Tuesday was a rough day at work. Tension is high. Furloughs, budget cuts, deadlines, low staffing levels, ill-conceived projects, the oncoming tax season and the general dissatisfaction that has crept into the minds of most Californians all contribute to a very tense workplace. Tuesday I had two arguments with guys who are normally very laid-back and level-headed. I could have prevented either or both arguments by simply keeping a level head myself, but I didn’t. Quite frankly, it felt good to lose it a little bit. Unfortunately, I sit right next to my boss, who heard it all. He doesn’t handle conflict well, and it drove him over the edge; he’s back on the glue again. We all have our ways of dealing with life.
Wednesday I was looking forward to my weekly single speed ride more than usual. I needed a release. I needed to breathe.
After dropping my boy off at school, I headed down to the trailhead. The morning was clear and cool, but not cold, the morning dew providing perfect, grippy soil conditions. I warmed up briefly, then quickly settled into a fast and somewhat uncomfortable pace. Over each rise I hit it hard, relishing the resistance of the pedals as I powered over hill after hill.
The frustrations of the previous day melted away as I became more and more absorbed with my ride. It was just me, a narrow trail, and one gear. No thinking, only reacting. The world beyond my tunnel of vision faded away, the trees only a blur in passing. The fall colors wrapped around me like an old, comfortable blanket.
Before long I had traveled 15 miles. I sat up and ate an energy gel on a smooth section of trail. I cruised slowly and looked around a bit, enjoying the scenery after redlining it for over hour. A call of “on your left” brought me out of my daydream as two guys motored by. I stuck the empty gel pack in my pocket and went after them.
I tend to ride under control on singletrack these days. Anybody who has ever suffered a head-on collision with another rider probably does. So when a couple guys go by at race pace, it’s fun to jump on the train because you can ride at otherwise dangerous speeds without worrying—you have two crash test dummies ahead of you.
Because they were on geared bikes, I had a difficult time catching up to them at first because the terrain was flat. As the trail became more hilly, I reeled them in with each successive climb. Finally, I bridged up on a long, steep ascent. I rode behind them for a few more miles before they turned off and I continued on to do another loop.
I stopped at the top of a hill overlooking (the mud puddle that once was) Folsom Lake. I rarely even set foot on the ground when I ride, preferring to ride straight through. On this day, however, I had a different mindset. I sat down and enjoyed the day. The warm sun felt good on my face. I called my wife. I called a friend. I drew in the dirt with a stick. I took a picture.
After about 30 minutes, I started the 14 mile ride back to the truck. The rest of the ride was more mellow. I rode at a good tempo and finished the 41 miles feeling tired but fresh, if that makes sense.
The only hiccup in the whole ride was when I realized, after reaching El Dorado Hills, that I had left my front wheel in the parking lot back at Hazel. I rushed back down, terrified that I had lost my DT Swiss wheel. When I arrived, I was relieved to see that some nice person had placed it in the dirt median of the lot where it wouldn’t be run over.
Thanks, nice person.