|Visibly scared, pre-race at XTERRA|
I learned, however, when you're too competitive, you make dumb mistakes because you're too focused on the end result and not the experience. You also can thwart your own success because you're not being patient enough to master the particular skill in which you're competing.
Learning how to mountain bike, a new skill for me, only a month before my last triathlon of the season (an off-road tri called XTERRA), taught me how to slow down, take the competition out of the experience, and enjoy. The first time I tried mountain biking, I was terrified. Going downhill was the scariest thing I've done in a long time. That fear resulted in a barely controlled descent down a rocky mountain trail and a skidding sideways crash which taught me to grip my brakes more gently. A scraped up knee and arm and a dinner-plate-size bruise on my keister were sharp reminders that becoming competitive in a new sport is more patience and hard work than dumb luck and speed.
I wasn't dumb enough to think I'd never get hurt again as I worked on getting better at mountain biking. In fact, part of me (the bruised part) wanted nothing more than to do the sports I knew I was good at over the ones that could maim or potentially kill me. I didn't die, though. I forged on. Still scared, moving deliberately.
XTERRA race day came. I was ready. I knew I had to go slow and I knew I wasn't skilled enough yet to navigate the wooden steps on the trail. So, I stopped and lifted my bike over and around the large obstacles in the path. It took so much longer to finish that race than any other race I've ever done. But, I finished. And I didn't get hurt.
Next on my list of things that scare me: climbing. I'm terrified of heights.