"THIS DROP HAUNTED ME."

Bicycling (South Africa) - - STORIES - Syd Schulz is a pro­fes­sional moun­tain-bike racer, fo­cus­ing on en­duro events. She is also a writer and blog­ger at syd­schulz.com.

ITWAS A BIG DROP – ABOUT 1,5 ME­TRES DOWN. Long, too: you had to clear a me­tre or more of rocks to reach the land­ing. This drop had been haunt­ing me since I first saw it two years be­fore.

On this par­tic­u­lar day, I’d al­ready been stand­ing on the edge for nearly 20 min­utes. I had rid­den the slower B-line around it in a race the day be­fore, and los­ing that time both­ered me im­mensely. I had come back specif­i­cally to con­quer it, and I knew I could – if only I could beat down my fear.

The longer I stood, the more I re­alised some­thing: I wasn’t afraid of the drop. I was afraid of how my fear might cause me to act. I knew I had the skills to sail safely to the land­ing; but what if I pan­icked, and slammed on the brakes at the worst pos­si­ble mo­ment?

I rolled in. Once, twice, six times, each time skid­ding to a stop and abort­ing at the last minute. Seven roll-ins. I cried. I yelled. I tried to vi­su­alise suc­cess, but all I saw was my­self be­ing car­ried out on a stretcher. Eight. Nine. Ten.

And then some­thing snapped. I was tired of be­ing scared. I was tired of think­ing about this damn drop. While I was still afraid, my frus­tra­tion had over­whelmed the fear, and sud­denly I could vi­su­alise my­self hit­ting it – and land­ing smoothly. With that im­age in my mind, I could see that it was ac­tu­ally easy.

I went back to my start­ing point, and rolled in one more time. I let off the brakes, looked be­yond the land­ing, and pushed off the lip of the jump just the right amount. I landed ex­actly where I wanted to. And then it was over. I was fine.

I was over­come by a re­lief so in­tense I nearly vom­ited. I never wanted to do it again. But I knew I needed to – I had to ce­ment it in my mind now as some­thing I could do, so that when I came back, I wouldn’t think twice. I hiked back up to the take-off and did it twice more. By my third time, my stom­ach no longer lurched and my hands no longer shook. Where there had once been fear, there was now con­fi­dence.

WHAT SHE DID RIGHT RE­PEAT! Syd was still afraid, even after land­ing the fea­ture once. That stemmed from a lack of con­fi­dence in her skills, says Wise. But by nail­ing the drop three times, she gave her­self hard ev­i­dence that she could do it. In other words, “She hit her fear over the head with a ham­mer, then whacked it a few more times to make sure it was dead,” Wise says.

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