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My friend and colleague, Lori, has been riding and skiing since she was a girl and is an absolute bad ass on and off a mountain bike. She also loves a road trip, making frequent jaunts criss-crossing the country to ride trails from California to the tippy tip of Florida. So I was hopeful when less than a month ago, I asked her to join me on a trip to Arizona to visit my daughter. Of course, I had motives – I didn’t want to drive that far alone, I wanted company on the trail, someone who was a good rider, easy going, fun and admittedly more mechanically minded than I am (even though I later discovered we have a staunch difference of opinion about which gear to leave a manual transmission car in when parking it).

Lori, being the gal that she is, said yes. And a week ago, we struck off on our trip. We would take a 8 days – 3 days out via Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico and 3 days back through Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinios. The plan was to stop at least once a day and ride a trail that we would discover as we drove, utilizing the magic of the interweb.

On the second day, we were heading toward a little known trail system at an Episcopal Camp in eastern Oklahoma and listening to a podcast from Dirtbag Diaries. It was about an extreme alpine climber, Chad Kellogg who had died three years ago in a climbing accident. The podcast host, a good friend of his, kept repeating something Chad frequently said, which was, “Your life is the story you tell yourself.” Now, I am an adventure seeking riskophile to a small extent (my family might say more than small, but in comparison to Chad, small) and have strong kindred feelings and a whole heaping of pile of respect for people who are constantly challenging themselves. However, as a mother, wife, daughter, employee, coach, and generally responsible human being, I also know that I need to have limits because people rely on and love me. I sometimes get a little annoyed with extreme adventurers and the culture of Pursuit at Any Cost because I think their vision becomes tunneled and their motives too out of balance and self-centered. So honestly, when I first heard this quote I dismissed it as an annoyingly contrived and silly thing that cool people say to try to sound even cooler because they’re being interviewed by Outside magazine. But hey, sometimes I’m an overly opinionated ass, so there’s that, too.

A word here about the crazy cool trails we got to ride – none of them were gentle and flowy. All of them challenged me in new and sometimes very intimidating ways. I hope I alluded to Lori’s ability enough for you to understand that she is a very competent and experienced rider, seemingly on any type of trail. For me, the chance to ride with and learn from her on this trip was an added benefit. It was an epic mountain biking road trip. For her, the chance…err, mistake of taking this trip with me, was patently not. Constantly striving to stay on her wheel, I imagine for her it was not unlike taking an epic mountain biking road trip with a 4 year old. Each time I encountered something tricky I’d exclaim, “Uhhhh…I don’t like this!” or “This is scary!” and each time I’d make it over a rock garden, down a tricky drop or up a sketchy rooty climb, I’d yell out, “I did it! Lori, I did it!” and each excitedly expect her to return praise…and maybe even give me a lollipop or a sticker.

Fast-forward 5 days later. We were both super excited to ride Slickrock in Moab. Lori, because it is her “most favorite trail on earth” and me because she had gotten me so excited to ride it I thought I was going to pee my pants. I had hiked in Moab before but had never ridden there and couldn’t wait to roll along the smooth sandstone face of the valleys and tabletops. It looks like Mars.

As we made the climb up the road to the parking lot on top of the mesa, I began to recall other things Lori had said – a tale of a friend who had broken his face there a few years back or how she herself had crashed there and had the “flesh torn from her bones” because the rock is so abrasive. Because I also had two bad crashes over the past few years that resulted in two concussions, a sprained neck, and two broken ribs, I was overtaken with fear and began to panic. By the time we headed off on our bikes, my heart rate was through the roof and my breath short. My hands were shaking so badly and my arms so rubbery I felt like I couldn’t steer in a straight path, let alone down rocky descents and up tricky climbs. After 15 minutes, I was having a full on panic attack and started walking my bike up and down most of the trail. Lori looked back at me with the patience of a saint and kept saying, “You know, you’re totally capable of riding all of this.” I shot her a look that was part incredulity and part terror. “I’m not having fun.”, I asserted through gritted teeth. I then told her that I didn’t want to ruin her ride and encouraged her to go ahead of me, that we could meet up at the fork in the trail after a time. Once she left, I walked my bike up another boulder and stood on the top of it and started to cry. I considered calling someone to come get me. I vowed that I was going to sell my bike and return to road biking. I also took some pictures of myself freaking out and posted a confession on Facebook, as though that somehow might absolve me of being a chicken.

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Then, as I was standing there, on top of the boulder, looking out over the majesty before me, Chad’s quote popped into my head. “Your life is the story you tell yourself.” I rolled it over again in mind. Suddenly it took on a meaning that it did not before. Right then and there I profoundly understood that If I continued to tell myself that I was not capable of riding this trail, that despite being in that amazing place and not being able to arrest my panic, that the narrative of my story would be one of giving in to fear and the lie I was telling myself; it would be one of taking for granted an amazing opportunity to ride in an amazingly beautiful place and finally – and maybe most poignantly – of representing myself as someone I was not – it would be a story of fraud.

As suddenly, I turned my bike around. And I climbed back on. I competently rode down one descent and up one sketchy climb after another – whooping and laughing and of course hollering “I DID IT!” to Lori for the rest of the ride. When we finished, I lamented that we couldn’t stay longer or return the next day and declared that I was going to make a return trip as soon as I could. I retold my story.

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So friends, what story will you tell yourself?

#moxiewild #letsgo #bringyourmoxie #letsgomoxiewild #showusyourmoxie

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