AS I mentioned in my previous post, I did pretty well on the piccolo (15 mile) route at Gran Fondo Hincapie last month. I wavered between to 15 and 50 mile routes, and while I wish I had done the 50, sometimes doing well can help. It boosts your confidence, encourages you and helps you from psyching yourself out on future rides. But the flip side of accomplishment is the fact that it leaves you without much to work towards. Enter Dupont Mountain outside Brevard, NC.
Home to some of the most extensive MTB trails in the country, Brevard is THE place to be if you’re a mountain biker. Which I have always considered myself to be. I grew up on a mountain bike, rode all the county roads and some of our newer singletrack trails with it. On October 26, my friend, we will call him Vegas, and I got up crazy early and headed out of Greenville to do some biking.
Our first stop was The Hub to rent some bikes. Amazing place, great knowledgeable staff and killer rental bike selection. I landed on a full suspension Santa Cruz Bronson, Vegas on a Scott Spark hardtail. The staff gave us some great recommendations for trails on Dupont Mountain, and we were off, after a quick stop for some amazing breakfast at what seemed to be the only establishment open on a Sunday morning in downtown Brevard.
As we hit the base of the mountain, on our left was an incredible mountain bike track, which we learned later was the “Bike Farm”, built by Oscar Blues Brewing and the site of the Red Bull Dreamline 2014. We pulled up to the parking area for the Corn Mill Shoals area of the mountain, geared up, and we were off.
First off, I have never ridden full suspension before, and after months on a stiff road bike, the float was a hard adjustment to make. Add to that the fact that I used my road bike shoes and cleats, and I had 2 pretty big strikes against me to start the day. We started up right up a pretty vigorous climb, which locals had promised would be worth it when we saw the view from the top. This was true, although my bruised and scraped legs may beg to differ. This was the site of my first ever fall off a bike, about 1/4 mile into the ride.
What a shock it was to my system, and my ego, to land against the dirt and leaves on the forest floor. The air went out of my lungs, and I sat there taking in what had happened. I WASN’T good at his. What? I had taken to road biking pretty easily, had even been told I was a “natural cyclist”, had ridden a mountain bike since I was 5. I was determined to shake it off, continue on, not hold up my friend (who I discovered was a much better mountain biker than he had let on) or ruin the day we had planned of exploring this cool spot.
Two or three falls and dismounts later, I hiked my bike over the last of the slick rock to the top of the hill. There I found my (incredibly patient) friend chatting with some other cyclists. They were gracious enough to snap a few photos of us with our sweet bikes at the top, and went on their way. From there, there were 2 descents, one longer than the other. I opted for the shorter one, while Joe rode down the longer more challenging route. I took my time, got comfortable with the bike and how my weight was balanced, and headed down solo. By myself, I began to get into the feel of the descent, allowing my body to adjsut as needed without overthinking it. And although I was slow coming down, I felt good about where I was at. WE spent some time riding through the lower forest floor, trees hanging over our heads and leaves softly floating to the ground, with sun coming through between the branches. It was a perfect fall day.
We took one last loop, which required hiking with our bikes around some pretty technical spots. My legs burned and screamed as I slid back on my cleats, losing distance and momentum with every step. About 2/3 of the way up, I gave in and gave up. I had to admit that I could not do it. It wasn’t something I could mentally change, my body was saying no. I stood on the side of the trail, drenched in sweat and frustration, and had to say the words I dread, “I can’t go any further.”
I looked up to see my friend’s face, expecting to see the look of disappointment I was dreading, but all I saw was a look of patience and understanding. I told him to finish the loop, and I would meet him at the bottom. I could see the push and pull within him, the desire to ride on and finish what promised to be an amazing loop, or stick with me, as it had become obvious I was trying to ride WAY above my skill set. I immediately reassured him I could make it back unaccompanied, and that he should finish this last ride before we had to speed to the airport to make his flight. He agreed and biked forward, and I began my defeated return on the path that had just bested me, both physically and mentally.
After a final, and brutal, fall, I made it back down and we headed back in a mad dash to the car. As we drove back, I struggled to explain what I considered to be one of my most epic fails at cycling. And finally, I had to concede, I am not good at this. And sometimes that is ok. What fun would life be without a challenge, without a push? Do we truly enjoy things that come to us without trying?
This is where we all have a fork in the road. At many points in our life, we have to come to this point at things we do. And the actions we take from this point is what defines us. Some of us will accept the challenge in front of us, and let it motivate us to learn more, practice harder, push ourselves to excel. Others throw in the towel and move on. I opted for the former. I enlisted help from some good friends with some great MTB skills, and am linig up times to work with them on the skills I need to master this. Do I expect to be the best? No. But I want to be My best. And it won’t happen right away. It will be a struggle, it will take time, and there will be times I will feel it will never come to me and I should just stick to what I’m good at. But I won’t let this stop me. And here is why:
I recently read a blog that made the claim “The Way we do Anything is the Way we do Everything .” And there is a lot of truth behind this. The drive you use in everyday things is the same drive and focus you will use in all aspects of your life: athletically, work wise, in relationships and parenting. Since I have started pushing myself and setting cycling goals, I have changed the way I do everything. The structure I have put in place has spread to other parts of my life. I have altered the way I do things for the better, and have my training to thank for it.
We all read about “Life Hacks” on almost every site and blog we visit. I encourage you to try this simple Life Hack: add cycling to your life and see where it takes you. And enjoy the ride!