Tuesday, June 24, 2008


After a good (and tough) weekend, I've been thinking about the fine line between challenging myself and knowing when to throw in the towel. Saturday I challenged myself at an Orienteering Meet; then Sunday I completely freaked during a mountain bike ride. The difference between the two? Orienteering is done with 2 feet solidly on the ground, while mountain biking involves the threat of my already bruised body being thrown to the ground. See why I might be willing to hike my bike rather than ride?

I write the above as a round about way to say I think I might not be cut out for mountain biking. Sunday's ride was a continuation of past rides - my fear getting in the way of any fun I might have. Granted the trail was more difficult than most I have been on and after the initial terrifying, single track ride (where I walked the entire time) I was able to enjoy a nice, simple ride with another friend. But I am tired of being "challenged" on rides that elicit panic attacks, not shouts of joy. When do I say "no more" without feeling like a quitter?

While I contemplate that question (and you are more than welcome to offer comments with advice, encouragement, or a "kick me in the ass" type of comment) I plan on riding the whole weekend. Ironic, isn't it? But, these rides are not exactly typical mountain biking - more like road biking and some simple, wide and hilly trails that lack any of the typical technical stuff usually associated with mountain biking. This whole thing puts into question all the adventure races I want to race - unfortunately most races do not have easy biking sections. Now, if I could just find a race without mountain biking, I would be extremely happy (unlikely but hey, I can wish can't I?)

I'm still planning on running my 12 hour/60 mile race in July - I figure if it gets too bad I can do the whole "hike my bike" thing. That's part of the reason i am doing it alone - I won't have the pressure of letting my teammate/s down with my fear of riding - I'll just be riding for me. That might be the best idea I've had yet.

1 comment:

Schmendrick said...

Since you asked, ...

I guess it is up to me to decide whether or not I give you encouragement or a "kick-in-the-ass".

Can I do both?

As one of your teammates on your first ever Adventure race (which was also my first ever real adventure race) I would like you to know that both you and my wife (who was also on our team in her first ever real adventure race) have both been an inspiration to me when it comes to leaving my comfort zone in water. I was there when both of you experienced the thrill (and panic) of riding the world-class mountain biking trails in Moab, when you both were extremely inexperienced with careening over undulating rocks at breakneck speed with only a few square inches of rubber holding you upright. And I also watched the two of you triumph over your own instincts for self-preservation to rappel down a cliff and experience the Tyrolean traverse.

Seeing you do accomplish this was a big reason why I was able to flounder my way acroos 400 meters of open water (which was over 90 feet deep -- possibly much more -- that's why they call it "bottomless") to complete the first leg of the Bottomless Triathlon in a mere thirty three minutes. I may have been tempted a few times to grab the surfboards of the lifeguards and let them tow me to solid ground (where humans are meant to be!) but I kept thinking of you two on your mountain bikes refusing to quit. So I forced myself to calm down, relax in a backfloat position, catch my breath, and begin backstroking in the general direction of my goal (within 90 degrees). Then, when the kindly lifeguards suggested that I was way off cours, I would turn on my side, aim the right way and take a few hard strokes toward shore, whereupon I would tire quickly, lose my breath, gulp in some water, panic, wonder why those damn lifeguards were not helping me, and the whole cycle would begin again.

After repeating this cycle about 60 times, one of the lifeguards (who was probably a little frustrated because he couldn't leave until I finished) said "well, he sure isn't a quitter". He probably also muttered something like "even if he swims like a stone" under his breath (too softly for me to hear.) After about 90 of these cycles I stumbled out of the water and attempted to catch the pack (the hindmost of which was at least twenty minutes ahead of me.)

The lesson to be learned from this long-winded account of my triathlon adventure, is that I am a really, really, really bad swimmer -- and I am pretty sure that I am at least as bad (and uncomfortable at swimming as you are at mountain biking.

When Linda and I did the Desert Dash Heat Wave adventure race in Las Vegas, there was a lengthy swim across Lake Las Vegas (dodging a few power boats to add to the thrills). Because it is a team sport, she was allowed to tow my ass across the water to our kayak, where I was actually able to once again contribute to our team getting from point A to point B (and C, ...

Speaking of points (and I do have one), the point I am trying to make here is that I understand what you mean when you wrote "part of the reason i am doing it alone - I won't have the pressure of letting my teammate/s down with my fear of riding - I'll just be riding for me"; but even though I understand how you feel, there are two things you need to know:

1. Part of being on an Adventure race team is knowing when your teammate needs a kick-in-the-ass, and when s/he has reached a limit and needs to (stop/rest/pick a different route, walk the bike/do the backstroke/get CPR -- choose one of the above). We loved being part of a team in your first ever race. Part of the enjoyment was the exhilaration of pushing ourselves to our limits while knowing that our teammates would be there to keep us from taking that step beyond our limits.
So if we could have joined you on your 12 hour race, I hope you can believe that however much hiking your bike you needed to do, we would have been there to help drag your bike through the dangerous parts to the next wider, smoother part of the trail.

2. Even though we couldn't join you on this particular race, I am sure that when you are staring at each particularly gnarly section of mountain bike trail, you will hear my voice (and Jari's) in your head saying you CAN do this. And you will either take a deep breath and go for it, or you will hesitate and decide to get off the bike and push forward on foot. Either choice is OK with me as long as you don't just give up. And I know you well enough to know that that thought won't even cross your mind. (Of course, if you did quit, I would be forced to actually kick your ass!)

The bottom line -- your teammates know you well enough to know that you are going give your best effort to reach your physical and psychological limits. Whatever happens, you won't let us down. But we will be encouraged by your example, and in that sense, even though you will be riding for yourself, you will be riding for us, too. And I know you'll do us proud.

A Fellow Wandering Sole