30 January 2009

2009-01-30 Sycamore Canyon fragment

On Tuesday, I received a phone call from Bill R asking me if I was interested in a Friday After Work Ride. Hell Yeah! I've been such a slacker on the MtB recently, that this was just the invitation I needed. As an added incentive, I invited all the Southern California Mountain Biker Boys to join.

We were scheduled to meet at 4pm, but thanks to heavier than expected traffic, my trip from Torrey Pines took much longer than the 30 minutes I had allotted, and as a result, it wasn't until 4:15 that I arrived at the West Hills Park parking lot. Bill was already there, and no one else had RSVP'd that they would be joining, so it was just the two of us. Unfortunately, Bill didn't bring a light so our ride was bound to be shorter than I would have liked.

After getting dressed and our tires pumped, we headed down Mast Blvd. to the trail head. I was in the lead, so, I took the sweet singletrack that I'd been exposed to on the New Year's Day Ride. There was much less water to contend with as we criss-crossed the creek, which was nice because the sun was going down quickly and moving north we were blocked from remnants of warmth coming from the west by the canyon wall. Bill was about 100m behind me for most of the easy part of the singletrack, but when we got to the uphill portion, he demonstrated skills matching the nick name I'd given him: "Billy Goat". While I struggled to stay on the bike, he simply climbed the hill as if it was an easy task.

When we got to the top, we headed up the road, but I couldn't remember the exact route, so I had us zigging when we should have been zagging, and after an aborted run that brought us to a dead end at the bottom of a steep hill, we finally continued down the gravel road that ended at the power poles. At this point we determined it was getting too dark to continue so we started on our way back.

Along the way, we rode through the area where the local kids had built several jumps. I was determined to hit one of the jumps, so I started to pedal very hard and fast, wanting to gain enough momentum and speed to launch me high into the air. However, at the last moment, I swerved to miss the jump. I felt a bit disgusted at myself for chickening out, especially when I considered that I jump out of airplanes but wouldn't hit a 1/2 meter jump.

We made it back to the cars just before it got completely dark. After changing clothes and some chit chat, we parted ways with another 1 hour ride under our belts. It felt good, but I wish it had been longer.

10 January 2009

2009-Jan-10 La Costa

After all of the errands and long planned events of the morning were finished, and the morning trail work event at La Costa Conservation Area well passed, I ventured out to get a quick ride in before the planned events of Saturday evening.

I arrived at the starting point at about 3:15, surprised to find several SDMBA members (Rich J, Matt M, Gardner G, among others) still hanging around, drinking beers and chatting. I joined them for what I wanted to be a brief moment, but I ended up hanging around for around 45 minutes. Part of the reason I stood around for so long was because I was feeling a big guilty for not having been there for the morning trail work, even though I had scheduled the other events long before I learned about the trailwork. The other reason was because there was never a long enough pause in the conversation to interject that I was going to go riding. When I finally noticed that it was 4pm, and I needed to be home within an hour, I bid farewell and got myself going.

I took Switchbacks up, moving very quickly toward the top. I felt strong and solid on the bike, making corners and climbs that I often need to walk. When I got to the top of the singletrack and continued toward the kiosc, I was in a race against the clock, although the rider I had caught up with must have been in a self-imagined race with me because he didn't seem like he wanted to let me pass him.

When I got to the kiosc, I had the intention of taking a picture holding a Moosejaw flag (Moosejaw is this really cool outdoor gear company that has all sorts of opportunities to earn points redeemable for goods. A picture with a Moosejaw logo in it is only worth $1, but it's not really any sweat to send it in.) I snapped a few pictures of myself using the timer function on the camera and then, without thinking what I was doing, I headed back down the hill the same way I came.

About half way down the hill it dawned on me that I really should have taken the "Camino Del Mar" trail, with it's windy, sweet swoops and much greater length. But by that point, I was already committed to getting down the hill, so I continued to zip through the switchbacks.

When I got back to my car, a few of the SDMBA organizers were still hanging around. I stopped by again to chat and then changed into dry clothes and drove home. It wasn't a very long ride, but it was better than nothing and burned some calories and put my head in a great space.

01 January 2009

Sycamore Canyon 2009/1/1/ - First SDMBA/NMBP Patrol

So, the DirtTreaders were riding on New Years day. And not only were they riding on New Years Day, but at 9am. That meant, at least for me, an early night on New Years Eve. I know myself. I know that it will take me an inordinant amount of time to get ready and get out of the house. I know that once I get to the ride site that it will take me a good amount of time to get everything organized since I bring the kitchen sink with me on a ride.

Clothes are no problem, since I have my riding clothes anal-retentively organized into sacks. It makes it very easy to just grab a bag and go since each one already contains everything I need to wear. On top of that, there's the helmet cam to set up. Then there's the still cam to hook up to the camelbak. Then there's the iPod and headphones. Then there's the elbow and knee & shin guards, heart rate monitor with chest strap... The wheel needs to be put on the front of the bike... You get the picture.

I decided it was a good time to put the SDMBA/NMBP into action with the first patrol activity ever. So, I left at 7:45am for the ride. The drive out of Leucadia was a bit sketchy with deep pockets of fog all along the freeway. It wasn't until I got south of the hump at Del Mar Heights that it started to clear up, and by the time I made over Mission Trails Summit it was bright and sunny.
I arrived with about 40 minutes to spare, got myself together and by the time the ride was ready to depart, I was just putting on my helmet. :)

There were 13 riders in total, which is a pretty big group to manage. I had an interesting observation resulting from seeing another rider, Rob, with a brown Mojo SL with red linkages. I haven't seen too many Mojo SLs, or for that matter, Mojos at all here in San Diego. Rob had added a few nice upgrades from my ride, with a Talas fork over the RLC and some very nice wheels. The observation I had was how funny it is that a bike can create a connection between two people that I didn't experience with anyone else. It's almost that, at a minimum, the brand of a bike someone owns, but even more so, the brand and model can generate a bond between riders that riding itself doesn't necessarily do. The Specialized people recognize each other and the Trek people have something to chat about. And I've seen how the the river of component difference slakes single-speeders off from geard bikers on a group ride. Anyway, the group took off before I was quite ready to ride, but I jammed on it, and with some effort caught up with the leaders of the group within 2km from the car. Oops, I forgot to lube my chain. I was hoping that it would have had enough from the last ride at Palm Canyon. (It turned out OK. It was only at the end, after going through a bunch of mud, that the chain had any issues.)

Almost immediately after the ride started four riders were missing. At the first regrouping, we learned that one rider was waiting at the parking lot for someone who was late arriving. The two of themadded to the other two who zigged while at the front of the group while the leader and remainder of the group zagged. It wasn't long before we were all herded together, and off we rolled. Our ride organizer demonstrated a new route which took us up a very scenic stream bed. With many crossings, I'd be amazed if anyone had dry feet. When we got to the bottom of the first serious climb, we regrouped. This took much longer than the first regrouping, but we good naturedly stood around talking and enjoying the beauty that was surrounding us.

After climbing the hill which was soggy, loose and off cambre the whole way up, we regrouped again, this one taking much longer. We then made our way down a road, until a well hidden singletrack presented itself to our guide and we were soon zipping our way downward on a cobble-lined ribbon. The downhill was fun but a bit bumpy. Our guide and another rider were out in front. I was trailing a bit further behind, the remainder of the other riders staggered well behind me.

After some technical drops and slides that proved to be too much for the vast majority of us, resulting in muddy shoes as we hopped and slid our way down, we regrouped again, and then continued on our way toward the switchbacks climb and descent. At the break-off for the western switchbacks, we waited again for the group to catch up. At least one rider decided at this point to head around to the spot where the eastern switchbacks rejoin the main trail. The rest of us proceeded at various speeds to climb the western switchbacks. Rob, the racer, was the first to make it to the top. I was in hot pursuit, but once again, I've proven to myself that I don't need to pay money to find out that there are some people faster than me and some people slower. At the top I grabbed the camera and snapped pictures of everyone as they crested the ridge.
I made my way down the eastern switchbacks behind Steven and Rob. When I got to the bottom I looked up and it was an inspiring scene as so many riders were descending the switchbacks at once. I thought to myself that it would be quite a site to see so many riders with lights at night.
We regrouped with the riders who had avoided the climb and waited for everyone to get to the bottom of the eastern switchbacks.  Then, off we went, riding on the east side of the creekbed. At some point I managed to get out in front and rather than take my usual trail toward the gate at Goodan Ranch, I swooped in on another track and was so completely overjoyed. Fast, swervy singletrack that tested and encouraged good turning skills. There were a few stream crossings too.

We regrouped again at the gate, and then hit the double track leading up to the ranch house and then continued on the singletrack that runs to the west depositing us at the 4-corners of the main road. Several of us headed up "Cardiac" so that we could ride the downhill on the backside of Martha's Grove while the majority headed up the more direct route that doesn't have any payoff other than getting you to Martha's Grove trail faster.

We agreed to meet at the start of Martha's Grove Trail, but when our little group of four riders got there after a fast and fun downhill, no one was waiting. We didn't think that there was any chance we could have reached the gate before the other riders, but we waited a few minutes anyway. A family with small children took off hiking up the trail and then another large group of riders that was resting at the gate took off. Rather than have the hikers make way for two separate groups of riders, we followed on the tail of the other group. Once at the top of the first climb, we encountered two of the other riders in our group who informed us that the rest had gone on ahead. We continued the ride down Martha's Grove Trail and rode without stops, except for a brief moment at the gate at the south side of Goodan Ranch.

We hit the high trail on the west side of the creek, but there were a few spots where trees had fallen onto the trail. None of us had more than a nail file and the trees were too big to move by hand, so we climbed over the obstacles (none of us being trials riders), and continued on our way. By this point my legs were starting to cramp, probably as a result of the New Year's Eve drinking I did. By the time we made it back to the parking lot, my legs had cramped so bad that there was a stretch where I needed to walk because I couldn't power through the pedal stroke.
Once back at the parking lot, bikes and gear was quickly stowed and people departed for points unknown. Our two-and-a-half-hour ride had taken almost 4.5 hours and covered over 38km.