Becoming "One" With Dirt

By Bonnie Faceplant

Triathlon is my passion but sometimes you just gotta go off the beaten path. Bonnie Cutting Wood

For the past few years I have gotten to know a few XTerra guys. They've shared with me their adventures and I have to say I've been a bit envious. One particular friend is a well seasoned triathlete and also an XTerra World Champion. He does quite well in triathlon, usually in the top three and so I asked him if he has any adverse effects from the cross training. He was adamant in that he feels that it helps him stay focused, break up any potentially monotony and gives him the chance to just go out and play even harder.

Enter my $75 bike from Target. Enter Mike and his well-used mountain bike. Enter Lebanon Hills.

As we pulled into the bumpy, dusty parking lot, I was acutely aware of the noises the bikes were making on the rack at the back of the car. Well seasoned mountain bikers stood around, all heads simultaneously turning towards us as if their internal radars could instantly detect a newbie entering their turf. I swallowed hard and felt as if the dust had somehow crept through the vents and was forming a dirt clod in the back of my throat.

Crazy BikerIf you were to survey the planet, you may discover that I am probably the most clumsiest person that ever existed. I have "become one" with the pavement, branches, leaves, rocks and dirt on more than one occasion. And this was all from the comfort of my own home. You'd think this would distract me. You'd think I would have a still small voice beckoning me back to reason. "Stay away! Go back to safety!" I smothered the voice with a loud comment of, "I'm scared to death! Let's DO this!"

We unhooked the bikes and geared up. Out of the corner of my eyes I caught sight of the veterans shaking their heads and pulling out cash to place their bets on how long I would survive, if I survived. Mike assured me we would go slow and that the beginners course would not be too difficult. I was skeptical. We mounted our bikes and I rode onto the soft dirt trail, barely escaping colliding with the welcome sign posted at the opening.

Have you ever noticed how a seemingly small and innocent rock can suddenly appear to be a jagged, jutting luminous villain of death, or appear to be about the size of the stone that chased Indiana Jones through the Temple of Doom? Have you personally witnessed how a twenty foot drop off can suddenly appear to be the edge of the Grand Canyon all the while the trail you're on that runs along side it is quickly shrinks from a casual five foot wide path to about the width of a tight rope? Let's just say you knew where I was on the trail by the screams echoing throughout the peaceful hills. Poor Mike. He'll never be able to show his face there again.

Mountain biking was terrifying. So I went back the next day. This time I earned a few stripes. I hit the aforementioned jagged, jutting rock of luminous death and could not pass through it. It was very unforgiving. After surveying the damage I got back on my Target bike and went on. Eventually, I was able to actually take my aching eye balls off the dirt path in front of me and steal a quick glance around at the lush scenery and understand a little bit better why mountain biking can be such a rejuvenating and incredible experience. I'm still working on uncurling my fingers which appear to be permanently in a tight, handle-bar gripping position but even if I can't get them to relax, at least I can slide them back onto the handle bars and be ready to hit the trails again. Oh- and that beginners trail Mike promised to take me on? That one went left. We went right....

Top photo - Bonnie doing outdoor stuff not particularly well and, above - getting too close to the edge.