Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mind Over Matter

The last several weeks have had me far more stressed out about my upcoming 100-mile ride than I should be. I wish I could be calm and collected and just "know" that I can do it, but the more riding I do, the less capable I feel, which can be quite disconcerting to someone who just keeps telling people she is going to do this ride - and before the end of summer. I want to feel confident, but the more 30-40 mile rides I complete, I realize just how far 100 miles is going to be, and searching out flatter routes in this area is challenging and adding to my fears.
This week, I made a promise to myself that I would break through the 40-mile barrier just to prove that I am capable of increasing my mileage, even if it is in small chunks. What spurred this action? I suppose it was a number of things. But one of the big ones was finding out that a friend of ours had passed away. He was just starting a new job after several years of unemployment, and was on a plane coming home when he had an aneurysm. It was sudden, unexpected, and as his wife has shared, no one could have predicted or stopped it. He was nowhere near an age that he should be gone, or even thinking about leaving his wife and daughter behind.

The death of someone close is always thought-provoking for me. I wasn't particularly close to this friend, but Sam basically grew into adulthood with him - meeting in the army and forging a friendship that would last... well... through his lifetime. They had their times of being close and distant, but they always remained in contact. The passing of someone known reiterates to me that I can never take life for granted. We don't know when our last moment may be on this earth, and our time here is very precious and fleeting.
What does the passing of a friend have to do with riding? Not much, but I can say that riding is always a good time for me to ponder all that is going on in my own life. It allows me the freedom to work through things that otherwise might take up time with those I love. The reality is, the "road" of life is unpredictable, and sometimes riding the physical roads is great therapy.

The day I decided to attempt my "longer" training ride it was hot. Much more than I would prefer (though it is typical for this time of year). I packed up water and a snack, headed out to see where the road would take me, and how far I could get in the time I had to spare. I knew it wouldn't be a fast ride, but I wasn't concerned about any of that: miles were all that mattered. Most of the ride was lonely, and I had a lot of time to think. Sometimes that's a good thing, but on this particular day I would have preferred some company. It didn't take long before I started questioning the "why" of the century ride. Who am I trying to impress and what am I trying to prove? Is there a reason for any of this? What does 100 miles prove exactly? Doesn't regular riding seem more important than some arbitrary number?

I was comfortable on the bike, but it was a very slow ride. Every mile seemed to take an eternity, and I had little climbing to accomplish so I couldn't even claim fatigue from the stress of hills. I started to question my body and its capabilities. I began to wonder if I shouldn't just head home and live to ride another day. I just wanted to cross the 40-mile marker and couldn't seem to get there. "This fat body just won't let me do it!" I started telling myself. "Why would I think I am capable of anything more?" The tears started falling when I realized that I was allowing myself to fail; that I was offering excuses in an attempt to permit myself to give up. At 34 miles, I was done. Mentally and physically, I'd had all I could handle. The glaring sun and heat had beat me down, my water was gone, and although I wasn't actually hungry, my body was telling me that it wanted food... real food. My brain was telling me to stop and try again another day, so I headed home.
Yes, I gave in to all of the garbage I was feeding myself, but some little flicker of hope (or maybe insanity) sparkled deep down, and as I rode the few miles home I told myself that I would get a little bit of food, refill my water, and head back out... and I did.

As I got back on the bike, my body was displeased. Again, I was perfectly comfortable, but I was tired and the mid-90-degree temperatures (even with the rare cloud cover) were not helping. I was riding slower than I had been even before I stopped to refill, but I was determined to get beyond the threshold of that 40-mile mark. Why was every pedal stroke such an effort? I simply couldn't understand why my body was so fatigued after such a relatively short distance. Then, just as I was feeling hopeless, I looked down and saw this:
I had surpassed the 40-mile mark... finally!  Ultimately, I ended up riding just over 53 miles - far exceeding what I thought I could, or would do that day.

The mind is a powerful thing. I am convinced that I can talk myself into or out of almost anything. Sometimes the mind is willing and the body refuses to cooperate; other times the flesh is ready, but the head is weak. Finding the times when the two necessary parts overlap into a state of cooperation seems to be challenging, particularly when riding distances alone. But, knowing the way I felt on this ride, and seeing that I was capable of going beyond what I'd hoped to do that day despite the obstacles, helps me understand that I really can accomplish this ride. It may not be fast, and all of the stars may not align to have a perfect day, but it is doable... and I will finish what I have started.

Why will I ride 100 miles? I will do it because I want to prove to myself that I can...Not because someone is making me, or because I think it will impress anyone (far better people have done far more, certainly). I will do it because I don't know when my last day could be on this earth. I will do it to prove to every person who ever said, "You can't (or shouldn't) do that," that they were wrong. I will do it because I am strong, and capable, and willing to put in the time and effort to accomplish this goal. In the end, that's all the reason I need.


  1. That's awesome! Stoked you got back out there! You'll do this. You will.

    Love the new header photo too!

    1. Thanks, Chris. I know I just need to get miles in the saddle. :O)

      Got bored seeing the old, trying out something new.

  2. Do you still have the Lexa ? Maybe that would help you go farther and longer. BTW, even if you were to do just 30 miles, i'm still amazed. I'm usually dying by mile 5.

    1. I can understand. My first few miles are never good. It's almost as though I need the first 10-15 just to start to feel okay. I always admire those who can start off at a quick speed, because I am definitely slow to warm up.

      I do still have the Lexa, and I do ride it (I trade out during the week) for rides. The longer rides are actually a bit more painful on the Lexa (over 30 miles), so it's a trade off between having the lighter weight and being able to go faster, but feeling the fatigue in my body fairly early on, or riding the heavier, slower bike, but just feeling the "normal" tired from not being used to traveling that distance by bike. It's a bit of a conundrum, for sure. They're both good bikes, but they have trade-offs. The nice thing is, I can attempt to figure out which one makes the most sense to ride for the century as I practice along the way. :O)


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