Can You See It?

Photo Credit: Sportograf

Last month, I traveled to Northwest Arkansas to participate in the 2019 Epic Rides OZ Off-road. Prior to attending the race, I had heard reports of the famed “Ledges” trail as being both technical and scary to ride. With only limited technical riding experience, I was admittedly nervous. How was I supposed to compete in a pro women’s field on a trail I’d never seen that could very well be above my riding level?

In talking with my mental performance coach about the upcoming event, he suggested I try visualization. Chalk it up to inexperience or skepticism or both, but this was something I’d never considered. I don’t naturally picture things mentally, and so even the idea was a bit daunting. But, following his instructions, I searched YouTube for POV videos of the trail and tried to picture myself making a clean ride through it.

When I arrived in Bentonville, I joined some friends for a pre-ride through the Back 40 Loop, which included the infamous trail. As we entered the Ledges portion of the trail, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for the briefest of moments, and went for it. I got slowed up on one small rock outcropping on the trail and had to put my foot down in a few of the small creek crossings for balance, but otherwise was shocked to realize that I had ridden the entire trail without incident. As I was riding, I remember thinking, “This isn’t so bad, the technical part must be right around the next corner.”

Visualization is about so much more than mountain biking and riding a technical trail. It is, at its foundation, mental confidence. It begins with the simple question, “Can you see it?” If I don’t first believe that I am strong/capable/etc., then I will rarely act as if I am.

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