By Stacey W. Russell, PerpetualBeginner
I'm sitting here with a scrape and a gouge on either knee, a variety of bruises, aching muscles, and a goofy grin on my face. Must be post-camp endorphins kicking in. I feel like I should be wearing an "I survived WOM-Bootcamp" T-shirt. What a week- end.
We met in Fairfax on Saturday morning. After some milling around and sunscreen slathering we filled up our tires, lubed our chains, recycled some tea into the nearby blackberry brambles (okay, only 2 or 3 of us actually peed in the bushes,) and headed off for knobbier ground.
We limbered up with a quick cross-training jaunt carrying our bikes up a flight of stairs. After a miniature suburban, single track, I found out why it isn't a good idea to implement the use of a new piece of equipment- say, for instance, toe clips - at the be- ginning of camp. We were practicing the application of the "Keep your eye on the donut, and not on the hole"principal. Also known as "Zen and the art of crossing planks" or "What you see is where you go." You get the idea.
Being naturally athletically disinclined (I was captain of the ApathyTeam in high school,) and in constant contact with my "Inner Chicken,"everyone except myself braved the 6 foot long, scary drop-off where-Barbara-somebody-broke-something segment of trail. By now, the varying abilities of the group were dividing us into obvious sub-groupings - the Hammerheads (fearless and anaerobically awesome, i.e. everyone,) and the Pedaling Promenaders, i.e. yours truly.So, after we climbed up Shaver Grade and reached Lake Lagunitas, the two groups split off.
This was just what the doctor ordered for me, as I was lucky enough to have Em Herzstein, Camp Winna WOMBAT Ace Mechanic, and Soft Cycling Institute president as my personal guide. After a much needed pep talk and yummy sandwich (Thanks to Alicia Yballa, Bat Chef par excellence) Em showed mevarious techniques for climbing obstacles, maintaining correct body positionand weight distribution, and making graceful turns. She has the patienceof a saint (must be all that Junior High School math that she used to teach)and is a veri- table font of information. I learned handy tips such as:It is okay, and sometimes even desirable, to brake while pedaling. Forinstance when you're making a tight turn and you don't want to speed up,but you want the stability of pedaling. Cooool! I'd always assumed thatpedaling and braking together was somehow illegal, as if you were wastingbrake pad linings or being too ambivalent about motion.
Meanwhile, the Hammerheads were learning more advanced techniques from our Fearless Leader: fun with gullies, buzzing, real life flats, trail etiquette, and the danger of low blood sugar, as they cruised up to the top of Mt. Tam and back.
We reconvened in Fairfax, and convoyed over to the Youth Hostel in the Marin Headlands. After a sumptuous dinner, Em loaded up our brains with bike maintenance and troubleshooting info - sure beats Scrabble.
I subsequently dosed myself with Arnica (a homeopathic remedy for sore muscles) climbed into my bunk bed, and was lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of crinkling sleeping bags, coughing, and our laughing neighbors
Sunday morning began with plenty of tea (of course), coffee, food, and conversation. Jacquie then lead us all in serious drills - over planks,along planks, along two sets of planks, between planks. We slammed into emergency stops, and bounced along the road chasing the elusive bunny hop.I felt a bit like deficient circus performer as I circled the Hostel's parking lot doing drill after drill, but then a transcendental moment occurred as the drills I had done for the last 2 days converged into a perfect bunny hop! Okay, so I was hopping on the 2 inch curb instead of the scary 4 inch curb, but you gotta start somewhere, and I already told you I'm a 'fraidy cat.
Thus inspired, we advanced up the misty trail to ridges above the fog and descended back down to lunch on Tennessee Valley Beach. Differences of ability, age, body appearance, socioeconomic status and life focus were forgotten as we, WOMBATS all, munched contentedly in the brisk sea breeze.
Although there were moments of fear and loathing, I am left with amiable memories, new techniques, bike bonding, and a depth of appreciation for the skill required in mountain biking. It is not an easy sport, but it's a great one.