If you had invited me to go mountain biking a few years ago, I would have laughed and declined. And probably have said something like, “Are you kidding! That sport is extremely hard, frightening and way over my head”.
Well, last weekend I completed a 100-mile mountain bike race. The Barn Burner – in the forest north of Flagstaff, AZ. Grinning and yes working hard for 10 ½ hours. The ‘technical’ descents as described by the race director during the athlete’s meeting the night before were no more challenging than my daily rides.
Somewhere during my hours/years of training I obtained the skills and strength to ride the Barn Burner course without fear. Mental fitness is every bit as important as physical fitness.
How did I make it through the 40-mile ‘wall’ or the 80-mile ‘wall’ that many riders described to me? I had prepared ahead. Do you remember Ellen DeGeneres as the voice of Dory in Finding Nemo saying, “Just keep Swimming”? I used her voice to remind me to: “ Just keep Pedaling” if I felt myself slowing down. That little tool and a few others had become a part of my mental race plan. Guess what! I never wanted to quit.
And probably the most incredible benefit of mountain biking: knowing I have the grit to do frightening/challenging things. Guess what! Life tosses obstacles in the path of most of us every so often. Developing confidence through self-induced challenges carries over to daily living when life throws unforeseen curves.
It’s taken me 3 years of riding mountain bikes to develop these baseline mental and physical abilities. Now I’m ready to step it up a notch: harder terrain, exposure (wow, that’s a long ways down!), and the need for more strength and body awareness to race much more challenging 50 and 100-mile mountain bike races and ride more technical trails.
I challenge myself to increase my own balance, stability, strength and speed while at the same time have fun. All of this transfers during my daily work as a veterinarian dedicated to helping my canine patients attain and regain their optimum fitness and function. Don’t give up on your senior dog’s abilities. If you have the time and interest, your dogs and even you can do more than you ever thought possible.
Mountain bike racing is a sport dominated by men. The Barn Burner had 150 men and 20 women finish. By winning my age group in this race, I received a gold coin that reserves a spot in the 2017 Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Whew, lots of hard work between now and August!
At 62 years of age, I am the oldest female to ever finish the Barn Burner 100 miler. Do you have a challenge that’s found it’s way into your life? Set your goals. Work hard. Practice daily. Have fun!