The Forest for the Trees

“Most people are on the world, not in it” – John Muir

It’s easy to become overwhelmed while out riding your mountain bike. Concentrate too much on the roots and rocks that litter the trail and you miss reading the natural flow. On the other hand if you choose to just go with the flow and bang on over the rough stuff while chasing your ideal vision of a line those pesky obstacles can sending you flying over the bars… or perhaps less cinematically just sitting on a stump fixing a pinch flat alongside the trail.

As with metering light when trying to take a photograph, it’s all about finding balance.

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Early morning light and East Coast humidity can be magical (and surprisingly mosquitoey)

A few weeks ago I was out in Maine’s Carrabassett Valley doing a little scouting ride for the 100k race I’ll be attempting this weekend. I hesitate to say I’ll be “racing” as I’m just starting to get back into the swing of these bigger rides and “attempting” is clearly the best description of my plans, especially since I’ve been recovering from an achilles tendon/ankle problem that has slowed me down over the past month or so. Trust me, once you start pushing 50 years old you don’t want anything ELSE slowing you down!

However, one positive of being forced to ride slower is that you tend to have more time to see and experience the little things while you ride, not just the granny gear!

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Random trailside bog beauty near the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center

The constant interplay in nature between the micro and the macro endlessly fascinates me. On the one hand the wide world beckons with mountains that have stood the test of time, washed and ground to flour in the tides of glacial advances and retreats while continuing to stick their craggy necks into the sky like old turtles. Yet, they still stand proud – never defeated. The mountain majesty of the great high ranges of the world may be tough to beat, but give me a rugged Appalachian peak and I’ll show you a survivor. Them mofo’s got some scars!

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Sugarloaf USA, Maine’s best ski mountain (and where I learned to ski many years ago)

However, inevitably as I crawl up the mountainsides in my granny gear the vision turns to the micro where every blossom is life and death, a passion play performed upon petals while I sweat my ass toiling to spin the magic gear. Beauty can be dangerous and the benign can bite (and deer flies can take chunks of skin!)

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Beauty and the Beast

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Again, Beauty and the Beast (the Carver Bikes Ti O’Beast that is), this time on the Bigelow Mt Side of the valley

 

So perhaps it’s a blessing to be able to slow down and experience the highs and lows more deeply than those that can simply fly over the rough stuff with ease, those that never pause to concentrate on the pesky little details of this trail called Life. Although I suppose that’s what all of those starving, angst-ridden artists have been saying for years. They must like the rocks on the trails. “The doer and the thinker, no allowance for the other”, until race time this weekend that is – then it’s all about Time.

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“Dude, you almost ran me over back there – be careful”

Time to struggle to keep up with the pack and perform the calm calculus that occupies the pack fodder as they calculate how to stay one step ahead of the cut-off times for each stage of the race:

“Motivation” times “I wish I was in better shape” divided by “damn ankle is bugging me” multiplied by “I need to do more intervals” raised to the power of “hydration, nutrition” Eventually it all approaches some asymptote (theoretically the finish line) unless one crosses over into an alternate reality of post-race beer drinking and socializing before that point is reached. It all depends on the initial conditions.

And no, that’s not some lame self-defeating prophecy. That’s just seeing the forest for the trees. See ya on the other side!

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The path to riverside twisty heaven begins here

 

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