23 July 2012

A Lesson in Humility, or Something

In the southeast this weekend there were myriad opportunities to race bicycles of all shapes and sizes; if you're of the Assos and ass cream crowd, the French Broad Cycling Classic offered an omnium of road rallying; if you're more inclined towards Camelbaks and Stan's rims, ORAMM pitted man against mountain; and if you like your rubber big and meaty* and your pants padded and polychromatic, Beech Mountain hosted DH Nats. Although I have in the past pursued all these disciplines, this year I felt nary an inkling to enter the fray. I was quite happy merely to applaud my friends in their endeavors, particularly Jamie D (FBCC omnium crusher, decent ping pong player), Kym S (podiums at Jerdon and ORAMM, impressive beer tolerance), and Dan (great runs in DH and DS, owner of very cute dog). Spectating did not make me envious or ambitious. I think Iron Mountain may have cured me of bike racing for good. 

*ugh. I'm sorry.

Which is not to say it was terrible. It was awesome (in retrospect). I postponed writing about it because the vitriol I composed during the actual event was of course tainted by the mind-curdling bonk I was experiencing. Now, a week later, I simply regret that my bad attitude and lack of endurance meant that I didn't fully appreciate the SICK trails of Damascus. 

I felt somewhat rockstar-ish for the first thirty miles, as Katie and I rode together and chatted and passed boys on the tech climbs and lamented the endless gravel. But then, of course, I reached the four hour threshold that I never pass otherwise, and Katie pedaled harder than me, and I was left alone to wallow in a soul-consuming funk. I wanted to quit but had no legitimate reason: I had a headache and my arms kinda hurt, and I didn't want to ride uphill anymore. The complaint machine in my head refused to shut off, even as the trail played like a Greatest Hits of Pisgah mix tape. Sycamore, Heartbreak, Big Creek, Farlow, Laurel. Every descent was a delight, with the same damp Middle Earth mystique as Pisgah, and the same nasty eroded water bars and root baskets and rocks, and the same promise of breathtaking views never quite realized. And then the race was over, and, surprise surprise, I had survived, despite being convinced I was going to fail/die. Meanwhile Katie took the win in magnificent fashion (and a tutu), Sheedy put the fear into Sam Koerber and snagged an amazing third after some full-body cramps, and Gaskin blazed onto the podium after the longest ride she'd ever done. My friends are awesome. 

And now I'm just annoyed with myself that instead of being a good sport on the climbs and ripping the descents, I was busy focusing on the fact that I was uncomfortable and not winning. Lame. Next time I ride somewhere new and exciting I hereby promise to actually do the trails justice. 

 Also, everyone should go race the Iron Mountain 100k next year. It was the jam. 

And no pictures. As usual. 

01 July 2012


I went to the Keys pretty well convinced I wasn't a water person.

We stayed on a lonely spit of land between Coupon Bight and the Atlantic, with iguanas doing their dinosaur scuttle through the backyard and key deer venturing close enough to pet. Deterred for the first few days by rough and persistent winds blowing off the backside of Hurricane Debby, we stayed onshore, paddling through the mangroves and fishing inside the protective islands. I learned how to snorkel behind the house and how to clean the shiny little fish we caught, slicing off paltry filets before tossing the remains back in the canal for our resident barracuda.
An odd juxtaposition 
The choppy seas eventually subsided and the Ennii eagerly loaded up the boat for long days in the deep, trolling (fruitlessly, alas) for many hot hours in hopes of catching bigger fish than I could imagine. I slathered on sunscreen and ogled the porpoise and flying fish and a solitary sea turtle.
Boat and boy. Obviously I didn't take many pictures. 

Water in my previous estimation was for clumsily splashing around in. The beaches of vacation provide only brief entertainment and the lakes of home are diverting but offer fewer amusements than dry land. But the Ennis clan is very sea savvy and came well-equipped, and I think that made all the difference. With the proper toys--with snorkeling gear and kayaks and a real fishing boat with outriggers and an able and appropriately white-bearded captain--I loved the water. I guess the same case could be made with anything: snowboarding, mountain biking, parasailing, whatever. The toys make a world of difference.

Yeah, it was good.