By: Julie Julian
The VIDA MTB series clinic at Trestle Bike park in Winter Park this month was the third VIDA clinic I've taken, the first as an ambassador for VIDA, and the one where I had a major breakthrough. Earlier this year I set a few goals for skill progression on my bike; specifically going faster downhill, learning jumps and drops, and getting a little out of my comfort zone. In the spring, I crashed in Fruita, when I froze going off a drop I wasn't prepared for. The support I felt on that ride from all the VIDA Ambassadors, some of whom I had just met, was amazing. The embarrassment quickly turned into determination to get more comfortable in the air, learn the necessary skills, and buy some knee pads.
We started out Saturday by identifying our strengths and establishing goals for ourselves. Dawn and Leigh, both enduro racers and veteran instructors, were our coaches. I was relieved to know that most of the five ladies in my group had the same goals as I did. We then headed up the lift and spent time going over fundamental skills, including body positioning and braking. This was a great review and a solid foundation for the weekend ahead. After the skills refresher we hit the trails to session berms and cornering. Dawn and Leigh broke the skills down, demonstrated, and gave helpful feedback as we practiced. We also had a chance to work progressions on 1-2 foot drops. I started feeling more comfortable and confident with the help of everyone in our group. By the end of the day we were all stoked and encouraged by each other and the progress we had made. Dawn had us end on a positive note by asking what we did well that day and things to work on for Sunday. There was definitely a camaraderie amongst our group. I found myself riding new features I would've never attempted before.
I knew Sunday would involve bigger air and more difficult trail features requiring a full face helmet. I started out the day a little nervous, but at the end so amazed by what I accomplished. On Sunday, we started at the pump track with built drops in preparation for jumps, tabletops, and bigger drops. For me, being in the air is definitely a mental obstacle to overcome. Dawn and Leigh broke it down by talking about technique and showing us with flawless demos. They made it look easy. I remember both of them addressing the mental aspect of the skill. They really emphasized the point of commitment and picturing yourself landing it successfully. This, coupled with the encouragement from all the ladies in my group, some of whom had never ridden big drops, was the reason I went for it. First, I did a 4 foot drop on No Quarter successfully four times! As Dawn said, "it's either a f*** yea or a no", and "practice makes progress". With the bigger 6 foot drop, we looked at it before and I remember Bella saying "it feels the same as the other drop, same technique." Tori, Kristin and Madge were so encouraging with that "get it" attitude. I landed the 6 foot drop twice and was so excited. We then rode Cruel and Unusual, a double black trail. I successfully rode all but one feature. During that run I was just in awe about what I was doing. Dawn and Leigh really inspired my confidence, telling each of us that we had the skills to successfully ride a difficult part of the trail. I felt so supported by all the ladies in my group. They were an essential part of my big breakthrough.
As a new ambassador for VIDA, I realized at this clinic that it's more than just improving skills. It's about support, community, and the friendships that are formed. I hope to ride again with everyone: Morgan, Tori, Madge, Kristin, Bella, Tara, Leigh, and Dawn. I've learned a lot about myself through mountain biking. I'm stronger and more driven than I thought; progress takes focus, hard work, and a healthy dose of bravery; and it all requires patience and a positive attitude. All of these lessons overlap to my life as a nurse, a mom, and a wife. I'm so honored to be a part of the VIDA community and hope to inspire others to go for it.