Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Humbling Hills...

"Every new day is another chance to change your life." ~ Unknown

Day two of my trip to Moab had finally arrived. I would get to do the one thing I've been dying to do for so long...mountain bike. And not just mountain bike, but mountain bike in MOAB.

After a hearty breakfast with the gang, we hopped onto our trusty metallic steeds and ventured off. I said to Shauna, as we rode away from the campground, "I'm giddy. I'm mountain biking in Moab." She laughed and said "Just wait till you are actually mountain biking in Moab and not just on the roads!" So true...

Our first ride was going to be on the Slickrock trail. It's likely a good thing that I didn't look up anything about this trail...

First off though, I had to ride up about 6 km of a steep climbing road...on a mountain bike. Dang! This was the ONLY time I wished I had my road bike. I slugged along sucking wind the entire way. Perhaps I should have kept going on the trainer even after I quit triathlon??

Finally we were in the parking lot. My excitement was hard to contain. At least it was until I read the sign. No, not the sign that said where we were...the other one, with a trail description.

Ya. This sign. Unfortunately I cut off what it said at the bottom. However, the first sentance pretty much captures the essence of this ride. "Physically demanding and TECHNICALLY DIFFICULT."

Oh ohhhhh. I think I'm in trouble. See the thing is, if you recall, I hadn't ridden a mountain bike in the last 14 years. Give or take. For those who are used to triathlon bikes and have never ridden a MTB, trust me on this one. Its very very different. Your body position is different and what you are riding over is most obviously different.

I was starting to get a wee bit nervous.

Then we took off. Our group was seven in number. All but two of us were pretty advanced when it came to riding skills. The only other person who hadn't been on a bike much was my buddy Dave. The big difference between Dave and I is he sees someone else doing something and he figures "I can do that". I see someone doing something and think "Holy crap, how'd they do that??"

Within the first 3 minutes of the ride I had gone off a drop higher than I'd ever gone before. My heart was racing! The short climb up to the part where the trail branches off from the practice loop left me sucking wind big time. I decided then and there that I was going to stick to the practice loop.

I didn't realize at that point that the practice loop was just as difficult as the trail route, only it was shorter. We made a plan for meeting up after our rides and I set off on my own. I wasn't worried about being on my own as there were many people out there. Plus, the gang knew where I was. It was likely it would take me just as long to do the practice loop as it was for them to do the regular route anyways!

The route itself was gorgeous. How could it not be? This is Moab! I was okay for about the first five minutes. Then I came up to the first techinical part. I was shaking trying to get down the first drop. I had been told that although it's called slickrock, your tires actually stick to it. I was still hesitant though.

The first big climb I came to I tried to ride up it, but my lungs were not cooperating. I thought asthma was supposed to be better in the desert?? Apparantly mine was not. I'd already taken a few hits off my inhaler, so couldn't do much more than try to recover as fast as I could. So I got off my bike and pushed it up the hill.

With each section of the trail I'd take a deep breath and attempt to conquer it. At least there were white paint marks to let me know where the trail went or I'd have gone off a cliff within the first little while. Oh did I mention my fear of heights and being on an exposed cliff?

Sure, I'd tamed that fear a smidge with my climbing, but out here, the fear seemed to come back. You'll note the photo below with the little white markings that seemingly lead you right off the edge of a cliff! Gulp!

It was on these sections that I'd get off my bike, put it down, and walk to see where the path went. Then I'd decide if I could ride it or not. At this point I felt like I was doing more walking than riding and I was getting a bit frustrated.

I'd managed to do ok on some parts of the trail, but others I let my fear get the best of me. I started to think that maybe it would have been a better idea to go with the gang. That way I might not be as afraid. Then again, I'd likely hold them up and that wouldn't be fair to them either.

After who knows how long of doing a bit of riding and a bit of walking and getting frustrated, I decided to find a little spot on this cliff, put my bike down and then I sat down. I sat there just focussing on my breathing for a while, kind of like what I do when I meditate. That's when the tears started to roll.

I'm not really sure why I was crying. I remember thinking that even, "What are you crying for?" I know I felt afraid, but I wasn't sure if it was the bike route, or the thought of not being able to fulfill my Moab dream, or if it was just being overwhelmed with all that's gone on the past couple of months. Whatever was bugging me though, I thought it best just to let the tears stream down and release all that I was feeling.

I didn't cry for long. Just enough to feel a bit better. Then I took a look around. Wow. It's so beautiful here. Well if there is ever going to be a place where I just sit, this is not a bad one!

I think I sat there for about a half an hour. It was then that I heard some voices. A guy and a girl. The girl was saying how stupid she was for falling off her bike and how she sucked at riding. I felt so bad for her and wanted to tell her that it was ok and hey, at least she was out there trying!

It didn't take me too long to recognize I had been saying the same thing to myself - about not being good enough to be out there etc and questioning how the heck I was ever going to be able to ride here. They stopped to say hello and I watched as she braced herself to do the next descent. I told her she could do it and not to worry. So did her friend. She took a deep breath and went down the hill and beyond. Then the guy went.

I watched them ride till the next section, then I dusted myself off and got back on my bike. I can totally do this! I may be scared, and I may not be able to do everything on this trail, but I can at least do this with a positive attitude.

For the rest of the ride I had fun. Sure, I had to walk up some bits, but I made it down almost all the descents. That was a big step for me.

I made it through most of the sand that was there and even stopped to take some fun photos. I was in Moab - YEAH!!

When I reached the main trail loop, I decided not to go back to the car, but to see if I could do a little bit of the main trail. I got to the first descent, which I must say was INSANE! I watched a bunch of people struggle just to ride up it. Most didn't make it. Then I walked down the first section to see if I felt I could ride down the rest.

I couldn't. I was ok with that though! I turned around and made my way back to the trailhead. Already I could tell I'd gained a wee bit of confidence in my riding. I knew I'd have to grab some more if I was going to do the type of riding I had come to do.

I decided I'd talked to a couple of the group that new the area and explain that I would need a bit easier ride for the next day. I was completely humbled by this adventure, but I was not about to turn tail and hide. Afterall, was I not a five-foot-two-of-fury-ninja-princess-she-ra-soon-to-be-mountain-biker??!!

Tomorrow would be a new day and would bring even more adventures...

Peace out my gorgeous friends!


  1. Hey Susi - I had a similar thing a few years ago when jase and I canoed through the Swedish wilderness - after day 1 I was freaking at the moving water and had visions of Jase and I careering down the river never to be seen again! As we were 200 miles from any other civilisation and there was just me, Jase and our buddy I had to have a serious chat with myself over night - amazing what the mind can do!

    Look forward to the next instalment and how you conquered it!


  2. What an adventure!! Keep it coming - great pics too!

  3. Moeder says while I don't understand the fear of heights its great that inch by inch you are succeeding!

    Your veggie meals are quite nice and I am a carnivore.Very tasty -- nice to have some else cook. I hope to lose a few pounds also.

  4. Wow, Moab is beautiful. It's a popular spot to mtn bike if you live in CO too but I never realized how hard it was. I think I'd kill myself if I ever tried mtn biking myself. But I love hearing about your trip! Great pics!`

  5. Awesome adventure Susi, way to conquer your fears!!!

  6. The very first ride is the most insane, hilly and hard ride you do? But of COURSE!!!! LOL!!!!!!

    SOOOKKIIEEEEEEE!!!! (Sorry, had to say that!! LOL)

    I love your honesty and your ability to reflect objectively and then move forward. A new perspective is a powerful tool.

    Moab looks incredible -- screw the mountain biking, maybe you should try trail running ole Slicky Dicky next time. Hahahahaha!!!

    The pics are incredible -- just what I imagined Moab to look like. I just thought of something -- there's that expression...do one thing every day that scares you....Well, you got that one covered on your first day! :) :)

    Love you beautiful!! Purple never looked so good out in the desert. :) :)

  7. Sometimes you just need a good cry-glad you released your emotions-I bet you were cycling through a lot of them (pun intended, bu-dah-bump). Seriously though, mtn biking is way harder than road riding (imho) for so many reasons and I have heard from my hardest core mtn biking friends that that trail is no joke. So don't beat yourself up about it-you gave it a try which is more than most people can say. and you got back on the saddle again instead of letting it defeat you. you go super ninja mtn biking girl!!!