If you follow me on the social medias, you will know that in the last couple months, I have picked up a new sport: mountain biking!! About a year ago Matt and I entered what was to be our first adventure race: The Two Rivers Adventure Race with Rootstock Racing. Obviously, COVID happened and the race couldn’t happen safely, and we found all of that out before we even took the plunge for getting mountain bikes. But as the year progressed, COVID restlessness continued to settle in, a few more hopeful adventure race entries were garnered, and despite the massive bike shortage in the world right now, Matt and I found ourselves happy owners of new bikes!
I have spent a good deal of time of the last few years expanding my sporting toolkit with navigation and bushwhacking, so it was not a big surprise to me that when I took up mountain biking, I loved the “newness” of that too. In elite sport, progression comes in very, very small increments. I do some huge weeks of training, all in the hope that at the end of a few months, I might see a few watts of gain. That I might get a few seconds per mile faster. Gone are the days when I see drops of 5 to 10 minutes in my swim or run times that are oh so fun to see and of course, oh so motivating to keep me training for more!
Of course, certain big goals remain in my eyesight and for those I am willing to grind away for those nominal gains. It will be worth it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the feeling of being at the starting end of a huge learning curve! And that’s where mountain biking has been a treat.
Mountain biking requires a lot of things that don’t come naturally to me, namely: rhythm, coordination and balance. I also definitely have a disconnect between what I think I’m doing with my body and what I’m actually doing – ie I watch a bunch of youtube how-to videos, attempt to execute thinking I’m mirroring them 100% and then when I look at myself it looks *nothing* the same! That disconnect is a little scary but at least I fall on the side of having too much confidence/self belief?
The thread that ties all of those things together is something I *am* good at: riding a bike! I just have to learn a new way of riding a bike. Namely, a way that includes skills and steering. As someone who used to unclip “just in case” on a U-turn in a triathlon course, to say my skills need some work is an understatement!
The early days of me mountain biking was a lot of stop-starts. A lot of hike-a-bike. And a lot of falling. But somewhere after a fall where I thought my knee cap would never be the same (update: 5 weeks later it is now officially back to normal!), some knee pads, and time on the trail with a very patient friend (thanks, Shannon!) and boyfriend….I’m turning into a mountain biker!
I’m not tooting the mountain bike horn to say that everyone should go out and join me in this off-road adventure. I certainly think it’s a good way to see cycling from a different angle if you have been feeling a bit unmotivated for road cycling goals. So what place does mountain biking have in a triathletes life? I’ll put on my coaching hat to give the most commonly heard coach answer ever: it depends! When tri season is in full force, for me, there won’t be a big place for my mountain biking. My goals are still such in triathlon that when I build for an Ironman I will want to put 100% of my focus on time trial cycling. For someone who has more flexible goals about how triathlon goes? Sure, riding a mountain bike could be a great interval workout in the week! I also don’t have really any “easy” mountain biking terrain where I live…..some folks may have areas where a mountain bike could be an easier spin. I do like having this tool and look forward to mixing it up in future offseasons, getting into adventure racing some more, and perhaps trying my hand at an Xterra event at some point.
Of course, we’ll see if I have a change of heart in a few days because tomorrow is my first adventure race so I’ll get to put my mountain bike skills to use!! Here we go!!