It’s Spring, so Where’s the Spring in my Stride?

photo: Jeff Barber

For some weird reason, I feel like I should pick up in the spring right where I left off in the fall. You know, in shape and with sharp reflexes honed from many miles and hours on the trail. Or at least, as well as my mind remembers that golden era from roughly 120 days ago. 

So why were my feeling hurt after a recent ride when I was dragging ass uphill and descending like someone filled my tires with sand? What happened? Why is the MTB world so cruel?  

The sunny memories one compiles in rose-colored hindsight over winter are truly amazing. Granted, there actually was a shining time in my life when I would come off the couch after winter and tackle Class 4-5 whitewater in my kayak, and in rare cases, carve some corduroy on my snowboard during the same weekend, and then drop in elevation and shred some hero dirt on my spine-crushing aluminum hardtail. 

Things are different now. I’m on the wrong side of mid-50s, which I can safely say puts me at the far-right edge of this website’s age demographics. It’s a weird place to be because I still take spring road trips to St. George or Moab, but also know the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol and have experienced the middle-aged crucible of a colonoscopy. 

So after a few early season rides, I looked at a sample of my personal records on Strava, and it looked like an old high school display case filled with dusty trophies, faded ribbons and brittle certificates. I spotted a PR from 2014 on a trail segment I still frequently ride. Are you kidding? I haven’t gone faster than that since 2014? It feels like an ice age ago.

I had similar pangs of self pity looking at my favorite loop and realizing one of my recent rides was eight seconds slower than the slowest time in my top ten.

I charted that trail in my head, going over corners where I might carry more speed and gentle uphill grades where I could stand on the pedals for a quick burst to shave a few seconds without redlining my heart rate. But going eight seconds faster seemed as likely as breaking the sound barrier. 

But the riding season has just begun, I reminded myself. I’m being naive and delusional if I believe miles churned on my stationary bike (not a Peleton, I’m not that cliché) would make me come out of the gates setting PRs. Those stationary miles might slow the winter backslide, but they’re not the path to self-infused glory.

Fortunately, after a few rides, the hills seemed to suck less oxygen from my lungs and my legs started dancing a little on descents. Corners taken at speed became a little more swoopy with less white-knuckle braking and clumsy skidding.

After several rides, a few trophies started popping up on my little screen, and just like that, I was back in good graces with the MTB world. I drove away from the trailhead with the stereo a little louder and my head bobbing to tunes decades out of date (grunge forever!).

So my sagely wisdom to all my actual and virtual friends who climb aboard two wheels and traverse dirt is to just go for it. The season is young, the trails are fresh and whether you’re a teen shredder, a frustrated rookie, a seasoned pro, or a snarky, gray-haired, enduro-bro wannabe, just freakin’ ride when you get the chance.

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