June 22, 2023

Ride Like a Girl: Do Hard Things

“Do hard things. Take care of each other.” 

~ Dirtpunk, Jason Hubbard

I live for adventuring on my bike.  I don’t need to travel far to find new trails and new places to roam.  I jokingly tell people I wake up thinking about riding my bike.  I go to sleep thinking about riding my bike.

Recently we went on a mountain bike ride that was one of the hardest rides I have been on in a long time.  

The day started out like any other day - except.. I had not slept well & the summer heat tends to make my appetite pretty nonexistent so I didn’t fuel great beforehand - even though I know how important starting out hydrated and full of calories is - especially when the plan is to climb a mountain I have never climbed before. So, not really like any other day.

I think I was itching to put myself through the paces and see how my new Salsa Rustler handled on terrain I am not familiar with.

In hindsight, I should have looked at the elevation profile a little better.  I probably should have also suggested we consider a different trail system that was closer knowing I had barely slept the night before.. and I should have planned a better breakfast.. oh how “the should haves” still have me even as I write this.

Even though my instincts were telling me it wasn’t a great idea to try to conquer a new mountain I said nothing because I didn’t want to be the weakest link on the adventure nor did I want to bail at the last minute because I’m “old, lame, and so slow” - oh the stories we weave about ourselves..

The ride started out just fine.  A gentle up, lightly technical, twists and turns through ferns and late Spring ephemerals.  The first downhill was a blast and I was in it.  I was in my happy place.  

The first 8 miles were amazing and beautiful.. and then we reached the climb - the one that I didn’t look at very closely when I was choosing our route and studying the maps.

I am no stranger to hard climbs.  I preach to other people that it is okay to get off and walk your bike when you have to. I will often choose to walk my bike for self preservation and to save some energy to be able to get in the miles on a long mountain bike ride.  And when you’re in it and doing it you can’t always see how steep it is or how far ahead it is.  All you can do is climb and hope the summit shows up sooner than later.

As we climbed, fatigue set in.  I was hungry and trail snacks were not satiating me.  My belly was full of water - I had probably over hydrated because it was hot.  Lack of sleep was catching up with me with every turn of the pedals. I felt weak. I had to walk A LOT.. and it was all wearing on me. 

In the moment, what I wanted most was to just cry.  It was SO HARD.  I leaned my bike against a tree, sat down and let the tears flow.  Really, I sobbed ugly big tears.  I cried until I didn’t have any more tears and then, I got back on my bike and got back to climbing.  I didn’t make it very far before I had to lean my bike up again and have another good cry.

Now, the question is, who wants to do something so hard that it brings you to tears?

I squeamishly raise my hand and say, “Me?”  

Why? Because there is no better medicine than a big heaping dose of humility to help me keep life in perspective.  

I don’t really know “what” I was crying about.  Maybe I was crying because life is just hard.  Maybe I was crying because deep down I tire of life always being work..  Maybe it was my monkey mind telling me I am never going to have the fitness to actually climb that mountain.  At the end of the day it does not matter what brought the tears on.  What was important was to feel the feelings and be able to move through them to know that I will tackle that mountain again another day.

It is easy to give up and quit.

It takes effort to get back on and not give up.

It takes discipline to go back and try again.  

Somewhere along the way I have cultivated a relationship with “hard things” because when I push myself whether it’s physically or mentally a new version of me emerges.

I grow.  

What is “hard” looks different for every person.  My edge is not the same as yours.  Climbing a mountain on a bike might not be where your “hard thing” is at.  Maybe it is showing up for a group ride afraid you’re going to be the slowest and still showing up.  Maybe climbing a mountain is easy for you so you have to climb several over several days.  Maybe it is telling someone who has hurt you how their behavior affects you.  It doesn’t really matter what or where on the scale your “hard things” fall.  We all have them.  These feelings are not unique to me.

What DOES matter is that you occasionally put yourself in the line of things that push you to show up, settle into the discomfort, and push through it.

I took a week and half off the bike after my meltdown on the trail.  I didn’t want to ride my bike, but I knew I would get back on because it’s all I think about it - these deep forays into the wilds of the wilderness. 

It was a good week.  Several friends I admire shared with me their own experience on the same trail.  Seems I am not alone in my woes.. it’s a hard climb - even for riders much stronger than me.  Their encouragement definitely helped me move through the mental clutter I was having about all the things I ‘Should have done’.  It was good for me to take some time to get my thoughts into perspective and shine some light on some emotional baggage I need to work on.. I do love a good bike beat down from a hard ride.

I am already planning my next trip to those mountains - when it’s cooler, when I have slept, hydrated, and fueled much better.  I don’t expect a wildly different result based on my friends experiences, but maybe the second attempt will be without the tears and frustration and maybe it won’t.  That is all part of the adventure, right? I certainly hope so.


Sarah Hubbard