Practice till it hurts to not practice


My feet are pointed toward the ceiling. The sweat that was dripping down my face is now rolling its way back up to my eyes. There is a spot about six inches in front of my face that I am attempting to make catch fire with my gaze. Any distraction from that spot and my feet begin to fall as the distraction ripples upward through my body.

It’s 6:45 AM. There are several other adults around the room. All inverted in headstands. There’s been virtually no verbal communication for almost an hour yet we are all working toward the same pattern of moves and poses predetermined and agreed upon. There are designated leaders, but everyone watches everyone copying, adapting their moves, their abilities working toward a group progression.

And just like that, it’s over. We walk out into the morning air to go our separate ways knowing full well we will all be back soon to stand on our heads.

7383b08e3678467bcdffda7358b47806I happened upon the video at the top of this post whilst perusing some of my favorite blogs. Seeing that I spent the morning standing on my head and had, at that point, imbibed the equivalent of half a cup of coffee (yes, that is a lot for me. I only need a drop or two to get my head going) it got the cogs grinding.

In particular, the scene in the canal where it shows the rider repeatedly doing what I would call an Ice Pick but upon using the Bing machine, I have found that is not the correct nomenclature. Anyways (yes, the extra s is for Prattipus), watching the repetition and perfect execution of said move broke lose the frozen cams in my head. I watched the scene a few times in complete awe. Not so much over the move, although I’m sure there is no way my mediocre handling skills would allow me to do it, but rather how perfectly he does it, repeatedly.

This was followed by more video watching and who isn’t impressed with flatland riding? Sure, I do believe that just about anyone could learn to ride like that. I’m also not unaware of the amount of practice necessary to be able to properly execute those moves, time and time again.

We often give our gods the characteristic of perfection without every truly thinking about what that means. Is it simply a line? A line that to obtain perfection, you balance upon without teetering, without veering from the unnatural directness of the vector? Is it a vector with direction where retreating or changing directions is by means falling from said line and therefore from your state of perfection?

Is there even motion to it at all? Maybe instead of a line, it’s a pinnacle where one is required to stand without varying from that state. Can perfection vary? Is there a way for it to be both masculine and feminine or is that just trying to personify our dieties and make them somewhat more like us to give us the feeling that we are better than the rest of what surrounds us? As humans, are we capable of perfection?

I don’t recall where, but somewhere I read that if you deduce perfection as the pinnacle of growth then anything that grows and then deteriorates and dies, by definition must pass through the state of perfection. Whether that moment is recognized or even capable of being defined is irrelevant. Perfection happened. By this definition, everything that is life is, at some point, perfect. Including us.

Super D getting rad.

Super D getting rad.

It’s what we do. We ride bikes. And then we stop riding bikes and practice things that make it so we have to stop. Hoping that next time our brains and bodies will remember the move and the line and we won’t have to stop, but rather will be able to pedal right through the obstacle without contemplating our own demise doing it perfectly, or not so perfectly but making it through.

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe the most benign acts of perfection should be celebrated. You didn’t clean that curb yesterday and now you did. Woop for you. That drop hasn’t changed in years and you haven’t missed it in years and without thinking you can go into it blind and with perfect speed make the landing and ride the berm out the other side. Woop for you.

Even in the ability to manage you weight distribution so as to maintain traction, keeping that stem pulled up tight, back bent down, lips almost kissing the stem, legs spinning, butt tight to the saddle, suspension articulating and absorbing, wheel firmly gripping the marbles you are riding over, slight body english as grade changes, you hit some rock, stand up and power, and over the hill you go.

Perfect.

Perfection might not be the pinnacle, but rather the journey of the effort. If we define perfection as the completion of the task, how is it that we can dismiss the constant struggle that was the practice? And if perfection does, in fact, exist, is it possible for it to be the apex and not the progression and decline? Is not the journey worth the end goal? Is it not all part of the whole and if part of the whole is perfect, does it not mean that the end product, is, well, perfect?

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I believe in SOB Hill. If you don’t know where SOB Hill is, ride the Zen and when you see the above picture you have arrived. It’s steep. It’s rocky. It involves turning and maintaining momentum and traction and power and.. everything that is mountain biking. I’ve never seen someone clean it on their first try and come to think of it, there are only a few people that I have seen clean it. Yet, every time we reach that spot, we stop. There’s conversation on how, where and what. And we attempt the line. We try to maintain traction or power through it. Some of us call it a 50/50 move. You either make it or you don’t. Others just say they don’t.

And there are those who keep trying.

Woop for them.

P. L. and R.

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