Sunday, November 13, 2016

Experiencing Growth as a Fearless Woman of Dirt

 It was a beautiful Tuesday in November with temps close to 60 degrees. I couldn't think of any better way to spend it other than mountain biking! Levis Mounds is an area where Travis and I wanted to hit up again this season before the snow season hit. Our friend, Stego, was interested in taking a road trip with us, so the three of us got into the red truck and headed to good ol' Wisconsin. Yup, road trip doughnut holes were purchased for this voyage.

The drive was typical- you could see some color still mixed within the trees and the sun was brightening up the world around us. It was beautiful, yet at times, slightly boring. I suppose that's because I tend to run out of conversation. I stared at the scenery as we drove by, wondering how my riding would go for the day.

Levis is a different flavor when compared to our local, Decorah trails. There are similarities but also stark differences that make me question my riding skills. It's a good way to remind myself that I have confidence issues to work on when it comes to riding my bike in some areas. Terrain challenges are still something I'm working on as well as structures. Large rocks make me anxious along with drop-offs and ledges on my right hand side.

I was also concerned about the various bridge structures that had challenged me in my previous trips to Levis. My goal this time was to ride as many of the lower-lying bridges as possible. My first time riding at Levis during the dry season had me death-gripping the bars over a couple and walking others. I can only guess that my first bike crash is what has made me leery of bridges over gullies, streams, etc. I have yet to find the best way to desensitize myself with bridges other than to push myself into riding them; I have issues with heights, that's for sure. Travis had also mentioned he wanted to take Stego to the "Plumber's Crack" feature. I was nervous to ride it last time and didn't fully ride it due to the rock/bridge combo that it had. I wanted to be victorious this time.
Last time riding Levis during the dry season, we had detailed instructions with us on a loop a friend of mine enjoyed. This time we haphazardly threw together trails that we felt we remembered well enough. As luck would have it, the route we took on Toad Road led us to Plumber's Crack up the plank bridge, thru the crack, and down over a rock/bridge combo. Last time it was the opposite way- this time, the entry was easier and I successfully rode the Crack! I might have felt like my heart was in my stomach, but it couldn't take away the feeling of accomplishment I had. Combo hit of overcoming nervousness over bridges/drops/heights= done!

There were several sections at Levis where I walked due to technical difficulty. I was proud over the fact I didn't walk EVERY technical section; you have to accept the small victories!

Select Cut and Yellow Jacket were the two trails that had bridges I wanted to ride over- even tho they were not multi-feet above ground, they were still tall enough to trigger my anxious feelings. They are various lengths and some cross water...both things that intimidate me.
I'm not sure what has helped me the most this year when it's come to riding bridges, maybe it was riding the long bridge on the Makwa Trail in Hayward that seemed to be over a lake. Maybe it was riding over multiple (small) bridges in Duluth. Perhaps it was knowing I rode over some of the bridges in Levis last winter when the snow was packed up around them. Regardless of what it was, I felt more mentally prepared to take on the challenge of these structures that cause me such anxiety.

I think the point that brought me the greatest joy was when I was peer pressured in a good way to give this little launch a try. I had fun watching Travis and Stego attain some pretty big air going off the little build, tho I worried I would fail and crash down on my face. Travis said for me to treat it like going off the curb at Fareway- don't try to push myself for "big air" just keep my front end level. My first attempt was a huge success, apparently really great form and everything. So I did it again. And a third time...and a fourth time! (I had kept promising just "one more time") but finally made good on my "last time."

Both of them were encouraging as I braved my insecurities of possible failure and came out feeling like a gosh darned winner instead.

I am, at times, slow on the confidence scale- but these small achievements make me feel like progression is truly attainable. No one ever said progress didn't come without a price tag, for me that price tag is dealing with anxious and nervous feelings that try to limit what I do. I have to question myself- do I want to improve or do I want to be steady? For me, riding off-road is the first time I've seen myself really progress with something. I can visually see it and also physically notice the difference in my health and myself. So, yes. I want to keep progressing, pushing my box outwards, and seeing me grow with cycling.
So, a thank you goes to Levis Mounds for having such amazing trails that cater to so many riders. Various technical challenges keep things entertaining while giving you something to work on but also providing trails that are run and easy to ride. Thanks to Travis and Stego for being great riding companions and not letting me get the better of myself when it came to trying something that made me nervous. The whoops of encouragement definitely made my day. I might not have gotten off the ground very far, but it was hard not to feel like I was 10 feet in the air when they made it sound like I was doing something SO COOL!

Thank you, me, for not giving up on yourself when it came to getting past the bare bones of learning to mountain bike. Keep being rad.

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