What goes up must come down….eventually.
My downhill experiences are somewhat limited and my riding partner saw it was obvious that I needed more confidence and skills going downhill. Up until I arrived at the local downhill park I was game.
Out in the mountains you see a few people in the parking lot and then everyone disappears into the woods as if by magic. At the downhill park there was no where to disappear to. We pulled into the parking lot and my heart started fluttering. All I saw were people my age sending their kids off to bike camp/class. I stalled putting on my shoes as my chest tightened up and my mind started snarling at me “Look, you’re surrounded by kids you old cow. Go Home. You don’t belong here. This place is for men and children of men.”
I barely spoke as my lift ticket was purchased. I had to stop and breath before even getting near the chairlift. I looked around. “There are a lot of dudes here.” I mused to myself. I struggled to breath. My riding partner smiled and I barely heard them say “Let’s Go.” My heart had taken up residence in my mouth and I could’t reply. My whole body was quivering head to toe, my cheeks flushed in embarrassment, my lungs fighting for air and the next thing I know I’m at the top of the hill looking out over Calgary.
I stood a moment admiring the view. I looked around and noticed I was surrounded by men. “You don’t belong here. Look at all those men. They are going to pin you down and strangle the life out of you. They are going to watch you struggle. They are going to watch you fall. They will watch you destroy yourself. You don’t belong here.” My mind whispered to me. Tears hot in my eyes I could barely see. I shake the words out of my ears, like a dog whipping its fur about after a swim.
“It’s not real, people are not like that. Guys are not like that. Shut up. I’m doing this.” I say to myself. The tightness in my chest reminding me I could barely breathe.
My riding partner took off, and I forgot how to get on my bike.
I forgot how to peddle.
I forgot how to change gears.
My mind was completely backwards & I failed to locate the information stored in the vestibules deep inside in my brain in order to ride. All functions stopped. I clumsily took off down the hill like a newborn animal, awkward, haphazard and dazed.
Next run was a blue one and I discovered bikes can fly.
Imagine my surprise as the bike took off into the air become airborne without warning. “Panic, breathe, adapt, look ahead not down.” I tell myself. I had no idea this could happen on a trail, I thought jumps were skills park only. NOPE. I slammed on the brakes as I came up to a large tabletop and skidded to a halt after the last jump nearly ended in catastrophe.
Kids more than half my age on bikes that cost more than my car flew by, twirling, graceful as acrobats in a synchronized florescent kaleidoscopic parade and I watched in envy and awe at their skill and fearlessness. I was instantly reminded of Bridget Jones on her Ski Trip. I felt the murmurs of my mind stirring to grab this moment.
I heard my riding partner chuckle and tried to encourage me down the hill. Stubbornly I waited a moment before I pushed off.
I made it there deep in humility, rage, and frustration fueling me to the next run and the next.Each run got a little easier and after a few hours the tightness in my chest was gone, the fraud police in my head were silent and I could breathe again.
It was time to leave.
I took a moment & looked back up at the hill, I looked at the chairlift, I looked at all the people there and I noticed something.
Upon arrival at the hill I was a shaking feather consumed by the thoughts in my mind, ready to dart & hide at the slightest movement.
Upon departure I noticed a swagger in my step, my shoulders squared and confidence that I haven’t experienced before. I may not have been crushing the jumps like everyone else but the simple act of doing it anyway changed everything.