A dark wall approached from the west, purple and threatening. Flashes of lightening illuminated its massive interior. The wind picked up and the rain started to fall. It fell sporadically for a few moments, deflecting off of tree branches and rooftops before finally thumping into the ground. Within minutes a gale-force wind was howling through the neighborhood while torrential rain filled storm drains, gutters and erstwhile, lidless garbage cans.
The timing was perfect. The enormous storm rolled through at exactly the moment I ran into my garage after the Deer Valley cross-country race. A race that turned out decidedly well. The sporadic rainstorms throughout the week turned the alpine singletrack into rails – tacky, tight, and fast. The hundreds of wheels that rolled over the network during the race did little damage, if any. A credit to the stability of the well built Deer Valley system. Which meant that the racing was almost too enjoyable. That is, I had to remind myself that there were people behind me zeroing in on the target on my back, and that the wheels in front of me, likewise sported big red and white bulls eyes. There seems to be very few times when the pain and pushing of racing are nearly engulfed by the unmitigated, childlike joy of riding. I would think that the laws of physics (if I knew anything about them) would dictate that the two opposing forces would cancel each other out, that it would be impossible for them to coexist. But that was, quite simply, not the case on Saturday.
Which can’t be entirely surprising, seeing that getting myself up and over Little Stick three times in itself defied all known physical laws.
And what exactly is Little Stick you ask? How would you describe hell?
However, the reward for climbing the beastly monster is a descent unlike any other in any cross-country race. Only Clark’s Trail at Corner Canyon can rival Deer Crest, and truth be told, it is only a mild rivalry. For though Clark’s is extremely fun, Deer Crest is, quite possibly the world’s most perfect descent – and it lasts forever. No, really. The trail plummets off the mountain, on and on, switchback after switchback, through thick pines and aspens and across grassy ski cuts, down, down, and then down. By the time one reaches the bottom the pain and the burn and the bile that filled your mouth while climbing Little Stick are gone.
The only viable way to describe the Deer Crest descent is to conjure up the classic speeder bike scene on the Moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Sans giant redwoods of course. But you get the point. The rain left the trees heavy and wet. Many were hanging low over the trail and as we sped by would brush our backs and shoulders. It was if they were cheering us along, like a throng of drunken race junkies running along side the peleton on some mountain road in the Alps. Except we were speeding downhill on singletrack, rather than inching up European pavement.
All in all it is nearly 2 miles of continuous downhill singletrack intoxication.
The racing itself was fantastic. I felt a powerful, commanding sense of urgency throughout the day. Which I found surprising, given that I was slightly unmotivated leading up to the event. That urgency nudged me along to a respectable finish (11/20), and another step forward in the ever-inching along in this summer’s quest for some unknown end. Although that end is starting to fall into focus. In fact, I already know what it is. And I am pleased with where I stand here and now.
And just where exactly am I standing now?
Why, staring up at the first 4,000 foot climb of the Wasatch Classic of course.