Lessons learned while geocaching
- Just because you know where it is, doesn’t mean you can find it.
- A good question to ask is, if I were the person hiding it, where would I put it? I.e. put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- A GPS (or any fancy piece of equipment) can only help you so much. After that, you are on your own.
- Sometimes we all get functionally fixed on something, and can’t see what else is there. If you aren’t finding what you are looking for, think differently about the situation.
- Persistence pays off. You may not have your out-of-the-box thought the first time you try, so don’t be afraid to go home and return. Keep at it.
- If you really are getting frustrated, ask a friend for a hint or help.
- There are a lot of interesting things around you that you’d otherwise never notice.
Lessons learned while mountain biking
- There’s nothing wrong with riding up and down the curb in front of your house until you are comfortable with how your bike handles obstacles. I.e. don’t worry about starting small and taking baby steps forward.
- Uphill is hard. Keep at it, and you will improve. But know when you need to stop and catch your breath. Or get off and walk.
- There’s no shame in walking something that’s beyond your ability level. Better safe than sorry.
- You probably won’t get hurt much when you are starting out and scared of everything. You will get hurt when you develop competence and confidence and start riding at your limit. And if you are going to continue, you do have to get back on the bike.
- Downhill is fun, but downhill can be scary. If you’re going to ride it and not walk it, get your butt behind the seat, go easy on the brakes, and trust your bike. I.e. you don’t have absolute control. You have to give up some of your desire to control completely in order to have any control at all. (Think: controlled fall. But it is a fall. If you let it, your bike will do its best to take care of you.)
- If you can’t stand getting bruised, you are in the wrong sport. But who wanted to be a swimsuit model anyhow?
- Listen to your body; it will tell you the difference between minor bruises and really hurt.
- Listen to your brain/spirit. It will tell you when you need to take a moment because your fear is taking over your ability to perform.
- If you listen to yourself, and take care of yourself, you will find that your fears and anxiety lessen, and that falls that don’t result in real injuries become much less frightening.
- Ice is nice. If you know you’re bruised, put a cold pack on it. Take care of yourself.
- Persistence pays. Just keep riding, and you will grow stronger and more skillful.
- Every fall has a lesson. Make sure you take the time to learn it.
I came off my bike twice tonight. The first time was annoying, but I knew I was fine. The second time, I know I hit the ground pretty hard. I knew I wasn’t really physically hurt; I’d have a bruise, but nothing really wrong. My brain, however, wasn’t having such an easy time of it. I had to sit for a few minutes to pull myself together, because that fall scared me pretty badly.
The one and only panic attack I have had was on a mountain bike ride. There was a rocky, cliffside trail, and eventually, I did, indeed, take a fall down the rocky downhill side. I was bruised up, but not otherwise physically damaged. I was also in a race, and I felt obligated to push forward to get the best time I could. A few minutes later, I was having problems breathing, and it had nothing to do with how hard I was riding. My brain, logically and calmly, analyzed the situation, and informed me that I was having a panic attack. A part of me was all fascination: it’s true that you can’t breathe when you are having a panic attack! The logical part was very calm and said I had to get off the bike, sit quietly, and calm down. It was like I was partially outside of myself observing what was happening. All while something in me was panicking so badly it was taking away my ability to breathe. I wonder if I scared the corner marshall I came across at that time. I took a seat in his chair while I steadied myself. I walked almost every obstacle after that. My nerves were shot, and I knew it.
The terrain, loose dirt and rock, which was skeetering my bike around, plus the dark, did my anxiety level no good for the fall tonight. Four rides in three different places do not get you used to the way mountain bikes handle on different types of trail. I had a light, and that helped, but it wasn’t enough.
Two of the guys on the ride tonight came back to check on me after that second fall. I couldn’t even speak. I realized if I tried, I was going to just start crying. I figured they would appreciate it if I resisted. I held up my index fingers in the universal sign for “give me a minute”. It was hard to breathe, and hard to choke back those tears. If I had been with friends I might have just had my cry and gotten it done with. Those two, more sensible than perhaps they realized, just restarted their conversation and left me be to take care of myself. Which was probably easier when I didn’t feel like I was the center of attention. That didn’t take long, although it felt long for a few moments there. I was lucky, we were almost to the end of the trail; after I pulled myself together, there wasn’t much more riding for me to do. It still took a solid half hour to an hour after we got back in our vehicles and drove down from the trail head until I stopped feeling shaky and scared.
Mountain biking is like that, at least for me. The places I go are peaceful and beautiful. And the trail demands all of my attention, so no worrying about this or that or the other thing while I am riding. It’s almost like meditation in that I have to have a singular focus. I ride my bike and do nothing but ride my bike. I am constantly growing, not just in strength, but in skill. I learn how to do more and more as I go on. But it’s not without its price. I do fall off sometimes, no major injuries, but plenty of ugly bruises and, in the past, I’ve had an occasional lasting sprain or strain. It’s certainly not fun to get hurt, but there’s something fundamental that I learn about who I am by getting knocked around a little. Every fall has a lesson, if I stop to observe, think, and learn it. I won’t do Gu; I don’t do sleep deprivation, or working so hard I vomit. But I will continue to do this. Sometimes I wish I could skip this part, the being scared more than the falling off, but I know I am learning a lot, and growing, and that is why I signed up for this.