happy MTBirthday to me

My one-year mountain biking anniversary came and went a couple of weeks ago. 

At Six Sigma Champs; final race of the 2023-24 season.

I started this post on the one-year anniversary but am just now getting back to finishing it. One year ago on May 23rd I went on my very first mountain bike ride with my son's head coach and a few other team moms for a moms' ride. I didn't even own a chamois! We met at the pump track in Oakland's Joaquin Miller Park, practiced some basic bike handling and MTB skills (level pedals, anyone?), and rode down Bayview and back. 

Then in June, I joined my son on a birthday ride at his request. My son, as I've mentioned a few times over the course of my newsletter, now a rising high school junior, fell in love with all things biking after riding the trails at Wente during a summer camp between 8th and 9th grades. He came home wanting to ride our local trails but we collectively knew nothing about mountain biking, here or elsewhere. Fast-forward a few months, he started high school, where he discovered there was, conveniently, a mountain biking club/team! A total lifesaver/game-changer. We all learned a lot that year!

Kudos to Coach Jen for having the foresight to properly document this moment before helping me back up to Sunset trail in JMP

Anyway, during my 3rd ride a week or so after my son's birthday ride, I crashed for the first, but definitely not last, time. But I kept going. I've since become a NICA Level 1 coach and try to make up for my lack of MTB skills and speed in other ways: helping with fundraising, setting up a swag order for t-shirts to match our jerseys, and putting together an end-of-year team photo/collage. Need a sweep? I got you! Picking up mountain biking has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life so far. Every ride challenges me physically and mentally in a way no other physical activity has and I see in myself and our student athletes how that carries over into other areas of life, even to areas where the potential risk is less physical but maybe equally scary.

When my son was a toddler I took him to Music Together classes. The philosophy there seemed to revolve around the idea of modeling. You don't force your toddler to participate, you model participation, and eventually they see how much fun all the adults are having and want to join in themselves. Before you know it, they're sitting in your lap singing along, shaking a tambourine. Not only did it work for Music Together classes, but I remember thinking then and a few years later with my daughter, what a great overall approach to parenting. Not that we should strive to be perfect role models, but what better way to teach your kids to do something or behave a certain way than to model that behavior yourself, right?

In this case, I like to think my son was modeling for me how transformative something as challenging, but also super fun, as mountain biking could be. Every Sunday adventure ride his first year I'd find things to do during the three or so hours they'd ride - hiking, shopping, eating - but part of me wondered what it would be like to join them on their climb up Mount Tam. And then I did! And it's been such a joy and honor to ride with the team over the past year.

At our final preride of the season I took a silly little tumble sideways down a hill and aggravated an earlier shoulder/clavicle injury. I took a two-week break - and honestly I was exhausted in all the ways after a particularly busy April & May - but yesterday I went for a spontaneous solo ride and had so much fun. I still feel a bit like I don't belong here, but I'm kind of used to this feeling and I've learned to embrace what it means, harking back to a newsletter update where I pondered how well creative advice might work for an MTB newbie like myself (or anyone new to really any activity). I'll re-list them here:

  1. Accept that you are a total amateur.
  2. Don’t be embarrassed.
  3. Have courage.
  4. Start now.
  5. [X] is not about understanding…or mastery. It’s about doing and experience.
  6. Develop forms of practice.
  7. Work, work, work.
  8. Get lost.
  9. Redefine success.
  10. Keep going
These are phrases you see a lot if you think or read much about creativity, but I think they work equally well for more physical stuff. And turns out I'm not the only creative person into some form of cycling (Lisa Congdon and Austin Kleon, to name just a couple, plus Caroline Paul's recent NYTimes OpEd about her mother's bike-riding). So maybe there is something to this synergy between creativity and cycling. Looking forward to doubling down on both over the next school year.

In the meantime, happy summer to those who celebrate early, like Oakland's public school system, and may you find the joy in whatever you're up to over the next few months.

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