The first time I looked at a downhill track I almost cried. Even after my first big crash I just wanted to get back on the bike, but it turns out I couldn’t. Fast forward a year to the place I had said crash and I was a mess.
The first round of Taff Buggy 2013 was the very first race I’d done just a year before, after riding for four months. The track was more challenging this year, but that’s not what bothered me. I had been excited all week about the race because the series is always really good. The moment someone told me the chute (nicknamed the chute of doom) was back in the track this year I froze.
I tried to ride the first section of the track and all I could concentrate on was the fact I knew I’d have to face the part I’d crashed on last year. I completely froze, and stopped to take a look at the track. After a while I tried to compose myself and try again, but I couldn’t. I stumbled down part of the track like I’d never been on a bike in my life. I had to sit down and try to get my head around it, I’d never felt like this before and it was driving me mad.
I finally managed to get partly down the track and to the chute, it’s not that bad, but in the back of my mind all I could think about was last year and I couldn’t think straight.
I stood at the top for about two hours, agonizing over this one section. I know people say just to go for it, but I needed to come to terms with it first in my head. I once heard something along the lines of women think differently to men, our instincts tell us to be safe, and we process things differently. One way for me to get over something when I’m out riding is to watch other people do it. I also tell myself that if I’m not willing to push myself I will never get better. I don’t tell myself I can’t do something, I always try to positively reinforce my thoughts, and not fill my head with what could go wrong. Another piece of advice I was once given is to not focus all your energy on one section of the track, instead picture it as a whole, if you know you wont do well on one section, focus on where you can make up time, and where you can excel. We each have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to riding, but I believe that pushing someone too much is not the way to help them progress.
I was determined to do it, I am a stubborn creature, and no matter how many times I saw people do it I wasn’t going to do it until I was ready. It was coming to the end of the day and the practice day was getting quiet. I’d made friends with the lovely Marshal at the top by that point, and was chatting away to him. My boyfriend came down and couldn’t believe that I was still stood there, but he said he’d wait this time. I lined up and took a deep breath, I knew that I had to get down it or I may as well give up and not race. I rolled to the top and let go of my brakes, skipping down, it was over in seconds, but I remember how terrified I’d felt creeping over the edge – I’d done it, and I can honestly say I’ve never felt so relieved. I cried with relief, it had taken all I had to face up to my fear and that’s what I took away from the weekend. The race in itself was fine. I find that I can usually zone out and ride better when I’m racing, so I was able to just go for it and not think about it as much.
The main thing is to do something when you feel ready, don’t get pressured into doing something unless you think you can. We all have to face things that scare us, and you should only do something within your skill level. If you don’t manage to do something that you didn’t really feel you could in the first place it can really knock your confidence. My crash was just a silly little thing, my foot slipped from the pedal (I was wearing Vans) and then I don’t remember all that much. I feel a stronger rider for getting past something that scared me, but there was no way I was doing it until I was ready, everyone is different though. I feel like I can go into something again and do it with no problems. I like to visualize a section of trail that I’ve done before that’s similar and make comparisons. If I’ve done something before somewhere else I assure myself I can do it on another trail.
I hope sharing my experience can somehow help you when you next face something you feel you can’t do. It’s easier said than done, but you’ll kick yourself far more if you don’t do it rather than if you do.