A few years ago while diligently studying a Mountain Bike magazine I came across an article that taught how to train for cross country races. It was built on the idea that you should create your own short loop. This is a trail system that is easy to reach and is reasonably challenging but most important of all, it has to be fun. It has to beg your attention more than once a week.
Simple concepts often whisper truth in a language we assume that we understand. My assumption was wrong. Hopefully others can benefit from the mistakes I made.
I thought the short loop was a great idea so I started tracking one out near my home in Massachusetts. Unfortunately I made a series of amateur mistakes. First, I couldn't settle on one set course. I kept changing my mind. Second, each time I altered the route it got a little longer. My desire to get in a complete workout while also advancing my abilities was like weight lifting on a treadmill.
I tried to include every hill, berm, drop, jump and climb in a ten mile radius. After a couple months my short loop was 21 miles long, it traveled throughout Myles Standish State Forrest and it was truly arduous.
That long, difficult route was too much to handle. One trip would physically wipe me out for days. I was lucky if I got to ride it once a month. This indecision defeated the purpose of having one set route. The goal was to hit some of the same elements over and over thus allowing yourself to get comfortable, balanced, skilled. Only by repeating a tight turn or struggling over a rooty section can you get good at it.
I have never been short on ambition but I've always been short on patience. It was this flaw that made my design plans fall through. Lesson learned.
Here in Englewood, Florida I was initially upset with the lack of trails appropriate for Mountain Bikes but that's because I didn't know where to look. I have ridden the Ann Dever trails and the Oyster Creek park but each has little nuances that cannot be discovered in a single day. In fact, it took a couple years of exploring to assemble all of the connectors to make a good system.
On Christmas Day the final piece of the puzzle emerged. The end result is a simple 9 mile loop that can be accessed from my home. It is mostly off road, rides on sandy singletrack and crush shells with some short grass and pine needles. It crosses and re-crosses 6 bridges. There are rooty parts and stretches of road. It is an excellent mix of all the available surfaces and elements.
Combining the pieces was well worth the wait because now I'm psyched to wake up early and get to pedaling. The pressure of forcing myself to do long distances at a high rate of speed has subsided. No more pushing hard only to burn out time after time. I'll still need to hit the streets for endurance rides but this short loop is where I'll keep my skills sharp and retain my love of going off road.