Yo, Pay Attention

So I’m out on a mountain bike ride yesterday. A good climb up and over a ridgeline that drops down into a valley. At about the halfway point it’s fairly isolated. Probably six miles from the parking lot. Singletrack and semi-wooded. Later in the day and the sun is dropping below the ridge and shadows are creeping in. Zipping along having a blast I spotted a hiker up ahead on the trail. Female, young-ish, alone. I slowed down, skidded my tires a bit, cleared my throat, tried to make some noise so I wouldn’t startle her. Clearly she didn’t hear me, so at about 20 yards I said “good afternoon – coming around on your left”.

This poor girl jumped about 5 feet and looked like someone just set a firecracker off at her feet. I’d clearly scared the hell out of her. She wasn’t wearing headphones or talking on the phone. Just meandering along in her own world, completely oblivious to everything around her. It amazes me how clueless people can be. I have no problem with doing stuff solo, but for gods sake have a little situational awareness! I’m certainly not advocating that folks need to practice military type tactics when hiking or jogging, but take a second and think about your situation. Look behind you from time to time, don’t wear headphones if you’re alone in an isolated area, look around the parking lot before you walk to your car, etc…

I love seeing people getting outside and enjoying nature. Everyone should take a risk once in a while and get of the paved walking path at the neighborhood park. Head out somewhere away from people. We’ve become a society too conditioned to everything being sanitized and safe. Just be aware of your current situation and what’s around you. Besides, when you’re paying attention you have a better chance of spotting wildlife.

I, of course, am a hyper-vigilant person. For a very good reason. Snakes. I’m petrified of ’em. I spend my biking and hiking time avoiding sticks and shadows, convinced it’s a snake. I pull my earbuds out for much of the time when I’m running for fear of not hearing the rattle of the giant fifteen foot diamondback waiting for me around the corner. The worse part of my fear is that I’m a frigg’n snake magnet for some reason. They’re usually just garter snakes, but I’m convinced those are just the advanced scouts for the bigger snakes.

Sigh… it’s exhausting being me sometimes.

 

See You At The Top

Endurance activities are a funny thing. Of course conditioning and training play a big part, but for me the mental aspect is almost more important. A week or so ago I was doing a mountain bike ride that’s pretty much a four mile climb straight up. As you get near the top there’s a really steep climb. Lung searing, legs burning, I might barf sort of a hill. At the top of that climb, with almost no break, is another even steeper, longer hill.

When I rode this last time I made it up the first hill. Still completely anaerobic, gasping for air I started up the second. About a third of the way I glanced up towards the top. When I saw how much further I had to go I could feel a wave of defeat flow over me. I just knew I’d never make it to the top. With a bunch of people watching I stopped. Doing the equivalent of the walk of shame, I had to push my bike the rest of the way up the hill.

Fast forward to yesterday when I did the same ride. I felt great the entire way up. When it came to the two final hills I already knew I’d be able to clean both of ’em. Sure enough I rode up them with ease and even managed to chat with someone on the trail on the way up. How did I do that? My conditioning couldn’t have improved that much in a week. Same bike, same weather conditions, same breakfast. There’s something about a positive mental attitude that does wonders for performance. Now, if I could just figure out how to have that same attitude every day!