We all make thousands of choices each day. Many of them we don’t even make consciously. They become automatic. Second nature. One thing I love about mountain biking is that you own every step of the ride. You are forced to actively and consciously make decisions every few seconds. You don’t know what is around the corner so the mind must remain active. And, present.
When out on the trails, it is so important to own the ride. To take responsibility and be accountable for every split second decision. In our normal, daily rountine, the decisions we make come at us with such rapid fire, there is little time to celebrate success. We so quickly move from task to task that it is not in our nature to reflect. But, what if we did take time to celebrate success?
The biggest part of owning the ride is to celebrate successes. When I was able to tackle a big climb or ride over a big boulder with ease, I took the time to reflect and visualized what a successful pass looked like in my head. And, because my mind was free of distractions, I could take the time to be proud of what I had accomplished.
Then, taking that knowledge from the successes, I was able to build my confidence. When I would not make a clean pass, I took the time to take a re-do. I watched Matt, and if he made things look easy, I would try to follow in his path. But, when the path seemed uneasy for me, I would take an alternate route.
Owning the ride also means taking personal re-dos, when needed. In one spot as we headed down, there was literally a set of natural steps made of boulders. Matt tackled it head on and made it look so easy. I thought I could follow in his path, and ended up falling on my elbow and hip with a flurry of cactus thorns up and down my left leg. It was not pretty, but I was past the challenge. Matt asked if I wanted to do a “self-decided re-do.” I was past the obstable, and back up on my bike, and I thought I could easily just keep going. But, I was out of my comfort zone and ready for that re-do. And, you know what? My re-do and his first take were both executed the same. Beatifully and flawlessly, at least in my head! We then took the time to celebrate overcoming that big obstacle with a big high five.
Another important part of ownership is to take the time to smell the desert roses. Take lots of water breaks. Life all around us is beautiful and we must take the time to pause, look around and see the beauty. My kids are really good at this, they point out amazing, fun and different things on the walk to school we have done hundreds of times. Why am I unable to see these things? Because I never take the time to stop and look around. On this ride I did, and man was it breathtaking.
Look ahead, but not too far, to own your ride. I wanted to size up the road ahead to see what mother nature had to offer for my ride. The minute I tried to look too far ahead because the immediate road seemed conquered, I would slip, or hit the edge of a cactus. It reminded me that it is important to look ahead, but focus back to the business at hand. Keep checking in on where you need to be before stretching too far ahead. I do the same thing when skiing. Just when I think I got the run, I look ahead and lose my balance on small, simple terrain. I know it is important to always check in with myself to make sure I am headed in the right direction in the short-term.
Making sure to put muscle behind the climb is part of owning it. If I don’t have the strength or determination to go into every climb, every rock and avoid every cactus, I will hit surely end up in a compromising position. On my first ride ever at Miraval many years ago, one of the instructors said simply, “Let your eyes lead you to go where you want to go.” Sounds so simple, but once you get fixated on a rock or a tree root or a cactus, guess where you end up? Where your eyes go, the body follows. So, forge the path you want to take.
Last but not least, become contagious yourself. Give others the sense of adventure when you can. My friend Kate had been going to Miraval for about 12 years before she tried the infamous “Swing and a Prayer” my first year there. What a ball she had! But, it was my infectuous enthusiasm that made her decide to go out on a limb and take the challenge. And, we still talk about how hard we laughed that day so many years later. What a memory for all of us.