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Mountain Bike Blog



Mountain Bike Fail to Triumph in the You Yangs


I have a very staunch "I choose not to race" policy and it is with some regret that the policy remains intact.  However this story is not one of regret, it is tale of immense triumph.

We recommend breaking this video out into the native player and watching at full res.

My decision not to race stems back to a very brief period where I aggressively chased a Strava record, transforming the total escapism of mountain biking into an all consuming search for something totally meaningless.  When I realised what was happening I swore to myself I would no longer chase Strava records and implement an "I choose not to race" policy.

Fast forward a couple of years and I unexpectedly found myself on a work trip to Melbourne with the option to extend with some mountain biking.  A day of feedback from the good people contributing to the Twitter conversation had me absolutely FROTHING about the trails in the You Yangs but no sooner had I liked the You Yangs MTB Facebook page they announced an All Mountain Gravity Enduro on the day I was in town.  1 day of shuttling, 1 day of racing.

"Well" I thought, "If they run shuttles then it's definitely worth riding!"

The You Yangs were locked in, but the question remained whether I would race?  Adjacent to the negative headspace of chasing Strava records was the all too apparent reality that in a race situation I would be more likely to push the boundaries and take risks at a speed potentially beyond my skill set.

"I should race on a trail I've never ridden before to reduce the risk" .. makes sense right?  Before I knew it I was kitted up in as much armour as I could find at the top of the You Yangs DH launch ramp, ABSOLUTELY SHITTING MYSELF.

Now lets put some context around this.  I hate to think how many hours of YouTube videos I'd watched of the race route.  The files were downloaded to my laptop, mobile and tablet just in case I didn't have internet.  I'd categorised them based on the lines I thought were the fastest and I'd studied them with the obsession of a Jamaican bobsledder.  I'd planed not to enjoy my ride, but to compete and I had a plan.

The wrong headspace from the start

From the moment I launched off the very steep start ramp I was in the wrong headspace, not long in I was questioning the route (despite the OCD video sessions) and before I knew it .. HEAD v ROCK.  I totally screwed up my line into the first technical section, tried to slow down, clipped a pedal while braking and BOOM!  Not a good start and the fear was building.

Mentally I was struggling.  The expectations I'd put on myself based on the GoPro footage of others were not measuring up to the challenges in front of me on the trail and my next trip to the ground came at a point where I had mocked the pitiful performance of other riders.

I'd spooked myself.

Strangely all the sections I was worried about I rode very nicely but the technical sections I thought were my bread and butter were many times harder than I imagined and had humbled me.  I found myself taking all the B-Lines.

The last crash really knocked me around

Critical mass came as I entered a short but steep rock garden about halfway down.  My brain borked and I went for the brakes at the worst possible time.  Before I knew it I was on the ground and very concerned I might have a concussion or worse a neck issue.

.. and that's when the doubt set in.

As a bystander it's easy to point the finger at me and say I should have pulled the pin, but here I was sitting on the sidelines of trail I thought I knew from top to bottom, hundreds of dollars poorer for the effort to be there and one run down a trail that I thought I could ride well.

.. and then ...

Five guys of varying ages riding XC bikes, no pads and open face helmets came barrelling down the rock garden with skill and balance.  The same rock garden that almost made me a cripple.

.. and it was that point when my brain stopped and looked for inspiration.

A strange mix of inspirational thoughts got me back on the bike

I'm not an 18 year old testosterone filled sack of hormones so I didn't just brush it off with a hefty "fuck yeah", I grabbed hold of any inspirational thoughts I could find.  "Get Up Trinity!" from The Matrix, "There's no crying in baseball!" from In a League of their own, "We go to these dark places, so we know we can come out" pre-season mantra from Sea Eagles head trainer Donny Singe and that scene in Lost when the Jack talks about the spinal surgery going wrong "So I just made a choice. I would let the fear in let it take over let it do its thing. But only for five seconds. That's all I was going to give it."

An eclectic mix of thoughts I'll grant you that, but it worked.  I dialled up a smile and cruised down to the bottom for a full-service reality check.

I was injured.  There was no doubt about that, but I knew the worst was yet to come and I a had a few good hours to enjoy myself before I wouldn't be able to walk.  An Aldi brand RedBull and half a block of chocolate later I was back at the top of the launch ramp ready to go.

And what a difference.

In the video I've tried to capture the change in headspace of my second run.  The opening scenes show a far more confident, energetic, aggressive, faster and happy riding style.  But probably the most telling moment of that run was I got straight back in the shuttle queue for Run #3.

A number of bermed ladder bridges add to the intensity of the trail

Run #2 was full of B-Lines and reality checking but I rode it with the purpose I should have had on Run #1.  Run #3, not featured on the video, was even faster and more intense.  With the exception of the big boulder near the start I rode Run #3 on the A-Line the whole way and barrelled down the toughest sections of each technical area just make sure I could do it in a race situation.  I only thing I kept in reserve was the pedally sections the rest was at race pace.

I'd planned for 4 practice runs but my right leg was getting stiffer so after Run #3 I grabbed some ice from the medics and went into rehab mode.

Despite spending half an hour in an outdoor pool (Geelong in winter!), icing 20 mins on 20 mins off for 8 hours, wearing compression gear and taking a tonne of prescription anti-inflammatories I woke on race day with a leg that struggled to allow me to pedal around the car park and a stiff neck.  There was no way I would ride such a technical track in this condition.  It was an easy decision to pull out of the race.

2 weeks have passed since race day.  I have a torn right quad and cork to my left quad that's still noticeable through my jeans.  I'm desperately hoping to overcome my injuries and take delivery of a replacement helmet in order to ride Mt Joyce and Nerang next weekend.  I spent hundreds of dollars on a rental car, accommodation, shuttle/race fees and for all this I only had 3 runs.

Despite all this I have an overriding sense of positivity.  I learnt a lot about preparation, sticking to the plan and being in the right headspace.

It's also reaffirmed my ability to overcome crushing fear and doubt, refocus and attack challenges with confidence and purpose.

"I'm heading out where the water is much deeper ... I'm heading out I'm going there and I'm gonna make it",  Deadstar.

A really fun rock wall to bank off, then into a rock armoured turn (bottom right)

The last really technical section over some rock amouring and though a narrow gap between the tree and the rock face


Trail Centres and Trails featured in this blog



This website is brought to you by MTB weekend warrior Aaron Markie.
There are plenty of great websites out there with a wealth of information about Mountain Bike Trails,
however in my experience its hard to get a good mix of info, maps, photos and videos of trails I've never ridden.
The idea of this website is to tie those 4 elements together and give you a more detailed look at the MTB Trails I ride.
If you have anything to add then let me know.