Sunday, October 21, 2018

Trailside proposal

A year ago tomorrow was one of the most magical and special days of my life. To celebrate our engagement anniversary (and since it's obviously mountain bike related), I wanted to share our story:

The week leading up to the big question, Alex had been looking up new places to go mountain biking. I was definitely up for an adventure, but was a little surprised he wanted to go somewhere far because we were still getting to know the trails right around us. But little did I know that he wanted to pick somewhere beautiful to propose! We finally decided on Harbison State Forest, just outside Columbia, SC, only an hour and 45 minutes away. It looked like there might actually be some elevation change for us to play on! And maybe a beautiful river by a trail...

There was one trail there we definitely want to hit, Spider Woman II, their most challenging trail. Alex took off first and I slowly picked my way over what seemed like an endless amount of things I couldn't clean. It was a lot of slow going hike-a-biking for me and I was getting frustrated with myself. About halfway through the trail, we saw a river close by with some rocks in the middle. It was such a beautiful spot that I wanted to go get a picture of us out there. Alex wanted to go explore too, but for an even better reason.

We left our bikes on the bank and Alex easily bounded out to the biggest rock, while I slowly clamored out to meet him (with my helmet still on for some reason). When I finally made it out to him, he was bent down on one knee! It was such a perfect proposal! The mountain biking, the beautiful scenery, and the most amazing guy in the world! Of course I said yes!

The rest of the ride was a blur of happiness. Even though I had to walk over lots of parts of the trail, a smile was glued on my face. Now every time we pass our engagement rocks, we say hi to them, though usually the river is too high to get out to them. Alex hadn't even planned to propose there. He was originally thinking by "The Bluffs", but when we checked that out later, it was a pretty boring spot. Everything just worked out so perfectly!

Side story about the ring: My mom's good friend Karina is a jeweler and she's made lots of beautiful jewelry for us over the years. My parents told me that if anyone was going to make my ring, it better be her. I agreed so I told Alex about her and he sent her an email, unbeknownst to me. Karina was so surprised and happy and of said that she'd make the ring for us. Alex and I had gone to look at rings a while ago and he knew I wanted something simple and not too flashy (more like a wedding band than a typical wedding ring). So he told all this to Karina and she met my mom for lunch a few days later and they drew out ideas on napkins and sent them to Alex to look at. Such a cute process! Fast forward a few months and we were in Boston visiting family. We went out to lunch with Alex's sister and our little niece in a little indoor mall building. As we were leaving, I was looking at the names of all the stores and noticed that Karina's store was there! I just had to say hi. Meanwhile Alex is kinda freaking out because he had picked up the ring the day before and didn't want Karina to give it away since he wasn't going to propose for another month. When we found her store (with no help from Alex), the first thing she said to us was "Congratulations on the engagement!" but with Alex shaking his head behind me she quickly changed that to "Congrats on your Master's!" (because I had just defended). Luckily, I was somehow oblivious to this whole exchange and just really happy to see Karina. After Alex proposed to me, he told me how Karina felt so bad about almost ruining the surprise. So funny! Long story short, my ring was designed and created with so much love from Karina, my mom, and Alex. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect and beautiful ring. They all did such an amazing job.

Lunchtime ring sketches.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Shut up brain!

My brain is my biggest obstacle on the trail. I think I could be a much better rider if it would just shut up every once in a while and let me ride without constantly reminding me how scary and dangerous everything seems. Because usually it's not really that scary or dangerous, and I have the ability to do it. My brain is like an overprotective parent, but, come on, can't it just let me ride free and without worry??

Controlling your brain is almost as important as controlling your bike if you want to get better and ride more technical trails. I can't expect to get better if I constantly get off my bike and walk the sections that scare me. This isn't so much about learning to conquer your fears, but to silence your doubts. It's good to have a little bit of fear. That keeps us safe, but it's inhibiting to have so much self doubt floating around in your noggin. And it can be paralyzing. I can't tell you how many times I look at some trail feature and I'm like "Oh, that looks doable" and then I ride up to it with the full intention of doing it, but at the last second I find my hands grabbing my brakes and bringing me to a stop. I really want to do the harder stuff but my brain just locks up my body, and then I start to lose my motivation as the doubts pile up.

Getting up this little step and over the bridge took such a mental effort! It may look small in the picture, but it looked huge in my head. Look at the bottom for me actually making it over!

But just like practicing your mountain biking skills, it's good to also practice your mental skills of shutting up your overprotective brain. Here's some ways that have helped me find some quiet and confidence:

Find a cheerleader

Alex is a great balance for my overactive brain because he believes in me more than I believe in myself. The things I struggle with are a breeze for him (a note from Alex: This is only because I've spent countless hours struggling with them already), so he can show me the best way to ride something. He encourages me to ride the scary stuff and shows me how to best get through it.

Visualize yourself succeeding

This one really helps me take back control and go for it. One of my biggest challenges is that I don't feel like I have the right movements and balance for whatever obstacle I'm trying to tackle. But in reality I can do it. So if I just take a second to visualize myself succeeding (so cliche I know), then I'll feel more confident. It's not just about picturing yourself doing it, but feeling yourself doing it. And then go do it!

Repeat a little saying

Mine is "Pedal, pedal, pedal! No brakes!". It reminds me to come in with speed and don't stop. You're more than welcome to use that one or come up with your own. It helps me when Alex yells this at me while I'm attempting something for an extra reminder.

Breathe and don't think so much

This is probably one of the most helpful tips, and the one I need to remember to do more often. If I can calm myself down, take a few deep breaths, and just go for it without thinking so much about every little thing that could go wrong... Then bam! it's done and I'm past the obstacle. If you can get your brain out of the way and let your body and bike take over, then they'll know what to do out of habit and it'll be fine. Trust yourself (because you're awesome and you can do it!).

Hope these little tips help! They did for me making it over that little bridge:

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