Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Story of Mental Confidence

Crazy Rower#2 takes on a climb.

The Story of Mental Confidence.
You can only do it if you believe it. Winners always believe in themselves and losers usually question if. I know this of course, as both a winner and a loser many times in my life, but once again had a DOH realization of an old truth this weekend.

We arrived at the trail head at around 8am and it was already above 90 degrees. I looked over the tree-less desert landscape and knew it was going to get hot out there. My companions were rearing to go and were pushing to ride the competitive loop instead of the nice easy "friendly" trail that I had assumed we were riding. Looking at them, I wanted to say, "But listen you leg muscled fit freaks, I am riding scared with very limited fitness and I don't think I can do this...wahhhhhhh." But instead, I just adjusted my crappy knee brace, took a deep breath and followed them onto a trail which my only experience with was watching people wreck on it during an NMBA race in January.

Approximately two seconds later, we come to the first hill which just seems to drop out of the sky. I can see ahead that the terrain even 20 feet ahead is at a much lower elevation, which intuitively to my small brain, means the trail is going go straight down. I hit the brakes and did the worst thing that you can do while beginning to descend something. I stopped and stared at it and thought about endoing down it. See mentally right now, I don't have it. I don't want to wreck because I don't want to injure myself and therefore my brakes have been getting way to much use which really isn't any safer anyway. Big hills require finesse braking, not over braking so I know in my head that I can't take this slow, I just need to go. But instead, I start walking down the damn hill, dragging my bike, which I can assure you is harder on my knee than just riding it.

My pysche is at an all time low. We have just started and I am already freaking out and making my friends wait and really I just want to cry and go back to the car and wait. I know I am making myself into a basketcase, but my confidence is shot, and I can't even make it up to the top of the next hill without dabbing and then having to get off and walk. I don't even make eye contact with them, just tell them they should go ahead because I am going to be slow that I don't want to talk about it. I kept riding past them and went into my little woe is me zone where I ride slow and try not to cry or stop and throw my bike.

I think they sensed I needed some time so I didn't hear them for a long time until my buddy J came riding past me silently. At this point, I was over sad and frustrated and was nearing pissed off and frustrated. Why was I crippling myself mentally? I have the ability to ride that hill, just not the confidence. I am using my knee as a mental crutch and this realization angers me. I tell myself, next hill, I am just going to go. If I crash, so be it, I shouldn't be out here in the first place.

The next steep drop rises out of nowhere and this one I can see has rocks, not just smooth dirt. J takes it slow and I can see him drop out of my view in one big air move. This is so not the hill I was hoping to regain confidence on. But anger is a great motivator and I just went. The pitch was steep enough that for the first time in my life, I felt the need to drop my butt squarely behind and below my saddle. I remember practicing this move on a grass field once, but never ever have I actually done it on the trail. Halfway down the hill, there is a foot drop down to another level of rock and I just take a deep breath and go. I feel my rear suspension compress up under me and then propel me forward. I have to adjust my position to stay in control, but I slowly cruise up to J at the bottom of the hill who had been watching with bated breath. He informs me that that hill was much worse than the first one. Yeah, I now that. I feel some happiness course through me for the first time in awhile and my confidence rises a notch.

We ride on and it is getting hot. This trail is full of rocky uphills and downhills with nice sandy washes at the bottom. In other words, it is work work work. I am riding pretty well on the ups now but they seem to take all my strength and when I hit the top, I am completely spent and need to slow pedal for a minute to get some juice back. That is the problem really, my right leg is maxing out on its quad strength way before my left so it is left devastated at the top. At the top of a long brutal climb up a ridge complete with switchbacks and rocks, I stop because I think I might die. Crazy Rower #2 is even stopped trying to catch her breath. It is probably reaching upper 90s now and I some privacy to rid myself of the Cliff Bar I heedlessly chomped down on the drive here. This is old hat for me though, as I have never been good with exercise and food in my stomach. Eventually I press on, finding a better zone as I do.

By the end of the trail, I have easily ridden down the most five technical downhills of my life. With each one, by mental block gets dismantled and my confidence rises. Pedaling gets easier. It doesn't seem as hot. I have a choir of joyous children singing in my heart. I feel happy. And I realize, that I just had a test, against myself and my fears, and I overcame. This is the mental portion of injury rehab, and it is way more important than the physical part.

Some photos I snapped of Crazy Rower & J while riding the McDowell Competitive Long Loop

3 comments:

Crazy Rower #2 said...

I'm pretty sure that the competitive loops were your idea... I wanted to ride Pemberton! :) Anyways, it was a great (even if hot) ride, and I'm glad you got your confidence back, you're doing great out there!

And, I love that first pic, awesome!

la chaser said...

hmm i don't remember that. i think we just turned in there. however once we were in the parking lot, i was all 'oh hell no' about riding there.

DEANNA STOPPLER said...

Great post girl! I really like the read. Hang in there. Since you'll be so busy the next two months, with little time to take those killer drops, your knee with heal up really nicely.