Two years ago, J and I went on our first road trip together. We took off for Kelowna during the August long weekend with no hotel booked, the car loaded, and excitement in our hearts. J was meeting up with a friend for one day of downhill mountain biking, and the rest of the weekend was ours to visit wineries and enjoy the sunshine.
I had no idea that “downhill mountain biking” was a thing. The thought of riding a chairlift to the top of a mountain and hurtling yourself towards the bottom seemed completely insane to me. “People really do this?” I asked him. “Oh yeah! It’s tons of fun, especially when you get going really fast” was his reply. That was enough for me. I certainly wasn’t going to try it….ever. The last time I was on a bike in the mountains was about ten years before. The trip ended with me chaining my bike to a tree and having a mini temper tantrum (OK it was a full-on meltdown but I like to pretend I’m mature). I told J I was going to find something else to do.
We stopped at the Visitor’s Centre in Vernon (we needed the nice lady to find us a place to sleep for the night since everything within 100km was booked), and I got some info about alternative activities to biking. The lady working there mentioned a guided wildflower walk on the same mountain as the biking. I thought that sounded perfectly reasonable and safe. Sign me up!
The next morning, J and I headed over to the shop to get our lift tickets. As we walked over, I saw all these people dressed in their armor, full face helmets, and very hardcore looking bikes. I felt a flash of envy but quickly squashed it like a bug and kept on walking. My wildflowers were waiting.
The tour was a group of ladies ranging in age from 32 (me) to 50-something. The women were really nice, but I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. I wanted to walk faster, I wanted to hike to the top of the mountain to see the other side, I wanted to take fewer rest breaks. Honestly? I was bored out of my fucking mind. The tour was great and the lady was really knowledgeable about the area, but seriously, if I had to listen to one more story about flowers I was going to beat somebody to death with one. The biggest excitement I had during the afternoon was when a thunderstorm came rolling overhead and we got soaked in the rain. Woohoo.
At one point, we came to a trail head that was obviously for advanced bike riders. There was a sign saying “You must be at least this good to ride this trail” (or something like that) and it was situated right above a drop of about 5-6 feet that you’re supposed to ride your bike off. Total insanity. The other ladies agreed. Who would do that on a bike? In my mind though, I was wondering how awesome it would feel to fly off that thing.
After the walk, we went to the coffee shop to discuss our afternoon. I took my seat, looked around the room, and that’s when I saw her. She was sitting at the table across from me, dressed in a white tank top, black bike shorts, black shin and elbow pads, and holding a black full face helmet. She looked like a goddess and I could hear her talking about shredding on the mountain. She sounded confident and strong, two things I didn’t think of myself as being at all. I wanted to be her so badly.
J finally convinced me a year later to try mountain biking. I barely remember the trail because I was terrified, and concentrating on not hitting a tree, but I made it down to the bottom and the smile on my face was unmistakable. I was hooked. I even pushed my bike back up the trail to try riding over a bridge that I was sure I could do. I still do that now on my bike. I’m sure my riding partners love it.
I came back to Calgary, bought a bike, signed up for a ladies beginner class with Audrey Duval and her Shred Sisters in Canmore, AB, and my deal was sealed. It’s been a year since I started riding and now I can’t imagine my life without it. A couple weeks ago I even tried downhill for the first time, something I swore I would never do. I never thought I would have the confidence to do it. When I try a new trail, ride over a big nasty root, or take a corner without running into a tree, my confidence goes up. Biking has helped me find strength in myself and believe that I am capable.
If you ever for one second think you can’t do something, forget it. If I can do it, so can you. I lived my life in fear for a long time. Fear of getting hurt, fear of being happy, fear of being unhappy, and basically being afraid of life in general. I worked really hard to get to the point now where the fear is only there 50% of the time instead of 100%. I’m working on the rest but it’s a slow process. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you feel you can do more, then figure out a way to do it. J was the first person to really push me out of my comfort zone and help me see what I am capable of. Now I find myself surrounded by more people like him because it feels awesome. Find your person to push you if you need to be pushed. Or kick you in the ass. We could all use one of those from time to time.