In the interest of being honest and open - and in the same vein of me sharing my first road race half season in Central Park in 2011 - I suppose I should update on the ‘In 2013 I shall learn to ride a mountain bike and add that to my cycling arsenal’ crusade.
Today, I posted the above photo with the caption ‘Yes, I am still terrible at this’ and people commented about how muddy shoes were a sign of a good ride and wondered just how could I say that?
That’s the problem with context. That’s the problem with the sharing of an emotion in the second that you feel it and tying it with a photo that doesn’t really match the sentiment. I wasn’t complaining about the muddy shoes, actually. I was just sitting in the back of the Noodle Rogue and taking off my shoes and thinking ‘crap, I really suck at this’ and wondering if, when people say ‘mountain biking is so much fun!’ well… wondering if they really mean it or that’s just something people say to hide the fact that it’s horrible?
My hand is wrapped in an ice filled swathe of tea towel right now. The injury is not bad. Not really. I’m just feeling sorry for myself and wondering how I somehow managed to bend my pinky finger back in a way that it didn’t appreciate and being thankful for how the ice is numbing the sprain. Feeling guilty about complaining at all, actually, particularly after seeing the photo of Ina yesterday and her road crash. (Heal up Teute!)
But your crashes are your own. And own your booboos you do.
Today was filled with a bit of that ‘never been on this trail before and I’m with people who ride a lot so I better not screw this up’ fear. Bottled up until I smashed it open. I made a booboo. Paid the price. Landed hard. Laughed it off but felt a little embarrassed the rest of the ride. Embarrassment That’s the real mood killer.
But it’s the curse of the beginner brain. Doesn’t apply solely to mountain biking, of course. New road riders on a group ride feel it too. They think: “I’m decreasing the group’s enjoyment of their ride by being so bad at riding my own bicycle”
It doesn’t matter if this is a true statement or not - the beginner feels it. The beginner lets it eat away at them for the whole ride. They become a sad sack. A constant inner-voice cheer squad of ‘I suck. I suck. I suck.’ The beginner beats themselves up. And down. The beginner continually looks for escape routes to get them out of the situation before they ruin it for everybody.
“The thing I love most about mountain biking is also the thing I hate the most about it.”
I said these words to Aaron as we rode back on Skyline. The other three went back for more trails, but we just took the paved road straight back to the cars. He was taking it because he’d broken his bike and didn’t want to risk breaking it more. I was taking it because I’m a chicken.
But. Let me explain.
I love that I suck at this. I hate that I suck at this. It excites me to be 41 years old and feeling the fear of a child to do something. That wonder of the new thing. The untried thing. The thing you don’t know how to do. Flip it. It terrifies me that I’m 41 years old and that I see a drop off a root on a slippery descent and want to stop immediately and be teleported back to my car. The brain leaps straight to sharp hips and pain and skin and broken bones and facial scars. I think of two bad concussions in two years and how I seem to always ALWAYS land on my face.
And then, usually when I lying on the ground, I think… you’re all lying. Mountain biking is fun? Gimme a break. Mountain biking is a brainwash away from a refreshing Koolaid in the Jonestown rotunda. Fun? Please.
That’s not to say I haven’t seen glimpses of it. The section where I body planted in today (not on the face though! Hurrah!) was the only technical section really. Just happened to be early on and made me sullen and ‘feel-like-a-failure’ soaked for the rest of the ride. And I know exactly what I did wrong, and how I’d do it differently next time. I know when (if?) I ever go back to Saratoga Gap, I’ll have a blast. The trails are flowy and wide. Total beginner terrain after that first bit. That first bit.
But I just can’t stop beating myself up right now.
Heidi Swift and I talked about our mutual ‘I suck at this’ brain fail issues at LLL team camp. (I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that). But I feel like she’s taking the bull by the horns more confidently than me, with her mountain races and such. I’m inspired by her continual ‘ave a go!’ (an Australian phrase) mentality and I think we all need people like that to keep us getting out there. But I just wanna know…
Is there ever going to be a switch that magically flips and my heart leaps and my soul soars and I think ‘mountain biking is the toppermost of the poppermost and I’ve never had more fun than this!’?
Because I’m still waiting.
Hey, mountain biking! You have my number, right?