The third and last day of the BetterRide camp ended today and I am exhausted.  I feel like I practiced more than I ever have and learned so much about how to be a better mountain biker and it has made it even more fun!  All the drills though and the practice on the trails has left me feeling like I did 50 miles today.  In the morning, we reviewed the drills we've done so far, tried some coaster wheelies up and off the curb in the school parking lot and practiced the rear wheel lift.  I still have a tendency of moving my body up and down doing the wheelie and the rear wheel lift when I should be moving it forwards or backwards with my head at the same height at all times.  Once I realized I did that, it was easier to practice the move correctly.  I'm not saying I'm completely there yet, but I know what I need to do to get better.

The second part of the lesson was slow speed balance (doing trackstands) and switch backs.  I always thought that the way you corner was the same way you should handle getting through a switch back but that is not the case.  In cornering, your bike can be leaned to the sides while you remain upright but in a switch back, you want to keep the bike upright and actually maneuver it through the switch back at a slow speed with more balance, maybe even a track stand for a really tight switch back.  It was enlightening to feel the difference.  We did practice switch backs on a grassy hill on the back side of the elementary school.  Coach Andy set up cones and we practiced going both up and down the switch back.  I was terrible at going down the switch back and lost all thought of vision and looking ahead.  It's definitely something I need to practice but luckily I have plenty of switch backs to attempt at home.  We also practiced starting and restarting on a hill, focusing on pedal placement, and really getting in those first two pedal strokes to get going and not worrying about getting clipped in.  We spent a good amount of time on the trail - from 1:30 to 3:45 and worked on different features: rock gardens, logs, creek crossing with a large rocky section, and switch backs.  Patapsco State Park is surprisingly full of a lot of trails with interesting features. I thought a lot of what we were on was pretty wide (not exactly double track wide but wider than singletrack) but it was still very challenging with plenty of climbing and downhills with many trail features to practice skills.

I feel like this has been money well spent and I won't know for another couple of months if it paid off but I already feel like it made me a better rider.  I'm feeling more confident and know what I need to work on to be more proficient on the trails.  I wish I had more natural ability but physical activity (any sport) has never been my specialty.  I was always the last person to be picked for any team (anyone remember kickball?)  and never really became good at anything.  Biking and running seemed pretty easy in comparison because really, it didn't matter if I wasn't as fast as others because I liked doing these two activities by myself or with friends who didn't mind my slowness!  Now I find that I do want to get better and getting coached has made both sports more fun for me and made me fitter- all good things.

If I forget everything else I learned, I will know to remember this:
Look ahead, chin up, SMILE, and relax.

Keep on riding and look to victory to get through any trail.

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