Ouachita Training Camp

Some people have fancy training camps with dietary plans strict schedules. Some people rent a cabin in the Ouachita National Forest and ride bikes all day and then partake in serious beer drinking in the evening. Yeah, more of the latter than the former. Crushed out over 100 miles of singletrack in 4 days, spent excellent quality time with fantastic friends, saw some blooms and buds and felt spring breezes…oh, pretty good. What follows is a kind of burnt-out grad student’s photos & musings…

Basking in the afternoon sun, even though it wasn’t terribly warm, felt really nice. 

So many leafy sections, barky sections, rocky sections, different kinds of rocky sections, creeky sections, and dirty sections. All made different sounds; it would make a nice audio collage. 

Lots of love & gratitude for my riding buddy MW, keeping just enough ahead of me with an eye back so that I could ride in my zone and not stress out about keeping up or getting left in the woods to die after falling off one of the leafy benches. Being stressed riding techy singletrack is not good. Challenging yourself is. Balance was struck. Also, balance came in handy on those benches. (This was a terrible grammatical segue…been hitting the academic writing too hard tonight.)

Stinky, wet socks from all the creek crossings. It was pretty much impossible to keep the feet dry, even when I was succeeding at making it all the way across the creeks. The biggest note here is that I don’t think I would’ve even attempted many of them a year ago. Helped to have several lines to watch go through before trying it myself.

We rode a whole heckuva a lot of the Womble Trail, from one end almost all the way to the other. It was truly remarkable to be almost exclusively on singletrack.

It’s so nice to ride on a course like this and not have it be race, as much as I enjoy racing. You don’t get nice stops at the overlooks when you’re just focused on the next checkpoint. It was a good reminder, too, to switch myself back from ‘cross brain into endurance mode for eating. On our longest day, I didn’t pack enough food with me. Always making notes, improving practices.

Speaking of food, in a nice change from the ordinary, we had equal numbers of vegetarians and non-vegetarians on the trip. I served as head chef and was pleased to have a seemingly happy crew of eaters. I made high-protein burritos, channa masala, green Thai curry, and enjoyed perks associated with being the one cooking at night. (Thanks to PC and JV for getting my bike clean every night!) We also had stout floats. Oh yum. Oh, and some folks ate SPAM for breakfast. Seriously.

I could’ve taken a half-hour nap in this sun. My feet were soaked and frozen (common theme). Even when I’m the last to get to a break point and have a shorter break and don’t want to, I need to learn to adapt to that, since shorter breaks will improve my times on longer events. But, I mean, SUN NAPS.

There were hardly any other BIKES on the trail, let alone any illegal users. We only saw 7 other riders the whole weekend, and 4 of them were friends from KC. Pretty amazing.

We did a lot of nighthike crystal hunting. I’m happy to report I came home with my coat pocket full of shiny little rocks. This sign helped us find our way back to the cabin.

Choice quotations from the weekend:

“I’m going to Recoverite before I recover wrong.” -Biggs, mixing post-ride drink while also scoping out beer.

Regarding RMCC radio in Mena, AR, featuring music ranging “from the sublime to the ridiculous.”: “Are these guys streaming? Because if they’re not, we need to get them a Kickstarter to start streaming.” -MW

*UPDATE* They are not streaming. This little 500-watt station might need our help. We were continually amazed by its programming.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I feel like my comfort level on singletrack bounced just about back to where it was at the Dakota 5-O, with some technical skills much improved by the different terrain. I’ve never ridden that many miles of singletrack like that back to back, and that was pretty great, too. Moreover, it felt great, after a few months away from the mountain bike, to absolutely fall in love with riding it all over again. While I love all sorts of riding of bikes, there’s a special feeling to ripping through really fast flowy singletrack that is just unmatched by anything else.

But more than anything, it was great to spend time in a beautiful place with such a good blend of people. We took care of each other, had a great time, laughed a lot, and came home with a nice stable of good vibes as we ease out of winter and into spring.

My Week #202 (February 25 – March 3) from nocoastfilms on Vimeo.

That’s a happy lady on a bike right there. Yeah, sure, it was day one and I was feeling pretty fresh, loving the golden hour light. But I was just as happy on day 4… Super special thanks to Corey & Biggs for remembering what it’s like being in grad school and helping make it a reality for me.

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