Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Exercising Demons

OK, I know my use of grammar in the title is wrong, but I felt it was an incredibly apt play on words for what I am about to pen. I have lived in Rotorua for about six months now and am incredibly lucky to have our mountain biking playground grace my back doorstep... But regardless of my proximity to the forest, there are trails that I rarely ride... And I rarely ride them because, well... They scare the absolute shit out of me. The other week, I rode the 2W Gravity Enduro... And when I saw the course, I decided to pack a spare pair of undies for the race... Because it sent me down all the trails I have purposely been avoiding.

I survived the race, but not without the embarrassment of voluntarily dismounting on sections of track that I found scary, only to have some school kid come flying past me and down the section with ease. I have never been a incredible technical rider, and I have always been open about that. My skill level is good, but not amazing, and for endurance racing, I have always managed to get by quite happily on this.

The thing I found bizarre on that Sunday (and, in fact, on other occasions when I have raced on tracks I felt were at the outer level of my skill) is that the moment I dismount on a technical section, I switch out of race mode. It interrupts my flow, and it destroys my confidence for the rest of the race or ride. I have no doubt that over the space of 24 hours that this costs me tens of minutes, and I suppose the thought process behind what I call "conservative riding in the interests of self-preservation" in endurance racing is that if you ride beyond your limit, chances are, you won't even finish the race. There is a lot to be said, though, for extending those limits... And when you reach a certain level, it is necessary to do this if you intend to remain competitive.

Furthermore, I have always been a strong advocate of the school of thought that we train and ride regularly so we are bike fit, because riding a bike fast is good fun... Dismounting your bike is not fun... Neither is the ribbing you get from your riding buddies afterwards.

So, the weekend just gone, I set out on a ride with the sole intention of riding the tracks that scared the bejeezus out of me. If I stopped at a section, I had to work it and nail it before I could move on. Now, I'm sure that when I reveal the names of these tracks, there will be a couple of sniggers out there in blog-land... Like I mentioned before, I have never been a self-proclaimed technical mystro.

So, anyway, I first of all made my way to the top of Direct Road to Hot X Buns. This track has plagued me since I first rode it in a race a couple of years ago, and the problem is that because I have avoided it in the course of my casual riding, I have only ever ridden it in a race, so the usual practice has been to dismount the scary bits and then jump back on the bike and be on my way, clearly disinterested in "working" sections on race day. There were two sections of Hot X Buns that I stopped and worked. I pulled up, spent time looking at it, rolled my bike over it to assure myself it was easily cleared, then I went back and rode it... I cleaned each section with surprising ease, letting out an audible "YUSSS" as I continued down the trail, my confidence growing with each challenge defeated. I couldn't help but think "Wow... Why did I not just ride that earlier???"

Rather chuffed with myself, I then made my way up to Tuhoto Ariki. This track has never "scared" me per-say, but I've never done a clean run of it's technical, rooty goodness... That day, I did (minus a couple of acceptable toe-dabs). Admittedly, track conditions were amazing and dry, but I was substantially buoyed by my previous achievements for the day on Hot X Buns.

After a good 3 hours or so out on the bike, it was time to head home. Old Exit Trail is another arch nemesis of mine and I had decided that I would maybe leave that for another day, not wanting to burst my own inflated bubble. However, as I was coming along the home stretch for the day, something just drew me straight to that trail and soon I found myself quite clumsily descending the awkward steps that graced the length of the trail... It wasn't pretty, but I cleaned it...
I remember cruising home through the forest with the clear blue sky above me and the sun beating down and that wicked smell of the pine trees that I always associate with bike riding and good times and I felt so chuffed with myself... Three trails that had dogged me for so long were now part of my repertoire, and I can't wait for the next time I get the chance to hit them up again. It's that old story of facing your fears... Then often you wonder why you were frightened of them in the first place. It stands to reason, then, that the sooner we face our fears, the sooner we realise we have nothing to worry about... And seriously, who couldn't do with that load off their minds???


  1. At least you've got full suspension. I've ridden all of those once only and your body gets a hammering on a hard tail especially on the Old Exit Trail

    1. I can imagine it would!!! Kudos to you! Awesome work! I hope to one day ride them on my hard tail... Will stick to what is comfortable for now!!!