Let it be known: there is such a thing as feeling too good. I have proof, which I shall present, in the form of an anecdote.
This anecdote is true, by the way.
It’s been such a strange December here in Utah — the driest on record, according to the weatherman. This means that at least the low trails in the mountain bike parks close to home are dry. Or on the cold days, even the higher ones are frozen. And in either case, there’s often no snow whatsoever on the trail.
Which means this has been the most mountain bikey December on record. As in, I’m getting out three or four times per week.
So, last Saturday afternoon — New Year’s Eve, for crying out loud — The Hammer and I headed out to Lambert Park for a couple hours on the trails.
And it was wonderful, for any number of reasons, including (but not limited to) the following:
- It was so warm outside that tights, a long-sleeve jersey, and some midweight gloves were all you needed to ride comfortably. This meant my biggest grievance with winter riding — that you feel all insulated, isolated, and constricted — wasn’t much of a factor.
- The trails were amazing. They had been wet earlier in the week, but — and this is so freaky — they had actually dried out during the week, and were now nice and tacky.
- I was loving my new bike. I know I ‘m a total bike magpie (i.e., easily distracted by the newest shiny object), but the Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon 29 Singlespeed I’ve built up and have been riding lately is such an incredibly great bike. It is so light. So fast. So — and I’m kind of reaching for a word to describe what I’m feeling here, so bear with me — communicative. (Note to SS guys: 34×19. Note to weight weenies: 17.2lbs. Note to people who like to know specs: click the photo to see a larger version and you should be able to tell what everything is.)
So The Hammer and I are riding in Lambert Park. The only deadline we have is darkness, since we’ve already got the New Year’s festivities with the kids planned (dinner, homemade doughnuts, Guesstures).
So with time on our hands and a beautiful day to ride, we’re playing the game we usually do when we ride Lambert: Design the Ride. Over the course of this past few weeks, we’ve made a point of understanding the snarl of trails in this park, and can now make up and call out the next part of the ride he or she wants to do, like a square dance caller.
“Wildcat to corkscrew to Zig to ZPC to Poppy to Ruin to Luge to Spring to Rodeo!”
“Rodeo up to Middle Spring to Spring to River!”
“River to Zag to Indian to Brown Dog to Corkscrew to Zig!”
We were — and I’m reiterating here for the sake of emphasis — having a great time. Not training, not trying to get in a certain number of miles or hours or intensity or anything.
We were having fun. And I was feeling good.
Brakes Work Best When You Use Them
So the light’s gone a little flat and we figure it’s time to head back home. We’re at the top of Zig, named so because of the fun way it has been constructed, taking advantage of the ravines and contours in the park — banking and swooping in the high desert singletrack.
I’m out front, because I like descending faster than The Hammer does.
I come to a banked sweeping corner. Usually I put a little bit of brake on for it, but I usually don’t feel quite so on-top-of-the-world. At this moment, I am absolutely positively sure that without braking at all I will successfully fly through this corner.
I am wrong.
About halfway through the sweeping left corner, my front wheel washes out right. I go down on my left side, at full speed, still clipped in, bumping and sliding in the dirt, brush, and rocks.
Eventually, I slide to a stop.
I begin yelling.
Now, I should note that my post-crash yelling is somewhat famous, thanks in equal parts to the volume, intensity and duration of this yell. It has even been given a name: “The Elden Scream.” I would suggest, however, that this yell (please, let’s not call it a scream) serves a number of valuable purposes:
- It is cathartic. Yelling at the top of your lungs when you’re hurt helps you feel better. Really. Try it the next time you get a sliver or break a leg or something.
- It is expressive of how I feel about the situation.
- It alerts others to my situation and the likelihood that I am going to need someone to call an ambulance or LifeFlight or a shaman or something. And also that I am lying in the middle of the trail and that I would really appreciate it if anyone behind me would please slow down and also not run me over, thanks.
So while I was yelling (i.e., not screaming) in this case somewhat for reasons #1 and #2, I was really yelling mostly for reason #3: I didn’t want The Hammer to run me over.
At least that’s what I choose to claim.
As it turns out, that needn’t have been a concern, because I had come to rest (though I hardly found my state restful) to the side of the trail.
Tangled up with my bike. On my back, staring at the sky. My head pointing downhill, my bike uphill from me.
Still clipped in.
So, yes, I was yelling. But let us put that aside for a moment. Because quite apart from my visceral shouting (not screaming), There was a monologue going through my mind.
I shall now share it with you.
“I should get up. When The Hammer gets here, it would be better if I were standing up.”
“Nope, I can’t stand up. I can’t sit up, either. In fact, I can’t even unclip. How weird is it that a seventeen pound bike can so effectively pin me to the ground like this.”
“You know what would be an awesome, money-making invention? If there were some way to have a camera always rolling about three feet above an to the side of you, so you could see exactly what caused your crashes, and whether crashes look as spectacular as you hope they do. I don’t think I’ve ever seen video of me having a really good crash.”
“How come The Hammer isn’t here yet? Am I still
screaming yelling? I am? OK.”
“Where do I hurt, anyway? Right thumb, left hip. Those are the biggies. Back hurts a little, too. Left butt cheek feels like it’s pretty scraped up. I’ve had worse crashes.”
“How come, if I went down on my left side, it’s my right thumb that hurts? It seems like with every crash, there’s at least one injury that doesn’t make any sense.”
“Why did I think I could take this corner without braking? That was totally stupid.”
“I’m staring at the sky, so I’m on my back. But what direction is my body facing? Oh, I can see up the trail. So I spun 180 degrees when I landed.”
“Maybe I should try to get free of the bike. No, The Hammer will get here in a second. Wow, I really wish The Hammer would get here and get this bike off me. “
“Oh good. There she is. I should probably try to stop yelling now.”
All of this happens in the space of probably five seconds, after which The Hammer discovered me, and asks, as she untangles me from the bike, “How come you’re facing backwards?”
“I think I kept spinning after I landed,” I replied, no longer yelling.
“OK,” The Hammer replies. “You’ve got quite a pair of lungs, by the way. I’ve never heard such loud screaming.”