Oops - we had a bit of a gap between posts here, didn't we? I was really busy and exhausted all weekend, and then Monday night our neighborhood had a block party that lasted much longer than we expected, so I'm only just now getting around to telling you about what I did last weekend that kept me so busy and exhausted: I attended the two day, women only Trek Dirt Series MTB camp at Canyons in Park City. One of my dearest friends had done the camp in May out in California and highly recommended it. I'm glad I listened to her because it was great!
The Dirt Series began in 2000 in British Columbia, subsequently expanding from its original base at Whistler to locations across western Canada and in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. It operates under the theory that women learn best when things are broken down analytically so there is a good coaches to campers ratio, and these coaches are all badass MTB chicks. The environment is extremely supportive with the coaches offering tons of constructive criticism; none of the campers are allowed to say "sorry" if they mess up and negative thinking is strongly discouraged.
Saturday morning we met at Jans Mountain Outfitters on Park Avenue in Park City to pick up rental bikes and demo gear (if necessary), put on name tags (everyone wears them so the coaches can call you by name) and get group assignments. After announcements, we headed over to Canyons and divided into our skill groups at the base area. There were about sixty campers and we were split into six different skill groups, ranging from beginners (Group A) to full-face-helmet-and-body-armor-wearing downhillers (Group F). I wound up in Group B; before the camp, we had all filled out a detailed questionnaire about our skills and this enabled the coaches to put us in the correct skill level.
The morning was spent on skill sessions. They had various stunts set up at the base area: ramps, boxes, logs and more, of various sizes and heights. My group's first session focused on braking: learn to use the front brake a LOT (contrary to everything I'd ever been taught, which is that the front brake is scary and should be used sparingly if at all). The rear brake is good for speed control but the front brake is what will stop you. We learned to modulate both brakes, stopping with just the rear, just the front and both, as well as how to dismount off the back on a steep hill. We then moved to roll-downs: riding up short ramps and off the end of a box, with the boxes increasing in height as we progressed through the skills.
The second skill session was straight line riding which is an issue of mine. We learned the correct posture and positioning on the bike (elbows wide) and practiced riding over a 2x8 laid on the grass. After that, we progressed to two 2x8s laid end to end, then one 2x8 raised off the ground a bit. The last stunt was the teetertotter: about twenty inches wide and raised up about a foot (or maybe more). A coach stood on either side as we rode up the ramp, paused at the apex and then pushed down on our handlebars to ride down the other side. I did it three times without falling off and it was a huge confidence booster.
Lunch was rather limp sandwiches (turkey, ham or veggie with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat), watermelon, air-puffed chips, cookies and apple juice. While we ate, the coaches conferred and made up the afternoon ride assignments. That had also been something we filled out on the pre-camp questionnaire: whether we wanted to do lift-served downhill runs or cross-country riding. I had signed up for cross-country for both days. The campers were divided into eight ride groups (1-8), and once again I was in the second group with five other campers, one coach (Lu) and one volunteer to ride sweep.
Our ride was on the Mid-Mountain Trail so we actually rode up in the gondola to get up to the trail. Before we hit the single-track, we practiced climbing, with Lu explaining body positioning and shifting. We got on the packed dirt trail, which climbed gently with just a couple of switchbacks. It was slow going, with one of the campers, here from the Midwest, struggling a bit with the altitude. We also stopped a number of times to do some "sessioning": looking over a more technical bit of trail, like a switchback, talking through technique, and then riding the session one at a time while Lu offered pointers and observations and the rest of the group offered support. We rode up to the little Alpine Lake and then took a vote, which resulted in our descending on Flying Salmon, a beginner-level downhill park. This wasn't my preference but it was good to get me doing something I wouldn't normally have done, and we had to deal with several big banked corners with loose rock, so that was challenging for me.
It had been sprinkling off and on all day and with about twenty minutes left in our ride it just started to pour. We got back to the gondola and downloaded, then washed off our bikes and went back to our cars. The camp had an evening session back at Jans, from 6-8 p.m., with presentations on bike maintenance, bike set up, beers, etc. My friend who'd taken the camp in May told me that she didn't get a lot out of the evening session so I opted to head home instead, pausing first with Lu to pick my skills sessions for Sunday morning.
I didn't think I was that tired when I got in my car ... until halfway through Parleys Canyon when the fatigue hit me, hard, as much from the day's worth of mental concentration as from the physical effort. Once home I jumped in the shower and then we dashed off to Fratelli's for a pasta dinner. I rallied a bit with some food in me (I was ravenous!), enough to do a load of laundry and watch the RSL soccer game with H. It wasn't a late night for me, however, as I had to do it all over again the next day.
Note: I didn't take any pictures Saturday and only a couple (not very good) on Sunday, because we were just so dang busy. However, there was a Dirt Series photographer all over the place during the camp so I'm hoping I can snag some photos when they get them up to post here.