Tuesday, September 8, 2009

DH Learning Curve

My education in DH skills continued over the long Labor Day Weekend. On Saturday, Jesper and I met up with our friend Dave for a day of fun at Keystone. We love riding with Dave! Jesper and I had talked about trying the smaller Fuzzy Bunny drop feature (I think on TNT or Motorhead). Dave had done Little Fuzzy Bunny for the first time a couple week's prior. I was so stoked for him! His success and encouragement that I could do it made me really, really want to try it, despite being terrified of doing it!

The Bunnies: Allow me to describe these features. They sit side-by-side, about four feet apart from each other, on the top of a steep slope. Here's a pic of some anonymous guy on the approach:

As you can see, the features start as wooden ramps that rise up above the ground. Out of view of the photo, just as the slope of the ground begins to go sharply down, the wooden ramps abruptly end. Little Fuzzy Bunny (the closer one in the pic that the guy is riding) rises to over 3 feet above the ground before its mid-air terminus. Big Fuzzy Bunny continues up almost 3 more feet to over 6 feet in the air. The idea is that you ride up the ramp, getting as much speed as you can, and then sail off the end of it, landing partway down the steep slope. Yeah right.....

The last time at Keystone, I followed Dave all the way to the end of the Little Fuzzy Bunny and FROZE. I couldn't do it; I chickened out. However, after doing the little drop on BeAllUCanBe at Winter Park last week, I was thinking about trying Little Fuzzy Bunny again. Maybe...

As Dave, Jesper and I headed toward the Fuzzy Bunnies, I got it into my head that I would check the feature out once and then ride it, following Dave off the end to make sure I had enough speed. I waited for Dave to go. All of a sudden, Jesper came flying off Little Fuzzy Bunny!!! WTF?!?!? Apparently, he had decided to just GO FOR IT! And he did it! He didn't even have a huge amount of speed, which erased one of my fears - that I would crash because I didn't go fast enough. Bolstered by Jesper's success, I was ready to try it myself, so I asked Dave to lead me off. Maybe...

As we walked back up the trail to ensure we could get enough speed, my heart was racing, my breath was labored. I was scared. I forced myself to slow my breathing. I cleaned my goggles. And then I had nothing else to do but either do it or chicken out (again). I swallowed hard and then told Dave that I was ready. He informed me that he wouldn't go too fast, lest he send me off the ramp with more air than I would be comfortable with. I followed him down the trail, keeping about 25 feet of space between just in case he had trouble (wouldn't want to ride over him if he somehow crashed!!). I got to the end of the ramp, the point at which I had balked the last time, and I didn't hit the brakes. I went off the edge and felt oddly calm as I sailed through the air. The landing felt much more smooth than I was expecting. It was EASY!!! I let out an excited hoot and holler - I had done it!! I rode the Little Fuzzy Bunny 2 more times, each time going faster with better and better form, getting my front wheel higher and landing further down on the transition.

Here I am coming off the lip of Little Fuzzy Bunny. No turning back at this point - I was committed! As you can see, the feature places your body, sitting on your bike, pretty high in the air. You can also see the Big Fuzzy Bunny next to the little one I'm dropping. Amazingly, my crazy Jesper tried the Big Fuzzy Bunny all on his own. I was behind him, getting ready to come down the little one, so I didn't even see it! My guy has some Cajones, although he decided after one run on the Big Bunny that he would stick to the little one until his form was more dialed in, and his form on the Little Bunny got very good, IMO. I for one KNOW my form is not good enough yet for the Big Bunny, so I will stick to the little guy for a while! I'm super proud that Jesper did both the Bunnies! I'm super proud that I did the Little Bunny! Yay for us!

First REAL Crash: After my success on Little Fuzzy Bunny, I had my first real down hill wipe out. I went over the bars on a section of Jam Rock, a very hard double black run. I had made it past what I consider the hardest part of Jam Rock, the big rock roller that dumps you out under the lift, and was going down a steep, rocky section before the TP Tree. I believe the TP Tree is there for those riders who $hit their pants coming down this difficult run.

I don't know what I did wrong, but before I knew it, I was slammed over my bike onto a big rock, which I hit with my face and my right hand. The bars of my bike hit the rock so hard I took a chink out of the rock (and scratched up my brake levers pretty good). Had I not been wearing a full face helmet, I would not have any front teeth; I have a big ding in the mouth guard of my helmet to prove this. I know my body armor prevented me from ripping open or deeply bruising my chest, arms and legs. I walked away with a very sore right hand, which I had bruised, but otherwise no real injuries. The crash ended my day - my hand hurt too much for me to feel confident holding onto the bars - but I am so impressed with and thankful for my armor. Although I only rode half a day, I was completely satisfied having slayed the Bunny!

More Fun and Crashing at Winter Park: On Monday (Labor Day), Jesper and I met up with some friends (Kim, Dan, Carey, Craig and their friends Josh and Jason) for a day of down hilling at Winter Park. It was a great group to ride with. Dan is a very talented rider who can go FAST and get big AIR. Kim is also fantastic and inspires me as to what a good female rider can do. Yes - she has done the Big Fuzzy Bunny! I like following her. Carey is also a really strong rider with awesome technical skills, as is her husband Craig. Craig's enthusiasm for trying stuff sight-unseen was unbelievable. They both rode their AM/FR bikes and absolutely slayed it! Winter Park also slayed them and they both went home with matching, but opposing side abrasions on their bums.

With a large group, we didn't take too many pics that day. Jesper snapped some of us riding the Big Wall Ride. This is the feature Carey wiped out on going FAST. Here I am doing it much better than a couple weeks prior, getting up higher on the wall.

I took a digger on a chunky, chundery fast section. I'm working on going faster on this kind of terrain, letting bike just GO under me (I was very slow at this at first). When I slid out on a loose dusty, rocky curve going fast (for me at least), I was able to bail off the bike without getting injured at all, thanks to riding platforms. I simply jumped away from the bike. Had I been clipped in, I would have gone down hard. The armor probably helped too. That was a confidence building crash!

Ultimately we did six runs, including a final, 2nd run on Trestle, on which I flailed a bit due to being tired and went OTB again. I know, who does Trestle, the DH Race Course, on their sixth run when they are tired?!?!? It is one demanding run, and we had already done it once. Yet again, my armor did it's job when I crashed and I walked away unscathed (as soon as I got my bike off me!). Another confidence building crash.

Two more days of down hilling are under my belt, and there are still three more weekends left this season at Winter Park! I've learned to get AIR, I've learned to let it GO on the chunder and I've learned I can crash hard and come away OK! Like I said, learning new things is FUN!

1 comment:

Carey Alina said...

Nice write up Jen! Sorry to hear of your crashes but glad that you're okay. Crashing sucks but it's part of it, the more you push yourself and try new things the more likely you'll end up crashing and taking the bumps and bruises that come with it..the armor does help so much, thank goodness for it! I also go thru crashing phases and non crash phases it seems..Way to go on LFB, I think drops are so mental..they're actually quite fun and relatively easy once you get 'em down.