I’ve never been a very good mountain biker. Walking on a trail in Breckenridge this past week, I watched a very confident woman cruise down a steep single track hill with ease. That’s the thing about sports like mountain biking and downhill skiing. To be really, really good, you have to perform with complete confidence and no fear.
For me, I’m able to do that for the most part while skiing, but not mountain biking. I remember downhill skiing in the Sierra twenty-five years ago back when no one wore helmets, and we all thought we were invincible. I skied with a bunch of guys who knew no limits, and I came along for the ride. They skied Mach 7 with complete abandon. At one point, someone said, “you know if I fell right now, there’s a good possibility I’d break my neck.” But you can’t be thinking like that, because being cautious or timid insures you will not be a great skier. It insures you will be defensive and timid, and most of all it insures you probably will fall.
I came to mountain biking later in life than skiing. Unfortunately, I bike timid, afraid that I’ll crash. And it works against me becoming a better biker. While biking up in Whistler, British Columbia, we rode trails with lots of trestles — narrow trestles, banked trestles, and roller coaster type trestles. To ride the trestles successfully, you have to come in with lots of speed and confidence. But my fears got the best of me and I ended up walking my bike a lot.
Living in the mountains is a lot like skiing and mountain biking. It’s a life built on resilience and knowing you can take whatever life throws your way. You can’t let your fears get the best of you. If you spend the whole summer worried a wildfire will break out, you’ll miss out on so many amazing sunsets, sunrises, vistas and rainbows.
A friend of mine says she could never live here, because she’d worry about the lack of medical services nearby. I recently suffered from a toothache this week. “What if that happened while you’re on a backpack trip?” she plaintively said to me. And what if it did? I guess I’d double-time it off the trail, all the while taking large quantities of Advil.
I’ve joked to Bryon that if we ever had a heart attack while climbing a Fourteener, that would pretty much be the end, because no one’s coming with the AED up the trail. But what a terrible reason not to get out and see the amazing vistas we saw last week trekking up Mt. Yale.
I once read a book of affirmations that said to live life with “confident expectation.” When I go for a long hike on my own, I like to think that’s what i’m doing — confidently and quietly expecting to have a great day, to enjoy moments of wonder and awe that surround me in this amazing state.
Go forward into the great outdoors with courage, seize the day and leave fear far, far behind.