Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Ballad of Fred

There is a trail in Decorah that I would deem my favorite even tho there are times where it can scare the crap out of me. It’s one of the more technical trails within the bluffs that house our local singletrack. I went in with high hopes for my first introduction on this trail, only to find myself riddled with fear and anxiety. I didn't make it down the trail without walking, thus I became determined to conquer the trail called Fred's Trail aka Fred.

Since then, it's become almost a daily ritual for me as it seems my rides aren't complete without my trip down Fred. I'm not sure if it's the physical rush or the psychological impact, either way, it's good.

When you first get on Fred, you wouldn’t think that it would harbor anything remotely challenging. It’s when you get towards the latter part where things get spicy! The beginning is fun and fairly simple- you have a couple rolling dips to come out of and you’re riding a trail that makes me think of some sections of Upper Little Big Horn where you have flow.

When you hit the middle you'll encounter some tighter spots and roots to finesse. This is trickier when they are wet, but over the past few seasons I’ve gotten to where I feel pretty comfortable with how to maneuver my bike over them. After this spot, you have another section of flow where you can catch air off a small jump or you can simply roll down and over it. It all depends on your handling skill and confidence level. You can go crazy fast but sometimes have to reign it in when trails are greasy. This fun section leads you into a rocky uphill that only seems to zap energy as you climb.

Don't clip a tree! I did.
So I took a picture of it.
Once you plateau you encounter a rock garden that can provide a challenge for newer riders. I've figured out a pretty good line, but there are days when I still mess up for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's being in too hard of a gear and not having enough energy to put power down, rocks were wet and slippery, or I simply rode sloppy (or was too over-confident). The days that I ride it clean are more often than not.

Then we get technical-

Fred has a long, steep downhill with a hairpin turn towards the end. You enter the downhill down a couple “steps” of roots and rock; this section can throw you over the bars if you're too brake-heavy. You turn into the downhill but have to be careful because there is a tree to the right that could clip your bars if you’re too close. (Which of course has happened to me.) There are a few rocks that could throw off newer riders, too. This is a spot that helps you gain trust with your bike by simply letting it roll. You quickly learn that this is a section where you need to get back off your bike a bit in order to keep yourself upright.

When you start going down Fred there are a couple sections where rogue roots peek up from the earth which makes you want to move closer to the edge of the trail. It’s not a wide trail by any means which prompts me to say "just keep breathing." No matter how controlled you start, your bike picks up speed. Nerves increase because you’re never 100% certain if someone is going to be hiking/running/walking up the hill you are coming down. (In Decorah, our trails are multi-direction and multi-user.) I've stopped a few times midway down for pedestrians and it's definitely tricky to take off again.

You come to the hairpin and get back on your seat even more which puts the bike out in front of you for control. You don’t want to aim too high or too low and once you’re around the corner you have a straight shot down. Sometimes the latter portion is a bit sketchy; it gets washed out with rain and gets a little rutted. Sometimes there are big rocks right in the path that you hope won't kick your wheel out from under you. Other times it's so dry and dusty and every little thing seems like it's going to trip you up.

The feeling of accomplishment that I get when I ride down that trail sticks with me. Every time I come down successfully I look at it as my conquering my personal fears and anxiety. Each ride gives me a personal challenge because it doesn't seem to matter how many times I come down- there is always a little nervousness mixed with adrenaline.

Coming down the hairpin on Fred
during Time Trials '15
It's the trail I always go to when I'm facing challenges- 

I look at it as making my way thru the recesses of my mind and it helps me to categorize my feelings and emotions. I put all my attention into the trail: riding it well and keeping myself in control. Fred reminds me of the ups, downs, challenges, and successes of life. I feel like Fred is the perfect example of life in "dirt path" form.

Life can be exhilarating, breathtaking, and stupendous. It can also knock you down and make you wonder what the heck happened. Life has flow but it can also slow you up or make you go faster than intended. You have uphills and downhills- and sometimes those can freak you out.

On Fred I immerse myself in my humanness, take hold of the challenge, and ride. Riding the dirt and riding life. #BikeLife

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