We spend a lot of our time trying to prepare ourselves for the curve balls, the challenges, the big fucking giants that life throws our way. But often, no amount of schooling, training, or mental preparation can cover all the bases. Sometimes, you end up staring something so daunting right in the face, and all you can say is, I'm screwed!
After three months of exclusively riding urban on my mountain bike, I found myself, finally, for the very first time, on an actual mountain. The Roxas trail, winding and wending up and down Mt. Maarat in Rizal Province, was most definitely not a bunny slope. No kid gloves here, no trainer wheels, no inflatable flotation device, no mommy with a lunch bag. This was the real thing and I was sorely unprepared for its challenges.
Just getting to the trail was killer - a steep ascent on concrete road that made me seriously ask myself Am I really that unfit? What had happened to the three months of riding I had under my belt? Surely I benefited from them?
The trail was a mixed bag of fast technical descents and rocky, rutty ascents. Concentrating on where I was going, I had little chance to enjoy the view of smoggy Metro Manila. What the hell had I gotten myself into? Some of these sections I wouldn't even hike through, much less bike. It didn't help that my taskmaster Agu, editor-in-chief of Men's Health Philippines, was cleaning everything on a SINGLE SPEED BIKE. No gearing, just sheer power. Here I was on my granny gear and largest cog struggling painfully along.
Most of my ascents were spent pushing the bike uphill, masticating my ego and swigging Gatorade. The descents, a different beast altogether, were both exhilarating and terrifiying. While you hurtle downward, a relentless stream of information assaults your brain - modulate brakes, keep your weight back, shit a root, head down, pedals level, crap ravine - and processing all that requires the mental discipline that only comes with more training and experience. Something I lacked. If you'd asked me to open my mouth, you'da seen two shriveled up balls inside.
I only took one spill, thank God. A miscalculation during a tricky descent sent me flying over my handlebars and the bike crashing into the earth. I managed to land running, no injuries whatsoever. Could have easily been a faceplant.
After two hours of pain and mental humiliation, I was back at the starting point, eagerly waiting for the next time I'd be on that rock. Roxas chewed me up and spat me out, but I'll be back there soon.
More photos here.