Monday, January 11, 2016

A Metaphor for Life

The more I listen to myself talk on the trail while mountain biking, the more I realize I sound like a cross between a fortune cookie and a psychologist. When riding with my friends, we try to encourage each other to go for it when it comes to obstacles and technical trail segments.

Every time we come out of the woods, I come away with the feeling that mountain biking is a metaphor for life. The lessons we teach each other and ourselves about crossing bridges, jumping rocks, and careening over the edge apply to the daily challenges we face, even after we rack our bikes. Below are examples of things I've said on the trail that have given me that ah-hah feeling. I think when you read them, you'll see what I mean.

It's harder when you think about it too much- just go for it!
This is so true when riding. I've gone down trails, having a blast and at a good clip and blazed over obstacles that, when I stop and turn around, look really scary! However, I was so in the moment and enjoying what I was doing that pushing my limits didn't seem out of the ordinary. Had I stopped and over-thought it, I'd have never experienced the fun or found out that if I just tried it, I could do it.

We both chickened out and did the wider route the first try, but she said right away she was going to try again!

Don't look down.
Not just relevant in mountain biking, but in a lot of sports where you're having to suspend your totally rational human fear of steep drop-offs, heights, and the fact that a wrong move could lead to a broken bone. However, it's never failed, when riding a mountain bike, if you keep your eyes focused on where you're going and not where you can fall, the rest flows naturally and you land safely on the other side.
Could I have broken a bone? Sure. Did I? Not this time!

Look where you want to go, focus on that, and that's where you'll go.
I've said this to myself over and over- I am a broad-shouldered woman with wide handlebars. I freak out when the trail passes between two trees! The gap looks so narrow, how in the world will I fit! However, without fail if I keep my eyes on the middle and mentally tell my body and my bike that's where we're going, I glide on through. It's only when I hesitate and second-guess that I end up with bruises. (This happens a lot- I really need to work on my faith in tree-gaps! SO many bruises!)

She took a breath, tried again, and totally killed it!
The uphill battle is worth the downhill ride.
When you get in to endurance sports, "it's all downhill from here" means something totally different. Downhills are blessings- they're breaks for your legs and your lungs, they're fun! But, to get to a downhill run, you have to fight your way uphill. It hurts. It's hard. It makes you think and work and sometimes pray for your sanity to be restored. But then, you get to point your front tire down the slope and enjoy the ride, feeling bad ass the entire way that you totally earned every second of enjoyment you just had. 
Steeper than I thought on the way up, totally worth it on the way down

Don't be scared. You're not scared. Also, you're wearing a helmet.
Some stuff on mountain bikes is scary. If you allow your rational side to think it through, you'd realize that you're kind of being crazy. But comfort zones are for the lazy and rewards come to those who are brave. Not with a lack of fear, but acting in spite of it. So, you tell yourself you're not scared. You tell yourself you're not the only one going through it. And you remind yourself that you paid good money for a good helmet, so should things go awry, at least your most precious assets will be OK.
         This looked a little scary at first because it was so narrow, but it wasn't at all and it was fun!

It's OK to bleed, but just a little.
Sometimes all that mental talk and practice isn't enough and you wreck yourself. You ram a mesquite bush with your shin (done it), punch a tree (done it) or throw your bike in to a pile of limbs, relieved that at least you stayed on your feet. (It doesn't count as a wreck if you stay on your feet!) It's ok to bleed. It's ok to fail, to mess up, to end up a little hard because you pushed your boundaries. But it's only OK to bleed a little, and not OK to mope about it. Brush off, learn your lessons, and try not to do it again (because your health insurance is terrible and you're poor and hate hospitals anyhow). Keep your basic safety and skill levels in mind, and progress at your own speed- you're going to get better if you give it all your heart and remember everything else you've learned. You're not going to get better if you go from green to double black and break your legs. Riding is done FOR you and for your own enjoyment. Push yourself, but stay safe.

Of course, it's always more fun with friends.
This one doesn't even take effort to see how it translates to real life! Everything is more fun done with the support and love of amazing friends who are there to push you and encourage you to not sell yourself short. I'm lucky to have a few of these myself, and treasure each and every time we get to share the trails!

I'm waiting on the fortune cookie company offers to roll in any minute now......

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