As I got out my bike and pumped up the tires, I sighed heavily out loud. Muttering to myself (about nothing in particular), I pulled my water bottles and threw them in the cages, made sure I had my keys, and off I went. I have learned that on these days, I just have to let my body do what it can and not try to force something. This day was supposed to be a speed day, but I could tell that it just wasn't in the stars. Continuing to talk to myself, I kept saying that this didn't have to be fast, but just to get out and go. As much as I hate feeling this way, I also know that if I just ride, I can almost always talk myself into doing what I set out to do - even if it isn't as fast as I would like.
For once, I actually had a route in mind. I knew it would be mostly climbing for the first half and then a very slight descent with two steeper but shorter climbs on the way home. Knowing how I was feeling, I believed if I could just push myself to get to the midway point, it would be an easy ride home. "Okay, you're going to push yourself to the turnaround spot," I coached myself. "There's no reason you can't do this... you've had plenty of rest days." Amazingly, this seemed to work. As I got going, it wasn't the fastest I'd ever traveled the route, but I knew I was doing okay. When my legs were more warmed up, I kept trying to push myself to go faster and even though I really don't like climbing, I think it's a great way to test my improvements in strength and endurance while riding. I reached the half way point and congratulated myself silently. "Ah, now I can relax on the way home."
Except, I didn't really want to relax. I felt good at this point. My muscles were a bit fatigued from trying to push through at a faster pace on the climbing section, but I wanted to see how quickly I could do the return ride. Up ahead of me, I saw a slender male with quite muscular calves pedaling in what seemed to be a very speedy rhythm. The thought that ran through my mind was, of course, "I will never catch him." Still, he was in front of me and I figured it was something to shoot for and to keep me motivated. About a half mile up the road, I had caught him. I wasn't sure what to do. Mentally I was trying to will him to speed up because I really didn't want to pass knowing that he would likely just speed past me a bit up the road. He wasn't increasing his speed, however, and didn't appear to be ready to make a break for anything. I had a decision to make, and I made it quickly.
"On your left," I said as I was next to him, "Good morning, too." I was not prepared for the response I was about to receive. The first thing out of his mouth sounded similar to the air rushing out of a just flattened bike tire, "Ppshhh!" Which was quickly followed up with, "You've got to be kidding me." At this point, I was already several feet in front of him, and I couldn't help but smile. Now, who knows what this response was supposed to mean. Perhaps, like me, he had been talking to himself and was having a bad morning. Maybe he was upset with himself that he wasn't able to get the power he normally has when riding. It's possible he had been talking aloud all along and I just hadn't had the awareness to hear it, or he noticed some sort of malfunction on his bike that just so happened to coincide with my passing by. However, in my mind, it had a very specific purpose and meaning. I couldn't help but believe the real thought running through his mind went something like, "Seriously, this chunky lady is passing me?!!?!"
I told myself in that moment that he would not catch me. Of course, I have no way of knowing what he was really thinking or the intended purpose of his statement, and for all I know, he had no desire to catch up to me anyway. I do know, however, that I never saw nor heard him again after that moment. Something in that small instance clicked my brain into overdrive through, and I was ready to pedal as fast as necessary to keep ahead of him. I felt myself pushing hard the rest of the way home, believing that he had to be right on my wheels. Whether intended as an insult or not, I am amazed to discover what these sorts of incidents can do for me physically and psychologically. The ride home was fast, and I was motivated - by what? I'm not exactly sure. All of it was manufactured motivation, as I truly have no idea what was going through the other persons head. Yet, somehow this short moment in time gave me the shove I needed to average a faster ride on this route than I ever have before.
The question I then have to pose is, how do I motivate myself to achieve this sort of feat when there isn't someone present to motivate me? Obviously, I am physically capable of doing the work, so what is it that keeps me from achieving similar results on my own? I do have it in me to push myself - I did it during the climb to the halfway point - but how do I keep this same motivation for every ride, and every time I need or want to push myself? It is in there, and it's possible to bring it out, so I think I just have to work on finding real drive, instead of utilizing these moments of seemingly made-up determination based on perceived insults. Perhaps you have experienced something similar, or have thoughts on the matter. What do you use as your motivating factor(s) to get you to push through the more mentally difficult times? Do you have "bad" days when riding, even when you actually do want to ride? I'm curious to know if others experience similar types of rides/feelings. Ultimately, I seem to have decided that perception is what matters, and whether that perception is fact or fiction is irrelevant and unimportant; but deep down I really want to know that I can motivate myself when necessary without feeling as though I need that extra from some exterior source.