Things have been a little dreary around here, haven’t they? Let’s lighten the mood a bit.
I recently read the following quote: “When you stop doing things for fun and passion, you stop living and you start merely existing. ” That hit home — the running and biking were fine, I enjoyed them, but somewhere along the line, I had lost the passion for them that I once had.
During the mess of the last few months, though, I’ve found myself a new love: mountain biking. Whodda thunk it?
Serendipity played a role: a new triathlete friend (amazing how I have these when I have done exactly 1 triathlon in the last 4 years) mentioned a women’s mountain biking clinic she was going to down at Brown County State Park in Indiana. Like a dutiful friend, I followed the Facebook link and was immediately in love with the idea.
So, I knew I wanted something new to try and this was the perfect opportunity. My biggest barrier to trying out the sport — not owning a mountain bike — was a non-issue because they would have free rentals on site!
On the first morning, I gathered with my group — the Intro to MTB class — and explained that while I biked frequently, that I had never once been on a mountain bike. The instructors assured me that this wouldn’t be a problem, but as we went around the circle, everyone else had at least a little bit of experience. I was nervous, though as it turns out, there was no need.
I got my shiny rental bike and felt immediately at home. We learned the basics of handling: how to lean in and out of turns, how to take uphills and downhills, front lifts and back lifts. And it was like a language that I didn’t know that I knew, but that I was already fluent in, if that makes any sense. I didn’t know any of the terms they were using, but as they explained the skill, my brain was, like, “DUH”. Seemed like common sense to me.
As we headed out to the trails for the first time, one of the instructors took me aside and told me that my skills were “ridiculous” for a beginning and that I was a natural. Of course – now I was jinxed, right? Hee.
But once we got into the trees, we were flying along and I can’t even remember the last time I felt that free and reckless and like I was a kid again. Mountain biking is this complete adrenalin rush: you’re riding along these narrow single-track trails, picking up some major speed, not always able to see around the next corner. Next to you might be a ravine that goes nothing but down. On the other side might be trees or a hillside or another ravine. This isn’t your everyday walk in the park.
It feels dangerous — like with every pedal stroke you might be tempting fate. And that feeling is so addictive; I knew within 5 minutes of being in the forest that this was a sport that I wanted to spend much more time experiencing. I like taking chances and pushing myself a little further and harder than I thank I can. I used to get that rush from triathlon racing, but now I’ve got something new.
For the first time in longer than I can remember, I let go. Completely, utterly dove into the experience. I was there in the moment, nothing in my head but the thrill of the trail and how I was going to take the next obstacle. It didn’t matter that I was struggling in the rest of my life, being on the bike was all that I cared about.
It was heaven. Heaven on wheels.