I will admit that I started my bike ride off slightly grumpy on this warm, muggy day. I was in a particularly funky mood which I wasn’t able to completely shake for whatever reason. I had no idea what Travis’ plans were for me in terms of where we would ride, when we got started I realized instantly that we were heading to our usual IPT trail ride.
I had Travis take the lead, not ready to venture first on this ride even tho I had ridden the trail by myself. The trail ride was predictable and smooth (for what you could consider smooth for riding off-road.) When out of IPT we went ride a bit of the North 40 section that I’m pretty familiar with. We went further back on the trail to where there is steeper up-hill with a sharp turn (hairpin).
I made it up to the point where I almost got in-between the two trees, but not really. I wasn’t going fast enough and I didn’t have enough momentum to keep me going. Travis asked “What about riding down the hill?” and I looked at him with a ponderous and grumpy look. “It’s not too hard, but you do have to sit way back on your bike when you come around this turn. Here, I’ll go slow and show you.” Which he did, and I got a funny feeling in my gut. “Nope. Not today.” I said, and proceeded to walk my bike down after Travis had passed me. Little did I know…
When we turned around and came back out of that section of North 40, Travis asked if I wanted to explore the other section of it that essentially leads us to that hairpin hill. Not taking into consideration that it really would lead me back to that death-trap of a hill, I decided “Why not?” Tuesdays are for exploring new trails, even if I’m not really in the mood it’s a goal of mine…take me out there even if I’m dragging my feet a little. It will prove to me what I can do and will learn to do if I currently can’t.
I find that during the learning process I often regress a little with my positive thinking. It’s not easy for me to stay excited and not allow the feeling of anxiety or worry to float over my head like my own personal rain cloud. I expect that this happens because I often had hard times learning new things; I had to work hard to maintain some sort of skill level. I’m completely denying that I have natural talent or am skilled with what I learn. It’s a fear tactic I suppose, one of those that keeps you from getting too far ahead of yourself. However this also takes away any euphoric joy you experienced with learning a new skill or mastering a section of a new trail.
On this section of North 40 there are two steep S-curves/switchbacks to ride up; I did not make it up the first turn without having to put a foot down. I was frustrated and my grumpy pants were firmly on at that moment while I turned my bike around to walk it back down and try again.
Here is where Travis and I have a standing pep-talk of sorts. This is also why I continue to say that mountain biking really is a challenge for me on many levels. It opens up old wounds of the child who grew up wanting to be great at something, but never knowing what she would be and not feeling good at anything. Not succeeding was something she was familiar with and success was something usually unattainable. Yeah, I get irritated at myself. After we had our talk I admitted to myself was right. 1. I am too hard on myself and put a lot of pressure on myself. 2. We are out here to have fun and there isn’t any sense in bringing my early morning frustrations out with me on my ride.
I made it up the dang switchback-yeah!
However there was another to follow soon after that proved to be of the more tricky variety. Travis said that there are some riders who get after it just fine, but there are others who have a hard time with it as well. Not a big deal. I accepted the fact that, yes, there are some areas in which I’m not going to be proficient at yet-but that doesn’t mean I’m not doing well.
Eventually we come to the area that made my heart pound and my gut drop, the downhill section that made me squirm. The reason why it gave my gut an icky feeling was due to the fact that you not only have to sit back, but sit way back-to the point where your entire seat is out between your legs. This is so that you can stay balanced while you are going down a steep downhill. The steeper the downhill the farther back you should sit so you won’t tip over the front of your bike. Literally. I can only imagine someone doing summersaults down that hill because they weren’t sitting back enough.
“Hug your seat through here” Travis said, “Now around this corner sit all the way back!” and I did. I had a big lump in my throat as I eased my bike around the corner and down the hill. When I got past the steepest part and was able to relax a little, I let out a deep breath. I was behind Travis, so he didn’t see that I had a huge smile on my face. It was a smile of accomplishment but also a smile of relief, I asked “I must’ve been far enough back on my seat because I didn’t tip over?” To which he replied “I guess so!” We did that section of North 40 again, because if I went down the scary hill once, without biffing it, I could surely do it again. So I did. I told Travis the best and quickest way for me to get over my fear of the downhill is to just do it again. I’m still nervous of it but I feel better about going down it now than I did at the beginning of the ride.
When we got out of North 40, Travis went off more towards the left and I decided I would play a sneaky trick. I would, much to his amazement, go first on a trail while out riding with him. I darted off onto Gunnar without telling him what I was doing. It’s not like he wouldn’t be able to easily catch up with me, because he is much more adept at speed than I am at this point. I made it up Gunnar successfully, only having to stop once to let another rider go by. We did our standard loop through the pines and I decided that I would lead us back down. I lead us back through IPT as well. I had a smile on my face at the end of the ride and felt like I accomplished some good things that afternoon. Going first isn’t something I’m very comfortable with but it does allow some pointers to be given on lines I choose and various other techniques.
Today was a lesson in learning to not be so hard on myself and actually allow myself to feel the joy of my victories.