasta and baked potatoes very easily, even if I eat them close to riding.
Then people started cracking open drinks and talking about going swimming in the lake.
I said, “But I want to ride!” Nobody seemed interested.
That was it. I wasn’t going to wait anymore. I was at Dirt Fest and it was our last day. These trails were excellent, and I wanted more of them. I decided to go out on my own. If I met up with others, fine. Either way, the trails were marked well, and I had a map.
As I got ready to leave, Larry said he’d join me. George said he’d join us in an hour. So Larry and I headed out and climbed the long, steep paved road to the trailhead. We began riding the trail. My legs were feeling the burn at the tops of the hills, and I was definitely going a bit slower, but I still had plenty of energy to ride!
Larry let me lead so I set the pace. Basically, it was as fast I could go down the hills, and pushing as hard as I could on the climbs. There were moments, I slowed and said, “Ahg!” at the very tops of the hills. Larry’d be right on my wheel, forced to slow down for me. I asked him if he wanted to lead, but he said, “No.” So, I just did my thing, riding as fast as I could, recovering when I needed to…
We came upon two guys from Rhode Island walking their bikes. The one had a flat but had no way to fix it because he’d given his extra tube to his brother. I gave him one of my tubes. He was very appreciative. “Now, I can at least keep riding!” he said.
This is the way mountain bikers are. Everyone wants to continue his or her ride. Both friends and strangers have helped me out numerous times on the trail. So if I can, I’d always help another rider as well.
Larry and I pushed on, and then suddenly Larry let out a yell of surprise. I looked back and he was riding slowly up a roller, looking down at his bike as he rode.
“I’m done,” he said. He’d cracked his frame at the rear triangle. I tried to make him feel better about it by telling him that his thighs now bear the title “The Awesomeness”. George had been claiming that title all weekend and asking all of us if we wanted to touch his quads. Now Larry had taken George’s title. He laughed, good sport that he is, but it always sucks when your bike breaks.
Larry rode slowly, trying to keep his weight off the rear wheel. I got behind him and let him set the pace that a broken bike could maintain. We came out to the road and there was George, waiting to meet us and join the ride.
Larry headed back to the boat. George and I began riding up the hill to the very top. Our plan was to do the other side of the park.
“So, I am finally on a mountain bike ride with my wife!” George exclaimed. It was fun and kind of strange. We had to adjust to each other’s riding styles. George was nursing hurt ribs from his fall at Iron Hill a few weeks ago. He’d been off the bike for weeks, hoping to be healed enough to ride this weekend at Dirt Fest. He was happy to be able to ride, but he had to dope up on pain pills to do it.
I was just so happy to ride with him. We talked as we rode the flats. We hooted and hollered as we descended like madmen. We took turns leading. We stopped for photo ops.
I learned some interesting things about our riding differences. I have this mentality that when I ride, I should be in the hardest gear I can handle. I treat downshifting as something that I must do because I’m no longer strong enough to push the gear I was in. Staying out of the small ring is something I pride myself on. I climb steep hills by spinning fast. I rely less on power and more on aerobic fitness. I let my heart rate get high before I finally break down and shift to easier gears.
George on the other hand has no qualms about using the small ring to save his legs. He’ll keep his heart rate nice and low as he climbs, and as a result, he always has the power to stand up and handle large uphill obstacles when they come. He rides below his thresh hold so that he has the energy when he needs it. As a man, his power is greater than mine, so he uses harder gears when going over difficult rocks instead of spinning fast in an easy gear.
I find it hard to go up hills slower than I’m able. I wasn’t trying to ration my energy, so I just wanted to Go Go Go! Since George was coming off an injury, and hadn’t ridden much lately, it was important to him to conserve his strength. We found we had to adjust to this.
At times, I passed him and rode the climbs as fast as I needed to, maintaining momentum to help me ride the uphill rollers, keeping my speed so I could get over the rocky parts. I’d wait for him at the top. After awhile, I felt like it was no fun, because we really weren’t riding together. Then I’d climb in a low heart rate zone, just like he was doing. I learned that I don’t need to treat every ride like a hammer fest.
On the descents, I was killing it. George used to drop me on the way down the hills because his technical skills are excellent. Today, I was staying with him when he led on the descents. Also, he said that he had to concentrate to close the gap if I began a descent ahead of him. I think he’s still way better than me at descending, but we’d need super technical downhills to showcase his skills now. The trails on the far side of Raystown Lake, are more technical than the ones we rode the other day, but nothing was super challenging. On trails like this, I’m just about as fast as him now! I’m sure he’ll still drop me descending at the Wiss and French Creek though.
After riding 9 miles with Larry and 17.5 miles with George, we headed back to the houseboat. I was satisfied. Over the course of this weekend, I’d done 60 miles and 7200 feet of climbing. I was not completely cooked, and could have ridden more, but I was happy with what I’d done.
Back at the houseboat, I opened up a drink and started my evening. George and I jumped in the lake and went down the sliding board a few times. We ate guacamole and chips while we hung out with Larry, Dennis, and Heather.
Dinner was grilled chicken, a rice medley, fresh veggies, and salad prepared by Larry. The five of us traded stories around the dinner table and drank many bottles of wine. The evening ended with some “fall-on-floor” laughter as George got into character and serenaded Dennis with a Barry Manilow song. The more uncomfortable Dennis got, the more flamboyantly George performed. I laughed so hard, I couldn’t breath!
We finally turned in for the night, for the last time. The next morning was dreary and rainy. We handled the tasks of returning the boat, packing the van, and making the long drive home. The weekend was awesome and I can’t wait to go back to Raystown Lake! Dirt Fest 2013 is a definite and there will no doubt be another visit before then!
As I sat in the van on the way home, I closed my eyes, and I felt like I was still riding those rollers… Still swaying on the houseboat… Still smelling the woods and the campfires…
What a perfect weekend Dirt Fest 2012 was…