The trail at Bragg Creek
A less complicated part of the track that lead to our first major stop.
Why do we fall? It is an interesting question I would like to pose to you as it can relate to many different aspects of life. It could relate to how the Progressive Conservatives Party who have ruled and dictated government in the province of Albertan for 44 years have had a huge swing and fallen to the New Democratic Party. It could be related to sport where the Flames and Capitals who showed so much promise in round one of the play offs may both be eliminated in the second round of play offs with one win between them. It can also apply to my first time mountain biking the Canadian terrain at Bragg Creek only two nights ago where within 400 metres of home I had a nasty fall, one that I may have been very lucky not to have had worse consequences.
The first two I can only hypothesis about but probably can relate back more to the Flames and Capitals than the election. Maybe it was a change, a time to move away from the dictatorship of a business, oil and gas dominated and maybe even corrupted government. Was the vote done with thought,
especially if many people with no political experience are now going to be sitting in government getting a hefty pay check with maybe no real policies to fight or strive for. Are the flames just simply out of their depth against a side that has an average of 15 to 20 pounds per player more in body weight and strength, more experience and maybe better skill? And was I simply not ready for what I was about to experience and realised I may have been under prepared for such an adventure that flaunts with danger but inspires exhilaration and thrill? Well in the case of the election the Progressive Conservatives were over confident and just assumed that it was all just going to happen without any incident and with the Flames, they knew that what they faced was going to be challenging considering they had not beaten the Ducks away since they made the Stanly Cup play off in 2004, in my case, I believe I was both over confident and over challenged, but unlike Jim Prentice who laid down his sword and surrendered as he knew he was no longer in a position of power, I would be like
the flames who in game 3 fought back and although they seemed defeated at times they fought back and won in overtime.
I was quite thrilled when Chris one of the Maths and Science teachers at school invited myself and the Phys Ed coordinator Dave on a Tuesday night mountain bike adventure. I had wanted to try out mountain biking over here as firstly I like to ride and secondly I like the challenge. Although my fearless leader had his doubts about this adventure I was ready for the challenge, well so I thought. Shannon, who I also work with, allowed me the privilege to ride her husbands mountain bike and with front wheel suspension and a basic break system, I felt well equipped to tackle what this adventure had in store for me. There was only one piece of equipment I was missing - a helmet! Thankfully, Dave asked this important question as if he hadn't asked it, I may not be writing this blog or any other blog for that matter.
It was good to drive through the country roads, just south of Calgary as we drove up to Bragg Creek. Ironically
enough discussions of politics and driving through the Australian desert and even stories similar to and including Wolfe Creek were discussed. Well the longer this drive went, the more I felt like I was being taking for a ride to meet my demise. After driving through a small town that looked like it was holding on the concept of the wild west, we drove into the car park where a number of people had ventured with a similar purpose in mind. I hadn't been on an outdoor bike for a year and a half and had not done mountain biking since I ventured with my mate Macca through Kuipto Forest to explore the track before an outdoor ed camp. I guess I was expecting the ride to be quite similar to Kuipto, the odd thin track close to trees, with some undulating surfaces to test my coordination but a majority of the paths easy to ride and as wide as a road. I also had a state of confusion as I went to test the left hand side break assuming they were the back breaks but luckily for me I discovered they were the front breaks otherwise there could have
been even more spectacular and entertaining stories to pass on to the readers. I was sure back home that the break system was the other way but it may be my lack of riding the outdoors and a simple forgotten memory.
It didn't take long for me to realise this was not going to be some easy Tuesday afternoon ride. The paths were narrow, had regular undulating surfaces with tree roots, large slate like rock paths, regular stones sticking out of the surface to maneuver and a very steep, down hill on my left hand side which with one mistake would become an uncontrollable ride to a likely demise. The first part was up hill and I was riding like an car in cold weather that hadn't been warmed up. I just could not get my rhythm just stopping and starting, so focused on trying to maneuver the different terrain I would lose speed and then have to embarrassingly walk the bike up hill until I had a more leveled terrain to restart. I was also having issues working out what gear to be in as the 'granny gear' as Chris calls it was too bouncy and
at times a little hard to control the pedal revolution speed and higher gears meant that when unexpected inclines suddenly popped up around the corner, I was caught unprepared and lost all momentum.
The forest was dark with only a hint of sunlight granted permission to protrude through the trees, and the paths were not only narrow but had all kinds of surprises. I remember looking up to see Chris and Dave just above me going in completely a different direction wondering how did they get on that angle only to see what looked more like a bobsled hairpin coming towards me at speed. We crossed very narrow bridges that with either large, flattened stone rock paths or very rough and uneven with one slight turn of the handle bars left or right and you were in the running creeks that the paths were meant to provide safe passage from. What added to the challenge was that riders could be coming the other way and in some case you had to quickly improvise where to maneuver as the path and the surrounding areas were not big enough to fit two bikes. Some of these riders would over
take or pass at quite nifty speeds and I was just gobsmacked by how well they handled the conditions of the ride.
We had only rode for about 4km and I had already stopped about 10 times and front braked into a ditch when I saw a rider coming the other way (quite safely mind you as I was putting my foot down to stop and let them go past). To say that my sphincter was not working overtime tightening up to with hold any kind of brown substances from being released would be an understatement, but yet the thrill, the exhilaration, the environment that surrounded us, the adrenaline and the challenge had me buzzing to keep on going. There was always one thought in the back of my mind that did have me preparing to face my fear of risk taking adventure - riding back down!
I was able to enjoy terrain and pathway that was more suited to me as the danger of the down hill drop had disappeared and the wide open spaces had been presented leading us further up the hill to a breathtaking view point quite close to the
top of our climb. Needing something to tone down the nerves, Chris presented me with a very tasty and therapeutic beer. The place was peaceful and the atmosphere friendly as other rides stopped and shared brief conversations before soldiering on with their own personal experiences.
When we got started again, I was greeted with a flattened boulder like path which had me freaked a little as the nervous edge drop had returned and hence I found myself unable to maintain momentum and have to walk along it. We were also lucky enough to be greeted by one of natures creatures, a beautiful red coated fox had momentarily blocked Dave's path (who was leading us at this time) and circled his way around behind me and back into the forest. As we were about to enter the down hill section of this ride, I had been given the instructions to just let it flow and not to break and to lean back on the bike as well as it was better for shock absorption and control. What I experienced next had my the white of my eyes bursting out of my eye sockets and that sphincter of mine
working overtime once again. I compare this section to riding a roller coaster, as at some uncontrollable speed the bike suddenly had a life of its own and darted along a down hill track with spasmodic up and downs, left and rights on a rougher path than we had experienced. This was how it continued as we completed a track that circled back to our first main stopping point. My reflexes had to be swift, my nerve focused and controlled as left and right, up and down I went along a narrow track. Unlike a roller coaster where you sit back and let the ride surprise you into fear and then control your destiny, I had to drive and steer my way through the narrow, windy paths where I simply had no choice but to hold on and prey I just didn't steer off course.
The longer we went though, the more my confidence returned. I started to ride out of the saddle, feel more comfortable with gear changes and although the break was getting a work out I felt like I was now conquering this course. I can not explain the fear, excitement, horror, thrill, suspense
as I let the feel direct me through the unknown trajectory of this chosen path I had been taken on. It was actually, pretty awesome, and apart from a scare when I saw Dave off his bike and in the bushes (he was ok by the way with no damage to anything but maybe to his ego in his own mind) I was beginning to relax and let fun dominate my fear. That was until we reached the way back to the car park. This part I was very cautious on as I knew the twist and turns that were awaiting me. Also, there was a large number of cyclists who were coming the other way that had me stopping in very limited spaces to try and avoid collisions. The forest was on the verge of getting darker and the path in some places was a little harder to see, but I started taking more risks in my riding and grew even more confident as I survived or continued without stopping along the path. My only not so glorified moment was when I misjudged a bump in the track with the impact bouncing me a small way in the air
and landing on an area that is nesting my future children, well, maybe not anymore!!!!!
We stopped with 700m to go, the fastest part of the course. I remember saying to the boys there is still alot of adventure left in those 700 metres as if I somehow knew that tragedy was lurking around the very next corner. My subtle comment must have woken tragedy up from hibernation as within 400 metres of our destination, I had a scare that I am still amazed I can tell you about. The speed of the early section was more uncontrollable than I had experienced on the journey and I felt that the track was more in control and I was guessing at what move to counter its challenges. I road round a corner at speed and entered a new down hill section with the sloping edge on my right and a wall of rock and dirt to my left. The path felt like it was getting narrower and narrower and before I knew it a I was heading towards a tree on the side of this down edge, at speed. My eyes widened wider than I thought possible. My heart sudden belted out a beat my chest couldn't handle and I was bracing myself for an impact I knew was going to inflect alot of pain. I had no choice but to break and hope that with a turn of the handle bars I may only just brush past the tree and by some miracle stay on the path. The bike slid on the edge of the track and i felt it slip from underneath me and disappear a good 6 to 10 metres through the tick grass of the down hill edge.
My eyes saw the tree flash past before thud, bang, smack, ouch! My should initially took the first part of the force, but momentum sent my head smashing into the hard dirt path, resulting in a split second black out and a ringing through my skull. The next thing I remember I was lying in the middle of the thin path, trying to work out if I was still conscious. I managed to get into a sitting position groaning and in shock. It took me some time but I started to give myself a self evaluation. Could I move my arm? Check! Could I move my leg? Check, wait what is that? I looked down slowly to see a rather large ground rash, a result of my leg scrapping against the tree I thought I had managed to dodge. I could hardly feel its pain as shock had completely taken over my system. By the time Dave had arrived I was thinking to myself i may have got out of this without breaking something. I got to my feet and although they were shaking with shock I felt strong and stable and relieved that the gash was not hiding a broken leg. The only damage to the bike was that the bell had broken off, but the helmet, which both Dave and I did not know at the time had cracked and broke at the front. Dave gave me the only ultimatum I had and that was to slowly guide the bike down. I was still able to ride but when I saw a down hill with a sharp hairpin turn approach I just couldn't take it. The confidence I was building up had suddenly evaporated.
While I pretty much have a concussion, and while I did not go to the doctor and at times feel I may have a small crack in the right tibia as my leg is still quite swollen, I am happy to say I survived my first mountain biking experience in Canada. The heart breaking news is that this track is quite mild but was more difficult than I had even experienced. While we shared a smile and stories of other near miss experiences over a beer (probably not good to have after a head knock but felt right at the time) I was dropped back home to nurse myself through the night. The boys had given me 3 options on the way home, to go to hospital, to go home, or to get a steak sanga (sandwich) and I knew I must be alright as the first thought that popped into my head was the steak sanga.
So this adventure was built up with the fear of the unknown that lead to over confidence which lead to my sudden shock defeat, but I could have given up and thrown in the towel at any time and yet I battled on and although the track had its victories, I was the one who had survived and conquered (with some minor injuries) the challenge. However, if it went to a points decision like the Mayweather and Pacquaio fight of the century had done, I know the judges would not have voted in my favour.
Tot: 1.693s; Tpl: 0.11s; cc: 13; qc: 49; dbt: 0.03s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb