Oxford life. Thirtysomething challenges. Music leanings. Anything really.

Monday, August 08, 2005

It gets bigger

This weekend I returned, with friends, to the bike trails at Coed-y-Brenin. It's a bikers mecca, a place with oodles of hand-built tracks to challenge everyone. It's tough, but free of walkers, and built for bikers by bikers.

It's also a great benchmark of one's skills, because it's the kind of place you go to once every year or so. You get to see where you are on the spectrum of biking ability.

And it turns out I seem to have been split through a prism. Most of the obstacles seem to be getting easier over time. Lumpy rocks? No problem. Steps going down? Pah! Tight hairpin turn with a root crossing? Easy.

There are four or five places however, that have me quivering like a wreck. It's not that they're impossible to ride - the certainly aren't. They aren't even particularly treacherous.

What sticks them out from the crowd is the mental image I have of them. Whenever I think about these trails (and believe me, I think about them a lot, as I wander through life - traildreaming is a good way to get through the working day), I highlight on these spots.

Each time I have my traildreams, I recollect these spots. And each time, that rock there gets a bit bigger, and the drop off there stretches. The tree overhead hangs lower, and gradient steepens.

It doesn't happen with the rest of the trails- they remain fast, flowing, twisty pieces of heaven. If anything, they get faster and flowier the more I think of them.

But the traildreaming bites me at the start of the ride when I return to Coed-y-Brenin. Each particular spot is preying on my mind. It's the little demon in me saying "You'll enjoy the trail, but wait til you get to x. Then you're in trouble. Hah hah hah!"

Round we go, and then we reach The Spot. Brakes on, peering above the handlebars as my wheel teeters on the point-of-no-return, I have to make a decision. Ride it and risk pain or dismount and face the disappointment of my friends, who will almost all have ridden it.

I'm disappointed to say that this weekend, even though I did manage to ride one of The Spots that I have never ridden before, I bailed out on the one spot I never wanted to bale out on. It's the one spot where I know I can ride it, I have always ridden it before, and I know the fear is only in my head. But this time, I just couldn't do it.

Am I a better or worse rider then? Well, a bit of both. But it's the emotion of disappointment that comes to mind first in my current traildreams. And I'm too old to push myself too far - recovery is slower and harder as one gets older.

The fancy dress was fun, though. Although I don't think I will ever make it as a rock star with poses like this.

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