So my story begins in 2010. After an almost 9 year break from mountain biking and moving from Illinois to Arizona in 2006, I was ready to begin mountain biking again. The beginning was rough to say the least. Getting back in the saddle was one thing from a fitness point of view but changing from riding the nice tacky black earth of the Midwest to the rocky, gravel, sand of AZ took some getting used to. I started in January so the heat wasnít too much of an issue at this point. I had fun exploring the local trails and building up my stamina and abilities. Then one day in May I decided to try the Lost Gold Mine trail near Gold Canyon AZ.
Lost Gold Mine trail is a 5.5 mile out and back so I didnít think too much of it although the description said it was a bit technical. Unfortunately for me I was still quite a newbie and started my ride around 9am. Now in May this is a late start by most accounts. So I took off for my out and back journey and immediately realized this wasnít going to be easy. The trail traverses along the lower flanks of the Superstition mountains and crosses several rocky washes. Short but steep technical descents followed by equally technical and rocky climbs out the other side. This was very different from anything in the Midwest for sure. Not much in the way of sit and spin here.
Needless to say the pace was slow but I was making progress. It was getting warmer but I had a full 100oz bladder so I figured I was ok when all of a sudden it happened. OTB. How did that happen? Damn that hurts. You canít really fall anywhere in the desert without spilling blood but I was able to regain my composure and continued on, although a little more reluctantly. Things were getting back to normal when I came upon a rather technical wash crossing and decided to go for it then, splat!!! OTB again.
By now itís getting hot, Iím in pain, my confidence is shattered and Iím getting tired. But the trail called me on. At this point I should have turned around but I elected to push forward. No pain no gain. So with everything I had I continued to limp on trying to find my lost rhythm and any remaining confidence. Within a mile or so from the turnaround point, yep you guessed it, OTB again!!! Knowing I was so close I pushed to the 5.5 mile mark and assessed the damage. Bloody, beaten, hot and tired I did my best to think optimistically about having to ride back through everything I just did. And when I couldnít think it could get any worse I realized I only had 20oz of my 100oz left and it was getting hotter by the minute. I was wasting time standing there thinking about stuff and needed to move. I mounted up to make the push to get back to the car.
I never did go OTB again but just a mile or so in I was out of water. I really donít know how I got back. All the signs of heat exhaustion kicked in pretty quick. I was so weak I could only ride the bike when I could coast and even the slightest incline forced me off my bike. The sun was high now, beating down intensely on my weak body. I started talking to myself. I started thinking about what if I died here? How long would it take for someone to find me? What would my wife think? My balance and coordination was all but gone. I couldnít keep a straight line and in the desert when you go off the trail you end up in sharp pointy things. I knew I couldnít take the time to stop and pull the Cholla ball needles out of my leg and forearm so I carried on as a bloody human pin cushion. 3 hours since I started my journey I reached my car.
When I got home I pretty much collapsed in the garage, legs cramping something fierce, while my wife was using pliers to remove cactus needles from my arms and legs. The adventure was over and by all accounts a massive failure. I felt lucky to be alive. Needless to say I never ventured back to that trail since that day. That was, until yesterday.
Almost 3 years of rocky Arizona riding since that day. Regardless of a new bike, new skills, and the years of desert riding experience I was still apprehensive but I knew it was time to tackle that demon. So I set off not sure how things would end up. Images of that horrible ride were still oddly fresh but I was a different rider. Mile after mile went by without issue. A couple places presented a challenge but I was able to navigate them without issue. Before I knew it I reached the turnaround point and headed back the way I came. I even threw in a couple other trails and got back to my car with no blood donations. I felt good. I felt alive. Vindicated. I had my redemption.
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Thread: Trail Redemption
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