more than just another bike blog

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

looking the bear in the eyes

True confession time.

I'm afraid of mtn biking in the dark. Seriously. It's pretty debilitating. I didn't even know I was afraid of mtn biking in the dark until last year. I ride road in the dark all the time. I love road riding in the dark. Mtn biking is another story.

So, last year I registered to do 24 Hours of Adrenaline at Laguna Seca with some of my nutty Velo Girls friends. We had a little "training" session one night that consisted of riding about 15 minutes in the dark at Redwood Park near Lauren's house. I think it took us longer to dress, load the car, and drive there than we rode. But I was ready!

Fast forward to the race. We're jamming. I did a double lap to start us out and then another lap in the early evening. At 3:00am or something crazy like that, I get up for my first night lap. I had a great headlight and a super-powerful bar lamp, too. And I'm basically paralyzed. I'm so scared that I'm riding super-slow which is just dangerous on the berms and single-track at Laguna Seca. Crap! I start crying about a mile or so into my lap so I turn around and walk back to camp and wake up my teammate so she can go in my place. I'm so depressed and angry with myself that I go to sleep and basically pout all morning, refusing to go out for a final lap in the morning. I suck.

So, one of my goals for this year is to become confident riding at night on the mtn bike. Part of my fear is the fact that I get all tunnel-visiony and part of it is that I feel out of control. I have some control issues when I mtn bike during the day too -- typical roadie trying to avoid obstacles instead of trusting that her bike can just roll over them. Of course, my daytime issues are just magnified at night. I also think I need a beta-blocker or something, because I'm so damn jumpy and reactive that it's a bit dangerous. My secret to avoiding all this mental chaos is to ride slower and in control.

So, my buddies at Cyclepath have a night mtn bike ride every Tuesday night at Lake Chabot, led by the owner, Joel. I decided I'd start going. Talk about confronting my fears -- showing up to a new group (co-ed) where I know no one to do something that scares the shit out of me. I'm really shy, so just showing up is a big accomplishment, never mind riding.

I got stuck in traffic on the drive over and my nerves just escalated. Then, I couldn't find the meeting point in the dark. I almost went home, but Joel knew I was coming so I felt commited. Of course, Joel was late and as I stood in the parking lot with no one talking to me I almost left. But something made me stay.

Long story short, I showed up, I got scared, I dealt with it. Luckily, Joel hung with me on the first long descent while everyone else rode away. My saving grace was that I could climb faster than most of the other riders so they didn't think I was a total loser. At one point, I had built up some confidence and was flying down a hill. I hit some deep mud and got scared when I slid around and slowed way down. I got dropped, and had to ride by myself for a while. I kinda yelled out to the group to wait for me, but they were too far ahead to hear me, so I had to plug on alone. Yup, I was scared. Really scared. But I caught up and made sure they didn't drop me again.

The ride was about 90 minutes long (14 miles) and the group was pretty large (15 people). I beat everyone up the last big climb so that felt good. And I thanked everyone for helping me with my fear while they drank beer and I drank a chocolate milk. Everyone was cool and welcoming and I'll be back to confront that bear again.

Oh, coolest part of the ride was when we saw owls flying over the trail. Wow!


At 11/29/2006 10:24 AM, Blogger lauren said...

i think it's great that you want to conquer your fear. that's super tough to do. you're awesome!

and we probably should've ridden more then 15 minutes of training in the dark, eh?

what i find so interesting about night riding is that it yanks all my fears away - because i can't see anything, so i'm not afraid of it.

of course, i'm the one who's afraid of getting eaten by mountain lions during day rides, but nights - they're so dreamy.

At 11/29/2006 2:45 PM, Blogger marscat said...

do you go by yourself (other than this group ride)?

now that would freak me out.

where does this Lake Chabot ride meet?

At 11/29/2006 6:46 PM, Blogger alicat said...

true confessions.
i'm scared of mountain biking in the light!
i'm such a wimp. it's one of those things where I like it after i've survivied, but am terrified throughout the ride...

At 11/29/2006 9:19 PM, Blogger Gianni said...

I used to run out there alone at 0400.
Lot's of things moving in the bushes at 0400.
Good for you getting out there, my light has sat in the drawer since 24 hours last year-

At 11/30/2006 9:28 AM, Blogger velogirl said...

The ride is hosted by CyclePath. It's actually a cool group -- you should come, Marscat (and anyone else). They meet at the Ranger Station at 5:30, roll at 6:00. They even have good lights to borrow if you don't have them.

At 11/30/2006 9:29 AM, Blogger velogirl said...

Oh, and no, I don't go by myself. I'd be paralyzed by myself on the trail in the dark. The few times I end up alone on the group ride I was too scared!


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