Falling Up: Learning to Fail In and Out of The Saddle
Written by Kami York-Feirn
It was a chilly spring day. I had invited a new friend to go for a ride and as we pulled into the nearly-full parking lot, I realized we had unknowingly rolled up on a Tuesday night ladies ride, and without hesitation, I asked if we could join. This was a bit out of character for me as my confidence is not a fan of group rides, but we picked a loop and started climbing. The more I learned about these strangers, the more I liked them and instinctually, the more I got in my own head about how I was riding. I started thinking, “Am I fast enough? Did I pick a cute outfit? Am I going to get dropped? Are they going to want to ride with me again?”
After a quick water break at the top, we took off on the start of our big downhill. Not more than 200 yards later, my front tire smashed into a root that was sticking out, sending me tumbling into the bushes that lined the trail. I had just crashed…going uphill. I was so embarrassed.
When I arrived at the meetup spot, they all asked if I was ok, and to my surprise and relief, told me they’ve done that exact same thing before. They were so encouraging and were able to make me laugh about the situation. We finished the fast, flowy downhill, exchanged numbers back at the parking lot and agreed to meet up the following week for another ride.
After that experience, I realized one of the hardest things for me to admit is that I am 33 and still working on how to be ok with failure. Growing up, I was an athletically inclined kid and was fortunate to be able to try quite a few sports before committing my heart (and time) to soccer. I tried gymnastics, tap dance, dive team, and ice skating. I also picked up classical violin in first grade. With each new activity came new successes and failures, but none quite like the ones that came with mountain biking.
I was 26 when I started riding. By the time I turned 30, I was in love with my bike. I had recently moved to Durango and to celebrate a new decade of my life, I planned a mountain biking weekend in Moab. I was slowly branching out, finding new riding partners and going on more group rides or rides with friends. I even got asked to do a few mountain bike photoshoots!
As I started to ride with more women, I found my confidence increasing and my negative self-talk decreasing. We could all bond over our hesitation riding with men (usually our partners) and being dropped early in the ride. We would stop for picture breaks or to session a feature and talk about our seasonal goals as riders – things that were new and welcome for me. And while I wish I could say when that switch flipped, it was smooth sailing, that is far from the truth.
By expanding my riding network, I’ve learned that it’s ok to be afraid to try something new (a big drop, new trail, skills clinic etc.) As women, it’s important that we build each other up and encourage each other, especially in a group setting; it’s incredible what we can accomplish together. Some of my favorite moments on trail have been because I got towed into a harder line by a friend or was encouraged by a group to try a new feature. I strongly believe that growth happens in the moments when you crash and burn. The more scars you acquire, the more stories you have to tell.
I still struggle to go on group rides with people I don’t know. I still critique myself on the trail and worry that I am too slow. I still occasionally opt for a solo ride to avoid the social anxiety of a group ride. I’m still learning to fail.
But most of all, I still crash going uphill.
How have you learned to fail or overcome your fear of failure? Share your stories with us in the comments!