Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Power of Fear {AKA: I Do NOT Like Failure}

I have no pictures today.
I forgot my camera (perhaps it was for the best).
It was the inaugural mountain bike ride on the Bridgestone MB-S.
It did NOT go well.
Image from: RUTube  Season 12: Episode 6
This is pretty much what I envisioned myself doing with the Bridgestone after the ride today.
Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer goes to buy a new computer, gets it home, gets so frustrated with the set up (entirely too quickly) that he ends up dumping it in the trash can at the curb, while the flies buzz around it? That's about how bad it went, and how quickly I went from feeling great, to feeling like a total and complete failure. In short: it sucked.

There is no one to blame for the catastrophe but myself. I thought I'd reached a point in which I could somehow gloss over the fact that I am terrified, petrified really, of the rocks on the trails here. These aren't tiny pebbles or gravel (which I think I could handle), they're actual rocks (hence the Rocky Mountains, I suppose), and they're everywhere. I don't know where the fear came from (well, I have some idea, but that's a tale for another day), but it is very real, and it is nearly debilitating at times.

We arrived on scene at the trail head and my first visual was of these two young-ish girls racing across a bunch of rocks right at the start of the trail. My heart sunk ("I thought our first ride was going to be EASY," was ringing through my head), and my stomach twinged.
G.E.:   "Uh, I-I-uh-I can't get over those rocks."
Sam:  "You'll be just fine. Just go slow, and remember you can walk if you need to."
G.E.:  "I feel sick. Is there a restroom somewhere I can use?"
Sam:  "Yeah, it's right over there." (pointing to the little mini-house shaped port-a-potty behind us)
G.E.  "I'm going to be ill. I'll be right back."

I returned somewhat shortly thereafter thinking that I would be okay. Sam rode the short bit to the trail head, while I tentatively walked to it with the bike. Sam showed me how there was a gravel path that would get me around the "scary" rock area, and then assured me the rest would be okay. He started to pedal off. I started to cry.

"Why are you crying, you big wimp!" I kept screaming to myself in my head. "This is ridiculous. They're just rocks, and you aren't going to die doing this!" I couldn't stop myself though. Fear had won out and I knew at that moment, there was no saving myself.

I attempted to pull myself together enough to try to get through a short ride. I hopped on the bike, and started through the trail (the gravel side, of course). As I got around the "scary" rock area, I felt myself tensing up. I could see the rocks - they were there in the path - everywhere, and there was no avoiding them. I tried to overcome the craziness in my head and pedaled over the rocks. You'd think this would cause me to feel more confident, but in reality, I just became more fearful and tensed up more.

I stopped again because I was crying uncontrollably and couldn't see well at all. Meanwhile, people are racing past me, as if there was nothing to this at all. "What is wrong with you, you freak!" I kept saying inside my head. "Seriously! This is ludicrous!!"

Sam has stopped just ahead of me and is constantly trying to assure/reassure me that there is nothing wrong with me, I can walk if I need to, and that I can definitely do this. I try to stop crying and get back on the bike. I pedal a little further and feel like I'm moving entirely too fast.

"I'm going too fast!" I seem to be yelling louder than need be.
"Use your brakes to slow down," Sam says encouragingly in front of me.
"I-I I'm going too fast... woahhh... woaahh. I don't like this!"

Sam warns me of another "scary" rock area approaching and tells  me to stop and walk over it. I do so as I have no desire to be on the bike any longer. I do get back on at the other side of the rock pile until I reach this area that has a big dip in the trail and is (to me at least) very narrow. Stupidly, I start to freak out, stop pedaling, then start to freak out because I'm going to fall (DUH: if you stop pedaling on a bike, you will fall down). I put my left foot down, somehow twist my knee (the bad one, nonetheless) beneath me, get off the bike, and cry my way to the top of the ditch-like area.

"I CAN'T DO THIS." I'm crying hysterically now. "Please, just go on ahead and I'll walk back to the car."
Sam says, "I'm not going to ride without you. We can just go back."
"No really," I insist. "Please just go for a ride so I won't feel so bad about this. I hate that I'm such a wimp about this!"

Sam tells me that he's just going to go for a short ways up the trail and that by the time I walk back, he will meet me at the car. Surprisingly, we do actually reach the trail head at about the same time. We load up the bikes and drive away. I feel like a complete failure. We chat briefly in the car about it, while I try to laugh it off, but inside I'm still upset about the whole ordeal. I know that I'm not afraid of the pain of falling, but for some reason, I'm afraid of the actual fall. I've fallen off a bike plenty of times, and I know it doesn't hurt that bad, but I still fear it for some reason.

A bit later on, Sam is trying to cheer me up and we are off looking for a cup holder for another bike. We go about our day, and when we're leaving our choice of lunch, Sam and I discover a lost little girl (around age 3-4 years) outside the establishment. Sam had tried to talk to her, but she wasn't having it. I get down to the ground to see her more eye to eye and try to ask her where her mommy or daddy might be. She's just crying hysterically, sobbing, her little eyes simply bright red.

"Did your mommy ask you to stay here?" I ask, looking around for any kind of parental figure who looks like they're missing a child.
The little girl nods in the affirmative.
I'm still looking around, trying to make sense of this, looking all around, scanning the parking lot and the mall stores.
I pull her gently over to the shade as the day is quite hot and she's standing in the glaring sun. "Where's your mommy or daddy?"

She's just not answering, but sobbing uncontrollably. By this time, a woman who worked in the establishment we'd just been in comes out and asks if the little girl is with us. I tell her that she isn't, but that she seems to have lost her parent(s). The woman tells the little girl that her name is Renee and takes her by the hand inside. I thank her, but still feel like we can't just abandon the girl here. Sam and I go through the outdoor strip mall, searching for anyone who might be looking for her.

We spot a Toys-R-Us and I tell Sam I'll run inside and ask if anyone is missing her. When I return, I tell him that the women working said that no one seemed to be missing a child, but they'd keep their eyes open. As we're getting ready to leave, we spot a woman with a few children in tow who looks the part of someone missing her child. We come up beside and ask, "Are you looking for a little blonde girl about 3-4 years old?" The woman nods, "Yes!" We tell her that she's just down at the end of the mall, and she seems so relieved.

I felt relieved, too! Holy cow. I didn't want to leave this little girl. The whole situation seemed strange and surreal, but I was thankful that she'd soon be back with her mom. I imagined the relief both of them would feel when they were reunited. The tears would disappear and everything would be right with the world again.

I tell this small happening of the day not because I feel like we went out of our way to do anything that any decent human wouldn't do (who could walk by and watch a poor lost child crying?!), but because I sensed a bit of kinship with this little girl after what I had been through earlier in the day. I hadn't lost my mom, but in a way, I did lose my ability to be rational and reasonable. I was scared, crying, and I didn't see any hope or a way out of the fear I was feeling. In some small way, this little girl made me realize that I'm not ready to give up on the idea of mountain biking. I'm not saying that I will be a mountain biker. I may try again and realize that it really just isn't for me. But, I did realize that I'm not quite ready to give up on the idea entirely. I don't like the idea of failing at something, and while I realize that trying isn't a failure (I see failure as never having tried at all), I want to give it a fair shake, and I want to get to a point that fear is not ruling my decision about whether or not I continue on with mountain biking.

At this moment, I feel a bit defeated, but I'm not ready to give up. I did get on the bike, and I did ride through some rocks before I just couldn't do it anymore... so, I guess that is something to build on, right?


  1. ((((((((((((hug)))))))))))))

  2. Thanks, Cecily. I feel a bit better. I will live to fight another day. :o)

  3. Awww, now you have me crying. I remember the first mountain bike ride. I put my foot down and slid down the mountain. I told my husband to leave the bike there because I didn't want it. That was 10 years ago. Recently, I've discovered an easy trail that I like to do. Also, I've been going to the Valmont Bike Park not too far from you. It allows me to try out things that I will encounter in the woods but in a controlled environment. I can choose to go over the rocks or not. I'm still only sticking to extremely easy, but I'm having fun. However, no one will judge you if it isn't your thing. You are pretty awesome "as-is".

  4. elvisavery... it was scary and a little traumatic, but I want to try again, definitely. I like your suggestion about the Valmont Bike Park. I think someone had recommended that prior to my attempt on a "real" trail, and I thought I could just jump right in to it instead (I have no idea why I'd think such a thing). I believe there are also easier trails (read: fewer large rocks) that I can try too, so I remain hopeful that I'll try again. It's nice to hear that someone else had a similar experience (I did giggle reading your story - only because I could identify), and is still riding several years later. It gives me hope! :o)

  5. Thanks. Actually, you inspired me. I've only been riding again since March. I threw in the towel big time and regret it. I'm so glad I'm back in the saddle.


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