I had a wonderful bike trip with my brother, Daniel, last week. We were in British Columbia, in the Kettle Valley. For those of you who don’t know British Columbia well, the Kettle Valley is the valley that is immediately east of the Okanagan Valley. Our mission was to depart from Midway, follow the Kettle Valley Railway Trail (KVR) all the way to Penticton, and then take the road the rest of the way until the loop was complete. The total distance was 340km. Our original plan was to take 6 or 7 days, then we reduced it to 5, and finally when we got going we decided that anything worth doing was worth doing fast so we settled on pushing ourselves and completing it in 4 days. My husband, Jim, provided us with a support vehicle, water refreshing, route planning and cheerleading. In addition, he travelled ahead of us to places where the trail would cross a road (often a very poorly maintained back road), then cycle down the trail to meet us and then back to the truck with us. There were a few beautiful sections of the trail that we were able to all complete together.
When we began, although I had done plenty of training, I really did not have a lot of experience with ‘off the groomed trail’ mountain biking.
I’ve had a few laughs at myself about how I morphed in only a couple of short days. For instance we knew from reading books on the KVR that we would have to cross two streams on Day 1. We were advised to pack water shoes to make this more comfortable. And of course we did. We arrived at the stream, took off our biking shoes, put on the water shoes, crossed, then took off the water shoes, dried our feet and put on the dry socks and biking shoes. That was Day 1. And those were the water hazards we had been pre-warned about. And then came Day 2. The water hazards on Day 2 were spread intermittently between the rock slides and the fallen trees that also had to be negotiated. None of these were written up in the book. When we arrived at the first water crossing we saw that it was about 30 feet long and it covered the entire path. There was no going around it. It did not look too deep so we decided to take a run at it and try to pedal through it. It had a very rocky bottom but we both negotiated it quite well, keeping our feet dry. Flash forward to water crossing 25. By this time we simply took a run at it and hoped for the best. Our water shoes were completely dry, firmly affixed to our panniers and our shoes and socks were soaked. We had been in water well over our knees. Twice I came right off my bike, unable to maintain forward motion in such deep water. We videoed each other trying to stay upright.
As I learned to negotiate all of the challenges over the days of the trip I learned a very important lesson. Early on when I noticed challenges like rock slides that covered the trail I would mentally talk myself out of trying them. Sometimes I would get off and walk a few metres to more solid ground. Later I pushed myself to try them but often got caught up on the rocks and had to start again. A couple of times I took a tumble. I wondered what I was doing wrong. Somewhere about the middle of Day 2 I had the realization that one thing that was impeding my success was that I was focusing my energy on the obstacles. As I came to an obstacle I focussed on it. As I focussed on it, I often found myself running headlong into it. By mid Day 2 I realized that there were often several ways around each obstacle and I started to focus on finding those and ignoring the obstacles. Amazingly, many more times than not, I sailed right through. Even more startling to me was that as I began to do this, I also eased up my death grip on the handlebars and started to let the bike do some of the hard work. By Day 3, my Day 1 self would not have recognized me.
I know that this is a pattern that I, like many of you, employ in my life. When something gets in the way of one of my ideas, or plans or dreams, I tend to spend a lot of energy thinking about the obstacle and trying to figure out how to outsmart it, or go through it, or make it disappear. Even when I clearly know that the obstacle will not move, I may continue to try to think up ways that it might magically do so. Sometimes it even defeats me before I get started. On the trip, once I began to focus on the many ways around the obstacle, the obstacle became somehow ‘less big’, and the solutions became very easy to see and to navigate. Noticing that I had some help was also good. In my case the help came in the form of my bike but until I realized that, the bike was part of the very obstacle I was struggling with.
My challenge for you this week is to practice noticing the spaces and routes around the obstacles in your life, rather than focusing on the actual obstacle. And please, put an adventure onto your bucket list. I have no regrets about my cycling week – loved it!