"It was pretty fun, until it started to suck ass."
—Oscar, commenting on the Blue Dot trail
It's hard to pinpoint the moment when I should have realized it was a bad idea to follow Manny last Saturday night. Was it the wrong turn he took in the dark less than half a mile from the start? Or was it earlier, in the parking lot at Goose Lake, when I asked about trail conditions an he expressed an optimism that I knew couldn't be realistic two days after a snowstorm?
Red flags definitely started popping up late in the ride when he asked John to lead us to "that trail" they had ridden recently, and we quickly found ourselves at the beginning of a barely-there line through a shitload of fresh snow. All around me, air was hissing out of softening Endomorphs as riders prepared for what was about to happen. Oscar was asking if anyone had spare batteries for his dead light.
In a movie, this would be the scene where that makes frightened audiences think, "Why don't they turn around?! Don't they know the ax-murderer is waiting in those woods?!"
There was nothing to worry about, Manny assured us. The trail would "open up" after a couple of minutes.
You know that feeling you get when you're about to start something that you don't expect to go well? That feeling that tells you, "This is a bad idea. You stick to your planned course." Yeah, that feeling.
Why can't I learn to let that feeling guide me through life?
Maybe the lesson here is to never follow a guy onto a shitty-looking trail when that guy is training for the Susitna 100, a race in which he knows he might be pushing 50 pounds of loaded bike for miles and miles through fresh snow. See, those people like to practice pushing their bikes. Even when they don't realize they're doing it, they look for opportunities to suffer, even if only for a few minutes.
Before I knew it, we were doing exactly what my brain told me we were going to be doing: slogging through barely broken trail that often allowed us to ride for only a few feet before deep powder grabbed our front wheels and forced us to walk until we could climb back on and pedal a few more feet.
I don't like whiners, and I really don't like the thought of being one. But after a while, I couldn't help muttering some unpleasant things. OK, maybe I borderline yelled a couple of obscenities. GPS-carrying Tony was a short distance a head of me and confidently stated that we were only 100 feet from the good trail we were trying to reach. He repeated this every few hundred feet, because Tony's a nice guy and he wanted me to feel better. Before long, I was starting to fantasize about being that guy in the woods with an ax and a hockey mask.
And then, just like that, we were there; standing on the main trail drinking some water and breaking my tire pump as we got ready for the homestretch back to Goose Lake. Things were looking up.
Why? Well, for one thing, I was smart enough to be carrying a flask of tequila, and it was time for a sip. Or two. And besides, everything starts to look a little better when the suffering's over.
Mountain biking is full of moments that suck, but that's what makes it mountain biking.
It's like Jimmy Dugan said about baseball: "It's supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everybody would do it."