As our flight took off, I grabbed the arm rest and braced myself. I put my head down and prepared myself for the turbulence the pilot warned us about in his pre-boarding announcement. I heard a gentle voice beside me say, “Don’t worry, no plane has ever fallen from the sky because of turbulence.” I gave him a nervous smile. Despite all the self-talk that told me I was not supposed to be on that plane, I was now cruising at altitude and on my way to Grand Junction, Colorado.
Months ago, I learned about a women's retreat, The Desert Dose, that would take my mountain biking skills to the next level. It read:
Ready to become the best version of yourself? A transformative bike retreat for women.
I went out to the garage to take a closer look at my YETI SB140. It had been months since I had even touched it. Beside it sat my new bike for the season, a hardtail for more cross-country mountain biking adventures. I was retired from anything that required the squish of 140 mm of travel. This season was not going to be about climbing up the steepest, rockiest lines or crushing down technical trails.
I had decided I was done with that part of mountain biking. I love the dirt, but the collection of my own injuries and the injuries of my own mountain biking sheroes sat heavy on my heart.
With one last hope of getting back on trail, I sent a message to my dear friend, Shannon Casson. “What do you think about me coming out as a participant for your retreat?” Without hesitation, she responded enthusiastically, “YES!”
The first of our four day, three night retreat started with a short, green ride to assess each of the five participants’ skills. I rode in the back, my confidence was low and my morale even lower. It felt uncomfortable to be on my bike. My bike jarred me across the rocky desert terrain and bucked me out of my seat. Its wheels slipped under the loose desert sand as I climbed. My head hung low under the weight of embarrassment as my slowing pace moved me further and further from the group under the watchful eye of the sweep. I couldn’t help but think to myself:
"I am not supposed to be here. I cannot do this."
For the next two days we engaged in a unique experience. Instead of riding all day, the schedule was filled with opportunities to journal and self-reflect. Shannon took us through visualizations and provided us with a mindset toolkit. We did the 2-3 hours of skills that you come to expect at these types of retreats, but the Desert Dose way added another layer. We used the campfire to be vulnerable with one another. In the morning, we were greeted with journal prompts and warm-up exercises that focused on our mindset before we even touched our bike.
My mind expanded with the possibility that I was meant to be on my bike. I visualized my own success. I created a mantra. I focused on what I could do and the skills I do have. It shifted my mindset to one that looked forward to mastering the skills that I had not accomplished…yet. Now I found myself thinking,
“I am supposed to be here. Yes, I can do this.”
The most empowering activity was Shannon asking us to stand for at least 30 seconds in a power pose. My legs spread and steadied underneath my body. My arms folded outward with my hands landing just above my hips.
I felt powerful and confident. I conjured that same energy when one of the coaches asked me to take the lead for a while. A mindset that had been developed during the retreat surfaced to the top and I made my way to the front of our small group. We made it to the top of our climb and as I popped my seat down and grounded myself in ready position. I unearthed the same confidence that I had built throughout the retreat. My mind visualized success. I repeated my mantra over every obstacle and drop. My mind led and my body followed. I hooted a few times and let out a cheer as I took control and led my bike over slick rock and playfully maneuvered my way through the sandy dirt. I smiled as I led our group and challenged myself with some of the more difficult lines.
On the plane ride back home, I sat relaxed in my seat. The plane rattled from the turbulence and I smiled–daydreaming of mountains that I would ride this season. I thought about all the lines I have not taken and imagined myself confidently climbing and descending them. A dose of the desert and some turbulence is just what I needed to disrupt my mindset.
Written by: Brooke Goudy
Photo Credits: Natalie Starr