Fear. We all know it. It’s been useful to our evolution and essential to our survival. It protects us from bad decisions. But it can also hamper our progress, most often when it is not based on reality, but the stories that we tell ourselves. Anyone who has ever ridden a road bike knows fear. For this month’s blog post we called upon our badass friend Brooke Wells, an accomplished runner turned triathlete who has confronted a bout of fear or two.
I have two tiny scars in the corners of my eyes from falling off my bike when I was six years old.
Wind in my pigtails, I was bombing down the driveway of my childhood home, hit a patch of loose gravel and flew over the handle bars of my Costco purchased Huffy and went face first in to the pavement. I was bruised and bloody, and clearly scared, but the fear of missing out on neighborhood bike rides had me back on that oversized saddle the next day.
Flash forward 20 some-odd years. After far too many seasons of consistent injury as a runner, I picked up cycling again thanks to the encouragement or friends like Lexi Miller. This go round, I harbored a different fear. I’d put so much pressure on myself to perform as a sub-elite runner, I was scared I’d be constantly comparing my efforts to those of my extremely talented Strava KOM comrades. Would they have to wait for me on every ride? Would I get dropped and spend hours on end alone? Am I wearing the right gear? What’s a power meter?
The fear of the unknown consumed me in those first few months, but I made a conscious effort to ride within myself, not get over my head in distance or intensity and become “one” with my bike. That precious Ridley came to feel like part of my limbs. I gained a confidence that made every ride a three-hour escape of any of the fears and anxieties of the day to day.
Then, New Year’s Eve, on a day that was far too cold and wet to be on the mountain, I was bombing down the hills of Marin in my new, adult home, and my wheels went out from underneath me. I tucked and slid as I scraped the skin of my right side along the pavement. I was lucky enough to walk away with aggressive road rash and a separated shoulder, and, as I’m told the badge that now, I was officially a “cyclist”. However, I also left that ride with a somewhat crippling fear to get back on my bike.
After years of being chronically injured, risking additional pain and management of that pain was just something that I was not interested in. I’d bought a new Triathlon bike and spent the next two months sitting on a trainer indoors. I went to a training weekend up north and watched my friends conquer the wind and cold outside and stayed inside sweating on a computrainer in front of what felt like an endless college basketball game. This was safe, but this wasn’t me. This wasn’t the young, brave six-year-old that tackled fear head on to make sure there was no fun lost. This wasn’t the rational, dedicated woman who built up a base of hard earned miles and comfort on her bike that she lived for those hours outside. In those sweaty minutes on the trainer, I realized that I am not my best-self when I am backing down from fear.
I am in my element when I’m in nature, I’m with friends, challenging myself and breaking down barriers.
So, yesterday, I took that shiny new triathlon bike outside. I rode so cautiously the first few miles I would have been passed three times over by my six-year-old self, but by the end of the day, I had an impenetrable smile on my face, and the frightened feeling in the pit of my stomach was gone.
Never let fear take you away from when you are your best self. Take small steps if you need to, but never sacrifice the opportunity to feel whole.