Monday, November 10, 2014

down and up

Today I walked my bike down a mountain, and then I rode it back up.

Considering that lately, voluntarily spending copious amounts of energy isn't exactly my MO, this sounds like a very bad, no good kind of way to spend the afternoon, no?

To clarify, I wasn't planning on doing it the way I did. The original plan was to ride along a ridge to an orchard, and then back again. A few ups and downs, but nothing steep.

Only once we got to the orchard, my persuasive-as-he-is husband asked me to ride on and make a loop: so instead of out to the orchard and back the way we came, we'd keep going down the old logging trail, hook up with the mountain road and then ride all the way back up. 

My husband can sell ice to an eskimo, and so after a little back and forth, I found myself reluctantly agreeing to the longer loop, my main concern being having to ride all the way up the mountain road. I know it well; where the logging trail connects means that we'd have a long and sometimes steeps ways to pedal back up. I haven't been on either my road or my mountain bike much lately, and I knew my legs might not have much in them. At worst, I figured I could walk when I needed to.

So we started down the logging trail from the orchard, and things quickly, quite literally, went downhill. The trail follows alongside a creek, and it turns out that much of it has been washed out over and over and over again. In places, it was almost like riding through a creek bed (think rocks everywhere of all sizes), and that, combined with the downward grade was enough to make me pretty nervous.

Riding timidly over rough terrain is NEVER good. You either have to do it or you don't. You either commit, or you get ready to hit the dirt, you know? Or rocks, as the case may be.

And so, there on the old logging road, I rode over a rock just the wrong way, didn't pop my foot out of my clip fast enough, and bit the dust. I was fine, it was fine (after a curse word and a few stray tears)—I've fallen more times than I can count on that mountain bike, and this fall wasn't worse than any other. But this was the time that instead of getting back on to prove that I could do it, I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride, and walked my bike the rest of the way down the trail.

It wasn't worth it. The anxiety of getting hurt, the fear of falling again. The reality of a broken wrist or ankle or collarbone. Since becoming a mother, suddenly, my risks are so much more calculated. And it's not that I don't do risky things—hello, road bike—but more than ever before, I'm to a place where I'm so aware of my limitations, where my confidence is (or isn't), and the consequences posed by the risks I take.

I suppose that this is a part of growing up and growing older (and hopefully smarter). The benefits stop outweighing the risks on certain things. We stop feeling so invincible. We get pickier with the ways in which we push ourselves.

I walked out to where the trail met back up with the road and climbed back up on my bike again. And riding up the mountain, where I surely thought I'd have to get off and walk, where I knew my legs would fail me...they didn't. I powered my bike a mile up that mountain, slowly but surely, and other than two stops for water, my toes didn't touch the pavement.

Isn't that the lesson, sometimes? Where I so worried about going up—where I expected to fail—turned out to be just where my strength was.

So next time, I'll either stay on the ridge or ride down the road. In some things, I'll choose the way of the careful, I'll go slow and steady; with nothing to prove other than making it safely in one piece. 

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