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Lessons in Mountain Biking: Battling Nerves
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Lessons in Mountain Biking: Battling Nerves

Travis came home with a look of excitement on his face that suggested he had a plan in store for me. “Let’s go riding!” so off we went on my first mountain bike adventure of the season, I was filled with a mixture of hope, excitement, and nervousness.

Perhaps reading those emotions would indicate that I am not cut out for this and perhaps it is true. I do not have an endless amount of bravery or superior confidence in myself and my so-called biking abilities. I have a lot of skills to learn and apparently do have times where my nerves just get in the way. This prevents one from “committing” to something and with mountain biking you have to commit.

This season a trail called IPTV will be utilized a lot for my skill building as it’s close to home, not completely difficult, and has several areas that will build up my skill set. There are a few spots that I was told to not fully attempt yet, like the Yard Sale section. However I did practice getting my tire up over the ledge of dirt/sand.

My mental snafu of the day came shortly after the Yard Sale spot where we approached a steep downhill that wasn’t very huge, but for whatever reason it jolted my brain. I had an enormous amount of anxiety well up within me all while Travis stayed off to the side, waiting to catch me if I went down. I’m not going to lie and say we didn’t have a classic example of why it’s not always the most amazing experience to have your significant other teach you something they are skilled at.

My opposition to this hill was because it somehow reminded me of my first bike accident, which was going down a steep downhill to a wooden bridge (out by Kwik Star.) I had the same, similar feeling in my gut that evening when I went down and that feeling prevented me from going down that hill. I can’t deny that I felt bad. I questioned if I’m cut out for all this mountain biking stuff...I do feel that I can get better at it. I didn’t start out as an amazing bike rider in the first place, so obviously if I can improve with that I could surely improve with mountain biking. Travis pulled some reverse psychology tactics on me, I acted like a complete turd, cried some, and then got back on my bike after I became too chilly to just stand there. Plus, the best way to work through stuff sometimes is to just keep going and do what you can. 

I came to another hill, which he went down easily. I stood looking down the hill at Travis and asked “What’s the worst that can happen?” “Well” he said “You can come down, not control your bike and ram into this rock, or you can fall off the side and onto the rocks over here.” Then he said “I’ll stand over here and will catch you before anything bad happens.” I took a deep breath and moved my bike back to give me enough room to coast into this downhill. Standing up, my thighs braced the seat of the bike like iron grips, and I had to remind myself to breathe and “roll with it.” My first downhill attempt was successful but a little wobbly and Travis said I was going “too slow” that I had to go a little faster and that would actually help me control the bike more. So I went back to do it again and did it “perfectly” but no, I wasn’t done yet. I had to ride my bike back up the hill and do it one more time. So here I am, high on nerves and determination, pedaling my bike up this steep hill like a champ. I have found that I almost like going up the steep hills more than going down them and I’m not entirely sure why.

We continued on after that spot, there was a section that was a bit rocky that made me feel a little nervous, but I rode on and past it without issue. Then I came to an uphill that I did slip out a little on, but the trails were a little greasy and apparently the Krampus tires aren’t amazing at traction all the time. No big deal, walk where I can get started up again. Then we came to another uphill where I pushed hard and said a substantial “FU!” and got myself up that hill. Travis eventually stopped and turned around; here I was pedaling toward him with a “Huh?” look on my face. “How did you get here?” he asked. “I rode?” “You did!?” “Yeeah…” I said with a smile on my face. Travis had thought I said my expletive because I lost traction and had to get off and walk, hence he was going to wait for me. Well, surprise! Here I am.

We made it to the end of the trail which is takes you to the fire road leading up to Van Peenan and turned around to head back. The ride back to the original snafu point actually went really well. I was nervous, my adrenaline was high, and had I focused on the sound of my breathing. I was going above my comfort zone with the speed I was doing, but I felt like most of everything was floating under me before I could really start worrying about it. I managed to go over everything I had fumbled on without any issue, so when reversed I actually did excellent. When we came back to the hill that had originally messed with my head, Travis had a different idea and that was to have me take a path that took us to the original start of IPTV, so I went up a different hill instead and finished the ride by taking a little detour. Travis led me up part of a section called Horsey and held my bike in place for me until I allowed him to give me a shove. A section of trail that would promise to be fun to go downhill fast, without brakes, and allow me a bit of excitement to end the ride with.

I have a ways to go yet in terms of confidence and sureness when it comes to mountain biking; however, I’m not going to let that stop me from putting forth effort. No way.

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