Dealing With Personal Expectations

Riding the hairpin on a drier day.
Photo Credit: Raina Hatfield
On 8/23/14 I had to lessen my expectations of myself and what I wanted to accomplish for my ride. This shouldn’t be looked at in a negative light but as a realization that sometimes I am not able to fully grasp the concept of how to accomplish a technical section solo.

The goal was to get out and ride the trails while they were greasy to build up my handling skills.
(Note greasy does not mean rut-causing wet.)
The trails in most sections are so hard-packed and smooth that if it’s a fast rain, it’ll just roll right off. This doesn’t take away the added difficulty of riding on parts with wet leaves, wet roots, or wet rocks.

I opted to ride my Krampus today, to have the added benefit of some bigger tires which I felt would boost my confidence. I had to battle some hesitation with the cement-rock on IPT.
The one time I rode over it when it was dark from rain I biffed it. I came away unscathed, but I bent my shifter.

I figured every time I ride over the rock after it’s been rained on should increase my confidence, it’ll just take some time.

On North 40, I managed to make up past the large root but spun out midway up the hill that I’ve ridden up once so far. I walked my bike to the top so I could continue on and make forward progress.

Not only am I working on building my confidence with riding greasy trails, I’m also working on using my body to keep my bike moving. Areas that you normally stand, now you're halfway squatting to keep weight towards the back of your bike so the rear tire can have traction. This is not something I have been able to succeed with instantly and it requires me to session the spot.

The example of this is the hairpin turn of North 40.
I worked this spot for probably a half-hour or longer. Over and over and over again, trying my best to understand what was working and what wasn’t working. I was sessioning this spot on a hot and humid morning, resulting in myself becoming completely drenched in sweat. Periodically a droplet would hang from a section of bangs that poked down out of my helmet. My gloves were, simply put, gross.

I kept at it, trying my best to keep my body positioned just right but either aiming too close to the tree or too far over and hitting the root. Off my bike, walk my bike, on my bike, and try try again. Smacked my crotch on my top tube, making me wish I had my Cali instead.

I had looked at my cell phone for the time and had to make a decision. I could session this spot until I made it, but who is to say I would actually make it today? The earth was wet, the rocks/roots were slick, and I kept having “close calls” but not a follow through. When I did, my back tire would spin out on the root and stop me in my tracks.

I finally told myself “Okay. At the very least work this spot until you get BOTH tires over the root. If you spin out on the climb, so what? Just get past the damn root!

A few more attempts later I was past the root with both tires, and climbing up the hill. That is, until I heard the sound of my tire against loose dirt/rock and couldn’t go any further. I spun out partway up the climb and I had a part of me that wanted to say a big “FU” and try the climb again…the whole thing.
I didn’t. I walked my bike to where I could get started again, rode over the log, and kept going. It might rain again today, might rain tomorrow, and for several days after. I was going to ride more than just parts of the North 40 hairpin and make the most of my ride. I had to.

I had a degree of seriousness over me as I rode, I was feeling a fed up with learning. Sometimes I really do feel I would do better with having someone along with me, to help motivate me and/or give words of encouragement when it’s just not happening. I realized that I was being given a lesson in coaching myself. I tend to be a perfectionist sometimes and with mountain biking, I have to let go of that thought and just roll with it. Literally.
Down at the base of Rocky Road
I looked at myself and was reminded of how far I’ve progressed in several months learning on my own. I’ve never had a lot of confidence in my ability to learn a skill by myself, but I am obviously able to. I feel I’m learning the hard way, but sometimes that helps certain skills stick better (instead of being taught hands-on.)

Not every ride gives me a feeling of confidence bursting from every pore, and sometimes I really dislike the lessons I learn. Especially when it means I need to give myself a break and just be happy I worked as hard as I did to accomplish partial success.
Either way, it’s all good.