What I Learned on Summer Vacation

Posted by: | July 13, 2010

I spent the last week and a half on vacation, on a climbing and biking trip in Oregon.  On my vacations, I like to use my body for what it’s good for:  work those muscles and challenge my skeleton to withstand some physical pressure.  Relaxation time is certainly a part of my vacation, but I find that I feel more alive if I keep challenging myself physically.

Mountain biking is my newest sport and it’s working out well for me, since it helps me get an all-too-needed cardio workout, as well as a lower body workout (counteracting climbing which is generally a great upper body workout).  Mountain biking also happens to be so much more fun than I was expecting!  On my mountain bike, I am like a five year old. Jumping in puddles with my bike, hopping over rocks and roots- I am a giggling mass of delight on my bike (most of the time).

Ever since I began to bike, I’ve had biking friends who have smiled knowingly saying, “Learn to fall.”  I scoffed at the idea. I am not into falling. Falling goes against the “climber” in me, for example.  I’m the type of person who will stop before I end up falling. I won’t push myself that far- that just seems ridiculous.

So when I look back at my vacation, it is with surprise that I realized that I spent it learning to fall. Not on purpose, mind you, but that’s what I learned on my summer vacation!

This is me. Trying to recover my will to bike.

It was on a horrendous ride in Bend, Oregon.  I had new pedals.  They’re the kind that lock in your feet to the pedals.  I couldn’t get my feet out of them fast enough, and would wind up falling over sideways.  Then there were the mosquitoes, which meant that while trying to pick myself out of the dirt, I would be eaten alive.  It was a beautiful trail, but a hard one, and every root and rock became a huge obstacle, as more and more of my confidence was lost.  With many, many tears on the trail, I didn’t even want to look at my bike afterwards.  I especially didn’t want to look at my friend who had gotten me on that crazy trail, who I blamed for throwing me too far into the deep end.  Like a small child learning to walk, I threw a small temper tantrum at my body, my bike, my friend and everything that came within eyesight whenever I hit the dirt.  I hit the dirt so many times, I can’t even count.  Falling was simply not my forte.

Now, back to work, with so many bruises and cuts from falling, I’m still thinking hard about my bike ride.  I hate that bike a little, but I also miss that child-like delight that I get from riding.  So I am forced to accept that falling is simply part of this crazy thing called mountain biking.  The bruises and scrapes are fading, and with it, I realize that my body is a very capable thing. Bumps, bruises and scrapes aren’t really a big deal.

Frustrating does not even begin to describe that experience.  That was so impossibly hard, physically. Emotionally, I found it really hard too: it was so hurtful to my ego that I couldn’t do it all really well.

But that ride was also so good. My body is sore. My muscles hurt.  My ego is bruised.  All of these are good things- they mean that I am pushing myself, challenging myself, asking for me to be more capable. This is what it means to be alive.

My vacation is over, but my bike is still waiting…

In terms of life lessons, this one is a good one I’ve decided: Falling requires you to lie in the dirt for a bit, but eventually drag your sorry butt up again.  I learned that I will continue to pull myself up again, even if I’ve even just fallen into an ants nest and I’m sobbing.  Tears dry. Bruises heal.  My resilience continues.

Too often, we are privileged enough in our world to avoid scraping ourselves up, but then I wonder aren’t we cheating ourselves of such opportunities?  Why don’t we more often seek out opportunities that force us to learn to take those falls, and revel in the ability to get back up again?

Filed under: Suzanne Jolly | Tags: , ,

6 Responses to “What I Learned on Summer Vacation”

  1. Erin says:

    What an inspirational post, Suzanne! I’ve been pretty nervous about getting back on my bike since a fall last season. You might have convinced me to try again!

  2. Suzanne says:

    Thanks! I’m glad I can get you back on the “horse!”

  3. Susan Fukushima says:

    Yes, falling is an important “trick” to learn! This reminds me of when my children and I went downhill skiing. We always spent the first 3 or 4 runs “falling” as often as we could down the hill. That way, we were more free to ski the rest of the day with gay abandonment, knowing that if we did fall, we’d be able to do it without hurting ourselves (hopefully!) and keep going.

  4. Suzanne Jolly says:

    Susan, that’s a great idea about skiing. What a great lesson for your children to learn too: that we’re not expected to be perfect all the time, that falling can be really good. I love it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Mel says:

    Thanks for sharing your falling mountain biking
    experience. I am a terminal mtb beginner due to falling
    and cracking ribs 10 years ago, now I prefer trail riding and street
    riding, anyhow, I had a fall in Aug trail riding in Whistler, on
    gravel! My bike just slipped out from under me on a corner down a
    hill. I HATE gravel! I still have a deep below the surface bruise on my leg. I am headed back to Whistler this weekend, haven’t decided if I’ll take my mtb tires.

  6. sjolly says:

    If there’s one thing I’m learning from climbing and biking, it’s that bruises heal. Thankfully! 🙂 But our memory of such falls doesn’t! It takes a while to really feel like we can “get back on the horse.” Thanks for sharing Mel and have a blast in Whistler this weekend, whether on a relaxed ride or a MTB ride!

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