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Mountain Biking as a Metaphor for Life

Early Sunday morning I dusted off my mountain bike and went for a ride. Phoenix is called the Valley of the Sun, which means we live in a valley, or, more to the point, mountains surround us. For me personally, this means that within 10 minutes from my front door by car I can ride my mountain bike around some amazing mountain bike trails. As I was riding yesterday morning, the first time in years, one of the things that struck me was how much mountain biking is really a metaphor for life.

*An object in motion is way easier to work with than an object at rest.

Any science whizzes out there forgive me for the obviousness of this statement. It really struck home today how hard it is to maneuver a bike which is still vs. one that is moving....even if it's in the wrong direction. Any movement is better than none.

*Where you look is exactly where you end up.

This was the biggest lesson I learned today. Repeatedly, and painfully. If you look at a rock, you will - in fact - hit that rock. No matter how much you try and talk yourself out of it ("Don't hit big rock, pleassse don't hit big rock")... Where you look is where you end up; Every single time.

*The small things make all the difference.

Even a 5% 'off-ness' in your equipment (ie. seat not right height, tires a tad low), make a huge difference in your ability to perform.

*Know your limits.

You don't ride in a vacuum, or, in my case, an air-conditioned gym. Even at 8:00 in the morning, in Arizona it gets hot. Prepare, or better yet, over prepare. For me, I overheat very easily. Add pushing a mountain bike up a 25% incline with the sun beating down on you and you get a quick recipe for trouble.

*You can't have the thrill of the down hills without the effort of the up hills.

This one seems obvious, but bears repeating: in order to enjoy the amazing parts of the ride, you have to be willing to do the work to get there.

*Courage plays a bigger role than talent.

Sure, you need to have some level of fitness and skill to keep the bike upright. But it was my willingness to take risks that led to the best part of the day. And that took courage - Lots of it at times.

*Let go!

No not the handles bars, silly... The more you try and over-control the bike, the greater chance of a wipeout. You have to trust your equipment, yourself and gravity. If you don't, you will crash. When you are gaining speed, your first instinct is to try and control the bike, and this is the worst thing you can do. You have to have faith...

*Bonking is good.

In mountain biking, bonking is a term to describe what happens when you have absolutely zero energy left. You are wiped out. Done. Bonked. And I'm saying this is a good thing.

*There is no shame in walking up the steep hills.

Hell, there is no shame in walking anytime at all.

*There really is no destination.

Just like all the wise-guys say. I spent the entire morning not caring where I was going or when I would get there. Hey, there was no 'there' to get to. The ride really was the destination.

*Support helps.

Funny thing, but it's true: I pedal faster and work harder with a buddy. I don't give up as soon, and get back on the bike sooner when I'm riding with someone. Hmm.

*There is a fine line between terror and excitement.

And often times I can't tell the difference between the two. Makes you wonder how much of life is spent in avoidance of pain, fear or failure when in fact, the pursuit of those things actually bring the greatest reward.

*Protect your head stoopid.

I glanced at my helmet as I was loading my bike into the car. "Oh, I don't need that, since I won't be riding in traffic." Aargh. During my first fist- clenching ride downhill I remember thinking very clearly, "No helmet? What! Are you a fool?" There is a much greater chance of grave injury out here than in any other part of my week. Lesson learned.

*Whatever you do, do not fall into the prickly pear cactus.

Let me say that again. Whatever you do, do not fall into the prickly pear cactus. Ever. I did this once. It was horrible. Painful. Embarrassing. And those cacti needles! The more you try and get them out, the worse it gets. I didn't fall this weekend. 10 years have gone by... and I remember every little detail: how it happened, where it happened, what I was wearing, how long it took me to recover (hours). I remember and learned more about that one trip than countless uneventful rides. Hmm.

*12 hours later and my ass still hurts.

And for some reason that makes me smile.


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