â€œDi, are you going to do the race in Copper Harbor?â€
I had fear. â€œCopper Harbor? Uh, no. I donâ€™t want to race mountain bikes. I just want to ride and enjoy.â€
â€œDo it with us. Itâ€™s going to me and another girl. Weâ€™re just doing it to do it. Ride it with us. We wonâ€™t be going fast.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Isnâ€™t it really hard? Do you think I can do it?â€
â€œYeah! Just sign up online and weâ€™ll drive up together.â€
â€œOk.â€ My first moment of succumbing to mountain bike related peer pressure had come and gone as easily as one breath. I hopped online and signed up. I thought I was crazy. I still think Iâ€™m crazy. What I didnâ€™t know was that this race was going to be a transforming event.
Michelle introduced me to Kristi. Kristi was a new rider as well, and the three of us were going to ride merrily along bringing up the rear of the race. We made it up the first road, and I do mean up â€“ itâ€™s all uphill. We rode along some interesting singletrack and made our way down some more roads. Then came Dancing Bear.
Dancing Bear is a long, uphill trail with some uphill bridges and uphill rocks. Everything seemed uphill, but I guess Iâ€™m not really exaggerating when I say it is. Thatâ€™s how Copper Harbor is. It can be likened to riding out west because you spend a lot of time climbing a hill just so you can ride a thigh-burning, long descent. Itâ€™s great fun . . . unless youâ€™re a beginner.
Just before we got to Dancing Bear, Michelle took off. She knew she had to keep going if she wanted to finish the race. She had to stay in the zone. I knew I had to stop and breathe so I could survive. Period. THEN came Dancing Bear. Iâ€™m almost afraid to admit that I walked almost the whole trail. My hike began on the two uphills on the road just preceding Dancing Bear.
Kristi spent the rest of the race with me because she also needed to breathe. When we got to the top of the hill, we got back on our bikes and rode just a little of the end of the Bear. Some of it was too technical for a beginner. We were relieved to get off the singletrack until we realized that we werenâ€™t really to the top of the hill. We had to take some doubletrack to the Red Trail.
I absolutely love the Red Trail. It is one of my favorite trails and it offers a great challenge and an adrenaline rush every time I ride it. I didnâ€™t appreciate these qualities at the time of this race, however. Kristi and I walked most of the Red Trail, and had to move off the trail to allow other riders by. Yes, we were being lapped. Paulâ€™s Plunge followed. We walked that, too. I was scared while I walked it.
Paul’s Plunge – the great finale of the Copper Harbor Fat Tire Festival.
I guess one could say that we hiked that race. I was so exhausted afterwards that I lay down in the grass and stayed there. I didnâ€™t care that there was free beer and food. I think the fact that I couldnâ€™t drink beer was a good indicator of how hard this race was on me.
Copper Harbor had proven just how inexperienced I was as a rider, and I didnâ€™t like it. I had a new focus in life. I had a vengeance. Copper Harbor had conquered me. I had to conquer Copper Harbor.