Saturday, September 09, 2006

It's not a habit ...

Date: September 7&8
Combined mileage: 30.2
September mileage: 84.2

I'm beginning to believe that my natural timidness feeds this self-fulfilling cycle of injury. I don't crash my mountain bike all that often (I mean, relatively ...) But when I do, I tend to go big ... head over the handlebars, hitting the ground with some non-limb upper-body part, legs twisted around the front fork. And not because I'm a crazy, out-of-control, ego-fed "go big or go home" kind of a person. No. I tiptoe over everything. I relish in doing obstacles over ... but only if I can do them right the first time. If I fail, I'll run away as far and as fast a I can.

Today, Geoff and I went to check out some trails maintained by the snowmobile club, so we thought they'd probably be in good shape. And the trails were pretty good ... a little boggy, but they did build bridges over most of the major streams. On particular stream had a really strange bridge going over it - it shot up for about three feet at about a 60-degree angle, leveled off completely for about half a bike length, and then dropped back to the trail at the same angle. They even glued some black traction stripping over it just to ensure that it looks like it belongs in a skate park.

I stopped and walked over it because I was afraid. Geoff teased me for it, which was well deserved - it was, in fact, the smoothest portion of that entire trail. But it just didn't look natural or feel right. Still, I decided that I was being a little naive, and decided to ride over it on the way back.

Heading back, Geoff stopped and waited for me 50 feet down from the bridge. I interpreted it as him waiting to see whether or not I was going to pansy out. I stopped about 200 feet short to try to curb my swirling anxiety. But I had already made up my mind. I coasted down the trail, dodging a few roots and shimmying the handlebars dramatically enough that I was swerving all over the place by the time I hit the bridge. Front wheel on ... front wheel angles too far ... back wheel skirts the other side ... front wheel drops of the edge ... and the rider submits to a calm feeling of inevitability as her body launches forward, landing chest first in the muddy bank with a still-attached bicycle dangling from her crumpled legs.

Geoff came rushing over to me like I should be hurt or upset, but the whole situation felt perfectly natural to me. I knew I was going to end up in the mud with a bike twisted around my limbs. I saw myself crashing over that bridge before I ever rode it. I figured it was the most likely outcome. So did I actually make it happen? On some subconscious level, did I deliberately endo myself over a stream? Is your brain even allowed to do that? Is it something therapy can fix? I wonder ...

9 comments:

  1. Well, you know they don't say "thoughts are things" fer nuttin'.

    Hope you don't have any particularly nasty bruises 'n stuff.

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  2. I have exactly the same problem: I can all too easily envision the crash and then it happens. I, too, wonder if I'm making it happen. Great description of the crash, too.

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  3. Yikes! I can perfectly picture what you're talking about -- the feeling that a crash is coming and knowing it's inevitable and somehow not feeling so bad about it because you knew it would happen. I hope it didn't hurt too much!

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  4. Sounds like you are fixating on the bridge. You need to look past it and you'll just ride right over it. Ask Geoff to ride it a couple times and watch his body language on the bike.

    If that doesn't work, have Geoff stand on the other side with a beer. If you make it you get a beer if you don't you have to pour it onto the ground. If that's not motivational I don't know what is!

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  5. Visualization and attitude play a big role. I remember once reading an article about a downhill ski racer who was asked how she handled turns at 70 mph. She said that "as soon as you ask yourself if you can make through this turn, you won't."

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  6. You have to focus beyond the bridge. In car racing you notice the drivers are looking at the next turn before they're out of the current one. Just like road racing on a bike. We are always a few turns or seconds up the road mentally. Otherwise, you're reacting, and that doesn't work so hot.

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  7. you don't need therapy... :)

    peace out, yo!

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  8. I don't think you need therapy but you a skills clinic would probably help you a lot. I'm guessing you won't easily find one of those in your soggy part of Alaska.

    You need to focus on where you are headed and think about where you need to be in 30 feet instead of focusing on where your front tire is. As soon as you think you're going to crash, you will. If you invision what the crash will be like, you're really doomed. After nearly 20 years of mountain biking and a lot of those years racing, I still have to tell myself to focus and think of what I'm doing to block the thoughts of crashing.

    The more you practice, the better you'll get. You have to get used to the bike slipping around a little and staying loose. Once you tense up, the bike is in control.

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  9. This predicament of yours confounds me. You are young and you are tough, it seems your skills would be improving more than they are.

    Some things to consider.

    seat too high? (great for big miles riders, bad for technical skills)

    seat too forward? (same thing, great for pounding, bad for dicy wheelplay).

    Front suspension mushy or stiff? (I find stiff/ minimal rebound best for skills stuff. Mushy is bad because it offers no firm counterpoint to your balance.)

    Is Geoff a good skills rider? If so, does that encourage or intimidate you?

    Pick small challenges in your town and neighborhood and work them in secret in the dead of night. That works for lots of people.

    Anyone in Tallahassee who rides has confronted "the gazebo" at some point. These rites of passage do a lot for your confidence down the road (like in Alaska or something).

    And lastly, you don't have to go big to "go".

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