The Trail as a Mirror

I was too hyped up, too excited to ride, and I kinda knew it. Whenever I spend time daydreaming about killing it on the trail the next day, I don’t kill it. Successful athletes spend time visualizing their success, but any time I invest too much energy in what a ride might look like, it fails to deliver. Is this why I have zero athletic accolades?

Finally, an answer.

The trail, and to some extent the road too, usually turns out to be an accurate mirror of where I am between the ears. It rewards patience and equanimity. It punishes greed and restlessness. Riding well requires focus, intensity and yet also some level of relaxation. Can you accept the effort, the terrain? Are you fighting or flowing?

So you have this reflection of how you’re doing. It’s pretty unsparing. It remains as challenging as ever to fool the mirror. And if that’s all you had, just that sickeningly accurate snapshot of your mental state, you might sometimes turn around and go home. “Oh, I’m an absolute mess,” you might think (I’m likely projecting here).

But that’s not all mirrors do.

Mirrors also facilitate the remediation of whatever aesthetic mishaps have befallen you. In my case, that’s usually a rogue nose hair or some bit of food stuck to my face. These issues are relatively easy to solve, and the trail can work in a similar way. I’m too in my head over a work thing, or a family thing, or a being-a-human-in-the-end-times thing, but the trail demands my attention. It effectively floods the zone of whatever negative churn I’ve got going, with roots and rocks and lefts and rights. 

Not every situation is retrievable though. Occasionally the trail will you tell you you’re not fit for public appearance. Your mental state is the equivalent of a bad haircut, and it might take a few weeks to grow out. The good news is that this is seldom the actual case. That haircut isn’t as bad as you think. OK. Yes. It does reveal just how big your ears are, and just because it works for <insert name of better looking person here> doesn’t mean it’s gonna be your go-to look. That’s ok. It’s nothing a ride can’t fix, and console yourself with the truism that most people are only ever thinking about themselves.

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