Yesterday I wrote that we would be riding 80 miles today. Our bike team calls this particular route “The Flat 80,” presumably because there is only 1100 feet of elevation gain in a nearly 80-mile ride. We met at the appointed 6:45 a.m. time and were off on our bikes on schedule promptly at 7 a.m. The weather forecast was a mixed blessing. It was to be overcast and cool in the morning before warming up to 80; then the storm clouds would roll in. I so wanted to avoid getting stormed on, so I promised myself I would be fast today.
There were six of us biking together. I was the only female and I was, by far, the slowest. At first, it didn’t really bother me. But, as I rode along, I began thinking about something another teammate mentioned. Last week, when they had ridden 100 miles rather than just 80, there was a woman who rode with them who kept pace. Not only had she kept up with the guys, but she’d done it riding 100 miles rather than 80 miles in 90 degree temps. The more I thought about that, the more I wondered what was wrong with me. Why aren’t I faster? Am I that much worse of a rider than my teammates are? For a good 5-10 miles I stewed over this, my legs slowed even further by my own self-doubt.
After lunch, I had a surge of energy and started going a bit faster. I sensed the others had slowed a bit because I was in with the pack of riders for about 10 miles. I felt pretty good about it. The clouds were rolling in, and I wanted to avoid the lightning and rain so I did my best to keep pace. After our last stop at REI, 18 miles from our starting point, though, I got tired. Although I’ve put in over 800 miles on my bike so far this year, most of them were logged on my stationary trainer. This was only my third ride outside over 20 miles, and I hadn’t ridden over 40 miles yet this year. So, the push to get to 80 was definitely a stretch. Still, I knew I was capable of doing it.
I plugged along, playing the caboose the entire way. We managed to wait out the last of the storm as it passed by, but when we got back on our bikes I found that our long rest stop had taken its toll on me. I was D-O-N-E, and we still had about 8 miles to go. Those 8 miles contained most of the day’s hills, and the winds had picked up. I spent the last four miles swearing profusely, cursing Steve, and wanting to quit. My knees were getting sore. My tush had officially declared war on me. I wanted to be finished, but I wasn’t. Finally, I stopped whining long enough to pull on my big girl panties and get ‘er done.
I felt bad about the ride for the rest of the day. I was disappointed in myself for being the weakest link. Then, as I was going through the Facebook posts I missed today, I saw that a friend had completed his ultramarathon, nearly 51 miles of running. His post mentioned how painfully difficult it was and how he felt lucky he was able to finish it at all. In a million years I could NEVER run 50 miles. Heck. I can barely bring myself to do 3. An ultramarathon is a tremendous accomplishment. I was sad that my friend didn’t feel better about it. Then, I thought about my ride today. Why was I displeased with my performance? I’d done it. I rode 80 miles, my longest biking distance ever. Was I super fast? No. But, when it was over, I could still walk. I remembered a saying I saw a few months back: “No matter how slow you go, you’re lapping everyone on the couch.” It didn’t matter that I didn’t finish in a fantastic time. After all, it was an 80-mile ride, not an 80-mile race.
It’s funny how hard we are on ourselves sometimes. Rather than wasting energy being concerned about being too slow, I should have been cheering myself on for being out there at all. Along our ride, we passed a tandem bicycle. The woman on the back was blind. The smile on her face, though, was pure joy. She was free. I can’t get that image out of my head. She understands so much better than I do that the journey is what matters, not how fast we reach the finish line.