Thursday, September 11, 2008

Brian Head

Hubris: An irrational sense of overconfidence. Perhaps unqualified and bordering on arrogance (just ask Alex), it can lead to one's ultimate demise. That's my own loose definition of hubris - and on this day the definition may as well have included a picture of me.

For reasons still unclear to me, I decided that my skills at snow skiing combined with my skills on a bike qualified me to hop on a mountain bike at 10,000 feet and fly down the rocky slopes of Brian Head Ski Resort. This despite the fact that I'm an intermediate skier at best, not to mention skiing skills will mean nothing here today. This also despite the fact that I live and ride at maybe 5 feet above sea level max - rarely up, rarely down, just riding. Sign me up!

As I pulled up to the resort I was excited and ready, still blinded by hubris but also perhaps eased by the pictures I'd seen online. This was going to be a scenic ride with some adrenalin mixed in, and my itch would be scratched. As I rode the lift up, feeling the air getting thinner and cooler and seeing myself rising above the neighboring mountains, I started to get a sense of being in over my head. Really - you think??

I was told to follow the 'Color Country' trail for my first run. It's the park's easiest, and at 6 miles long it's a good way to get used to the mountain. On the trail map it looked like a nice ride but in reality it was a violent awakening. I stopped about halfway down the trail to remove my sunglasses, which were vibrating so much due to the rough/rocky trails that I could barely focus enough to dodge the bigger boulders. Shades off, I resumed the bumpy ride down. It only took a few moments to realize that it wasn't the shades that were vibrating - it was my eyeballs, bouncing around in their sockets. Somehow I got used to that freakishness and made it down. With a new sense of respect for the mountain combined with a more tempered level of confidence, I rode the lift back up for my second run.

Less than a mile down, my front brakes broke. Didn't stop working or malfunction, the pads completely broke off. Unfortunately this happened as I tried to slow the bike from going about 650 mph. No longer able to control my speed or direction, the result was inevitable. When I find myself in this sort of pre-accident position when skiing - and I do - I simply wreck, so at least I control when I begin suffering. However, at this speed and in these rocky conditions, wrecking wasn't at all desirable. Right about the time that I finished having this long and thoughtful conversation with myself, I wrecked. Somewhere in the course of tumbling down the rocky trail I must have tried to stop my fall with my foot, and in the course of the attempt managed to shred both my foot and ankle. At least it kept me from feeling the damage I'd done to my elbows...

The best part of this was that it happened when it did, early in the day before I was able to gain enough confidence do do something even more stupid than what I was already doing (VERY possible), and risking a more serious injury. The resort refunded me my money since it was an equipment failure, but I'm sure my lack of experience played a large role as well.

In the end this day changed a lot about the rest of the vacation for me. Hobbled, I was no longer planning on hiking or biking several miles each day. Instead of hustling each day from place to place so I could hit the trails, I would seek out the dirtiest lines on the map to get me there.

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