Sunday, December 11, 2011

From Full-Contact Commuting to Elbows-Out Mountain Biking

Guest Post by Amy DaRosa

Amy and Kurt post ride.
Amy was kind enough to write this guest post for Skiing in the Shower this summer after adventuring all over Snowmass Mountain with Kurt and I. Sorry for the long delay, but I'm excited to be sharing it with you now!

I've never considered myself a kick-ass, aggressive kind of girl, even though I have skied moguls, black diamonds and expert trails in the east and west, have lived and worked in NYC for the better part of 17 years, have worked my way up the corporate ladder and have thrown my share of elbows on the subway. So I guess my recent summertime visit to Snowmass, CO was as good a time as any to find my inner assertiveness and bring it out -- for something positive.

In advance of this house-hunting trip, my husband and I had made plans with several friends, including Kate and Kurt who I would be meeting in person for the first time. I should really call them super friends though, because I discovered that these two are up-for-almost-anything, high-achiever, technically superior, adrenaline-junkie, endurance machines of the highest order. When meeting up with them Sunday I even joked with Kate asking if she had a cape on under all that body armor.

A-hem, what??? Body armor, you ask? Yup, that's right. We were about to learn how to downhill mountain bike, which calls for body armor, helmet, gloves and a pretty awesome, fat-tired mountain bike. Safety first, folks!

So there we stood at the base of our favorite ski area, looking up at her multiple peaks donning their lush, green summer coat. I was wearing bike clothes -- the first set I had ever owned, purchased the day before -- but I felt almost naked. I usually tackled these hills when they were blanketed with snow in my very own layers of long underwear, ski pants, North Face jacket, Smart Wool socks, ski boots, glove liners, you name it.

But, the good news was we had our super friends on our side. After getting outfitted with bikes and gear, we suited up and were ready to learn the basics on flat ground. Have I mentioned I hadn't been on a bike since 1988?

Kurt talked us through and demonstrated the important stuff then had us practice and play, making corrections and encouraging us, all of which went pretty well. The bike was fun and fairly cushy with massive shock absorbers. We learned how to stand up on the pedals, lean the bike to turn and brake the right way. We were ready for our first mini-course.

Up the gondola we went. We got out at the mid-station to practice the mini-course, which was scratched out of a faintly sloped patch of dirt and grass. We pedaled and turned and stopped. Proving we were ready, we headed downhill with Kurt in the lead and Kate bringing up the rear. I shed a few tears during a scared moment, as I'm known to do, but then we kept going. They successfully coached us down our first descent -- high-fives all around! Now for the next challenge: taking the gondola to the top.

We laughed during the ride up, but I was a bit nervous. I'm not the keen bike handler that Erik (my avid road-biking husband) is, but I was still planning to go for it as best as I could. We got off the gondola, enjoyed the view, talked about the beginner trail ahead then started down. At one point Kurt suggested I brake more aggressively, which I tried to do. Feeling a bit unsure, I told him I hadn't found my inner aggression so he instead tried to get me to channel my assertiveness.

Before taking on terrain that might prove too challenging, we put our bikes down to preview a tricky portion of the course on Kurt's advice. I decided I wasn't ready for that so Kurt led me down a slightly easier path, while Erik and Kate pressed on. I was trailing behind Kurt pretty well for a little while then got spooked by a slightly more difficult turn. Many people might not have gotten spooked by this, but what can I say? As is my normal process when encountering anxiety in advance of a break-through, I shed a few more tears. Kurt was patient and supportive, helping me regain my confidence and get started again.

We met up with Erik and Kate lower down the mountain and finished up the end of the trail together. Victory! We reached the bottom with hugs and smiles -- Erik's bigger than anyone's. He was hooked and went back up for several more laps of the course with Kate. Kurt met up with another client to start his next lesson. I stopped for the day feeling proud of Erik and of myself, and thankful for our friends who now appeared more super and talented than ever! I can give myself credit for being brave, assertive and maybe even a little bit aggressive and kick-ass after all. I think I could learn to like this :)

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