Taking The Fun Away

Photo Credit:
Raina Hatfield
It was September and rain was coming; perfect motivation to get out for a ride. Travis suggested I should take the Trek Cali Carbon SLX out for a ride. After the success of riding Bruno (Krampus) up the hill on North 40 (counter-clockwise) I figured it would be an interesting challenge. Can I make the climb on a bike with smaller tires? The ground would be a little less tacky; would that challenge me more?

It took about three times and I was up the hill! I was stoked! The best way for me to master a new skill is to do it multiple times in a row. It helps to make things "click." 
I went back down the hill and tried again a couple more times and successfully rode up it a second time. I felt pretty proud of myself, so I continued on and rode the rest of North 40.

As soon as I exited the trail, I turned around and rode it in reverse. Now it would be tackling the hairpin turn. I managed to make it yesterday after several attempts, but today would prove to be tough.

I tried, tried, and tried. Spinning out, stalling out, and tipping over myself.

I was not successful. I was becoming angry. Normally I get frustrated when I’m working hard and not accomplishing my goal, but I this time I was becoming irate.

Every other word became an expletive and I felt anger building up inside. I wanted to kick, hit, or throw something. I wanted to quit. I was going to tell Travis to find someone else to ride with, that I was a sham, a failure, and not any good. Why was I not accomplishing this section? I was trying so damn hard, and when you try so damn hard you should succeed.

It was like someone slapped me on the face. How have I succeeded with this spot only to start sucking at it? Why was I failing? How could I call myself a mountain biker if I can’t ride what I came to feel was a “simple” technical area? (Which there were SO many times I did not make that hairpin, so why I let myself feed off of my own misconceptions I do not know.)

I came to a point where I made it past the root, kept pedaling up, until I hit a smaller root wrong and spun out. I was emotionally to a point where I just couldn’t handle it anymore and started to cry. Not really cry, but downright bawl. I just cried and cried and cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. I almost started to hyperventilate and had to encourage myself to pull my act together. Let’s not make myself pass out in the middle of a mountain bike trail; that wouldn’t be positive at all.

After I wiped my tears, I felt peaceful and a sense of calm and acceptance came over me. I was willing to work on the section again, but this time without pent-up anger. I can honestly say, it was likely a culmination of many stressors and I started using my imperfect bike ride to “take them out” on.

I’m stressed because of this and that, all things that right now have a long-term resolution but nothing perceivably “short term.” I hate when I’m not perfect; let’s just use this as a way to punish myself and get mad over all of the things that are scaring me, challenging me, or pushing my limits.

After many more attempts, I eventually got myself over the root and further up the hill (than last time) but my arms were so tired I couldn’t keep my bike straight and I veered too far up the side of the hill. I was disappointed but too worn out to say “Let’s do that again.” I had spent so much time out on the trail trying to accomplish this spot; I wanted to ride more before the rain would come. I did work on the other hill on North 40 one last time before moving on.I accomplished it three times the day prior, I would do it again today, and I did.

The rest of my ride was good and what I needed to re-situate the internal workings of my mind. You could hear the rain and I toyed with the idea of extending my ride, but had a feeling that I should cut and run while the getting was good. I was already soaked with sweat and the call of a hot shower and a cup coffee was strong.

This ride was a hard one for me to take on a personal level and it’s something I have to chalk up to simply being too hard on myself. I started to use an activity that I love as more of a vice or coping mechanism for my stress, however, in a way that fed it more than relieved it.

The bottom line is, when it comes to mountain biking, do not turn it into an activity where it’s only a good ride if you are “successful” with your obstacles. Sometimes you will be challenged and sometimes you will not make it (especially during your first year.)
Word to the wise, don’t be so hard on yourself and take the joy out of simply being out there on your bike. Don’t take the fun out of riding.