“Dude, sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something”
- Jake the Dog
A piece of advice that I wish had been given to me long ago (or rather, a piece of advice I wish I could have made myself believe a long time ago), is that’s OK to be in the back. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary to your growth.
There have been times when I can feel the group waiting for me up ahead. Sometimes, it’s whatever and I can put my head down to focus on what I’m doing. Other days, I want to call off the whole day and head back to the car with my tail between my legs. Both instances are, to my knowledge, unavoidable. And that’s honestly fine.
It wasn’t until I set out to do my first IMBA Epic that my approach to riding changed for the better. Before, I would beat myself up constantly that I wasn’t as fast as the other folks I rode with. By the time I’d be reunited with them at the trail head, I was in such a bummer mental state that I’d ruin the whole day not only for myself, but for my friends too. Honestly, I’m not sure why they continued to invite me along but I’m thankful that they did!
When I decided I wanted to tackle Bull and Jake Mountain, the one goal I had for myself was to finish. Six miles later, I found myself atop a mountain that I hadn’t even noticed I was climbing. That climb was then rewarded with the sweeeeeteessstt descent and, for the first time ever, I was in a good enough of a head space to actually enjoy it!
Point being, it’s incredibly easy to measure yourself up next to some other rider. But, by doing so, you’re not doing anyone any favors. The best part about cycling is there is always going to be someone better than you, there’s always going to be gnarlier trails.
A friend once told me that every time she’s climbing something gnarly, she’s singing The Climb in her head and, it’s actually been an incredibly helpful piece of advice:
“There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb”
In the past two months, I’ve been lucky enough to ride some of the best trails the Southeast has to offer. Each trail all the more challenging than the last one. And I’m slow and it hurts and sometimes I hike-a-bike. But when I revisited a less-intense local trail this past weekend, I beat all of my previous PRs.
Being an athlete is weird cause sometimes you don’t even realize that you’re getting stronger, but I assure you that you are! Slowly but surely.
I know it’s easier said than done to be stoked to be pulling up the back, but the sooner you can change your head space, the sooner you’ll be having way more fun.