I have finally completed a goal I have been working on for a while now. Yesterday, I finished my first mountain bike ride of 50 miles in 5 hours and twenty minutes, with an average speed of 9.3 mph. My great friend, Patrick, accompanied me on the ride, and we had an incredible day biking in the woods. We linked up all the classic trails in Bent Creek and Mills River in Pisgah Forest near Asheville, NC for a sweet epic ride. Surprisingly, the ride was not as hard as I thought it would be and I did not bonk as I have in the past on long rides. There were lots of long climbs, but we mixed in all the classic downhills in order to spice up the action. The day started cloudy with a nice gentle breeze and the temperatures were pleasant as well. The forecast was for rain later in the day, but luckily we only had lite showers about five times during the ride and did not get too wet. The rain actually kept us cool and settled the dust on the trails, making the soil tacky and perfect for biking because our tires gripped like velcro. The big deluge came literally the moment we set foot in our cars at the end of the ride. Funny how that goes sometimes. A weird thing also was that no one was out on the trails and we had the forest to ourselves. I guess everyone was scared away by the forecast. Their loss I suppose. We talked a lot on the ride, but Patrick is really fast on the climbs, so he would usually take off at one point. I would steadily ride at my pace, alone with my thoughts and breath as a companion. These times spent alone were very memorable and meaningful. I kept immersing myself in the beautiful surroundings. The woods were really exploding with the bright yellow-green of the new Spring. There are hundreds of colors of green in North Carolina and the early bright green of Spring seems to be some of the most vibrant. It breathes life and glows a radiant yellow hue as if the pulse of life is surging through the leaves and shining the suns rays directly through from above. The clouds were blanketing the mist covered valleys and creating a rainforest-like feel of freshness and abundance. The trees swayed gently in the breeze and water dripped rhythmically off the leaves, creating a sense of newness and reawakening of the life within that is Spring. Sweat was pouring off by brow, and my breath was going in and out as if in sync with the sounds around me in the trees. You have funny conversations in your head at times like these trudging up a long climb alone. I felt alive and I felt calm and satisfied. My body was working in harmony with the bike, the surroundings and the moment. I felt as if I was right where I was supposed to be, moving my bike up a mountain against the fall of gravity. I was challenging my mind and pushing through pre-conceived limits and enjoying every moment. And for every climb, there is a much deserved fast descent on narrow single-track. You are on the edge of safety and yet flowing effortlessly over rocks and drops, a smile a mile wide the entire time. The pain of the climb melting away with each pedal rotation and burst of speed down the narrow trail. A gentle tap on the breaks, a few pedal turns, dodge a rock or obstacle, flow down the fall line. You are merging with the pull of gravity and speed like a downhill ski racer, making slight adjustments and most of all letting go of your thoughts and just being in the moment. Flow is the name of the game on descents. Fear is pushed aside temporarily and you let the bike do what it is made to do, namely bring you down a trail fast and smoothly, absorbing most of the impacts. Your mind is temporarily detached from the fear and your body just goes. These moments are fleeting and yet attainable by anyone. Just let go and ride. Mountain biking is a great avenue to find these treats in yourself and in nature. When you are out in the heart of wilderness, away from the hustle and bustle, with only your thoughts and actions as companions, good things seem to follow. I felt this peaceful feeling of flow on this day and it helped me to keep going and to push through the pain. And it truly was one of my favorite rides of the year. Not bad for a Tuesday afternoon in Pisgah Forest.