Life lessons from the trail

THERE ARE ASSHOLES ON THE TRAIL... but there are also angels.


My hubby got accosted last week by a trail runner. He was biking up our local neighborhood trail when he saw a trail runner coming down. The official rules of the trail state that mountain bikers must yield to all trail users, but 99% of trail users ignore this rule when there is room enough for 2 people to pass or if the biker is on a technical, rocky section where it is difficult to get started again after stopping. Since my husband was in one of those places where it was both wide and rocky, he assumed the runner would obey the "unofficial" trail rule and they could pass each other safely.


But clearly the runner had decided somewhere long ago that all mountain bikers were inconsiderate jerks and was not having it. He jumped in front of my husband's bike, straddled the front tire, and started screaming in my hubby's face (and spitting on him without a mask) about the rules of the trail. This verbal assault continued for about 3 minutes until he was finally able to get around the biker and continue up the mountain. My husband was so shaked up by the incident that he was still visibly upset an hour later when he was retelling it to me. (And yes, for all the trail runners out there, I did remind him that technically he should have stopped!)


So when I went biking on Saturday I wanted to be away from people. I decided to ride a section of the Colorado trail that is a little less traveled, and I hadn’t seen a mountain biker once during my ride. I rode for about 5 miles, and at the top of a long climb I decided it was time to head back. When I turned around, my derailleur basically exploded, taking out one of my spokes and causing my rear tire to deflate. I heard the hissing sound and realized I didn’t have my bike pump with me. F&*k!!!! I was 5 miles away from the car with a broken bike and flat tire.


That’s when my trail angels appeared... 2 guys came pedaling up with a pump and a smile. They helped me get my tire off, new tube pumped up, and sent me on my way. With my newly inflated tire, I could at least use gravity and roll down the hills, although my broken derailleur meant I had the push my bike on all the uphills.


As I was walking up one of the hills, I was reminded of the Mr. Rogers’ quote about “looking for the helpers” but I was also reminded of one of the first rules of mountain biking: Always look where you want to go, not at the object you are trying to avoid.


I made a conscious decision to focus on the helpers and forget about the angry trail runner my husband had encountered earlier in the week. In this time of social distancing, it is easy to see the assholes. It is easy to lump people into categories and scream at them. It is easy to focus on what we CAN’T do.


I was reminded Saturday to focus on the angels, helpers, and all the things I CAN do. I couldn’t ride uphill, but those 2 trail angels saved me from having to walk the whole way back to the car. We can’t be with many of our friends and family, but we can call, zoom, and gather in the driveway 6 feet apart.


When we focus on where we are trying to go (aka an attitude of gratitude) instead of focusing on what we are trying to avoid (all the jerks on the trail) our life becomes one of optimism rather than pessimism. We forget about all the asshole mountain bikers we encountered on previous runs so that we don't verbally assault someone the next time we are on the trail. We see opportunities to grow and get creative. We notice the beauty around us, like the tiny purple flowers all along the trail. We smile and spread kindness and compassion.


And for that I am grateful.


P.S. Want to spend 3 days creating more calm using mindfulness, physical activity, and mental presence? Download the FREE Inner MAP Wellness Guide for tips and techniques to decrease your stress and anxiety!



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© 2018 by Jamie Blackburn

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