Happy Birthday Ride

The beginning of May is a popular time for birthdays in our circle of friends, and this year we were able to join Todd on his birthday ride - which happened to fall on Nick's birthday! I was invited to join the fun this year, since I'm starting to get to the point where I can just barely, almost, kinda hang on to the group. I know in prior years, me attempting to participate in the ride would have been a lost cause - first rock garden and it would have been all over. I was debating the wisdom of joining as we pedaled into Palmer Park - I was already hanging on by coattails, and this wasn't even the full group of guys. The numbers swelled to 13 riders at the meeting point in Palmer Park, all of them fast and skilled riders. I would have my work cut out for me.

My only real goal was to stay smooth on the technical - and with this group, there was nothing but technical riding. It wouldn't do me a lot of good to try to race to keep up if I was constantly missing obstacles. Sure, that meant I was off the back a lot of the ride, hoping for glimpses of brightly colored shorts or helmets through the trees, but I was able to ride 90% of what we did. In between the rocky sections, I would have to gun it to catch back up - or at least decrease the amount of time they spent waiting for me. We started out in Palmer Park, hitting all the fun trails - including some I'd never been on before. Every ride in Palmer Park has to include Little Moab, and this was no different. Nick went ahead of the group to catch the train coming down on camera.

After Palmer Park, it was time for Pulpit Rock. A bit of a road climb to get to the top and the trail entrance, then narrow, twisting singletrack. Again, I was focused on keeping the train in sight - knowing that Nick and Geoff were taking turns kinda riding back so I could see them. Since I haven't ridden much at all in Pulpit, it was a bit of a challenge for me. I didn't know the trails and couldn't plan for what was coming up until I saw it. Made some of the climbs and descents a little tricky! Between constantly looking ahead to see where the group was going and trying to ride new trails at near race pace I was mentally on edge. But was keeping it together - I could tell I was getting tired, but I was still reading the trail and picking good lines. A benefit to being just off the back at times - I was forced into picking my own lines and not blindly following wheels. Until the final descent back to Todd's house - Nick told me to stay a bike length back from him and follow his line. I would not have been able to navigate the tricky rock descent without the guidance of a wheel in that section.

And while I didn't get Nick anything for his birthday - I was able to give him some time on two wheels, riding the kind of trails he loves, almost at the pace he normally rides - with me. Can't ask for much more then that - other then maybe being able to ride at the pace he normally rides!


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