I recently have become involved with a cycling team. Honestly, I did not know what I was getting myself into when I first joined. I had never been mountain biking before. While the first few rides were terrifying and thrilling at the same time, my most recent one allowed me some time for speculation. I seem to do my best thinking when my life is in obvious danger. Here are the parallels that I drew between mountain biking and life (be it mine, yours, or that cranky neighbor down the street)
- My coach always tells me to keep “looking ahead. never look down. you go where your eyes go.” When I look to the ground, and see my bike skipping over rocks and roots, there is a high probability that the next thing I’m going to see is myself, flipping over my handlebars, and becoming very friendly with those rocks and roots. However, if I keep looking down the trail, my bike is going to keep going with me (hopefully) on top of it. In life, looking at the ground is focusing on your failures, your insecurities, the way you don’t seem to measure up to the one person who has it all together. Sooner or later, you are going to make that reality. You are going to end up where your eyes are looking and if you are always looking down, your life will soon follow. There is another alternative; however, you could look straight ahead. Picture where you want to be, and you might very well end up there. I’m not talking about the law of attraction or other myths. I’m talking about setting goals and not letting them go. You aren’t going to teleport to that place where you want to be in your life magically. Everything you want out of life isn’t going to *poof* appear. But there is no way you are going to get where you are going if all you do is concentrate on what’s on the ground.
- Up ahead are two trees. The trees are about 13 inches a part and my handle bars seem like a good 20 inches. They are coming towards me, faster and faster. My hand is frozen, incapable of squeezing the brake. All of a sudden, I look behind me and those trees of death are several feet back. And I’m still going. I’m still on my bike. All of me is on my bike. The close call has done some damage though. Not physically, but the adrenaline has left my nerves in a bundle. I can’t concentrate on the trail ahead. But I have to. You see, like in life, if I keep dwelling on the past and the “close calls” I can never move past that. I’ll keep reliving the times when things almost (or did) go horribly wrong. In the meantime, life hasn’t stopped. If you don’t regain your focus and concentrate on what is ahead, you’ll never get there in one piece.
- 50% of the time, mountain biking requires no physical effort. You are speeding down hills and curves at 20 mph. All you have to do is avoid obstacles and stay on your bike. But for every downhill, is an uphill. The other half of the time is grueling. You have to pedal fast and hard, and oftentimes (if you are me) you still can’t make it all the way up the hill. Rarely are there flat stretches of trail. In the same way, life isn’t a smooth, flat path. Whether your trail is wide or narrow, you are going to be going up and down.
Coasting down the hills, sometimes a little too fast for comfort and then struggling to get up the next one.
- Whoever made these trails must have had a thought process like this one “So they are climbing up hills at a 90 degree angle and then rocketing down an equally steep hill at 50 mph while avoiding tree roots….Hey! I’ve got an idea! Let’s put a pile of rocks at the bottom of the hill!” Thus, the rock garden was born. I don’t know why they call it a garden, there is nothing beautiful, scenic, or peaceful about it. Approaching the rocks, you brain is shouting “SLOW DOWN!!!” However, going slow is the worst way to get through the “garden”. The only way to do it is go as fast as you can, and pedal so fast your pedals look like a pinwheel. It is so counter intuitive to common sense that rock gardens are more mentally straining than physically. When we come across bumpy parts of life, the tendency is to slow down, take it easy, find the path of least resistance. With that kind of mentality, you aren’t going to get past the first boulder. When things get tough, going faster, harder, stronger, is the only way you’ll make it to the other side.
This is what I’ve learned from my limited experience in mountain biking. Oh, and going through puddles is fun but expect to find mud in your hair.