Conclusions: The Smell

This tale starts off in a romantic whirlwind. I had just finished riding and, after dropping my bike off at home, went straight to Ryan’s house. I hadn’t changed yet and was sporting my usual shorts and whatever shirt I had clean at the moment. He pulled me in close for an embrace… looked deeply into my eyes and said something I’ll always remember:

“You should write about how all your riding clothes stink all the time now.”

Ah, young love…

While not exactly tactful, he did have a point. I had a grand total of two sports bras and two pairs of shorts and I definitely did not have time to be washing them every day or every other day. Let alone how wasteful that would be water-wise just to wash those items. That led to a kind of.. well you could call it a build up. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t wash my pads because they needed to hang to dry and where I live is too damp for them to dry within a day.

So I embarked on a journey of de-stinkifying myself. Of course I was showering like crazy and I, personally, was not smelly but the minute my gear went on you could smell me from a mile away. Eyes watered and dogs scattered.

I googled how to get rid of permasmells on clothing and came across several things saying I should soak my clothes in white vinegar. I did this with my beloved Sombrio jersey and then soaked it in detergent and then washed it in more. The result: a now vinegarry perma-BO. It was even more glorious than before! This was definitely a side effect that I didn’t even consider when starting my 45 day journey and it ended up being one that really got to me. Even my CamelBak backpack stank! It was an olfactory awakening and a clear indication that perhaps I should buy some more gear if I’m going to ride that often.

Luckily, I can report, that since then I have managed to de-stinkify my clothing. It took numerous washings with long pre-wash soaking periods in detergent to get them back to normal but at least I didn’t lose any of my favourite pieces to such an unworthy cause.

What about you? Anyone else have smell problems? Any amazing solutions out there?

Conclusions: The People

I clearly had  a lot of support on this journey.  When I first came up with the idea to ride for 45 days straight I was worried about what people would say when I told them.  I thought I would definitely be met with some doubts, criticisms, or outright laughter.  What actually happened completely surprised me!  While I did get some “wow you’re crazy!”s everyone I know was overwhelmingly supportive.  When I was getting tired and not wanting to go out that day instead of the expected temptation of “you could just skip this ONE day” I got suggestions on easier rides to go on that would be lower impact.  When I said I was going to enter a race everyone said “amazing!” instead of “you’ll never finish.”  Honestly, I don’t know why I expected to receive such a negative reaction but I now know that I have the most lovely, supportive friends, family, and colleagues that anyone can ask for.

Not only was it existing friends who supported me.  Since I was riding so often I was alone most of the time when riding.  Usually I’d take the opportunity to become a hermit, worried about what others will think about me huffing and puffing up the hill or walking down a feature, but this time I figured why not make some new friends?  Yet again, I was met with overwhelming friendliness and support.  Even if it was just chatting with some people as we rode the climb together it made me love this community even more.  I also got the opportunity to talk about the 45 day journey I was on and everyone was excited and even a little jealous at times.  This definitely fuelled my desire to work extra hard during the year and become as close to a full time bike bum next summer as I can.

The kindness and welcoming was extended even further when I went on a trip to Whistler with Laura and ran into a very interesting woman. We first spotted her at the top of Crank It Up where she was perched on her bike and making these jerky motions outwards with her arms over and over.  All I could think is “I want to ride behind her because she’s going to do something really cool I bet.” We ended up going in front but as luck would have it this woman and I happened to stop at the same pull off point on the trail.  Although Laura had gone ahead of me and most certainly would think I was dead (she did) if I took too long chatting my curiosity got the better of me and I asked what she was doing.  Turns out I was right and it was super cool.  She was practicing no handers!  After commiserating over our shared new skill struggles I found out that she’s a mountain bike coach named Anita Naidu and completely amazing!  She more recently gave me this picture to use so you can see the arm motion I was talking about.

Imagine that on the ground, over and over in rapid succession! Anyways, she even gave me a few tips on jumping which has totally been a game changer for me.  Once again, this is another instance of how amazing and supportive this community is.

Overall, I finished my challenge feeling uplifted by those around me.  Inspired by the kindness showed to me, I am always sure to ask people if they’re okay if they’re stopped on the side of the trail, or offer some encouraging words if someone is struggling with something.  If we all remember that we were beginners just learning once, the sport will be a fantastic place to thrive for newbies and veterans alike.  Shred on, peeps!

Conclusions: The Skills

One of the biggest things that I was hoping to notice at the end of 45 days was an increase in skill. I was worried I may come out the other end still having the same struggles and not having progressed at all. How much is natural ability (that I may or may not have) and how much is practice and training? To help myself out in this regard, I took every chance I could to learn. I asked questions about skills and lines, watched ‘how-to’ videos, I rode with some awesome folks, I spent hours working on a single skill some days, and I even took classes. There were a few days for sure when I would just ride to get my ride done and move on. Something easy on my mind and body. But most of the time I continued to challenge myself with new skills and new trails.

If you recall, I took a video of my first day on this challenge with the intention of filming the same trails on the last day. I was at Coast Gravity Park on the last day so this ended up being Day 46 instead of 45. I think the idea is still the same.

As far as timing goes, I shaved 20 seconds off of my Bobsled run and a whopping 1 minute and 7 seconds off of Floppy Bunny.

So how do I feel? Did I progress? Did I progress enough to feel like it was all worth it? I have to say absolutely. In these 45 days I’ve learned (at a basic level) how to jump, do manuals, bunny hops, and started on drops. I’m way more confident on bikes in general (“less squirrley” is what my friend Bryan called it), my stamina is way better, and I achieved things with ease that I couldn’t even THINK about doing before.

Did I achieve everything I wanted to? No. I was determined to be able to do drops by the end so I could do the wooden drop on Floppy Bunny but it was just too high risk and I wasn’t getting it fast enough to risk it just for the “after” video. I will continue to work on drops, however, and hopefully will have figured them out by next summer.

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A lot of my progression came from “just ride your bike” for sure, but I think that if I had not been so curious and wanting to learn I may not have achieved as much as I did. Actively seeking out information about the skills you want to learn is definitely the best way to do it. You get the benefit of many peoples’ years of experience. Their trails and errors. So no matter what your level, never stop being curious. To those experienced riders who rode with me or just met me on the trail and put up with my questions, thank you! Never forget, we were all beginners once.

Conclusions: The Injuries

Ever been in the shower or getting changed and look down at a part of your body and think, “how did I get that giant bruise? Wouldn’t I remember an impact big enough to cause that?!” So have I. In fact, this past month and a half new bruises, scrapes, and bumps have been showing up on the daily and most of them I have no idea where they came from. There have been some exceptions.

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I have, overall, been lucky (*knock wood*) in this journey. I didn’t take any massive spills, break anything, require stitches, and my “never had a nosebleed” record is still intact. While I did take a few tumbles, I was always able to walk away a little wiser and with a couple of scrapes.  Even those around me learned some lessons like when I say to Ryan, “hey can you go behind me with the GoPro?  There’s a jump I’m going to try to clear!” he should ask which jump any why I think I’ll be able to clear it.

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A big worry of mine when starting my 45 days was that I would injure myself partway through and not be able to finish. Luckily, this was not the case for me. When you watch videos of races and professionals you can see the tumbles that they take and you hear the extent of their injuries. Hell, even Ryan has broken his femur! It makes for quite the wake up call in terms of how dangerous this sport can be and I keep that at the back of my mind whenever I think about doing something a little dodgy. Sometimes we need to be brave to conquer something we’re scared of, but we never need to be reckless and stupid.

So, while I’m certain I’ll continue to get knocked around, I hope that my injuries will remain bumps and bruises and not needing a trip to the ER. I haven’t broken any bones yet and I will certainly try to keep it that way. Be safe, everybody!