Riding With Confidence
I met my nemesis in Bozeman this summer. Ok, maybe that sounds a little dramatic. Let me explain. Back when we lived in Bozeman, we had a favorite mountain biking trail—the Bangtail Divide Trail. Pedro always rode it with confidence. I tackled it with trepidation.
This 25-mile trail spans the Bangtail range just north of Bozeman. Of course, we love the trail for different reasons. Pedro loves the trail because it has epic single-track downhill stretches and challenges his endurance. I love the trail because it has stunning wildflowers and epic views of at least four mountain ranges. Notice the huge differences in our reasons for loving the trail.
Although I had ridden the trail in its entirety, I have never ridden the whole thing at once. Pedro has. When Pedro rides the trail, he usually goes with some fast-riding buddies that keep up with him. When I ride the trail, I usually haul along my camera and spend time photographing the wildlife and scenery (aka, excuses to rest my weary body).
Pedro glories in the technical switchbacks and fast downhill stretches at the north end of the trail. I wear my fingers out with my death grip on the brakes and get annoyed by the number of times I have to dismount and walk my bike around a sharp corner. He ends the ride on an adrenalin high. I end the ride in quiet agony (unless I got a stunning shot of something along the trail).
The Five-Year Difference
None of us had ridden a lot over the winter, so we decided to forgo riding the entire trail. Louis, Pedro and I decided to tackle as much of the trail as we could handle, but realized we probably didn’t have time to ride the whole trail (whew!). Pedro chose what I consider the most difficult section because of its proximity to our campsite (it’s a man-needing-a-challenge thing).
We started out at Bracket Creek with tight switchbacks that climb and climb and climb. I surprised myself by cleaning them all (that means keeping my feet on the pedals). The last time I rode this trail, I distinctly remember having to get off and push (a lot). In the intervening five years, I had purchased a new bike, and I figured this may have had something to do with my success.
As we rode, I gained confidence in my increased skill and my overall conditioning. The profusion of wildflowers made every push of the pedals worth it. We continued uphill for five miles, until we reached our favorite panoramic overlook. After resting and eating, we decided to head back down the trail.
Look Where You Want to Go
Despite the fact that I had nailed the uphill trek, I worried about the descent. I figured I would have to walk my bike most of the last mile through all of the switchbacks. I managed to not get too far behind Pedro and Louis as they flew down the first four miles.
When I arrived at the first switchback, I realized that it didn’t look that scary. I looked where I wanted to go, leaned my bike to the outside and my body to the inside and took the corner slowly. By the time I negotiated the third switchback, I felt stoked.
I also realized the key to my success had to do with where I looked. Five years ago, I tended to look at the apex of each corner and think, “There’s no way I can turn my wheel that sharply and still stay on the bike!”
This time, I kept my eyes on the trail beyond the apex. By looking ahead, I subtly shifted my center of gravity to the correct position to negotiate the sharp corner. The body tends to go in the same direction as the eyes. I also discovered that success builds confidence.
After negotiating each successive switchback, I gained confidence in my ability to stay on my bike and not fall over a cliff. By the time we reached the trailhead, I felt stoked! For the first time, I understood why Pedro loved the trail. I still love it for the wildflowers and the views, but now I love it for the exhilaration of accomplishment, too.
Aligning My Vision
I also realized that I can apply the lesson of looking to other areas of my life. Those difficult people I don’t like dealing with? I can look at their potential instead of the apex of their annoying behavior. That knotty problem that has me baffled? I can focus on the outcome I desire and have confidence that I will figure things out.
All too often we look at what trips us up or bothers us right now. We forget to keep our eyes focused on the outcome. We forget Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Beauty Tip #6: We can negotiate life with confidence if we keep our eyes on God’s promises.
Q4U: What promises of God give YOU confidence?