“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.”
― Richie Norton
I did something completely crazy this weekend. Yes, I signed up for the Full Distance at Cedar Point next September (140.6 miles of AWESOMENESS!!!!) No, that it not the crazy thing a did… although, okay that was sort of looney too. The actual insanity involved taking my mountain bike out on the trails for my SECOND. TIME. EVER. ANNNNNDDD I went all by myself. (I told you: insane!)
The first time I took my mountain bike out was after the hubs bought it for me. We did a short ride, including a few trails. I was absolutely terrified for my life the entire time. I may have cried… a lot. It was ugly. All I could do was picture being horribly maimed as I careened out of control. (In reality, I was probably doing less than 5 mph.) After the experience of feeling utterly defeated and disappointed in myself, I only took it out on the roads… That is until I invested in the road bike. It’s been sitting in the garage ever since.
The thing is, I am still a HUGE chicken when it comes to cycling. I HATE riding alone, so I don’t go enough. My handling still stinks and I have zero (as in zilch, zippo) confidence on the bike. However, eventually after actually careening almost 40 mph while contending with irritable and negligent motorists, hitting the trails didn’t seem so dangerous. In fact, I decided I actually might be better off taking my chances with the trees. After all, at least they are stationery.
Plus, I found a 50 miler I want to do in January, and I figured combining a ride with a run would be a great way to kill two bird with one stone. I would ride my mountain for an hour on the trails and then run for an hour after. Not only would I have a chance to work on my handling skills and getting comfortable on the bike, but I also would start my run on fatigued legs foregoing the need for a high mileage run. Win-Win!
So I bundled myself up for the cozy sub freezing temps and headed to my favorite trails. I decided to warm up on some paved paths and then in a field. It took a little getting used to, but within a few minutes I was managing the gears without much thinking. Surprisingly, I was completely taken back by how much fun I was having. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, and I had most of the park to myself. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on!
Because I was feeling brave (something that almost never happens to me on a bike) I decided to try out the cyclocross cross that had been set up for a competition the following day. Other than a little difficulty with some tight turns and abrupt climbs, I felt fairly comfortable; so I set my sights on something more challenging. In the spirit of living dangerously, I started with some of the flatter trails and then decided to really test myself on my favorite running routes. I was completely shocked by how comfortable I felt even on the more technical terrain. I was by no means moving quickly, but I also was doing a pretty respectable job at keep my bike upright and navigating turns. I couldn’t believe what a difference all the time on my road bike had made in handling ability. I was even able to ride the steep downhills without any fear or hesitation!
Perhaps the most remarkable part was just how much FUN it was. I truly loved every second of it. I never would have imagined feeling so comfortable or at home on a bike. Furthermore, not in a million years would I have guessed that I would be more at ease on a mountain bike than a road bike… but then the trails have always been my sanctuary.
The whole experience was completely exhilarating. It was as if I suddenly became aware of a little reserve of toughness that had previously been untapped and a whole world of possibility was opened up by one short ride.
It was a terrific reminder for me of just how far I’ve come with the bike and in general. It’s been so long since I’ve had any big gains in my training that sometimes I forget I’m still making progress. Then all of a sudden there’s an “AHA!” moment, and I have a whole new perspective.
The whole experience was an important reminder about why it’s so important to keep doing the things that frighten me. It’s breaking through that fear that brings the greatest reward. The greatest joy in life isn’t doing what other people think you can’t, it’s doing things you think you can’t and never could.
This weekend I surprised myself, and it made me feel better than I have in a long time. I felt growth, and it made me hungry for more. That is why I am committing myself to not be inhibited by fear, and instead chase it down. Who’s with me?