12 August 2015

It's Not All Butterflies and Rainbows

For the past year our landlords have kindly given us the pleasure of paying thousands of dollars to live in a 600 square foot apartment above a garage, but the main house recently went on the market and when we begged to go month-to-month until it sold, we were brushed off.

I thought when we were on the hunt a year ago that the rental situation was dire, but this year the supply has dwindled even more, the demand is higher, and prices have skyrocketed. We've followed every possible lead (along with every other responsible, fully-employed twenty- and thirty-something couple in the valley) and best case scenario, we'll be homeless for a month, house-hopping and depending on the kindness of our friends. Assuming our current best option doesn't fall through. Worst case, sign a Draconian lease in an exorbitantly expensive place outside of town, figure out how to cope as a one-car family, and hope the landlord lets us pack the house with ski bum friends in similar straits.

I don't care how small my home is but I want a permanent non-mobile place where I can keep my toys safe and prepare the same breakfast every morning. I love our tiny apartment and I love the neighborhood. It's a themed subdivision but the theme is so appealing: energy efficient houses filled with outdoorsy people, where everyone waves to each other as they bike by and friendly dogs run amok. Buying a home has never been so attractive but we're just not quite there yet. It's not the immediate fix we need and even if we were to start the onerous process, there's a low likelihood we could afford the house we want.

My worries have spun around in the rock tumbler of my brain until they're smooth and hard and invulnerable. Anxiety has my chest in a vise grip. Yesterday I felt too tired and sad and stressed to go to high school mountain bike practice so I just simmered in my unhappiness on the couch instead. This morning a coach sent out an email chiding everyone--apparently I picked the same day to flake that most of the other coaches did. This added some nice guilt and a heightened sense of obligation to my stewpot of unpleasant emotions.

I went for a run hoping to alleviate some of the choking anxiety. I followed a little guerrilla trail that I'd never explored before. The wet itchy grasses slashed my thighs and I felt leaden with hopelessness. I could barely muster up the energy to yell greetings at the megafauna that was undoubtedly hanging out nearby. ("Hey moose! Go away moose!") At a downed tree halfway up I halted, nonplussed, and had a big ugly cry. Even this small obstacle seemed insurmountable. Sophie stopped terrorizing all the resident squirrels and chipmunks long enough to come see if I was ok.

Eventually I got bored of standing still and kept going uphill, still crying a little. I got to the top of a minor ridge where the trail petered out and I studied some of my favorite ski lines across Stateline Canyon. They look steeper in the summer.

I started running downhill and all the bad thoughts that had been clinging to my brain got jostled around until they let go, leaving my mind serenely empty for the first time in a while. It wasn't much of a workout, and my legs developed little rashes from all the vegetation, but I got twenty minutes of mental silence. I guess sometimes that's all you can ask from a run.

03 August 2015

The Grand Enduro

The morning was really hot and the sun intense as I stood in the long registration line at the Grand Enduro, squinting and wearing my knee pads loose around my ankles because that's how everyone else's were. I was feeling antsy because I knew there'd be no time for a warm-up and the first stage went right off the lift onto the Traverse Trail and Sticks'n'Stones, a real ass-kicker. 

It's easy to make fun of enduro racing but after I registered, I found myself caring really hard. It was a new discipline for me, on home turf, that challenged newly acquired skills, i.e. going downhill. I studied the course, talked strategy with friends, and stalked the pre-reg list trying to glean some confidence. 
Targhee is the tits
Pic courtesy of Fisher Creative
The first stage, like I said: ass-kicker. Sticks'n'Stones rewards smoothness, flow, and good body English as you ratchet your pedals over a couple miles of square-edged rocks and pray you don't slam the back wheel hard enough to flat. I was conservative and timid with a bunch of the Cat 2 guys buzzing past me, but I saw at least half of them again as they repaired flat tires next to the trail amidst the wildflowers. 

The first stage was over, smooth. There was a crew of riders clustered at the end so I stopped, uncertain, and asked an official if I could go ahead. "You can do whatever you want in an enduro." 

Mellow pedal. Stage 2 was a quick smilefest down Colter's Escape, fast and curvy. Then I sat at the bottom and prepared for the 38 Special transfer and what I would consider the Queen Stage. The climb was long and hot but I soft-pedaled happily and chatted with a couple locals.I love not racing uphill! I thought as I took in the incredible views. I had left the bro brigade behind and the field was spread out. Stage 3 was Peaked Trail and Andy's, a long descent speckled with climbs. The uphills were long enough that I sat down and mashed like an XC racer instead of standing up and charging like a DH racer. 

Another stage finished, still no mistakes. Tyler and my Sego friends spotted me in the woods and started hollering. I pedaled up to them grinning and full of happy words. Tyler was shocked. Bike racing usually makes me grumpy and unpleasant, but I was having a wonderful time. I did the quick climb to Stage 4. Micheal, my favorite crusty mechanic, was there and I said, "This is the most civilized way ever to race a bike! Stoke levels at an all-time high!" I did Stage 4 with little ado, fun forested singetrack with occasional rock drops. I greeted some more friends at the base, ate a Tram Bar, used the facilities (so civilized!) and hopped on the lift for the final stage, Buffalo Drop and Bullwinkle. The liftie said there were only five dudes in front of me. I wish that was an actual indicator of race success. 

The ride up was serene but I started getting nervous at the top, reviewing the major obstacle ahead: Buffalo Drop. It's a ten-footer that I don't hit but the go-around is a steep loose chute that is easy but committing, and the Third Law of Bike Racing is that if you're going to screw up a line, it'll be at the feature that attracts the biggest heckling squad. 
Heckle crew at Buffalo Drop. If you look closely
you can see Tyler with a cowbell.
Pic courtesy of Mitch
I started the stage and quickly came to the drop, but my line was roped off! I choked out, "Where's the go-around?" and the course marshal pointed right, to a line I'd never seen before. It was a steep, dusty, awkward switchback with some root and rock action in it, and I almost lost my front wheel but rode it out. The crowd cheered loudly and someone even yelled my name. I gave an answering whoop and rode off. The last trail was Bullwinkle, a long series of rocky blazing-fast tabletops and I chanted don't flat don't flat don't flat as I flew downhill. 

I didn't flat. 

Five stages with no mistakes, barely a bobble. I was extremely pleased with myself. I decompressed with a bunch of friends, clustering in pools of shade with our dogs and our beers. Eventually the results surfaced and I went over to peer at the screen. I couldn't understand the numbers and times at first but then felt my ego bubble deflate. I didn't win. Amy the lanky Montuckian beat me by about ten seconds on each stage. Ouch. And there were only two of us so I went from exuberant to...lame. Second of two. The insults piled on as I realized if I hadn't raced Cat 1 I wouldn't even have been on the podium. All the Cat 2 women were sandbaggin' ripper chicks. Double ouch.

I recovered from the massive blow to my ego with more beer and kind words from friends, and by taking over the spraying-champagne duties when Amy didn't show for the podium. 
At least I won the podium...
Pic courtesy of Hannah
Even though I lost, it was the most fun race I've ever done, the organizers did a phenomenal job, and you couldn't have asked for a better venue. Enduro, I think I love you...?