I’m in the business of solving problems so I tend to pull lessons from other areas of my life. It gives me a chance to have a different perspective on an issue that I wouldn’t of had just sitting at my desk. I’ve been Mountain Biking for about 20 years. I don’t race, but I enjoy getting outside and riding. When I purchased a home, I made sure there were mountain bike trails nearby. About twice a week I ride from my house up to a nature reserve. It’s 13.5 miles roundtrip, takes about an hour and a half and has one section that’s impossible to ride through. For 10 years I couldn’t get through it and then one day, I made it.
The first part of the ride is on a flat country road. It’s a scenic ride with views of lush green hills in the distance. As I get closer, the road turns into a series of “whoopty do’s,” that go up and down as I ascend up the mountain. It soon becomes strenuous. I drop down to my middle chain ring and my third gear. I’ll stay here most of the way until I get almost to the top, then I’ll drop into second. Before that happens, my hands will start to get a little numb, even after switching them around to different spots on the bars. I’m getting closer to the spot and wonder if I’m going to make it today.
Believe it or not, as you crest the top, you start to shift up. It’s a little counter intuitive, why make it harder as you are almost to the top? It will be flat quickly, so you want to maintain your pace. As I approach the trail head, I quickly downshift to prepare for the sharp ascent. It’s eroded, rocky and winding. You lean forward, move up on your seat closer to the handlebars and focus on the upstroke of your feet, which are clipped into your pedals. Lean right, then left and I’m going down fast. There’s the spot. I usually ride through it, but today I stopped. This is the toughest section on the trail and coming down through it is not the hard part, it’s coming up. It’s a big boulder on the left. About four feet wide, rounded high on the left and slopes to the right into a sea of jagged, oddly spaced, granite rocks. It’s ominous.
My first encounters with this section, I walked through it. My imagination would run wild with visions of me hitting the boulder and tipping over into the stone spears. Yes, it was a little gruesome. For tough sections while riding, you always look for the “line.” The path you will follow with the least resistance. Over the years the line through the jagged rocks seemed less risky. There was obvious space between them and even though it looked scary, the ground was flat and with speed behind you, the front tire just had to find the dirt and the back tire would roll over the rocks if not in sync. Today, on my way down, I stopped. For some reason I was compelled to solve this issue once and for all. I laid my bike to the side of the trail. Standing in front of the rocky section, I just stared at it. I looked at the dirt before and after the rocks. It occured to me that there was more erosion around the boulder, than the jagged rocks. I got closer to the boulder and there it was, the line. I can’t believe I never saw this before!
When coming up from the bottom, the big slopping rock is bulging and looks impenetrable. Now standing from the top looking down, it turns out there is a crease in the rock where a bike tire would fit in perfectly. You don’t see it from the bottom, because there is a piece of rock sticking out that you have to get over, to get to the crease. So, to get over the rock, you need speed. I now knew what to do. For some reason, at the end of the ride, I didn’t make it over the rock. I actually didn’t even try it. I chickened out at the last minute and went towards the jagged rocks. To be honest, I don’t think it was necessarily chickening out as much as it was habit. It was the way I always went, so that is where my bike gravitated towards. Of course I didn’t make it and had to step off my bike and walk it up the hill. I was pretty upset riding the rest of the way home. I knew the right thing to do and I still didn’t do it.
A couple of days later I made it. It was actually quite uneventful. I made sure to gather speed, approached the rock, got my front tire over the bulge and into the crease, then the rest of the bike came up. It happened so fast, it caught me off guard. I kept riding, but I slowed down to process in my head what had just happened. I didn’t want to ruin the moment by stopping. Of course on the the ride home I was fascinated by why it took me so long to get over that boulder. 10 years! I made up so many stories in my head about what might happen. I even put myself more at risk by riding through the jagged rocks. Why did I never stop before and stare at the boulder to find the line? Why all of the sudden did I stop now?
I’m not an emotional tracker. I don’t dwell on things for long periods of time or keep track of the reasons why I do things. It takes too much time and energy, so I’ve worked on not investing in it. It’s a process. Riding that trail is a lot of fun for me and it’s an incredible escape. Old friends of mine that I ride it with discuss every fork, turn and technical section, like talking about old friends. I think I never stopped and looked at that boulder, because it was just one small piece of the whole ride. It was kind of insignificant. I accepted that I had to get off my bike for that section and walk it up the hill. As I got familiar with the trail, my bike and my riding capabilities, that rock became more of a thing. It bothered me. Then one day I got tired of the fear, the unknowing and the inconvenience. I said, “no more.”
What’s the rock in your life that you’re not getting over?