A Tale of Two Rides- Inspiration Found and Gained

It was Sunday, October 2nd and I was lucky to have the company of Katrina along for my FWD ride. Due to circumstance, it was going to be just the two of us for our ride on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Katrina was kind and asked if I was still up for having the ride, even tho we didn't have a larger group.  Of course! 

Any opportunity I have to take out a new rider is a good one!

Katrina was a blast to ride with and it was truly inspiring to watch this woman tackle her fears. When we reached IPT she asked if she should lead or if I wanted to. I can't tell you how stoked I was to hear the option. I told Katrina it would be fabulous if she led because then I knew without a doubt, I'd be riding at her pace and comfort level.

From first-hand experience, it's nice to have someone ride behind to observe techniques. You can make note if the new rider is getting up off the seat when they need to, when they aren't keeping their feet level on the pedals, etc. When you're in front of them you have no way of knowing what they are or aren't doing. As a new rider, I had found myself messing up more when I followed Travis too closely. I wouldn't see something coming up that I needed to burst over, I couldn't see ahead, I would only be seeing Travis. Having a new rider go first also helps them with learning how to navigate the local trails. You get more familiar with the surroundings and directions and you get to see first-hand what is coming up.

Katrina is such an inspiring woman- she took up riding off road more frequently and even purchased a new mountain bike this year so she could have a better experience riding with her son. 
What a cool mom!
It was wonderful to spend time with Katrina on the trails; it was a great reminder as to why I feel so passionate about helping women get more comfortable with the challenges the trails have to offer. I've been there not too long ago, in fact- I'm STILL THERE. Maybe not on our trails per-say, but on trails I haven't ridden before? Yes. I'm the slow rider who is cautious about every turn and corner. I struggled over rocks and roots and I still find myself walking spots that I'm not comfortable with. It's okay to admit that you aren't ready for something, and I felt grateful that Katrina was so open during our ride.

Monday came around and I had thrown out that I was going to be riding that afternoon for my birthday. Gunnar, a phenomenal rider joined us for the afternoon. He has ridden for years and I view him as a local legend. When you hear that he has paid you a compliment about how well you had done during Time Trials, you darn well better feel flattered!
Gunnar has the capability of riding fast for a consistent period of time. I wish I could be that zippy on the bike for long periods of time. Maybe in another five years?! Travis said that it was my birthday, so I should be the one to lead. Great. The sense of pressure grew as I felt I had to figure out some sort of route that would be entertaining.

I was playing all of the worrisome comments in my head that perhaps people play when they think about riding with me. (Replace "She" with "He") "She's so fast, I won't be able to keep up, I'm not a good rider, What if I mess up? What if I can't make something? Will she think less of me?
I'm not sure if those are thoughts folks have when they think about riding with me- but those were thoughts I wondered when it came to riding with Gunnar and when it comes to riding with anyone whom I deem a higher skill level.

Thoughts that need not be thought. 

The ride was great! Sure, I did almost wipe out a couple times because I took corners too sharp, but that didn't stop me from riding a steady clip. I also went out of my usual route and made up a ride that had only one double back. I made myself string up trails differently, I made climbs I wondered if I would make, and I rode as well as I could- really only having to put a foot down once to save myself from eating dirt.

Guess what? Gunnar had a fun time.
Gunnar rides by himself almost all the time.
I ride by MYSELF almost all the time.
I had a wonderful time!

We both appreciated having company, and he appreciated doing something different than the usual set of trails. I found myself thinking outside my box and whipping up a ride that was different from my usual set of trails, thus giving me ideas for some future group rides!

When it was all said and done, I had the highest average on my Procaliber to date! I was excited about because I've found that Watson, the Procal, is somewhat of a hard bike to ride. By hard I mean- I don't have plus-sized tires nor full suspension...it's a bike that really tests my technical handling skills- to do what I did for my ride that day...super awesome! It was also a treat to go home and share a birthday beer with Gunnar. It was one of the times where I came away kind of feeling like a rock star.

So what did I learn?
A reminder that we may all, at times, have insecurities with riding with someone who is above our skill level. Riding with Gunnar was such a positive experience- there was no judgement, rather appreciation for company and being able to enjoy mountain biking on a beautiful day.

He (and Travis) are (in my mind) superior riders to me, but that doesn't mean that they enjoy the ride any less because I led it.

This also means when I have the opportunity to ride with new riders or those who are just less experienced- the same thing applies. I'm out there to ride with you, not against you. I spend so many rides alone, it's great to have company! Not only that, one may have a set of trails that they enjoy doing that is different than my usual loop. I enjoy seeing how other folks tie trails together, otherwise I'm almost always stuck in my rut.

It's inspiring to watch people overcome their own worries and insecurities out on the trails. It reminds me that I, too, have goals yet to accomplish- and maybe we can reach them together!