Mind over Matter: keeping it on the straight and narrow!

The Scene: August 7th, 2010 Dirt Series Women’s Mountain Bike Camp at sunny Hood River High School. First skills clinic of the whole camp was teaching the neutral position and bike body separation. “Hey road cyclist, come over here” one of the coaches yell. I sheepishly raise my head hoping she is not talking to me. After all I’ve been racing cross and riding my mountain bike for 3 years now. I hardly look at my road bike let alone ride it. My heart sank. She was talking to me…not exactly a compliment in my eyes. Was it that obvious riding dirt hasn’t been my forte?

This was the start of an awesome two day camp. There were 50 great women. About 10 amazing coaches.  And lots of skill sessions; high speed cornering, front wheel lifts, manuals, riding skinnies, switch backs, descending, etc.  All taught in a great environment with lots of demos, breaking the skills down and doing progressions, lots of encouragement, good humor and smiles too.

For the skill sessions I demo-ed  some flat pedals, lowered my seat 2 inches and wore elbow and knee pads…now I just need to get some cool baggy shorts and I’ll be set. Oh and a big heavy big travel bike!

This was an ideal setting to learn so much. Almost too much. When I got home, I just wanted to get back on my bike and practice my front wheel lifts, track stands, and bunny hops. 

Family Man, Post Canyon

Family Man, Post Canyon

Sunday afternoon my ride group rode at Family Man in Post Canyon; home of lots of man-made skinnies. Not sure what a skinny is? As the name suggests these features are narrow, and typically elevated to add to the whole fear factor. It’s scary to ride these. There could be consequences if you fall. We were told to commit to riding them, and if things didn’t go well, to commit to falling.

Family Man, Post Canyon

Family Man, Post Canyon

Most people can ride in a straight line. So then it becomes a mental exercise. You can’t think about your ride group watching you, or the Trek photographer or Dirt Series videographer off to the side, or the rock that is so badly placed as you try to get onto the narrow plank of wood, or the tree stumps 4 feet below you that you could land on, or the tree trunk that could take out your handle bars if you get too close to it, or that you are 4 feet off the ground on a 6 inch plank of wood that isn’t as straight as it looked when you first walked it.

Dirt Series: Family Man at Post Canyon

Dirt Series: Family Man at Post Canyon

Instead you think about riding smooth, you put your body in a stable position on the bike and you listen to your coach telling you to look through the line you want to travel.  Then once you have executed a great ride then your heart rate starts hammering and the hands can shake as adrenalin takes over. But for the few seconds it took me to ride the skinny I was pretty relaxed doing what my legs know how to do best: pedal smoothly.  (I ended up riding each skinny and teeter totter (sew-saw) 3 times; feeling like the first two times were pure luck). Candace was a great coach. And a great spotter!  And our ride group was awesome too. What a great day we had.

Dirt Series: Teeter Totter at Family Man

Dirt Series: Teeter Totter at Family Man

So how do you put yourself into the right frame of mind to get the job done?
Total concentration on a positive outcome and using trigger words to help bring that about (those who have ever taken my indoor cycling class know how big I am on positive affirmation trigger words).   How many times is this so true for so many things we do in life?

Here’s a little video of Family Man I found on Youtube:
Family Man, Post Canyon

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