It’s been a couple of months since I hit the ‘head, so I say to myself, I say: Fountainhead is the plan this weekend! It’s a good workout, I get to test out the Dos on something a little gnarlier than Rosaryville and Wake-O-Tink, and it’s an all-around nice place to be.
By the time I get to that nasty steep climb right before the descent to the base of Shockabilly, I’m starting to realize that as always, I’ve underestimated Fountainhead. I don’t know why I do this; perhaps it’s the fact that it’s not particularly technical terrain. Perhaps it’s the fun descents, dodging trees while weaving back and forth on the singletrack. Maybe it's 'cause I just don't make it out this way all that often. Whatever the reason, I never seem to remember how capable Fountainhead is of administering a good old-fashioned ass-whooping.
The climbs leave me literally wheezing, and my jersey’s quickly soaked through with sweat. I’ve entered a vicious spiral, with each stall and dab leading me to curse and spit, each blow to my morale making me lose focus and make mistakes, leading me to more cursing, and less focus, and more mistakes, and more cursing, and…
By the time I climb out and enter the main body of trails beyond the picnic table, I’m not even trying to do more than just keep the pedals moving. Plod plod plod plod plod. A small second wind bouys my spirits for a time, and I start to pick up a little speed. I hear a derailleur clatter behind me, and even though I usually prefer to let folks pass, I start pushing a little harder for some reason. It turns out to be a couple of dudes who look to be in as sorry condition as me. They’re not passing me anytime soon, any more than I would be passing them were our positions reversed.
I start losing energy again, and now I’m heading into bonk territory. Again, it’s a matter of underestimating Fountainhead; in spite of knowing full well I don’t do well unless I eat properly, dinner last night was popcorn and a Cherry Coke at the movie theater. We were out of eggs, so my usual bagel-and-egg ride day breakfast was supplanted by a couple of pop tarts. I’m paying for it now; even by the now fully-remembered standards of Fountainhead punishment, I’m sucking big time! I’m dismounting and pushing the bike up even shallow inclines, shame filling my belly and heating the back of my neck. Descents are a comedy of hitting all the wrong lines and holding on for dear life. I just don’t have it in me. Self-pity is starting to seep in.
I reach the picnic table, and stop to eat a Clif Bar and shoot the breeze with a couple guys taking a break. We ooh and aah over each other’s bikes, and jabber meaninglessly about gear for a while until their third shows up and they move on. I session the skinny a few times, but my heart’s not in it. I just want to finish. Grimly, I move on.
The rest of the ride is a dull blur punctuated by gasps. I negotiate Shockabilly without my heart moving too far into my throat (thanks again Mr. Wallace!), and start the last leg. I force myself up the final climb to the parking lot, throw the Dos onto the rack and head for home, disgusted with myself and wondering why I even bother. Once again, Fountainhead has taught me a humiliating lesson.
As I turn out of the driveway onto Hampton Road, I catch myself thinking about when I’ll make it back. I guess some lessons just don’t stick.