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“Flow state” is a zone sought out by adventure athletes all over the world. It’s a feeling of physical and mental presence that transcends time and space. There’s something especially “flowy” about hopping on a mountain bike, gripping the handle bars, soaring down hills, and winding around banked turns… and on First Descents MTB programs we witness firsthand as the flow state improves mental and physical health outcomes for our entire community.
This Summer, FD found ultimate “Biking Nirvana” at REEB Ranch in Brevard, North Carolina. Outfitted with the top-of-the-line Yeti Cycles and REEB Cycles, a group of fifteen FD staff and participants took on some of the most fluid trails in the nation. Needless to say, the FD MTB program hosted at REEB elevated the healing power of adventure to a whole new level. We sat down with FD participant Atlas to talk about her first experience mountain biking, and the impacts it is already making in her life.
“My experience with mountain biking with the generosity of REEB Ranch and Oskar Blues gave me a safe place to re-evaluate my life despite the challenges and side effects of cancer treatment. Despite the trauma of being treated for two cancers, I want to embrace life and live it joyfully. Cancer is a part of my story but it does not define who I am. Rather, my identity is more based on the choices that I make despite my cancer treatment.
Under normal circumstances, I probably would have never tried mountain biking, but because I was surrounded with loving staff, used amazing top of the line bicycles that make me feel safe going down hills at lightning speeds, stayed on an amazing property, and did all this with others who also want to embrace the Out Living It lifestyle, I tried a new sport that challenged me physically and that allowed me to address some of my core unconscious beliefs.
On the beautiful grounds of REEB ranch, I realized I have sold myself short in terms of who I could be as an individual. The harsh reality is that ever since I was eight years old, I’ve had to deal with cancer treatment five separate times either for myself or a close family member; thus for large chunks of my life I have unknowingly lived life in some sort of survival mode. During the biking weekend, I for the first time realized that I could work towards potentially becoming a truly athletic person – it’s seems crazy to say, but I had honestly never considered it to be a possibility.
My First Descents weekend also gave me the momentum I needed to empower myself physically. After my breast cancer reconstruction DIEP flap surgery, I was left with a weaker core. With mountain biking a strong core is essential to biking up hills, and when I was unable to bike several hills, I was able to address the desire of wanting to feel empowered physically. It has only been two weeks since the weekend but I am already doing Pilates exercises that I have not been able to do since before chemotherapy two years ago.
I guess you could say that riding those trails at REEB Ranch I had an awakening. I, “Atlas”, want to stop carrying the world on my shoulders. But, I know that my journey will often be unpredictable and full of challenges. Mountain biking with FD let me experience firsthand that there are challenges to every physical and philosophical adventure…from the trails of North Carolina to cancer treatment. All I can do in the meantime is keep aspiring to be Out Living It.”
Hearing from Atlas was a reminder that adventure heals us, inspires us, and it can launch us on personal journeys over mountain tops towards mental flow. It’s partners like REEB and Oskar Blues that allow First Descents to keep spreading the healing power of adventure to new communities and to incorporate even more empowering programs like Mountain Biking. With twelve FD MTB programs in 2019, this is just the beginning of riding the path to Out Living It on two wheels for the FD community!
To learn more about Oskar Blues and the beautiful mountain biking bliss of REEB Ranch, visit their website here.