I go mountain biking nearly every weekend these days. We’ve been riding the same trail lately; Burnaby mountain’s Nicole’s trail. It’s a steady ride up that had us first walking and wheezing, and now riding more than we walk. The change there has been great. And the ride back down the mountain on Nicole’s is starting to almost feel like something I can do.
There are some days, though, where things just don’t go right, and my confidence is shot from the start of the ride down. I hate those days. They make my head hurt and make me want to quit entirely.
Here’s the thing: I really do enjoy mountain biking. Initially, I started it because I wanted to get more active, and because Adam wanted to do it and I wanted to spend time with him. It grew on me and became something that I do for fun myself. I’ve gone to courses and weekend clinics to learn skills, and I’ve ridden on plenty of occasions without him, so it’s gone beyond something I do just to impress my man. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a challenge.
I don’t generally like challenges, or at least historically I haven’t. If something wasn’t immediately easy, I would give it up and just say it wasn’t meant to be something that I did. If I couldn’t be super-amazing-awesome, I didn’t want to even try. In the past ten years I’ve realized this, acknowledged it, and made a decision to change that part of me. Fact is, everything isn’t easy, and I am not going to be the best at everything I try.
Some days with the mountain biking I’m riding and the flow is there, I’m feeling right and confident and comfortable atop my bike, trusting that I know what I’m doing and if I fall I’m not really likely to hurt myself. Those are good days.
Some days I keep riding out of sheer stubbornness. I look down the trail and stare at the one thing I shouldn’t hit (rock, tree, root, whatever) and slam into exactly that, I slide sidways and think the bike’s heading downslope without me, I stop dead at every turn, structure, root, rock, drop, or random obstacle.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that I’m afraid of heights? They make me queasy, they make my head spin and they make me feel like I’m falling even when I’m standing still. So imagine, if you will, standing up on the pedals of a bike looking down a steep slope with 1 foot drop-offs that you have to ride over while facing downward. It’s a little like standing on a mild cliff, except that you’re on wheels and you have to roll over the cliff willingly.
There are some days that I can’t get past that fear. I look at the cliff that’s not really a cliff and my rational brain shuts off and the terrified one takes over. I see myself falling down head first, or slipping off the side of the trail where the real cliff is, tumbling to a frightning doom. Or I don’t even see it, I just feel queasy, and my head spins and I have to stop because I’m not really in control anymore.
I will sit at the top of a steep section that has me staring down at it, and I will tell myself that it’s all in my head and I’ve ridden this before, that I know how to do this, that even if I do fall I’m not moving fast enough to hurt myself beyond fast-healing bruises.
When that doesn’t help, I will sit there and berate myself for not being good enough, strong enough, stubborn enough to get past the stupid fear and just ride.
When that (obviously) doesn’t help, I will sit there and stare at the slope ahead of me blankly, wishing it would flatten out.
When that still doesn’t help, I will usually want to cry. Sometimes I do cry, and I wonder why the hell I thought I liked this whole mountain biking thing in the first place. Usually, though, I get off the bike and walk it down to an area that isn’t so steep, and isn’t so scary, and then I get back on and try it all over again.
Sometimes I can get the groove back, find the line, ride like I know I can ride. Sometimes the same thing happens when I hit a steep section and I stop and walk again.
I always manage to end up at the bottom, though. And the next week I go back out to ride again. I’m either crazy, stubborn, or I just like mountain biking.