Guest contributor: Debora Black

Bad Advice Wednesday: Balls to the Walls

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour




I like to go balls to the walls.  I like to climb slow grinding mountain bike trails that make my heart pound against my ribs.  I like to feel my skin dampen until the wet collects and beads and finally runs in streams down my body.  I like listening to the shrill calls of birds and chipmunks squabbling while I spin my unrelenting rotations and take in the soft rough squish of my tires pushing over rocks and the hard twisting roots of sage and trees.  I like the surprise when a shining doe bounds over my path or freezes into quaking stillness, and we look across the stirring grass into one another’s face and wonder what will happen next.  I like to scan the changing terrain and plan how to ride through a sliver of open space where protruding rocks could catch my pedals and knock me to the ground or off the edge of the hillside.  I like to click through my gears with dead-on precision, meeting the changing grade in exactly the right moment to maintain perfect efficiency as I climb a long steep hill, swallow it’s mineral dust, and rise out over its crest, legs aching, lungs bursting, and no stopping, but ride on past that place to a farther, higher distance.  I like to come apart in the emerald landscape.  Let my bones break and my organs rip open into a gory mess.  I like the relief as my thoughts empty and the wounds I’ve been carrying tight in my gut and the set of my jaw and the muscles clenched around my spine and right there behind my twitching left eye pass out of me into nothingness.  And I say, See, it was all nothing.  See that.

It’s going to be rough!

I like to cowgirl my stuff.  I like to soar down Blair Witch, pass through its chill darkness and speed over its dank, spongy, pine needle-wet leaves trail and then cross the bridge with its odd, pointed turns.  I like to hit MGM—those narrow, banking curves—take the sudden rising right to Larry’s where I duck through the tree limbs and roll through the scratching bramble to slide helter-skelter across the sandy road back to Lupine, down and fast, and hit that last ultra-extreme switch-back, counterbalancing—not knowing, hoping—before flying out again through The Meadows’ wide open landscape and pedal-width troughs—careful there, it’s harder than it looks with an inch of margin.  I like my low, cruising, downhill stance, feet parallel, sore-from-climbing crotch lifted off the seat, elbows in-or-smack-whack-fuck-motherfucker!  I like the way I hit a series of rolls, and I’m going so fast that I can feel my bike lifting.  And I have the same feeling as when my big Appendix quarter horse gathered to take a fence, and I would rise into a two-point position above my saddle—hips back, soft arch in my lower back, heart open.  And as she stretched out through the jump I could feel her everything through my hands, and I would give forward through my elbows, gently, to follow, and we lived together for those few seconds in that soft flying grace.  I like the adrenaline, the rush, the kick.  I could stay out there forever.  Sweating.  Pushing.  Breathing.  Flying.  But I’ve got that writer Monica Wood on my back wheel, whispering, Butt in Chair!  And I try to shake her, but she hangs on.  And since I know I have to get there, I take that turn instead of the other.  And then I’m at my keyboard, and it feels like it’s going to be rough, but there is no denying my wildness, and I have to give it all I’ve got.

Recover while you ride…


Debora Black is an athlete and writer living in Steamboat Springs, CO




  1. Mike Demkowski writes:

    That was cool! Felt like I was there. Didn’t expect to share that experience while sitting here in front of my PC catching up on email.

  2. Lorna Hamilton writes:

    The vicarious ride with you was exhilarating! I do not ride like that but I felt like I could through your words!

    “Recover While You Ride” Excellent Debora! Thank you!

  3. Tommy writes:

    This piece is nothing short of thrilling. My heart pace quickens, as I race down hill with you, not knowing, hoping. Maybe it’s because I know this – the slow burn of a long climb, and the rush of a calculated decent, or maybe it’s because you’re that good of a damn writer, but…

    “I like to come apart in the emerald landscape. Let my bones break and my organs rip open into a gory mess.”

    “See, it was all nothing.”

    “heart open”

    It WAS all nothing, and when you burst out into that nothing, there is nothing more peaceful, healing, cathartic, grounding and freeing. Wow!

    Thanks for bringing me there without my having to take my butt from the chair. Awesome.

    Love that WILDNESS!

    • Debora writes:

      Yahoo, it’s Tommy! So glad you were feelin’ it. It’s interesting to hear about the particular phrases that a reader likes…it’s all so personal when we put it down, but I myself never know if a reader will agree or not–or think it vital in some way. Thanks for all the the pow! Tommy. My ego got so big my chair just broke! No worry, tomorrow’s ride will surely bring me back down to size. 🙂

  4. Tina writes:

    That was quite the ride, Debora. Thanks. There is nothing like the feeling of going all out and surprising yourself by doing something better, harder, or faster than ever before. Muscles win over grey matter every time!

    • Debora writes:

      Tina is so awesome training for her half-marathon in Denver, coming up in October. The girl has goals, wants to make good time. She will! Thanks for reading, T!

  5. Toni Nesbitt writes:

    Nice piece; brings back vivid memories of our ride together – thanks for taking me back to that day, it’s a fond memory (especially nice to re-experience it, minus the bruises)!!!

    • Debora writes:

      Toni! Great to see you. Thought you might like this one. We did have an awesome day… 🙂

  6. Dennis W. writes:

    I’m more of an urban rider, but completely relate to where Ms. Black is coming from. Fortunately for me, I have no muse nipping at my heals, demanding my attention, haha! Well written piece, Ms. Black. Thanks for the ride.

    • Debora writes:

      Hi Dennis. It’s great you get the chance to be on your bike. The city…wonderful to be in Denver when I get the chance. Next time, I’m going to take my bike. I think I’ll have an easier time finding my way around all of those one-ways, and street event shut-downs, and cars cars cars zipping and zooming. Thanks for catching me on Cocktail Hour, it’s always good to hear from you!

  7. Debora writes:

    I know, I’m working too…but I’m glad you were able to escape for the read! And there’s the Town Challenge this evening! Ride fast and be ready for the surprises! Thanks for the nice thoughts.

  8. Stephan Zittel writes:

    Here I am, butt in chair, wishing I could be out riding! Mountain biking is so much more than pedaling, and you’ve captured all that it is. Every time we go out its an adventure, full of surprises, always happy to get back to the car in one piece. Thanks Debora!