This weekend my riding buddy Dave and I decided to explore a couple of trails at the other end of Santos that we'd never been on. These trails come highly recommended, so expectations were high. Both turned out to be very technical trails with lots of steep little climbs and descents, and obstacles of various kinds everywhere. I thought at first that trying to keep up with Dave would be impossible on a trail like that, given the enormous difference in our level of training, so it came as quite a surprise to me that I managed to stay on his rear wheel while maintaining what he later referred to as a 'good pace', which is Davespeak for 'as fast as I dare to go'. Flying through blind turns on an unfamiliar trail practically guarantees an unintended dismount, however, and halfway through the first trail, Dave got his pedals caught between two sharp boulders which appeared without warning. Fortunately a minor cut in his knee was the only result. Inspired by his example, I bumped my handlebar against on a tree while threading a narrow passage, which sent me off the trail and into a mound of leaves and pine needles. It was like falling on a mattress. If you're going to crash, this is the way to do it. The second trail proved to be just as challenging, but very rocky and therefore more dangerous to both bikes and riders. We passed one rider walking his bike back after having smashed his rear derailleur on a rock. Fortunately we suffered only one minor fall each before completing this trail. On the way back, Dave suggested we take the express route, which consists of a fairly wide trail composed of rough limestone. He didn't think he had the energy to try for another 12 miles on the kinds of trails we'd been on. That surprised me because I felt fully up to the task, and until recently it was always me who tired out first. About halfway through the return ride, I got bored and began to increase my speed, eventually leveling off at between 18 and 19 mph. Dave kept up with me, but was exhausted by the time we arrived back at the trail entrance, and insisted we rest a while. He has a VERY competitive personality, and for him to say that he needs a rest means he's about to drop dead. It was another 500 yards or so to get back to the parking lot, where we sat around a while talking and gulping down energy drinks before the drive home. All the while we were being watched by a coral snake only yards away, which a hiker pointed out to us. :eek1 Contrary to expectations, my legs felt pretty good the next day, but I decided to give them a rest and not to ride the bike on Sunday. The Saturday ride was only the second time I've managed to keep up with and actually outpace Dave on any trail, so apparently both my skilz and general conditioning have improved greatly since we began riding together seven months ago. I'm already looking forward to next weekend.