In running it is man against himself, the cruelest of opponents. The other runners are not the real enemies. His adversary lies within him, in his ability with brain and heart to master himself and his emotions. — Glenn Cunningham, American runner in the 1930s
I stumbled upon the above quote this morning and even though Glenn’s comment is based on the topic of the sport of running, I couldn’t help but find it incredibly fitting to my experiences thus far in cycling.
If I haven’t already mentioned it, in less than 20 days I’ll be riding my bike over 545mis from SF to LA in the 10th annual AIDS Life/Cycle ride.
With the ride so close on the horizon, I find myself looking back on the journey that I’ve been on over the last few months in attempting to get myself both physically and mentally prepared for an experience that one can only prepare so much for.
Like the open road, my training has had its own peaks and valleys and there have even been a few roadblocks and detours along the way. The mental aspect of my training has definitely been the most challenging for me, for I can certainly pedal with relative ease and have finally learned to efficiently take on hills, but it’s my left brain talking to my right brain that has thrown me for a loop.
On some of my weekend training rides, I’ve found myself experiencing a plethora of emotions, ranging from sheer bliss to downright angst and frustration. “Why is this hill so hard? Why am I not as fast as so-in-so? Come on, Katie — you can do this! Stop feeling sorry for yourself!” A quick peek into my thought process along the ride illustrates just how hard I am on myself, the origin of which I am uncertain of but is something that I am actively working on.
In thinking back to my progression in running, I see a lot of parallels, but I guess I had made the rookie mistake of assuming that I wouldn’t feel these feelings when transitioning from one sport to the next. Wrong assumption, Katie.
Today’s quote is especially uplifting and reassuring for me to read and digest because it so perfectly dovetails from a recent discussion I had with a fellow LifeCycler, Marko Krosnjar. When confessing to him about all that I find myself nervous about on the 7-day journey, he smiled and put me at ease by telling me that I need not fret about the uncertainties that await me on the open road. He assured me that there will always be riders who are faster than me, that I will certainly be faster than other riders on the road, but that this ride isn’t a race — it’s an experience, a time to enjoy the open road, to see California in a way that most people don’t get to, an opportunity to meet so many new people who will enrich my life in ways that I can’t even fathom, a personal journey that will have a profound impact on my life and on the lives of those suffering from HIV. He told me that he’s always one of the last to arrive at camp each night and that he just doesn’t care. He’s ridden every mile on his own terms, he’s stopped to take pictures along the way and has taken the time to smell the strawberries on the route. How simple and yet so beautiful.
Sure I’m nervous and pep talks can only chip away so much at that natural anxiety that crops up when thinking about all that lies ahead……. But I feel so much better after reading this quote and will forever remember the simple words that Marko shared with me to help put my fears at ease. Fear, after all, is a wasted emotion, one that only hinders forward progress and paralyzes growth. So instead I will choose to leverage all of these emotions that fall into the larger bucket of “fear” and will use them to my advantage. In all honesty, I really can’t wait for this ride and all of the things that I’ll discover and remember along the way. Those who have participated year over year over year do so for a reason and I can’t wait to be a part of the elite who can boast their participation in such an amazing and impactful event.