Carol from Team FINDRA is a keen mountain biker, in her blog ‘Leading by example’ Carol tells us how her kids give her confidence and support out on the trials.
From an early age I realised I had a great love for the outdoors – being brought up on a farm I always felt most content when I was out helping with the animals in any way I could. When I was old enough to head away on my own for a few hours I loved nothing more than getting to the top of one of the nearby hills, with my trusted companions “Dot and Ben” (my collie dogs) where we would then just sit and admire the views (and the sheep of course 😊).
When my husband and I had children we really enjoyed introducing them to new sports and activities. Some of these we were familiar with ourselves and could lead by example e.g. Tennis – this was always my sporting love and for a few years both boys were hooked. This was fantastic as we would spend many hours on the courts together – but this could also be challenging since both were highly competitive with each other and games often ended in tears as someone has to lose!! I kept wondering if my two could be the next “Andy” and “Jamie” and myself the new “Judy”?? Alas that was not to be, but we did have great fun trying, most of the time. My husband loves the hills too and has enjoyed many adventures with my eldest son from the local Moffat Hills to the stunning Glencoe mountains, their biggest (guided) climbing challenge being the Aonach Eagach Ridge.
We as a family took up rock climbing and again spent many weekends together up at Ratho Climbing Centre – this was great fun and I think the boys enjoyed seeing their Mum and Dad do something new and looking back they were as encouraging to us as we were to them. Whether it was sea fishing / wild-water swimming / (small!) cliff jumping / white water rafting / coasteering / skiing & snowboarding – together we would give it a go (apart from me and the cliff jumping – no amount of encouragement helped me take that particular plunge).
These times together were so much easier when the boys were younger. Now at 16 and 14 they are finding their own adventures, whatever they may be. One thing for sure is spending time with Mum or Dad is not really all that cool anymore. For the past couple of years, I have been enjoying mountain biking and all that it has to offer. I am not great at it, but I love everything about it, nonetheless. I think it stems back to having that urge to get up a hill – sometimes I enjoy heading out on my own but I enjoy it most with good encouraging company (and on the firm condition there will be coffee and cake involved). I also feel incredibly lucky as my youngest son has the same love – and whilst he has his good “biking” pals that he can easily spend a whole day with on the trails, he does make time to spend with his old Mum.
A couple of years ago I took both boys up to Aviemore for a week with the bikes and every other day we would head off somewhere new to explore – the boys’ favourite was Laggan Wolftrax and my favourite by far was Glenlivet. I struggled at Laggan as the trails were much more technical and rocky. I remember meeting a lovely lady who was also there with her son – we had a coffee together as the boys mucked about on their bikes eager to get going. She said to me, “just remember there are a few tricky bits that you may want to stop at and alert the boys to before they hit them at speed and maybe get caught out…”.
I smiled and thanked her for the advice whilst realising that what I was doing was very different to what she had envisaged. Instead it would be my boys that were heading down before me and would either shout out to me “MUM you’ll manage this bit fine so have a go” or, if particularly tricky, they would stop and wait for me so we could discuss what lay ahead and figure out how to tackle it. If I had a go I was rewarded with a cheer and a high 5. If I still chickened out their response was always that of support, “it’s OK Mum, it is quite a tricky bit actually. Next time you’ll do it if you’re just a bit more confident”.
This attitude continued for the duration of our trip and we left Aviemore for home on a total high (me especially). I was so thankful that the boys were patient and understanding. I mean, it wasn’t all plain sailing – we had our moments due to mechanicals/never ending hill climbs/getting lost/crashes (well only one crash and that was me – over the handlebars I went at an incredible slow pace and into a massive pile of heather – no damage done) but these ups and downs are all just part of the journey.
Our eldest son now is at a stage where biking doesn’t hugely interest him so family (biking) outings generally consist of me and my youngest, Cameron (14). His biking abilities have moved on a few levels and what I want to do does not have a huge deal of attraction for him, but we do meet in the middle. This way I get to do things I would ordinarily not do on my own, whilst under the careful supervision of my son – the confidence he has given me (without meaning to) has been invaluable to my (slow but steady) development. He will ride down at my pace in front of me, calling out instructions and allowing me to follow his line on tricky bits. On the (in my opinion) really tricky bits, we will stop and look, discuss and then I’ll watch Cammy ride it. I then might have a go or I might not – but if not I know I will be back to (hopefully) tackle it another time.
A few weeks ago, we were out at Glentress forest. It was a rainy day and the trails were a bit slippy for my liking. The first trail didn’t start off great for me for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t tackle some of the sections that I had previously overcome my fears on and coupled with the fact that I felt like I was getting in the way of other riders (it was a busy day), I felt deflated. Cameron could tell I wanted to head back down (for coffee and cake!!!). He said we could head down but that I would feel better if I cracked on and tackled another couple of runs. I could tell he really wanted to continue, so I agreed and back up we went (to a different starting point) – best decision ever!! There were two trails I hadn’t been on in a long time so were still a challenge, but I enjoyed them and felt like I was back on track. All thanks to Cameron’s quiet encouragement. THEN I enjoyed the coffee and cake.
When out with my biking friends and making new biking buddies along the way, I get a great sense of achievement, and the thrill of the downhill is just immense. To be out with someone who is just that bit better or more experienced is so motivating. Everyone must start somewhere. The hills and the forest are just such a special place to be and the friendly faces you meet along the make it even more special. No matter what your level, other bikers (in the main) are supportive and friendly.
To have further enjoyed this experience with my boys supporting me along the way makes for fantastic memories – admittedly probably more for me than them. As a Mum, I am having to accept that my boys are growing up fast and for some of these joint experiences they’re now leading me by example – and these times will hold a very special place in my heart.