Amongst the laughter, keg stands, ongoing humm of conversations, high fives, and cheering – I struck up conversation with another who had just completed the hour-long crawl to the summit of Mount Kennedy. He looked me and my bike-for-the-day up and down and gasped, “This was your FIRST mountain ride?!” his friend overhead and quickly whipped his head around and laughed in disbelief, “wait what?” 
With a very satisfied smile and my chin tilted up I responded, “Yup, I made it!” And with a wink I pointed out, “Now I just have to make it back down.”
I must say what an epic ride this was. Epic in length and height, but more so in terms of the sheer number of people who turned out for it. There were dogs, bikers, hikers, pony kegs and a full sized keg, turkey carcasses, yummy dessert treats, funny holiday themed costumes, and an upbeat energy that encompassed the entire group. 
As glad as I was to make it to the top and as elated as I am that I successfully (and without crashing or laying the bike down even once) completed the ride, I must say I was previously DREADING this ride. The climb, the dirt, going over rocks, fear of crashing, the descent, the number of people, falling behind. Every aspect I had built up in my mind as scary and it was so out of my comfort zone that I let my mind run away with my fear of the unknown.
But first things first – mountain bikes are EXTREMELY capable on the dirt. You might have just read that and thought, uhhh yea..duh? BUT I have done a number of dirt-road/trail segments on my skinny/slick tire road bike that made me conclude: dirt + bike = bumpy/scary/wheels slipping/etc. 
So with my fears silently brewing in the dark corners of my mind, the night before I turned to my SO and stated, “I’ve been thinking about the ride and I’m genuinely scared.”
He looked at me with a soft smile, his hands clasped behind his head, and unconcerned he replied, “It’ll be great, you’ll do just fine.”
Anxiety welling I stared at him with anticipation, waiting for words that would wash away my concern.
He glanced over again.. he seemed slightly surprised by the expression on my face. “There’s really nothing to worry about. It’s a fun ride.”
I guess I can’t expect someone who has been riding moto-cross and shredding bikes since he was a young adolescent to understand.
So I had to pull up my big girl bibs and fake it to make it. And it worked! I got up to the top with minimal to no stress and even enjoyed it! Unfortunately, the descent was preceded with a handful of well-meaning fellow riders scaring the s%#+ out of me with anecdotes like, “Someone crashes on this every year”, “I broke my collarbone on that downhill”, and “It gets really steep, it’s not an easy down.” 
Eric looked at me and, with confidence and conviction, asserted, “Don’t listen to that. You can do this. Just take it slow and follow my lead.” 
I was tense, I was nervous, I looked like a newb, and I almost cried (once), but I made it back down the mountain. It certainly wasn’t the most technical descent and I couldn’t have ask for better dirt conditions, but I was a nervous nelly. Thankfully I had Eric, as positive and certain as he was from the start, giving me encouragement and coaching me along. He could have easily taken off down the mountain, but he chose to stick with me and make sure I maneuvered down the hill successfully. Thanks to his support and patience, I feel eager to try mountain biking again!
Here’s to facing fears and bonding with the one’s close to us.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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