Sorry for the profanity. How many times have you been dealing with self-defeating thoughts lately?
This last weekend, I got talked into racing my first Enduro mountain bike race at Spider Mountain. For women, there were three categories to enter in. Beginner, Amateur/Expert or Pro. Being that I’m not a beginner (to racing only) and not a pro, there was only the Amateur/Expert category to enter into. This is unlike the last race I entered that had more options, including age categories.
Entering the Amateur/Expert class meant that I (a 40-something) female was going to be competing against ladies who were in their 20’s and 30’s. This already started the intimidation factor and the self-defeating thoughts. I usually wrap my head around my thoughts, knowing that it doesn’t do me any good to think negatively. I started working on thinking about my strategies of finishing. The terrain was a new bike park near Burnet, Texas and I had never even seen the trails.
As I arrived into camp and my buddy was rushed me to get out on the trails to pre-ride. I had just spent the last two hours driving up from San Antonio and was a little anxious to start. I rushed to get my bike gear on and we were off. At the top, we met up with other women and men who were going to scout the hardest of the 3 trails or lines that I would need to learn for the next day. I was already overwhelmed, and as I met up with all these people ready to drop the hardest line, I was overcome with fear. My riding skills went down, and I felt like a complete beginner. This route was rated a black and an expert line, with slanted trails and large rock drops. Not something I wanted to hit without a warm up lap or with many other people around.
As tears started to well up in my eyes, I fought like heck to hide them. I knew 100% that I could ride all of that trail, and still do believe I could ride it cleanly. However, there was one drop that is approximately as tall as me (5’6) that looked intimidating, and I could not ride it on my bike with my mind where it was. Myself and a few other girls were discussing dropping to the beginner category so we would not have to run that route on a race. We scouted and considered riding it many times, until we all dropped our bikes and slid down instead of riding it.
That evening, after I had done a few more laps, my buddy calmly stated “What would you tell someone whom you’d be working with Di?” Knowing they were right, I put my head down and decided to go for it; I would stick to the class I was in. Worst case scenario was that I eat it, walk down that section and be on my way. Right?! I dreamed about that stupid drop all night, then woke up around 4:30am still thinking about that bloody section of trail and how I was going to get around that bit during the race.
Yesterday morning at the pre-race meeting, I met up with some fellow women riders and we became immediate friends, which turned into an awesome support team. The two women took me under their wing, and we were off up the hill. This particular race had 4 routes down and depending on the class you had to ride 3 lines 2 times. Our class had to ride one black, blue and green line meaning difficult, moderate and easy. Our strategy was to ride the green to start, get the lead out, then ride the black to get it out of the way, back to green, then black and then blue for the last two. Our plan was working well. Although at the top waiting to ride the black line called Black Sabbath, Maga and I were discussing our anxiety about riding this trail. She was downplaying her abilities and mentioning that she didn’t think she could do it cleanly. I mentioned to her that she needed to tell herself “change your fear into focus”- you know what you have to do, and think only about that. Don’t think about the what if’s, as that will screw you up more.
As I was trying to lift the spirits of my new friend up before her run, I was also secretly lifting myself up, as I was scared to pieces. Then it was my turn to go; as I dropped I took a couple deep breaths and focused on what I needed to do. I still didn’t ride that crazy five plus foot drop, but rode the rest and blew out of the last corner, but otherwise landed at the finish with no injuries and a successful run. Both Maga and I were successful and feeling good. Back up to the green that was a breeze on the way down.
Just as we finished the green trail, the heavens opened up and dropped heaps of rain on us. My whole being went numb. Not only did we have to ride Black Sabbath one more time, now we had to do it after it just dumped buckets of water on the trail. My thoughts went something like this: “Now Di, time to woman up and do this run while it’s wet and muddy, tough mudder mountain bike style.” My heart was heavy, and I wanted to walk away around a gazillion times up until that point. Something kept pushing me to keep going. Probably my staunch stubborn German background of never give up? I’m pretty sure it was my fellow lady comrades who also kept going, pushing for a finish that kept me going. If she’s doing, so am I!
I wish I could say that the second time down Black Sabbath was a dream and I landed everything beautifully despite the mud. Not the case people. I was a shit show coming down, my tires had so much mud, that I was slipping off the trail at times, and couldn’t even walk down at point without sliding. There was a bail out point about a third of the way down. I did approximately three 360 circles like a dog chasing his tail. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need to finish that bottom section, it would be ok, the worst was to come and I didn’t want to get hurt, it wasn’t worth it. Until, I just said, F*&% it and went for it.
I continued my walk/ride down the rest of the trail. I was a mud soaked wreck at the bottom. That five plus foot drop was a mess and I made it to the bottom in one piece. After washing my bike off, I rode back up and rode the blue line nice and clean. While waiting in line for what would be my last run of the day, my buddy Kyle came along and said “oh hey D, you’re still alive?!” By that time, it was rumored that around 60 people did not finish the race due to the wet muddy conditions. I’m still waiting for the final results to see how I did against the other women, but one thing I do know: I finished my first Enduro race. I never thought that I would even race in one, much less finish one of this caliber with wet trail conditions.
Determination, resilience, and having a community of sisters will make you successful every time. The effect women have on each other when times get tough is magical. I hope that you come and join us on a VIP adventure in the near future to witness and participate in this magic. Don’t let fear hold you back, turn it to focus!
Want to learn the basics of mountain biking and possibly some of the terminology used in this post then click here and here. Stayed tuned for beginner mountain biking events coming soon.
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