Earlier this year I quit drinking coffee, (the reasons will be the subject of a later blogpost), and my early morning ritual has been punctuated with an esspresso cup of low octane Illi decaf. While there is no doubt about the well-established positive effects of caffeine on the nervous system of athletes, I have not found a trail of literature on the decaf effects on the same. I can, after this mornings ride, attest to the effect in an n=1 study, that without even decaf, I am a train wreck. thanks to a busy week in work with a student intern, and a new employee, I had been unable to shop, so bare cupboards, no morning vitals. No fake java, no almond milk, I sluggishly rolled down the ramp at my house in the wee hours. Yes, we have a ramp, no steps, purpose built with our house, so that Dennis and I can ride our bikes right out of the kitchen, round the deck and onto the trails…I am riding my Gary Fisher Superfly 100, full suspension 29er, one of the sweetest big wheel bikes to hit the dirt in a few years. I have had only a dozen or so rides on this to date, and while it is my steed of choice for TR2011 in a couple of weeks, I am still ironing the kinks out, and tweaking the fit. I could blame the newness of the bike on the dump that I took within 2 minutes of leaving the house. I could blame the wide bars that grace this machine, a full 3cm longer than my singelspeeds bars, I could blame the early morning light dappled in the laurels, causing me to squint as I sought out trail through the thick laurel tunnel, but mostly I blame the lack of decaf. I clipped a tree with my bar end, and lost front-end control, whomping me into the tick-infested undergrowth as I was still trying to wake up. Dennis offered a hand up to his cantankerous companion, and I threw my leg over the bar, noticing the blood oozing its way through an inch-long shin gouge. I had hardly finished swearing when my bar-end hung up on a laurel limb that I have passed a million times in the past 15 years riding here, and before I had even clipped both feet back in, I projected into the low-lying blueberry bushes again. Cursing and trying to unclip my left foot, I nursed my forearm, already feeling the sting of a lost layer of epidermis. More blood. Three minutes into the ride, and I want to ride solo, not wanting Dennis to have to watch me getting teary eyed in frustration. I have been through many bike crashes in the past years, and recognize the adrenelin surge that comes with a tumble. Years of racing has taught me to choke down a Gu, or some sugary sports block, in order to stave off the crash after the surge. However, on this early morning ride, no Gu, no ShotBlox, no Heed drink. Choking down my curses with water, I shut out the negative thoughts, talked myself into settling into my ride, allowed Dennis to drift a half dozen bike lengths ahead, and rediscovered my rhythm. The familiar corners and berms are soothing, and my legs recover a pattern of pounding the short hills, leveling on the corners, pressing harder into the switchbacks, springing over newly fallen logs. The sun is warm as we barrel down “Switchbacks” trail in the early hours of a steaming hot day, then slog through the sandy “Powerlines” as we prep our legs for the Rockies. Aching or bleeding, we are likely to face more trials than this in a couple of weeks in Canada. Away from the books, the office, the general fever of life that contributes to PVC’s, I will be less concerned about being over-agitated by caffeine. For 7 days of racing, twice over the Continental Divide, I will struggle to haul my bike through rivers, over mountain tops, tackle granite ledges and gnarly roots, but I will be damned if I do it on decaf. I am already looking forward to the hot sticky black stuff in Styrofoam cups, in a field, in a camp the wilderness, in the half-light of dawn, somewhere between Fernie, Alberta and Canmore, BC. Can’t wait for the buzz.
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