Learning My Lines

Back in high school, that phrase meant something completely different. Learning my lines, the emotion behind them and the marks on stage where I needed to be to deliver them. Now, when asked about learning my lines, I think about the smoothest and fastest way through a rock garden or down a trick descent. There is an art to reading the rocks and seeing the best path from Point A to Point B. The best technical mountain bikers don't even thing about it, they just see the line, painting it in their minds as they ride. As the slower rider, I'm rarely in the front of the pack. I don't usually get the chance to pick my own lines and find my own way down. I'm following Nick, trusting that the line he selected is the best for me as well. And while that has definitely improved my technical riding, its not the same as learning my lines. Every time I ride without him, I'm reminded of how important it is to be able to make those split second choices - left or right, over or around, when to unweight the front and when to let the rear tire roll.

Playing in the Klondike Bluffs area
 
Small among the rocks and mountains on the top of Klondike Bluffs
So after True Grit, when I realized that I was too tired to ride both smoothly and try to keep up with Nick, I got the perfect chance to practice finding my own lines. We rode in the Amasa Back area on Monday and I told Nick as we were rolling up Hymasa that he should do two loops of Upper Captain Ahab and I would do one. Then we would ride Lower Ahab together. It was perfect - he would get to ride at a more comfortable pace and I would be able to work on riding technical smoothly when tired. I would also get the chance to stop, take pictures and generally have my own time on the trail. Even with the early Spring Break crowds we'd seen in the parking lot and passed on the climb up Hymasa, Upper Ahab was empty. Time for me to settle down, ride my bike and focus.

Why not stop for a selfie at the top of Hymasa?
 
Fire and ice - the red rocks of Moab and the snow on the La Sals
Only the third time I've ridden Ahab, so I definitely don't have the lines down. Which was perfect. I had to see where the trail was going, decide as I entered an obstacle what would be the best line. I didn't have Nick advising me as to gearing and the transitions between descending, traversing and climbing. As I'd anticipated, I was a little hesitant in spots, slowly approaching the blind drops before picking my line to roll down them. I'm faster following Nick, but I don't have to think or process as much information when I follow him. It was good practice for me and I was feeling really comfortable when I finally reached the start of Lower Ahab.

Playing on rocks and following the blue line

I rode back up Upper Ahab a little, taking the time to practice a few different lines as I retraced my steps. And then I saw Nick blazing down towards me. I took a few pictures, but he wasn't in the best spot for any epic shots. Then it was time to finish out Ahab. I got to follow Nick's lines this time, feeling even more comfortable then I had in November. There was only one thing that I didn't ride this time, and that was because Nick told me not too. I saw what he did, how he rolled it, but it was a little bigger then he wanted me to do without a spot. So something for next time. But the rest of the trail - places that I'd struggled with last year were still big, but not scary. I know some people might look at Ahab and think, what's scary there? But for me, the processing still takes longer then it could and there's that cliff in places. I don't like cliffs....

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