Return to Zen... And Barrel Ride
It's a good thing plans are loose when on vacation. We'd originally planned on skiing at Brian's Head on Thursday, but decided against it given the forecast for early morning rain. When we woke up at seven to the sounds of rain drops (and a rather rude truck idling behind the van) it was time to head straight to St George. Not skiing would give us a chance to ride one more lap of Zen to stretch the legs from the drive. We weren't the only ones with that idea. Plenty of other riders were already prepping for singletrack when we rolled up. We didn't ride right away - eating breakfast and then snoozing for a bit. Neither one of use had slept all that well.
But once it was time to ride, we were both ready. It was only my third lap on Zen and I was hoping it wouldn't be as rough as my first two. And it wasn't. I needed a little bit to remember what to do with my suspension - I think I've only riden on dirt once since the start of the year! And the body English for maneuvering the bike around the multiple rocks and steps ups also was a little slow in returning. But overall, I was much happier with this ride. I didn't remember everything, but felt much more comfortable riding. Rocks that had worried me last November looked much smaller and I was picking my gears smarter. I didn't ride everything - fumbling two rock step ups and two steep climbs - the first one overlooking the valley below and then the last little bit of the entrance back onto Zen after the road. I did make the really ugly steep climb in the middle of the travers along the mesa edge. Everything on Zen felt good, fun and I was confident in my lines. Something I would need come race day when I would have more wheels around me then just Nick. (We did not do the Slickrock section or the drop into the wash during the race, but did go back after to work on it. And I made everything but that sharp right turn over the drop and between the boulders. Something to work on for later.)
Friday was for checking out the start area and the Barrel Ride chunk of trail. We parked at the entrance to the dirt and followed the orange flagging. Some fast, rutted road sections before diving into the wash, a ledgy climb up a narrow canyon and then we were on the mesa. Up and down, steep road and singletrack climbs winding higher on the mesa, then fast and loose double track descents plunging right down to the base. We repeated the pattern several times - up, up, traverse and down. Sometimes the climbs were steep and straight up the road, others a more gradual affair on rocky singletrack. I knew there was something big coming up - had heard all about the technical drop on Barrel Ride - but didn't know when. We'd been told we know when we got to it.
And we did. Rolling along the traverses along the Mesa, then the trail turned sharply to the right and disappeared - makes by skid marks on the rocks and a white line. I took a glance down the rocks and eyeballed the line. Just the line, avoiding looking at the consequences and backed up. Dropper post down, clipped in and off we went, me following Nicks wheel to follow his line. First drop down, wrestling the bike around the next rocky turn and turn for the next one. Weight back, light covering but not touching the front brake. One more little drop to conquer - but the hard right turn got to me. I bailed and walked the final little drop. Oh well. Not bad for my first run down. The rest of Barrel Ride was just as fun - swoopy descent, rock ledges and steep little climbs. We were almost sorry to see that section of trail end. For that ride, it meant an easy pedal back up the wash to the car. Now during the race? It would mean Zen...