The first mountain bike ride of the season always reminds me that I’m human; just like the realization that doing nothing is no longer an option. A brisk 46 degree Tuesday morning with snow in the mountains and the sun overhead, I felt the tug of conflict. “Paul, you can ride next week buddy….what’s a few days? A little delay, a warm run on the treadmill, and you didn’t clean out your Camelback so there could be some really nasty bacteria inside of it and you don’t want to get sick just because you’re thirsty…do you?” Over and over the doubts and discouragements played in my head. I had been thinking about this moment all Winter long, the day the weather would finally invite me back onto my mountain bike and yet there I stood with my biker shorts in one hand, anticipation in the other and fear in my head. I was struggling with facing the physical pain and mental discipline my first ride would take.
I shut down every story except the one where I charted a route up one of the steepest hills I could start with and I loaded my bike onto the back of my truck. That’s me; a guy who needs to set his sights on the tallest mountain in order to motivate to start because anything else would feel like a failure. My classic story to motivate - some things never change.
Then, it started. I couldn’t find my riding glasses, my Lycra hoodie was pulling on my neck, the convenience store didn’t have my secret Powerade fuel and my hidden parking spot was taken. WTF! I sat in my truck and stared straight up the mountain while doubt played in my mind. Did I really want to do this - now? I ran 4 miles that morning in an attempt to rationalize the delay of my spring ride and used that accomplishment as a weapon of justification. I sat back, closed my eyes and visualized what I wanted. I mentally walked myself through the upcoming Summer months filled with warm days, me on my bike, alone in the woods, achieving new heights and pictured how good that felt - knowing I would accomplish something that could only be accomplished by taking the first step - getting on my bike. I wanted to feel that feeling again. “Screw it. I’m doing this” and with that, I got out of my truck.
That’s what ran through my head as I began to pedal. “Oh, yeah. That’s what this feels like” I muttered to myself as I began to climb. That sweet pain went right to my legs and I remember grinning - it was going to be one hell of a ride. I turned up my music and settled in for the climb. Just like in life, some people waved at me, others ignored me and then the classic - some looked at me and when I looked at them, they looked away as if they didn’t see me. I thought about all of the people who have been beside me when I knew doing nothing was no longer an option; some waved me forward, some ignored my pain and others pretended that they didn’t see me. You know the one thing that never changed? Me, pedaling up the mountain of life. I cogitated on the thought that I’m the only person who can control the pedals, the power, the speed of the climb and the decision to quit. I kept peddling.
I took this picture a quarter of the way up the mountain; breathing labored, legs stinging, sweat soaking my back and motivation blaring in my ears. There hasn’t been a single time in my life when I’ve worked to conquer my fears that the fines of my actions haven’t felt doubled. Vulnerability. That’s what I call it. My senses are always on alert, searching for a way back to safety and out of my fear. So it only made sense this sign would appear out of nowhere with not a single worker in sight.
”I SEE YOU” I shouted, and then I got back to work, put my head down, and peddled.
At 51….and I’m still not sure how the hell that happened…..I leaned into the gift of maturity. I began to switch up the cadence of my pedaling. Pulling with one leg while pushing with the other, I stood to give my legs a new way of understanding of how we would get up the hill together. Up and up, I began to switchback my front wheel to give myself a break. In my 20’s and 30’s I would have viewed these actions as cheating. I would have berated myself for not being able to sit and push my way up the hill; brute force in action. But at 51, I know better. I used every strategic tool at my disposal to ensure success. I stood, sat, leaned forward and sat back in the seat - and three quarters of the way I had yet to stop.
When we make a decision to resolve internal conflict, the actions we take to face our fears and the perceptions we have while doing so are what becomes important. Reaching the top happened for me when I got out of my truck and got on my bike. With a vision of what I wanted for myself in three months, I took the first step, and now looking back on it all I can say is that it was one sweet ride. I am proud of how kind and conscious I was to myself. HELL YES!
How about you? What do you know for sure that you want in your life in where doing nothing is no longer an option?