Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Arizona: A to Z

The cacti in Arizona made me feel like I was living in a cartoon. I *loved* it. Roadrunners ripping around, and yup, wiley coyotes singing us to sleep every night. I flew to Phoenix on Friday to catch up with Coach Richard et al. We slipped through the darkness outside the city limits to a quiet little campsite at McDowell Mountain Park, home to San Diego Mountain Bike Skills for the weekend.

With bikes all prepped and ready to go, it was off to bed and up with the sunrise to meet our first batch of new Ninjas. My cell phone had spotty reception at best, so rather than lie in bed playing Angry Birds, I poked my head out the camper door to get a look at what the darkness kept secret the night before. The sun was just starting to peek out from behind the mountains and the flatland between me and it was in full magic-hour glory. Cactus sentries stood guard over the neighbouring campsites. Looking west, another range of rocky mountains were lit with that same amazing light. I took a seat quietly at the picnic table and just breathed deeply with nothing in my hands except the cool concrete of the table top, while it seemed like nothing and no one was stirring for miles.

Home sweet home for Crank Cycling and SDMBS in AZ

Once the sun crept out from behind the hills, it was go time. We made breakfast, had a good dose of coffee, got kitted up and then it was off to meet our first group -- an awesome gaggle of girls ready to take their skills to the next level, or convert their roadie leanings to "the dirt side."After a lickety-split lunch break, we had a slightly more basics class and got them all turning and burning in the afternoon sun. I *love* watching how much our riders progress in only a few hours. For a couple of the ladies, I saw an improvement with every try. Once everyone went home for the evening, Coach Burke and I headed over to the "Competitive Track" to check on things before our intermediate, full-day clinic the following day. I tell ya, if you live anywhere near this park, you are a lucky duck. So many great skill-building features packed into a wicked-fun three-mile loop.

Head Coach Sean Burke of Crank Cycling spinning a sunset lap  

Making use of this resource on this particular weekend was the Arizona High School League. 150 racers ready to rip, representing 40 teams from across the state. They had a great set-up and from all the eavesdropping I did, it sounded like they had a great time. Once they'd finished with the course on Sunday afternoon, we brought some more Ninjas over to get their shred on, too. We covered skills like ratcheting, switchbacks, pumping, technical climbs, gnarly drops and finding our flow before sending them smiling out into the world while we broke camp and made for the drive back to San Diego.

Big thank you to Sean and Elaine for sharing their tremendous road-trip set-up with us. I am totally sold on campers these days -- those things are like magic. Thank you also to Sean and Crank Cycling for the amazing coaching support, and to Elaine for keeping us on track, taking photos and saving the day more than once. Big thank you to Coach Richard for having me aboard with San Diego Mountain Bike Skills, for his tireless efforts to spread the joy of mountain biking and for teaching me how to teach others.

I also want to thank all the Ninjas that came out to ride with us!! I loved meeting you, hearing your stories and watching you nail it. Keep practicing, and if you're riding in Arizona, holy smokes, keep hydrated.

Deep breaths at dawn in AZ
Finally, I want to thank my husband Gerhard and my in-laws for holding down the fort while I was away. Thanks for your patience and support this weekend, and always.

It was Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday, so those are just a few of the things I was thankful for this weekend. Could write a whole book to cover my gratitude lately. Happy Thanksgiving!