Mountain Biking is Scary
Mountain biking is scary because there are so many things I could fall on! So many turns and dips and bumps! I’m not the most coordinated person in the world. Or rather, I don’t believe that I’m the most coordinated person in the world, which is pretty much the same thing. But mountain biking also looks really fun, and it seems like a challenge that I could conquer if I just go for it. I also think I tend to want to do things that I’m afraid of because it makes me mad that I’m afraid of something.
The first time I attempted to ride Soaring Eagle at our Beaver Lake swim/mnt bike or swim/run workout, I had never ridden on a trail before. I had only ridden my husband’s mountain bike once, and that was on the paved Sammamish River Trail. I wanted to try it because it looked fun, and I thought it would help me develop better bike handling skills. I made it .6 miles in on the trail at snail’s pace, before I decided 6 miles was not in the cards. I turned around, making my grand total for my first mountain biking expedition at 1.2 terrifying miles!!
This year I was determined to try again. Although I haven’t ridden a lot, I did do some urban mountain biking sessions with LaVonne after last year’s debacle. She had me practice skills like cornering, going up and down small obstacles, climbing and descending. We did most of the sessions at my kids’ grade school, where I totally thought we’d get busted with our 2x4s and cones for tearing up the grounds. But it was perfect because I only had to concentrate on one skill at a time. It broke it down into manageable pieces for me.
I also did my first off-road triathlon at a kinder, gentler off-road park in Richland, Washington. It was a good start for me because it was single track, but it wasn’t single track with rocks and roots and tricky spots EVERYWHERE. There are a few scary (or “fun”) sections, but they are interspersed with easy riding.
Roots, Rocks, and Trees! Oh my!
There are three elements that are a challenge for me on the mountain bike.
Roots and Rocks: There are lots of roots and rocks at Soaring Eagle. Some big, some small. The key for me here is relaxing as I pick my line out in the trail, which means plan which way I’m going to go. It also has taken me some time to get used to absorbing the shock of bouncing over the obstacles. I need to relax my arms more I think. I need to relax, period! I noticed that when I was able to ride through sections much easier if I just chilled out. Part of it is learning how to just let the bike go over while staying balanced.
Turns: LaVonne taught me the technique of swinging wide on the way into the turn and then cutting to the inside on the way out. I don’t know why it works, but it sure does! It is like magic! It was really fun practicing with the cones, and I think it helped me a lot.
Steep Descents and Climbs: The key here is to keep your body weight centered over the crankset. That means getting out and back off the saddle. Practice in a non-stressful environment helped, but I still have more work to do on descents! As far as climbing, it is more a matter of having enough gusto to go fast up the hill. Fast enough to make it up. Aerobically and strength wise I could do it, so it is more of a mental challenge for me to go fast.
I am actually getting better with each element. I can go through simple stuff. However, when more than one element is present, let’s say a root right in the middle of a steep or twisting descent, I totally fall apart.
Level 1 Complete
This time Carrie had a plan for me. She was my own personal escort on this second foray into real mountain biking, and she is always so encouraging and kind. She had a plan for a couple of different options for doing a shorter loop than the other gals.
This time the beginning section didn’t seem quite so evil and sinister, because I remembered all of it. So there is something to be said for pre-riding a course and knowing what to expect! The first time I rode that .6 miles, I felt like Snow White when she’s running through the forest and she believes all the trees are alive and grabbing at her. She finally collapses sobbing in a pathetic little heap. This second time I wasn’t quite feeling like the forest was full of friendly little bird and bunny friends, but I did realize there was nothing at all to be so afraid of. It had all been in my mind.
Carrie said to keep it in an easy gear, and I did. I probably had it too easy, but I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable enough to actually finish the course. So, I need to do the following, in order:
1. Complete a loop, however small.
2. Complete that loop by not getting off my bike except for big things.
3. Complete the loop faster.
Level 1 complete! So that is progress! Getting faster will be a ways off. I’ll have to conquer each challenging section one at a time.
The truth is that although I did worlds better going into Soaring Eagle this second time, I’ve by no means conquered it. There are sections that I should be able to ride, that I didn’t. Oh, and I also did 4.31 miles total in about an hour. Actually it was more than an hour, because that was Carrie’s ride time. She has auto pause set on her Garmin, so that time doesn’t include when she stopped to wait for me. That also included the road ride between Beaver Lake and Soaring Eagle. So, if you’re doing your math boys and girls, that means I could have WALKED it faster than I rode it.
I don’t know if I will ever be any good at mountain biking, but I know for sure I will never get better if I give up!
Mountain Biking is Scary