By Shelby Cain
I love mountain biking. There’s something about it that’s so different from the other things I do in my life. It’s playing. And while some days I feel like playing is ALL I get accomplished, this playing is for me. Just for me.
I don’t have to be the prince or the castle guard or the blue man in Candy Land or the undesirable animal on the farm that no one else wants to be. I get to be the girl racing her bike along the trail, dodging trees and hopping roots. The wind whipping past me as I descend the steep, jagged mountain without a care in the… wait a second.
What the heck is that? A knot in my stomach. A prickling up the back of my neck. Sweaty palms. The silence shattered by a shrill screaming… from my brakes.
That, my friends, is fear.
Where did that come from? When I first started riding, down was the reward for all the hard work of going up. My brakes were there mostly to help me take the corners, and by the time I got to the bottom I’d have to pick the bugs out of my teeth because I couldn’t contain my smile. What happened?
Now, instead of the odd warrior cry, I find myself saying “whoa, whoa.” I think I even let out a “nice and easy” last week. It does not feel like a reward. Yesterday I found myself in a full stop on a root while facing directly down the slope, defying all the laws of physics. Oops. Of course, physics prevailed. I couldn’t clip out in time and tumbled down, bike over teakettle. People assumed my war wounds were from some hard-core riding. Really, they were badges of shame.
I’ve started referring to myself as an ’up’ person. I will put my whole heart and soul into the up. If you want to race to the top of Hyperventilation, I’m your girl. But you might as well pack a lunch if you’re going to wait for me at the bottom. You’ll know I’m coming when you hear the squeal from my exhausted brake pads.
Is fear another wonderful side effect of getting older? Maybe. But I’ve heard that as you get older you also get wiser. And if I picture myself trying to take my kids to the beach or on a hike with my leg in a cast, I shudder. Not convenient. So I’m calling it wisdom. And if you come up behind me on your epic descent of Swine Flu, right before that sweet berm, and you have to slow down, I won’t be offended if you make a little ‘bok bok bok’ sound as you ride by.
I deserve it.