You’ve got this!

Post race high with my favourite riding buddies. Vallelujah, Selkirk 2015
Post race high with my favourite riding buddies. Vallelujah, Selkirk 2015

I want to firstly give a massive shout out to MTB Chix & Trails. If you haven’t yet joined their immensely supportive and thriving Facebook group for us female riders, then I suggest you divert right now…join… and come back quick.

Last month I shared my previous blog ‘start your journey’ on the group to test the waters, hoping that some of the incredible ladies there might enjoy my wee story and throw some much welcomed constructive criticism my way.

I was overwhelmed with the support, comments and feedback and I was encouraged to write about the highs, lows and the mental blocks of riding mountain bikes, something we have all experienced.  So let me know if you can relate to this here statement…just when will my courage match my ambition? 

My first bike on it's maiden voyage up Bennachie.
My first bike on it’s maiden voyage up Bennachie, Aberdeenshire 2013

I threw myself into mountain biking after a taster weekend at Laggan Wolftrax in Aviemore back in April 2013. I was hooked, I bought my first bike within 2 weeks, riding every weekend since, and it’s taken me to some far flung places, most notably my own backyard, Scotland.

I had been riding for just over a year, picking up technique from friends and watching as much pinkbike videos as I could perceivably muster. For a few months though, I was feeling like I had reached a plateau, even regressed in ability – my first proper mental block. Frustrated, I started googling local skills sessions when I stumbled across Dirt Vixens (DV), teaching Go MTB Skills to female riders.

The DV are coached by the tremendously patient Jim Barron.  Jim facilitates beginner to advanced groups from Inverness to Elgin and Aberdeen.   We covered everything from line choice to cornering and pretty much every other MTB skill you’d want to have in your roster. His lessons in technique and mental strength saw my skills and confidence improve greatly, and my frustrations fade away just as fast.

Jim getting us to tipping point for manuals at Kirkhill Forest, Aberdeen
Jim getting us to tipping point for manuals at Kirkhill Forest, Aberdeen 2015 (Photo Credit: Jim Barron)

I am pretty chuffed to say that after some seriously heroic all mountain missions, a few well placed and regular squats, complemented with some ‘so enduro’ DV skills sessions, three of us DV made it to podium for the new Lite category at the Scottish Enduro Series Round 1: Innerleithen at the beginning of 2015. Pretty groovy, huh? 🙂

Donna Devlin, Brid Walsh and myself. Podium scoop
Donna Devlin, Brid Walsh and myself. Podium scoop. Innerleithen 2015

Things transpired quickly after that. High on stoke for racing, I made the best decision to enter the full enduro for Round 2 at Ae forest. Following a leg thrashing 2 days, climbing 2000m and covering 50km, I finished 10th, behind some seriously talented local female riders.  A totally brilliant experience, riding with chums, meeting new people and just having a blast, which is why we ride, right?

Of course, there was another reason behind all the skills sessions, training and races.  I was preparing for my forthcoming season in Whistler and I wanted to be in the best possible shape.  Admittedly, I was a little intimidated at the riding level over there and  was keen to set myself up for nailing the big hits.

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Working up to the small side of Dwayne Johnson, Whistler 2015 (Photo Credit: Bradley Warn)

So I come back to my question; in my short two and a half year journey so far… my courage has not yet reached my ambition… but not in the way you might think!  As a close friend and fellow mountain bike dork pointed out, your personal goal posts constantly change, you will always be looking to ride smoother, get faster and go bigger than you did before.

Remember that 1 foot drop that sent adrenaline screaming through your body, leaving you physically shaking, panting, sweating and shouting “ffs just do it”? Remember that feeling, that if you could just clear that 5 foot jump you’d be the happiest person in the universe? Well, as ridiculously elated as you might be for smashing it, if you’re anything like me, you’re just as quickly listing the next challenge.  Moreover, those feelings never change, they are exactly the same every time I approach something new.

I know when I’m ready though, and it’s a combination of my riding buddies roaring profanities at me, and that still moment of clarity where I control my fear and not the other way around, sound familiar? COMMIT, COMMIT!!

I’ve tried many tactics, and my most recent is to firstly remember how gutted I become when I bottle it, and then really channel how totally euphoric I am when I land it smooth. You’ve got this!

That euphoric feeling when you land the Clown Shoes drop, Whistler Mountain Bike Park
That euphoric feeling when you land the Clown Shoes drop, Whistler 2015

…I’m no lionheart though, sadly, sometimes you just have to walk away and not torture yourself afterwards.  It’s at this point, my buddies usually burst out laughing, tell me to pucker up, ride it out and have some bloody fun…after all, we are having the time of our lives, in pursuit of a sport we love. I’m here for a good time, not a long time!

The mighty Filthy Ape rock roll. Standing midway mulling it over, and over, and over... perhaps next season!
The mighty Filthy Ape rock roll. Me mulling it over, and over, and over… perhaps next season! Whistler 2015

Having achieved many dream goals this year, with the enormous and generous help of friends worldwide, I’d like to thank them for their patience, I’m sure I’ve played a part in some grey hairs along the way.

As for changing those goal posts, there’s massive room for improvement and i’m looking forward to the journey. So I impart the best piece of advice I was given from one of my Peak Leaders instructors, Dahj, and appropriately enforced by the inspirational Manon Carpenter recently in this interview: “Just ride your bike lots!” and have fun 🙂

Whistler fam at Rainbow Park, Whistler
Whistler fam at Rainbow Park 2015
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