I recently participated in a 400 mile "bikepacking" race. I placed quotes around bikepacking because there really was no intent to camp along the way. For some, like my wife, this sounds crazy...and she doesn't let a moment pass without tell me. I was aiming to complete the race in under 45 hours and closer to 30-35 hours...which means I can actually go with little to no sleep.
This race started out cool and rainy. We encountered several sections of mud and muck within the first 25 miles. Due to the convenience of modern technology (my GPS), I determined I had about 6 hours until my "stamina" would be zero. Not good I thought and tried to dial back my intensity. It was too late. By the time I reached my first stop at mile 75 I was in bad shape. One of my side-effects to over exertion is bad headache and a queasy stomach. I had both. I searched the aisle of the gas station like a pirate looking for loot. Something that would add valuable nutrition back into my system. I walked away with a Gatorade and pack of Sour Patch Kids. I still remember the clerk questioning my dismal array of "supplies" as I made my purchase.
It was about this point I wanted to quit. As I was outside the gas station I watched my friend, Matt, pedal past. We had agreed to each ride our own race and not necessarily wait for the other. I cleaned off my bike chain, filled my bottles and got back on the bike. As I pedaled away, the negative thoughts infiltrated my mind. Seventy-Five miles in. Three Hundred and Twenty-Five miles to go. How was I going to do this? Why do I do this? Maybe I'm not good enough. Maybe I just don't have the internal fortitude or desire to keep going. What does this prove?
I wish I could say I quickly pushed those thoughts out of my mind. I wish I could say this was the only time I thought about quitting and the rest of the ride was a piece of cake. I even wish I could say I had this big epiphany while I was riding. None of this happened. I kept thinking about quitting. Mile after mile. I was doing the math on how long it would take someone to come get me. I stopped again at mile 140 and met up with Matt. I was still in a bad place. It was dark by now, heading into the night. After a chicken sandwich and blue Powerade at a Whataburger, Matt and I headed back onto the course and into the dark night.
During the night, things were starting to get a little better. My stomach and head were starting to feel better, however the thoughts to quit remained. At least by this point we were headed back towards the Start/Finish line. One of the characteristics of this course was a 336 mile loop back to the start line and then another 64 mile loop back to the finish line. This alone can play tricks on your mind and I thought this would be a great place to quit. I would be back at our vehicle with a restaurant and place to relax. Several miles from this point, I started falling asleep on the bike. It's an uneasy feeling to be riding along at 15mph and open your eyes realizing you've nodded off. Another reason to quit I thought. I rolled back in to the start line at about 3pm on the second day. I made some small talk with another couple riders and told them I wasn't doing good and might call it a day. They left to finish their 60+ mile loop. I ordered a burger and fries.
Sitting down, eating a real meal, I did the math. I could finish at 10pm even if I could only muster 10mph on the bike. I figured I might as well attempt. I knew Matt would be close behind me and his friendship could help pull me through if he were to catch up (or I to slow significantly). I plodded along. Unfortunately, my GPS thought I was starting the entire route again and sent me on a course to head back on the original route. Luckily I realized this after only 2 extra miles and had to ride back past the Start/Finish Line. I now started laughing to myself and discovered my "WHY". There had been so many "things" happen to me to cause me to want to quit.
This was icing on the cake...it was hilarious!
"NO! YOU WANT ME TO QUIT" I thought to myself. "I AM NOT GOING TO LISTEN TO YOU!" There really wasn't a good reason to quit. I was tired. I was sore. The end was in sight though. It was here I realized the answer to the question I asked myself earlier. Sometimes, I do this to have power over the voices in my head. The voices that tell me to quit. The voices that tell me I'm not good enough. Will this reason work every time? I don't know. I hope so.
Relaying this story also reminds me of the "Man in the Arena" speech by Teddy Roosevelt. Showing up to toe the line is a battle in it's own right. Saying your going to do something to improve your life when you know the average person is spending their weekend on the couch, is entering the arena!
Two of my favorite quotes:
"Remember that life is neither pain nor pleasure; it is serious business, to be entered upon with courage and in a spirit of self-sacrifice.”
"Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone!" -Neale Donald Walsch
Are you living your life or merely a spectator? Take control of the voices in your head.
We look forward to seeing you at Open Range!