Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lessons in Mountain Biking- You Are Enough!

Today I have a tale of two rides, both completely different yet both similar in that they provided me some valuable lessons.

It was a Friday, July 1st and I had just come home from a day of working at Decorah Bicycles. Travis had to go out to his mom's to mow her lawn as she was out of town. That said, I had some free time to myself to do whatever it I'd like to do.

I sat down on the couch with a simple salad and watched the latest video of Ambitions featuring Emily Batty. In the episode, Emily talks of some of her low points during racing- being able to hear another woman talk of being frustrated when her results aren't what she was expecting is good to hear. There are times when I'm too much of a perfectionist when it comes to my general riding- it might not be a race, but there are similar feelings. Emily stays determined- because riding is what she loves; as do I.
The decision was made. Ride my bike.

I threw on some riding clothes, grabbed my Trek Carbon Lush, and hit the road. I decided that with the busy holiday weekend I'd stick to my usual "fitness loop" of trails and call it good. The fitness loop of trails consists of: IPT, North 40, Gunnar, East Pines to West and loop backwards, Upper Little Big Horn, Fred, and Luge. It’s a set of trails that I love and enjoy riding in a habitual fashion; it doesn't get old.

There was something different about the ride; I had increased focus and determination that evening. There had been a lot on my mind the past weeks and I felt that it was time to “ride it out.
I also had been enjoying my time on the Lush recently and I felt that it was time to really see what the bike was made of. Last season when I rode her (Trixie is her name) I felt our “relationship” wasn’t quite there. I had a great time with her, but I wasn’t used to the twitchy nature of the bike. Earlier this season for my first non-fatbike ride on Trixie, I went over the bars. Let’s just say I was questioning if Trixie would be a bike that I would gravitate to on a regular.

On this ride, my attitude was completely different...we became one. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but it’s true! It’s that moment your mind and body seem to blend with the bike: you move fluidly, you ride fast and nothing trips you up. You are completely in sync and it feels absolutely amazing.

I found a way to push myself beyond my usual comfort zone when it came to speed and I made my lungs feel worked. It felt fabulous. For someone who started riding with exercise induced asthma that was easily triggered by any exertion; to be able to ride the trails with such speed felt wonderful. It was extra special because I hadn’t used the inhaler prior to riding.
Growth, progress, and healing were in my thoughts.

I knew that I had found a balance within myself…a sense of clarity and sureness of my skill. At the end of the Luge I looked at my computer and saw my best average to date- 10.4 mph. I was in shock! I have topped out at mid-9, and I have been extremely proud of that accomplishment. In reality I wondered if I would ever be able to hit above 9 on our mountain bike trails…well, by golly I sure did!

That ride reminded me of my passion, granted, that passion is fairly new but it is incredibly strong. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate my body being able to do what it does when it comes to mountain biking- not just living life, but thriving too.

Then a couple days later during our Sunday group ride, I was given another lesson…
My legs were tired, my breathing was suffering (allergies), and all energy that I had pretty much wilted away after our first climb. It was a ride that left me questioning myself and my skill set multiple times.

One of the beautiful things about our group ride is that Travis will sometimes choose routes that under normal circumstance I would never do. He likes to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, regardless if we have friends riding with us or not. I’m one that still battles feelings of frustration if I can’t clean a section when there is an “audience” and today was one of those days where dabless rides were not occurring in high frequency for me. Rattlesnake Cave to Lower Randy had me almost hyperventilating and my self-conscious feelings grew as Adam rode closer. “Please don’t hear me!” “Please don’t ask!” “Please, just keep riding!” were swimming around in my head as I worked to try and curb my erratic breathing.

In Death Valley, before our trek up Rocky Road, I announced that I would ride in the back. Adam had been courteous to have me in the middle during our ride, and most days I would say that I’m fine with that. Today was a day where I couldn’t let go of the nagging thoughts - “I’m tripping him up.” “I’m holding him back.” “I can’t keep up! Why can’t I keep up? I’m too tired to keep up. Dang, he’s close behind me, I have to go faster! I can’t.” I insisted that Adam ride ahead, that way he and Travis could bomb down the rest of the trails so I wouldn’t focus on not being fast enough or skilled enough. It would alleviate unneeded pressure; I just wanted to finish the ride.

As I rode behind, I felt a sense of relief and acceptance. Perhaps for a moment I wondered if they would be thinking “Gosh, she’s so slow today” or feeling annoyed that they had to wait up for me. However, I reminded myself the mentality and focus of our group ride: we always wait up and we always make sure riders have had enough rest time before we continue forward. We do this willingly to ensure everyone has an enjoyable time; I let the worry go.

The performance anxiety and the frustration over my body drifted away and I came to accept what the ride was. A reminder that there will be days when I’m just not feeling strong, but that doesn’t mean I’m not “enough.” The days when you need to slow down are there for a reason, maybe we don’t know the reasons why at first- but they remind us to not be so gosh darned hard on ourselves.

It's okay to say "Today isn't my day" just as much as it's okay to feel on top of the world for having one hell of a good ride. 
The rides you have, good or bad, do not define you as a person. They are moments in time, lessons in life, and experiences to appreciate- even if they weren't the best. Remember this on the next ride you have that doesn't go quite how you want: You are enough.

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