In June 2011 I purchased a hybrid bike with the intention of training for a 100-mile bike ride at some distant point in the future. During that autumn season, I began riding my first few “long distance” rides of 10-12 miles along the Hudson River through the New Jersey Palisades. The Palisades are mountainous in my view and I was riding with a sprinter. Those first couple of rides had me doubting my ability to train for any real distance. During our second ride in the Palisades we noticed the route was marked with mile markers. During one break, we saw that we had only gone eight miles… and it felt as if we had done twice that!
I stopped riding in November for the season and got back on my bike for a failed 18-mile qualification ride in Central Park in March 2012. I had psyched myself out and over-dressed for the ride wearing fleece sweatpants and a fleece pull-over — both over multiple layers of clothing and topped with my light-weight winter coat. I was sweating buckets in under a half-mile and hyperventilating within three miles. I truly struggled to finish the first six-mile lap around Central Park at which point I despondently exited the qualification ride because my time for one lap had been twice what it should have been to finish well.
I didn’t touch my bike for two months after that sad ride. I had a 100-mile goal in my mind and a 18-mile course had stumped me. I admit to feeling like a failure. But even with that failed performance, I knew achieving my goal was only a matter of committment and focus. And I am okay with taking steps to reach any goal.
In May that same year, I completed my first 38 mile course in the 5 Boro Bike Tour (it should’ve been 40 miles but the course had been adjusted for a bottleneck snafu). I had perhaps made it out for one or two 10-16mile rides before the 5 Boro ride. I tell’ya, putting a 38 mile ride under my belt gave me confidence to see the possibility of going further distances. Suddenly 50 miles felt doable by the end of the season…. I did another 30 mile ride the following month and two months after that, in September, I did a 55-mile ride in the NYC Century.
The 55-miler takes my breath away because having completed that, my goal is more than visible – it’s doable. And just think, six months prior I had been ready to give up on myself and my goal.
One thing about low expectations: one great performance can take you to soaring heights!
Today’s lesson: No, I’m not a sprinter, but I can still finish – and finish well.