For about 5 years, I’ve been taking the same route from West Seattle to downtown with my mountain bike. It involves riding up the ramp of a lovely footbridge that crosses over the end section of the West Seattle Freeway. You know the place. Where people hang signs like “Snape Kills Dumbledore” for all passing motorists to see. Not far from those silly statues of people walking on logs draped in shirts from people’s pet organizations.
The point is that I’ve been riding this route for years. Around year 3, I began inexplicably freaking out at the same portion of the trail, as it winds somewhat steeply upward to the right. It’s as if I forgot how to balance on the bike. I thought I would fall, and would have to put my feet down and walk my bike 4 feet to the top of the footbridge, where I would resume riding, shaking my head in confusion.
This behavior became entrenched. For two years, I would get to the same place and not be able to ride through it. I tried lowering my gear to the great granny of all grannies, but it still didn’t allow me to get through the turn. I realized that I was going completely mental. I practiced the same stretch several times and each time, would come away demoralized.
A couple of weeks ago, returning from downtown on my mountain bike, I decided that enough was enough. I would work on this same stretch over and over as many times as it took for me to get it right. I tried mantras like “Go go gogogogogo” and my 4 year old neighbor Gabriel’s favorite cheer, “You can do it, you can do it, you can do it May-o-mi!”
People in the houses nearby must have been wondering who this nutcase was, riding the same ramp 20 times and muttering to herself.
It took about a half hour. And about 20 attempts. At attempt 19, I was still failing miserably. But something suddenly clicked in me, around attempt 20. I managed to get past the scary balance point where I have to lean to the right, and made it through the turn! I couldn’t believe it. Immediately, I made 3 more tries, to make sure it wasn’t just dumb luck. All successes.
What I learned is that I have to be really conscious of turning my head to the exit of a right turn, and not to be afraid if I have to lean a bit to the right. Also, sometimes you have to just relish the failures so you can get to a moment of YES.