Steamboat Springs resident Johanna Hall tackles some terrain in Fruita.

Courtesy Photo

Steamboat Springs resident Johanna Hall tackles some terrain in Fruita.

Spoke Talk: Look ahead! Pedal! Pedal!

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Everyone needs a little coaching now and then to help improve biking performance. Whether you follow someone with more advanced technique or you spend money to take a performance camp, there is always something to learn. Look at it this way: Even the top cycling pros in the world have a coach to remind them of a subtle technique or a specific strategy that gives them the edge.

Here I am, a 55-year-old woman who loves mountain biking. I’ve been doing it for many years and have pretty good skills, strength and endurance. I like to ride most anywhere, but am getting more apprehensive of super technical sections of trails. My level of confidence to make it over the tough spots is starting to diminish. Perhaps it’s something that comes with age.

This, of course, is not going to stop me from riding. I have a regular group of friends that I ride with at least four times a week. During the week it’s a quick lunch lap around Howelsen Hill, and on the weekends we usually take a lengthy adventure somewhere out and about.

My best coach is also my best friend. Michele Isaeff and I have been riding together since we met at a Town Chal­lenge mountain bike race in 2001. Our skill and pace are similar, and we have one of those great biking relationships where we ride without stopping to discuss where we are going or worry if someone is going to get dropped. Each of our individual strengths compliments the other’s weaknesses.

Michele is a whiz at the technical stuff. She just seems to make it over every tough spot without the blink of an eye. I am much better at going downhill through the technical spots, so it’s the uphill riding that seems to throw me for a loop. I have the skill to make it, but my mind shuts me down before I even make the attempt.

With Michele in the lead, however, I am able to follow her line and realize that if she can make it, so can I. Michele’s mantra is, “Look ahead! Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!” And you know what? It works.

On days I ride alone, I approach the tough spots and immediately think about what Michele would do. I hear her voice in my head: “Look ahead! Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!” and try to stay true to the mantra. With a little focus, I am able to override my thoughts that I can’t make it, and before I know it I’ve successfully negotiated the nasty rocks, logs or ditches I might not have tried before.

So who’s your best coach? It may be someone you ride with often. They give you a little push here, a valuable tip there. You may be someone else’s best coach and not even know it. Whatever the case may be, it’s tremendously rewarding to improve and help others improve, as well. All I know is that I find a great deal of satisfaction facing these challenges and conquering my fears. The tough spots seem a lot less daunting with my best friend and coach yelling in my ear, “Look ahead! Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!”

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