I’ve written about mistakes I want to avoid, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to avoid them.
I’ve given advice, but it’s advice given from the comfort of my living room, not the harshness of the road.
I’ve finished The 508 once, but that was part of a two-man team.
For all the positive thinking, I can come up with a “but” statement that makes me nervous. And seriously, if you aren’t nervous prior to undertaking The 508, something is seriously wrong. There are times when I can see myself achieving even my loftiest goals, but more often than not, I can conjure up imaginings of the wheels coming off.
All my cycling friends are tapering now. My own taper starts on the other side of this weekend. The one comment I get from them and others, though, is “are you ready?” As I said yesterday, “No, I’m not ready. Who’s ever ready to turn themselves inside out the way this course asks you to?”
And that’s really it, isn’t it? There isn’t a rider who will start in Santa Clarita who can’t finish 508 miles in 48 hours. Every single person there has that ability. But what happens out on the course convinces us otherwise. Weather goes squirrelly. We blow up on a climb. We fall “behind,” and get demoralized. We DNF (myself, included. I’ve DNF’d a lot!) not because we physically are incapable of finishing. We DNF because we beat ourselves.
During my ride yesterday, I had plenty of time to think about what it is I am trying to do. I was feeling amazing. I was riding well. I was riding fast. My heart rate was right where I wanted it. Then I hit a hill and things fell apart, quite literally, within a 2-mile stretch. That’s what cycling does. It humbles you. An observer can almost see the exact moment when things stop functioning smoothly. That observer can almost see the moment it becomes a struggle. It was hot yesterday, and this one little climb 50 miles from my house just about did me in. And what do I think? I think “What if that happens on Stage 1? What if this was San Francisquito, and I still have 458 miles to go?”
I rode through it, but it gave me time to consider what it is I need to get me through to the finish.
I’m not a patient rider. I want to be faster than I really am, and I end up being far too competitive during rides. It really is a struggle for me to ride for the long-haul, not the immediate circumstance. It’s hard to ride for Baker when I’m not even to California City. It’s hard to dial it down a notch when I think about not making Towne Pass before the middle of the night. It’s hard to maintain perspective, which I guess could be another “P.”
If I just keep pedaling the end WILL come. (Which, by the way, it always does.) As long as I keep moving forward, I always reach my destination. I have never quit a ride because I thought I couldn’t go one more pedal stroke. I quit rides because I think I can’t go 100 more pedal strokes. Just keep going… the end eventually gets here; the climb eventually summits; the legs eventually feel better. I have keep riding, because I’m too afraid not too.
I had met a group of people from the Bay Area during last year’s race, and we kept in touch. About a week after the race, I got an invite to join them for a ride. It was really tough on me, and I’ve thought about it every day since. I couldn’t ride the race last year because of some health issues. This year, I want to go on that post-508 ride wearing my own jersey. To do so requires perseverance. It requires tenacity and stick-to-itiveness I often wonder if I possess.
This race isn’t just a bike race. This race, for those of us at the back of the pack, is about personal discovery. It’s about growth. It’s about learning what’s inside us. I’m afraid, sometimes, of what I might find. In just a couple weeks, I’m going to line up with a couple hundred other cyclists in Santa Clarita, and I’m going to attempt to ride farther than I’ve ever ridden. I’m going to try to do something I’m not entirely sure I can do.
I’m going to ride in The Furnace Creek 508.