The Redback, Alice Springs

Hell Becomes Heaven with the Right Mindset

On my ride to work one morning, I was reflecting on a recent mountain biking trip to Alice Springs. I realised that mountain biking is an apt metaphor for life, in that we must learn how to deal with the obstacles that life puts in our way.

I was so looking forward to five days away from my life and its responsibilities. So much so that I thought little about what lay ahead.

Familiar Paths, Uncommon Ground

The desert around Alice Springs has the most technical and rocky terrain I’ve ever experienced on two wheels. Running there in 2016 was meditative. 

Me with the Doc at the top of a bloody big climb! Run Larapinta 2016.

This time though, the desert terrain pushed me outside my comfort zone, a nexus I find simultaneously exhilarating and scary, sometimes punishing, but a great teacher nonetheless.

The first couple of days went by in a whoosh, resulting in a few stacks, a cracked helmet, a ripped tyre, plus a few bruises. I was racing outside my skill level. The rocks were upright, scathing, or grating. They were everywhere, at every turn, and on most of the ups and downs.

Once moving, I could only focus on that bit of dirt in front of me. Looking anywhere else saw me riding off the route or hitting a rock. I tried desperately not to let my surroundings derail my confidence, especially with either huge drop-offs or ominous rocks at every turn.

Courage is Not Enough to Get You to The Finish Line

The event was six stages over four days, with only one on-road segment for a tiny 300 meters. My strategies for conquering the rocky terrain during the first two days were not always successful. Laugh you may, but I have the brag marks on my body to prove it.

My courage and fitness easily surpassed my technical ability. Ha ha as well as OUCH!

To be successful i.e. stay upright and in one piece, I had to reframe my mindset from one of ‘rock hell’ to ‘rock heaven.’ Instead of hitting the rocks hard and head-on, without any forethought, I took the time to assess what lay ahead and try different techniques. This way I spent more time upright, and with far less effort. 

Getting in The Zone

After a while, I noticed that I was unconsciously doing the ‘technique thing’ more and more. My hips were rocking, my legs were lifting the bike up, and over steps, my attack position evolved with strength, and I mastered racing on the soft sand. I also learned to get very relaxed about skids and wobbles. 

The more I embraced the rocks, approaching them less like they were an enemy to be conquered and more like a chicane that needed some finessing, the better I was able to conquer them. As each moment passed, their capacity to intimidate me diminished. 

Lean on Your Crew

When I needed expert advice, my coaches would pop into my head, talking me through obstacles. The one that seemed to recur most often was, 

“Look ahead funky chicken!”

Miles Davies, by telephone

i.e. look forward and relax. Their insights, even though they were just in my head, were an essential component in ‘coaching’ me in real time. 

You need your crew, like-minded individuals who want you to succeed, to help you realise your dreams. It is essential to your confidence, motivation, and success! I learned a lot before the event, and more during it. All boosting my confidence, independence and resilience.

David Etheridge, Geoff Parker, Me, Rob Millington

On Being Here Now

Whilst I ‘survived’ the first two days, I didn’t have any recollection of the scenery or the expansiveness of open terrain. I certainly didn’t feel calm and immersed in the meditative atmosphere of the desert. Reflecting on this on the evening of day two, I resolved to slow down, enjoy the challenge, and celebrate my successes over the obstacles throughout the next two days.

By going slower, and doing so with more presence, I experienced the pleasure of the journey, the pleasure that I had envisioned when I first decided to do The Redback. I couldn’t stay racing hard and fast, it was literally breaking me, and it wasn’t fun.

Cruising The Redback in Alice Springs

As a result, my last two days were awesome. I slowed the world around me to experience the meditative vibe of the desert and found the peace and the self-realisation I was looking for. 

There is always a way

In life, as in mountain biking, it’s not an option to lie down and hibernate when there are rocks in your path. The more you practice how to get up, over, and down them, the more you seek advice and coaching, the better you become at dealing with them. 

And yes, sometimes you get thrown, crack a helmet, get bruised, scratched, and torn, but giving up isn’t an option. Where this is a will there is always a way; an attitude I take from adventuring and apply to work and personal obstacles to realise my goals.

Mountain biking in Alice Springs just reminded me to be tenacious in life, work and play.

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