On Mountain Biking + Being Humbled
By Dana Waggener
climbing 2-3 days a week, run 2-3 days a week, go to yoga, and complete weight training sessions on a regular basis. I train indoors to reach my goals for climbing, running, and skiing. Staying fit and adventuring outdoors are two of my greatest passions.
I met several personal goals this year with hard work and sharp mental game, like sending my
first 5.12 sport climb (12b!) and hiking to ski out-of bounds-terrain (I like to call it slack-country). When I’m on my game I’m focused, I’m trying hard, and I’m having fun.
However, all this hard work, adventuring, and goal achievement can make anyone a little overly confident. I was feeling pretty pumped about my progress this year in climbing and skiing. Then for Independence Day weekend, I decided to take a trip to Crested Butte to try my hand (legs) at some mountain biking….
Three days and a few hours of mountain biking later = crushed ego
I borrowed a bike from a great climber girlfriend of mine. The bike was fine for what I wanted to do—just try out a few trails. She even let me borrow her fancy cycling shoes–you know, the type they call clipless but are not actually clipless, because you do have to clip into and out of them to mount or dismount the bicycle.
We set up camp just a short mile uphill from some beautiful biking trails and decided to dive right in and try it out! I was excited. In the days prior to our trip I had envisioned myself riding sweet single-track, crushing the trail, wind whipping through my hair, legs burning and successfully dominating all the hill climbs and fearlessly bombing-down all the descents.
And then, we actually went mountain biking….
Dream sequence of beautiful, bad-ass cycling-chick OVER.
The trail that was just a short jaunt down the hill from our campsite was a “green” trail, meaning it’s the easiest trail that’s not a paved cycling path. To say I struggled would be more than generous. I was a total mess, especially with clipping into and out of the clipless pedals. We pedaled up a short hill and approached another party–remember, this is single-track, so it was us or them. Someone had to get out of the way. I tried my hardest to approach slowly, un-clip from one pedal and then the other pedal, but I just couldn’t seem to get out of the other pedal, so instead my bike and I decided to just crash over the side of the trail and onto some prickly plants.
I got up, dusted off, checked for any damage, and decided to ride on. I approached a tree root with a steep uphill and narrow track between the trees. I tried to pedal harder but no such luck. I had to dismount and push the bike instead. We made it around the loop and headed back, only to meet another group that needed to pass. I fell with one foot in and one foot out…again. By the end of the ride I’d crashed with one foot in, one foot out at least four times.
Mountain Bike – 4, Dana – 0
I went to drown my embarrassment and numb the pain in my hips and knees.
The next day, I decided I’d go for a run instead. I did five miles down the same trail that had shamed me the day before, but this time with my feet on the trail. It felt great, maybe too good, because I gained confidence and decided to give mountain biking another try. This time, we drove past the ski resort to a popular “blue” trail. I’m not sure what I was thinking, going from being destroyed on a “greenie” to trying out a “blue” trail, but I wanted to give it another shot.
This trail went straight uphill for the first half-mile. I clipped in and pedaled hard. Then, I shifted gears, the chain came off, and disaster struck – down I went, both feet still attached to the clipless pedals. Obscenities were uttered (well, maybe not uttered, possibly exclaimed).
Mountain Bike – 5, Dana – 0
I got up and pushed the bike the rest of the way uphill. We reached a turnstile, pushed the bikes over, and I got my first glimpse of the single-track descent into the beautiful Aspen trees. My stomach dropped and I turned, tail tucked under hiney, and retreated. I rode the bike back downhill without even clipping my feet into the pedals, white-knuckling the brakes all the way to the car.
Mountain Bike – 6, Dana – 0
I went to (again) drown my embarrassment and numb my sore, bruised knees and hips. I took the book I was reading, a beer, and my dogs to hang out by the creek near our campsite, just to relax. I sat near the creek soaking my feet and knees, sipping my beer, enjoying my pups playing, and watching people ride by – fearless, strong, mountain bikers having fun. I was mourning the death of my ego and envious of their riding skills.
Then, I took another sip of my beer and looked out over the Elk Mountains, that’s when I realized it – It doesn’t matter how great you are at mountain biking, climbing, skiing, running, or even just sitting by the creek sipping a beer (which, by this time, I was getting pretty good at), it only matters that you are enjoying where you are and what you do. Life’s too short not to.
So next time the climb gets too scary, the mountain biking beats you up, or you yard-sale down the Whale’s Tail at Breckenridge, take a breath, look out into the beauty of where you are, and remember how completely rad you are for even giving the route, the trail, or the ski run a try.
Dana – 1, Mountain Bike – 0