bicycling magazine, june 2011 issue, pages 18-19:
a photo of the infamous S curve in big cottonwood canyon. obviously retouched, the asphalt is bitter black, and neither a car nor pothole is in sight. it brings a grin to my face.
and gives me slightly different stats for the canyon than I'd thought:
total gain of 4584 feet,
average grade of nearly 8 percent.
huh. no wonder it hurts.
they call it "one of the loveliest S-curves anywhere," and although I haven't sampled many S-curves on my bike, I absolutely love this big cottonwood curve and smile to think of it labeled "lovely." it is lovely. and even lovelier without cars nearby . . .
I've come a long way, baby, in my willingness to descend at speed, and I've trained myself to steer my mind away from "what if" thinking. I am not a speed junkie, I am not a thrill seeker or one who takes excessive risks. but there's something powerfully addictive about pushing your speed on a descent, leaning into the curve, tightening your core and trusting your symbiosis with the bike to hold you steady and safe.
when a "what if" thought sneaks in (what if I were to crash at this speed? wow, I'd be plastered all over the asphalt, what a mess, what would happen to . . .) I immediately send it away.
it does me no good.
I have to focus on the road, my belief in myself, my trust in the bike, my vigilance in scouring the road in front of me, and just, well, have faith.
life is full of trade-offs. no risk, no reward is an axiom spread throughout our society and used in situations from dating to stock investing.
tavis smiley recently said that we need more people who are willing to fail. and to fail big. to take risks, accept the inherent uncertainty, and take the resulting ups and downs.
I accept that every time I get on my bike I'm taking a risk. a calculated one, an informed one, and almost always, a tempered one. when I hit the approach to that S-curve, I do apply the brakes.
lightly. carefully. with knowledge of my own skill level and my bike's handling, the road conditions, the wind, how many cars are around.
I want the thrill, but I also want to be around to tell how much I enjoyed my descent.
I don't disagree with tavis, but I don't know that I'm willing to fail big. not with the funds I need to feed and care for my family, and not with my life.
I watch people swoop and drop down winding canyon roads, and I watch people invest and score big in new products, IPO's, fabulous new technologies and ideas and crazes. and I am content to sit in the middle land of being just daring enough to enjoy the swoop, yet safe enough to retain my pretty-darn-good life.
may you find your own version of our canyon's lovely S-curve, and enjoy the thrill. and perhaps you operate as I do: a little braking, some appropriate vigilance, and a great big grin for the swoop.