Sometimes I wonder…

I go mountain biking nearly every weekend these days. We’ve been riding the same trail lately; Burnaby mountain’s Nicole’s trail. It’s a steady ride up that had us first walking and wheezing, and now riding more than we walk. The change there has been great. And the ride back down the mountain on Nicole’s is starting to almost feel like something I can do.

There are some days, though, where things just don’t go right, and my confidence is shot from the start of the ride down. I hate those days. They make my head hurt and make me want to quit entirely.

Here’s the thing: I really do enjoy mountain biking. Initially, I started it because I wanted to get more active, and because Adam wanted to do it and I wanted to spend time with him. It grew on me and became something that I do for fun myself. I’ve gone to courses and weekend clinics to learn skills, and I’ve ridden on plenty of occasions without him, so it’s gone beyond something I do just to impress my man. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a challenge.

I don’t generally like challenges, or at least historically I haven’t. If something wasn’t immediately easy, I would give it up and just say it wasn’t meant to be something that I did. If I couldn’t be super-amazing-awesome, I didn’t want to even try. In the past ten years I’ve realized this, acknowledged it, and made a decision to change that part of me. Fact is, everything isn’t easy, and I am not going to be the best at everything I try.

Some days with the mountain biking I’m riding and the flow is there, I’m feeling right and confident and comfortable atop my bike, trusting that I know what I’m doing and if I fall I’m not really likely to hurt myself. Those are good days.

Some days I keep riding out of sheer stubbornness. I look down the trail and stare at the one thing I shouldn’t hit (rock, tree, root, whatever) and slam into exactly that, I slide sidways and think the bike’s heading downslope without me, I stop dead at every turn, structure, root, rock, drop, or random obstacle.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that I’m afraid of heights? They make me queasy, they make my head spin and they make me feel like I’m falling even when I’m standing still. So imagine, if you will, standing up on the pedals of a bike looking down a steep slope with 1 foot drop-offs that you have to ride over while facing downward. It’s a little like standing on a mild cliff, except that you’re on wheels and you have to roll over the cliff willingly.

There are some days that I can’t get past that fear. I look at the cliff that’s not really a cliff and my rational brain shuts off and the terrified one takes over. I see myself falling down head first, or slipping off the side of the trail where the real cliff is, tumbling to a frightning doom. Or I don’t even see it, I just feel queasy, and my head spins and I have to stop because I’m not really in control anymore.

I will sit at the top of a steep section that has me staring down at it, and I will tell myself that it’s all in my head and I’ve ridden this before, that I know how to do this, that even if I do fall I’m not moving fast enough to hurt myself beyond fast-healing bruises.

When that doesn’t help, I will sit there and berate myself for not being good enough, strong enough, stubborn enough to get past the stupid fear and just ride.

When that (obviously) doesn’t help, I will sit there and stare at the slope ahead of me blankly, wishing it would flatten out.

When that still doesn’t help, I will usually want to cry. Sometimes I do cry, and I wonder why the hell I thought I liked this whole mountain biking thing in the first place. Usually, though, I get off the bike and walk it down to an area that isn’t so steep, and isn’t so scary, and then I get back on and try it all over again.

Sometimes I can get the groove back, find the line, ride like I know I can ride. Sometimes the same thing happens when I hit a steep section and I stop and walk again.

I always manage to end up at the bottom, though. And the next week I go back out to ride again. I’m either crazy, stubborn, or I just like mountain biking.


  • mishamish

    March 7, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Damn, I know *EXACTLY* what you’re talking about. Not about mountain biking, obviously, since I don’t mountain bike, but the feeling. Time was, my response those moments sitting at the top would be “Screw it, do it anyway,” but I have atleast learned in more recent years that that’s not really the answer. There’s a fine line to walk between challenging yourself and taking it easy on yourself.

    Of course, I have NO idea what that line IS. If I did, though, I probably wouldn’t have as much time on LJ to tell people about it. 😛

    • Jenny Lee Silver

      March 8, 2007 at 5:57 am

      I think we must all have these things, although sometimes I wonder – some people don’t seem to be afraid of anything. Is that because they only do things that don’t scare them, or because they hide it really well, or because they’re really not scared of anything and are thus inhuman?

      I dont’ really know. Just pondering.

      • mishamish

        March 8, 2007 at 12:26 pm

        I think it’s a combination of all of those, with weight going heavily to the first two. And of the second, there are a million-and-one shades of reason behind it. Some people don’t “hide it” so much as it just doesn’t show. Some hide it for Macho or macha or just because showing fear is a vulnerability they don’t want to risk. Some because they feel that showing fear might burden those around them with their own obvious emotions. Some are all or any of these, depending on time and circumstances. Some hide their fear from THEMSELVES, and therefore CAN’T show it to anyone else.

        As for not being afraid of anything? I wouldn’t call that inhuman… I’d just call it “foolish as hell.” 😀

  • Anonymous

    March 7, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    what she’s not telling you

    What our little miss Humble is leaving out is that the trails she’s riding on, Vancouver’s North Shore and it’s environs, are some of the most steep, technical, and challenging trails in the world (picture a 40-45 degree slope full of large roots, rocks, trees and man-made structures including many 1-3 foot drops). The fact that she even rides them a good deal of the time is something to be proud of in and of itself!

  • lowkey

    March 7, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    So, what you’re telling me is *sometimes* you have the same response 95% of this world would have when they see that? I’d be concerned if you got to the point where you were fearless when mtn biking is concerned. You always have good/bad days. I tried biking when I was just getting over a nasty virus. I wiped out on a completely flat 90degree turn. My wife was shocked that I crashed, let alone crashed on an easy turn. Some days you just shouldn’t be biking. =)

    On a different note, isn’t it raining there pretty often this time of the year? Do you just bike through the rain? Around here, there are actually people on the trails when they’re wet telling people to NOT ride, because erosion is accelerated if you ride when the trails are wet.

    • Jenny Lee Silver

      March 8, 2007 at 3:24 am

      We don’t ride when it’s raining – we’ve been fortunate for the past two months to have quite a few weekends with at least one non-raining day. I don’t ride in the rain because of the erosion, and because roots get damn slippery when they’re wet. They’ll kill ya.

  • haveyaseenlucky

    March 7, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    I enjoyed reading this.

    • Jenny Lee Silver

      March 8, 2007 at 5:54 am

      Thank you. It’s good to know that it’s read.