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Lessons in Mountain Biking: Exploring New Northeast IowaTerrain
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Lessons in Mountain Biking: Exploring New Northeast IowaTerrain

As luck would have it, I managed to snag a beautiful Tuesday off so that Travis and I could finally have a whole day off of work together. A very rare occurrence that happens usually on Christmas, New Year's Day, and Easter. I was giddy with excitement! This day was going to be interesting as Travis and I discussed exploring other mountain bike trails, which raised my blood pressure and anxieties a little. I’ll be honest, mountain biking is definitely something that is challenging me on multiple levels. It’s giving me some legit lessons in learning about myself and overcoming my own personal fears and worries. I think the root of my wanting to learn and become better at mountain biking is to help me heal myself.

Travis decided that we would explore Palisades: the upper and middle trails and lower section of Dead Pet. The first trail we went on was called Lee’s Loop. I felt pretty good being on it, and might have ridden it once last year (a couple of the trails I rode last year, but it’s been so long that it’s all new to me!) We went slowly and I maneuvered myself around some roots here and there. Twists and turns which were not too complicated but challenging enough to make me question myself. I felt this would be a good trail to go on with my girlfriends and made a mental note.

After Lee’s Loop we rode through the Upper Palisades and went to a part called Log Jam. I skipped the U-shaped down/uphill part which had a sketchy bottom section of crumbling rock and cement. We'll save that for another time. Instead I had a lesson with getting over a smaller log; my tires on the Krampus can roll over a lot of stuff, but there is an art in rolling over things safely. Sitting back on your seat to shift your weight to the back end, so you aren’t thrown over your bars when your front tire plops down to the ground. You get a very distinct “bump, bump” when you just roll vs. going with some speed and lifting your tire up and over. I went over the small log a couple more times before we moved on.

We came to a steeper uphill that went around a corner between two trees, but the pressure was on because of a random mushroom hunter scouring the side of the hill for tasty treasures. I’m not really used to having an audience and that makes me even more anxious because I had no idea how much, if any of this climb I would accomplish. I took a deep breath and gave it my best shot; I got up more than halfway before I lost my juice and had to walk to a flat part. I wasn’t upset, just thankful I didn’t tip over or anything silly in front of a random human.

We made our way to the middle section of Palisades; there was one downhill that I opted to walk down. Several rocks and roots were in the way and I felt better saying “maybe next time.” Shortly after that we came to small tree root drop-off, the tricky part was there was another root in front of it-a perfect distance for smaller tires to get wedged in and have someone go over their bars. Luck on my side with bigger tires, but it took a bit to psych me up enough to give it a try. I did it a second time before I called it good and we continued on.

Dead Pet was a challenge and I will probably never forget the rocky S-curve hill that I went down. I will say that it’s the first time I probably ever wanted to simultaneously barf and cry. I could feel my eyes water up and my felt like it was pounding out of my chest. When I got to a safe spot to put a foot down, I did so and allowed myself a moment to calm down and breathe. “Are you okay?” Travis asked and I responded with a squeaky “Yeah.” When I regained composure I continued down the rest of the way without any issues at all. I told Travis "I kept going because I felt that was the safest thing to do.

The next challenge would be this large and steep hill that was covered in loose and embedded rock. It was a hill you could bust up at full speed, but you had to figure out a gear that would keep you going but one that you wouldn’t lose energy on. It took me several tries and a tip-over that resulted in a bruise on my knee to actually figure out how to get up the hill. With the tip-over I had kept trying to move my bike more to the left side after riding around a rock and that took me more uphill and off the trail. The lesson learned from that was to stop being afraid of the edge, that wasn’t what was tipping me over. To build momentum and speed I started a little farther back each time while pedaling harder and faster. I was going to make it up that hill and it would not be by walking! I can’t tell you the feelings I had after I actually made it up. Slight disbelief and a huge sigh of relief; I accomplished something quite difficult and that gave me a lot of satisfaction.

The other steep hills on that trail I got up about half-way and had to walk. My legs and lungs were not capable of cooperating anymore to accomplish such victories. When we came back out to the road that leads you to the top part of Palisades, Travis asked me if I wanted to take the trail back to the truck. I huffed and puffed and managed to say “Let me get up this hill first.” No way could I manage conversation while trying to get as much air as possible into my lungs. I did opt for the mountain bike trail; it seemed more forgiving than the paved road.

After we got back we drove over to ride IPTV and I got to ride the other side of IPTV that follows along side the trail I normally ride. Surprise! Another super steep hill to climb my bike up, which I did and impressed Travis again. I was thankful for our sit-down break at the Pugsley Pit where I took a few pictures and thought back to all the accomplishments I made in our afternoon together.

New trails do make me nervous but at the same time it’s fun to challenge myself and build up my confidence. It’s okay to walk where you need to, try what you are comfortable with, and relish the success of accomplishing something you didn’t think you could do. I discovered more of myself and what I can do, along with adding some extra scratches, lumps, and bumps to my legs. Totally worth it!

More about mountain, bike, fun, explore, scary, new

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