I'd be lying if I said that mountain biking can make me so nervous that I felt like I could cry at the drop of a hat. Or by being bumped the wrong way by a root. Or not being able to make it over something. I'd also be lying if I said that I've never cried on the trails.
Mountain biking is all about pushing yourself to do things you never thought you could do. And many of those things make me super nervous, scared, and frustrated. My first few months of mountain biking were full of amazing accomplishments, which were almost always proceeded by thinking that I was going to die. Well not die, but fall and seriously hurt myself. And that feeling of not being in control was enough to dry out my mouth, make my knees shake, and fill my eyes with tears. But I never let that stop me because deep down I know that the only way to make myself better is to push through what scares me the most. And let me tell you, it's worth it!
My first time crying on the trail was on one of my first rides. There was this little A frame (i.e. a wooden ramp feature that comes to a point at the top so it looks like an A) that my husband Alex wanted me to ride over. After a few run-ups I finally let me front wheel start to go over the A frame, but then I got scared and grabbed my brakes, which resulted in me falling off my bike and landing on my elbow. I tried to hide the tears from Alex and pretend that it was because of my elbow, but it was an accumulation of trying to do something that scared me and failing. I could have called it quits after that and went back to the car, but, after the pain subsided, I got back on my bike and kept riding. Though I didn't clean the A frame that day and I was still shaking from being scared, I didn't let that little fall stop me from continuing on the ride.
A more recent time tears welled up in my eyes was when I tried to hang on Alex's tail for a lap of a trail. (Alex is a faster rider than me, but I almost always ride in front so we can stay together). I was finally ready to take the next step in mountain biking by finding more speed that I knew that I had, but that meant getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to take turns quicker and not grab my brakes as frequently. As a cautious rider, slow turns and brakes were my friends, but taking things easy is no way to get better. So off went Alex and, as I tried to keep up, almost immediately I could feel my mouth dry out, my hands hurt from gripping so hard, and tears welling up because I was getting scared. I tried to ignore all this and focus on smoothing out my ride so I could carry speed and keep up with Alex who was barely pedaling but somehow so much faster. When he asked how I was doing, I hoped my voice cracking didn't give away how scared I was. But if I were to describe a turning point in mountain biking for me, I'd say this ride was it. When my fear finally started to subside towards the end of the ride, so many little things clicked and I could more easily keep up with Alex. To this day, that lap is my fastest yet. (I need to do another one of these laps soon...)
There are so many things to learn by getting out of our comfort zones. I've built up a lot of mental toughness from training for triathlons and marathons, and that attitude of never giving up is essential to becoming a better mountain biker. And thank goodness I have Alex to push me, or I would probably stay in my little protective bubble forever. But those bubbles are so boring. By trying and succeeding at things that scares you, your comfort zone can expand to include so many awesome parts of the trail and speeds you never thought you were capable of!