I spent the better part of Sept and Oct flying around like a maniac doing lots of trips for both business and pleasure. You can see my posts on Costa Rica for some Ultimate 200km filming, I was in LA visiting Ergon, North Carolina visiting DeFeet, Interbike, BC with my bf, and Colorado.
I got some great rides done in October in BC(British Columbia, Canada). After riding in BC this summer, I decided I needed to re-learn how to ride my mountain bike. BC is no joke – the terrain is steep. Sometimes it looks like you’re riding down a cliff. I’ve had the luxury of riding my bike many places in the world, and the east coast of the US is the only comparable place I’ve found to BC. At the Trans-Rockies, it was very apparent where my achilles heel was for Canadian racing. I’d make up minutes on the climbs only to bleed time on the descents. I was frustrated and dreaded the downhills which was not normal for me. I vowed to get better come hell or highwater.
As an endurance athlete, I take great pleasure in seeing high mileage and mega elevation gain from rides. This fall, those numbers have been unimpressive, but I have made enormous gains in my comfort level and speed with BC terrain. I’ve spent 30 minutes at a time trying to session something (for me, that’s a lot of time to stop!) and sometimes gotten nowhere with it. I’ve done 3 hour “rides” that only went 12 miles. I normally don’t get it or even try it on my first try. Here, getting it and trying it are usually one and the same. It takes about 2 or 3 rides.
I threw temper tantrums on the trail and went through the thoughts of “I shouldn’t be allowed to call myself a pro mountain biker if I can’t ride that! Why can’t I just get over my fear and go down it! STOP GRABBING THE BRAKES! I can’t go that fast. I suck. I wish I could keep up. I suck. I’m just not that good. I’ll never be good enough to ride that. Pshh, yeah right. I’m wasting time I could be riding by sessioning and getting nowhere with this. How do you do that? I don’t want to get hurt. I’m going to crash if I try it. I’m a fast downhiller everywhere but here, why can’t I just let it go? I’ll never be good in BC. This isn’t fun. Why am I even trying?! I should quit mountain biking FOREVER(haha)”
Yes, many negative self-defeating thoughts. I’ll say that I will still have those, but I’ve learned how to deal with the negative self talk. Most beneficial has been my boyfriend, Matt and my friends Jen and Peter here in Kelowna, BC. Poor Matt has to watch me rip myself to shreds and say the boyfriend obligatory, “You don’t suck. You are already getting better, etc. etc.” He did laugh at my ridiculous comments which is good that he can laugh instead of get frustrated with me. More importantly, the most useful thing he said to me was, “You need to ride things that are about 25% uncomfortable, not 80% uncomfortable. Your comfort level will continue to grow with the more you do and the better you get.” Then I think, “I just want to be that good NOW.” So, I was doing things at 25% and my comfort level began to grow. I’d stop the negative chatter and say, “You are working on it. You are getting better. You will get this, it just may not be today. You don’t suck.” Learning to look past the initial thing I had to drop down and stare at the trail past the landing was key. It’s just really hard not to look at the thing that’s scary.
I figured out what I was afraid of. I’m not afraid to ride fast or to ride chunky terrain. I’m afraid of the type of steep where you have to give up control for a few moments. When you commit to riding something very steep, you can’t stop and get off the bike. You either make it or you crash horribly. You have to fully commit. I am working on being okay with being temporarily out of control and trusting myself and my bike. The more I do, the easier it gets. I still can’t believe how scary certain things on the trail used to be and now I laugh and enjoy them without any fear. Insert life lesson.
It’s funny how the camera always takes away the steepness perspective. I hate it when I grab the brakes instead of go for it.
It’s been rewarding to see myself make huge gains and to laugh at things I used to walk or be afraid of riding. Riding with my friend Jen has been very helpful. She is a BC native, used to riding off cliff like scary things. When she is there and I watch her ride it, it makes it easier for me too. She inspires me. I ride during the week with Peter, and he shows me what I can aspire to ride. He encourages me to try. He believes in me too. Then we all go back and practice.
The “OH MY GOD, I DID IT!” feeling is so fun. It’s like being a little kid again. I watched a little kid a couple weeks ago who was afraid to jump into the swimming pool. When he finally did, he was so happy and went back to do it again. As an adult, I think we tend to give up easier than little kids.
I am really excited to have something specific to work on. Fitness is something I am always working on, but riding a section of a trail is more measurable than saying, “Well, my power numbers were up today by x% but there was variable x,y,z.” Of course, my trail ninja skills will never be up to par. That’s the great thing about mountain biking – there is always something new to work on – a new skill to groom.
Next, I need to go ride the Stupids at the Crawford Trails. Those are my next conquest. They are called Stupids… because you might be stupid to ride them. Hmmm.. famous last words?
Good to read that you’re still looking for improvements outside of your comfort zone. The energy saving of a good descent will reap more benefits at the end of the day. Good luck with it.
Thank you so much for this blog! This is TOTALLY me….on a much, MUCH lower level, but TOTALLY me. My husband actually sent it to me and said “Hey – this sounds a lot like you.” It makes me so angry when I can’t just make the fear stop and try something, only to walk it (cursing all the way) knowing I could probably have done it if I just hadn’t stopped and unclipped. And I may or may not have thrown my bike on an occasion or two during a temper tantrum. Thank you for illustrating that there’s hope for progress through that. I would hug you for writing this, but you don’t know me so that would be creepy. 🙂 Thank you!
I live in Calgary Alberta and I have been riding or 30 years and thought I could ride ANYTHING.Then I went to Vancouver. My brother who lives on the north shore and took me for a ride and it was like was a beginner again. I was there for two weeks and rode (or walked) many trails. I laughed at your blog post and it brought back many memories. I have reading your blog for many years keep up the great work
I love this post because I can relate to it! I’ve never rode in BC, but can’t wait to get out there and see what that part of the country has to offer. I’ve gotten over my fear of those sections where you just have to give up control and ride it through because you WILL eat shit.
The main reason I switched from being full time runner to mtb’er is because of the challenge. It’s never the same and you always encounter something more thrilling and learn more each ride.