In cycling, when I’m climbing, I am slow. I persistently keep the pedals moving, but I am slow. This bugs me – a lot. Over the last few months, I’ve been traveling a great deal for work and my cycling workouts have diminished. However, when I’m home, I go out and attack some hills. I have noticed that somewhere I have started to equate being slow with being weak.
This false equation has gotten in my way. It’s gotten in the way of my training and it has gotten in the way of my enjoyment. A couple of weeks ago, I was out riding and I was in the final stretches of a tough climb when I was passed by some guy on a really sweet road bike and who looked like he logged miles on a bike every weekend. My instant reaction was that there was something wrong with me and my ability. This is a thinking trap and I know it!
The reality is that every time I go out for a ride, I get a little stronger. Will I ever be a fast rider? Maybe not. My strength is in my ability to persist. To keep going when my legs are screaming and when my lungs are burning. My strength is also in my ability to manage my emotions so I don’t panic or allow frustration to take over.
Last summer, when I was practicing on Vail mountain, I noticed that there were quite a few cyclists who would pass me as though a bear were chasing them, and then, a short distance later, I would pass them while they were sitting on the ground trying to catch their breath or recover. (Of course, there were plenty of cyclists who passed me and were never to be seen again!) Comparing myself to other cyclists is a particularly useless activity.
The fact that I try to remind myself of is that what anyone else is doing doesn’t matter. I don’t know their route or how many miles they’ve done or what the objective for their ride might be. What I know is my route. And, not just the route that I happen to be riding on any given day, but the path that has gotten me to this place. Given where I was 10 years ago, I consider it nothing short of a miracle that I’m on the bike at all.
That is what I am committed to remembering every time I am out for a ride. How I do that is still up in the air as that competitive nature (just a wee bit of a competitive nature, mind you) likes to rear its ugly head to criticize me for not being faster and stronger. Maybe there’s a mantra I could come up with that I can repeat as I climb. (I’d welcome suggestions!) Many years ago, there was a cyclist who said that while he was doing tough climbs, he would repeatedly say to himself, “Shut up legs!” Maybe mind should be, “Shut up legs and ego! I’m still climbing. I will see you at the top!”