Conquering Fear... The Long Way Down
So, I went on holidays this summer. We went camping in the foothills and brought our dirt bikes with us. Now, I've done some trail riding in my four months of riding, but nothing like these trails. In terms of experience? I'm a baby on a dirt bike.
Anyway, our first trek out there was going really well: beautiful scenery, fresh breeze, lots of trails to choose from, pretty flowers, everything one could hope for. The ground was seriously rutted, but it was dry. Sure it was covered with loose rocks, but it wasn't muddy, so yay!
Then we come to this hill. My boyfriend rips up it no problem. I figure, why not? It's just a hill, right? I grabbed my throttle, dodged a couple obstacles and a huge rock or two, held on tight, and powered my way up. I actually made it. I hadn't really expected to (my boyfriend hadn't even expected me to try). I was ecstatic. It was the biggest hill I'd climbed. I was so proud of myself. The view was amazing. I was completely giddy... until I realized I had to go back down. Down a 45 degree hill (so my boyfriend tells me), covered in loose rocks and dirt.
I was petrified. I've never been so terrified. Sure, I'd made it up the hill of doom, but how exactly was I going to make it back down without killing myself? Nope, not gonna happen. I'll stay up here in a tent, thank you very much. Oh... not an option? Damn. Back down I had to go... nope. Can't do it. Not that steep, and not that far.
My boyfriend very nicely coached me through everything I needed to know. Use the back brakes, just enough to slow down, but not so much you skid out. Feather the front brakes. Not too hard, or you'll flip your bike. Remember to breathe. Take it easy on the way down. Watch where you're going.
All good advice. All necessary things to remember (especially breathing). But did that help my panic and fear? Not one freaking bit. Not at all.
I was terrified. But I had two choices... walk down and abandon my beloved dirt bike forever (not really an option) and admit I couldn't do it; or let go of the fear (and enough of the brake to start moving) and ride down that hill. Really, there was only once choice. I had to drive my bike down that hill. Yet, I sat there for probably five minutes trying to talk myself into doing what I already knew I had to do. It was not easy; I was freaked right out.
Eventually, I convinced myself to go. I inched forward, and ever so slowly eased off the brakes, just enough to start creeping forward. I crawled toward the lip of the hill, slid over it, and hit a rock. It jarred my foot of the back brakes, and I started picking up speed. Fear wept in when I couldn't find my back brake again. I tried to feather my front brakes, but I could feel my bike starting to slip from my control. Trying to find my back brake with my foot was pulling my attention from what was in front of me (loose rocks and all). So I took a breath, put both feet on the pegs, forgot about the brakes, held on tight, and focused on steering my bike in the safest path possible.
Once I made the choice to just go with the ride, my fear left. I've coasted down plenty of hills on my peddle bike. This was no diff... okay, it was different. Very different. It was a bigger hill, a heavier bike, and a LOT more speed. But I could do that. I could keep my bike going where I wanted, even if I couldn't control how fast I got there.
I made it past the steepest part and the worst of the loose rocks. Sure enough, I found my back brakes then. I was able to start slowing down and pulled to a gentle stop a little ways past the hill.
I'd made it! I'd survived! I wasn't even injured. The scariest hill of my life, and I'd made it down in one piece. I was so proud of myself... well, once I could breath again that is. Took me a while to stop hyperventilating.
But I learned a few things during this long way down. I'd been so terrified on the top, looking down this massive hill. That fear was a healthy reaction to a potentially deadly situation. Fear told me there was danger ahead. There was one hell of a risk. If I couldn't maintain control of my bike, I would have been seriously hurt. I knew that, so I was afraid.
Yet as healthy as that fear was, I couldn't let it control me. It could warn me, and I could use caution that I might not have if I wasn't so afraid. Instead of succumbing to that fear, I listened to the advice of someone who had done this before. I trusted him, and I trusted myself. I listed to one I loved, and I listened to my instincts. And I made it down just fine.
Every now and then, you're going to come to a cliff in your own life. Looking down at that steep hill, at the very long way down, you'll probably be terrified too. Take a deep breath. Let your fear give you caution, but don't let it control you. Listen to the advice of those you trust, of those who have been there. Hear what they have to say, and then trust yourself. Your instincts, your experience, and your passion will see you through the ride of your life. All the way down.