Friday, June 28, 2013


Here we are, a misty rain falling and words piecing themselves together. The sun and warmth have been wonderful in Anchorage, but my writing inspiration has been nil. Let's see, besides work and volunteering at the museum, here's a little of what I've been up to.

I've been mountain biking and thinking an awful lot about technique. Earlier this month, my biking group hosted a clinic for its members at Kincaid Park. We had a young man teach us a few things about riding singletrack, specifically, how to best ride the many banked corners that were built on the new trails in 2011. Kevin is a talented rider, a soccer coach and recently earned his degree in phys. ed. He knows how to break down the elements of trail riding and express them to a group in a way most riders cannot.

After a discussion and brief warm-up, Kevin watched as each rider pedaled through a short stretch of trail near one of the parking lots; then, he told us what he saw and described how to improve. Most important was not hitting the brakes while in the midst of a banked corner, at least not if you're riding at all high on the bank. Instead, tap the rear brake only before entering the corner, then ride it out. Tapping the brakes while in the corner could slow momentum and drop us down to the low spot on the trail, maybe causing a crash, he warned. We rode the section the other direction while Kevin watched from the side. More discussion and we rode it again, this time biking the entire length of the trail. More discussion and a return to the parking lot.

After listening to what he said, practicing getting higher and higher on the corners, tapping my rear brake to enter the corner at just the right speed, I reached my "aha moment." It was the moment when I realized that the crash that was the final straw in tearing my rotator cuff back in 2011 was not just from crashing to a stop after coming out of a banked turn, it was from hitting my brakes during the turn itself. The slowdown in my momentum had sent me out of my high spot on the turn, to the opposite side of the trail, hitting my brakes again to save myself from crashing into something on the side of the trail. What I thought was one event was truly a series of unfortunate events. Knowing how I caused the accident is some comfort since now I know with more certainty how and why it happened.

Lesson learned: hit the brakes before the corner, not during. It reminded me of my days of learning to drive a car. Dad didn't take me driving much, leaving most of my instruction to the school's drivers' ed teacher (yes, our school had one), to Mom and my oldest brother, Mike. On one occasion, I was driving with Dad and approached a curve in the road a little too fast. Near the apex of the curve, I hit the brakes. Dad scolded. Told me to apply the brakes before, not after. No explanation. Just is. Four years later, my brother John was driving home from work late one evening. He must have been going too fast. Maybe he fell asleep. The car went off the road and rolled. He was killed on the same curve where Dad had scolded me about my braking.

That was what happened to young people where I grew up. Missed corners on two-lane highways late at night. Not many survivors, but even without a memorial posted, we learned to take those corners more seriously, with more caution. Small towns have long memories and still remember who was lost.

A week or so ago I biked with my husband Jon on the trails at Kincaid. It was our first time riding them together since they were built. I'll admit I thought twice about descending the trail where I crashed back in 2011 when the trails were brand new. He was on his new Anthem 29er and I was on a shop demo (also a 29er). Before we began the descent, I asked him to give me a little space because I may need to stop or might ride slower than he would. Then I dropped into Toilet Bowl (yes, that's the name), rode the series of banked corners and run-outs, tapped my rear brake when I needed and came out unscathed at the other end.


Katey Schultz said...

This post makes me so happy...for lots of reasons. And you may feel as though you have "nil" writing inspiration, but this post is actually a lovely personal essay. So glad you rode those corners (kinda like getting back on the horse, I suppose) and that you're bloggin, too! xo

Judith Conte said...

I loved how you asked him for a little space. Isn't that what good relationships are all about? And of course you came out unscathed. We learn our lessons well, don't we.