Pretty often I will get asked about an event, like Dirty Kanza, or Ten Thousand, and any advice for riding them. I love helping riders with bike setup, technique, logistics, and the mental aspect of all day or longer rides. Helping people get out there and push their boundaries and see new places is probably the single best part of doing what I do, for both work and play.
Not uncommonly though after these conversations the person will say something along the lines of “I might be able to do it, but I will probably wait a year or two and train more first so I am totally prepared”.
This kills me.
First of all, only doing events that you feel confident with is the best way to progress and learn as a rider, really, really slowly.
You know that old adage about learning from your mistakes? Well it shouldn’t just be treated as advice for after the fact of misfortune, it should be treated as encouragement to get your hands dirty in the first place. Making mistakes and getting in over your head will make you progress ten times faster then doing the same thing you have already done dozens of times.
When you get into a situation that you are unprepared for you learn quickly either what works, what doesn’t work, and what changes you can make the next time you are in that situation. It teaches you problem solving skills, and it teaches you how your body and mind react when pushed in ways that they will be pushed again in the future. Reduced to the simplest level, it is practicing. It makes you resistant to future mistakes and misfortunes that without experience would derail your entire effort.
Now, this is not saying come to events unprepared, it is just saying come as prepared as you can, and expect the unexpected.
Second of all – and those of you that found the fountain of youth can ignore this section – you are getting older.
There are so many places to see, and so much to experience, and putting things off year after year just checks item after item off your list of things you wont have time to do before you are forever bound to your memories and experiences accumulated.
Thankfully, cycling adventures are one of the best activities to enjoy even late into your life. That said, the world is immeasurably larger then our lifetimes ability to take it all in. Make a bucket list, set goals, but instead of saying “I want to do this someday, before I die”, change the verbiage to “I want to do this in the next 3 years”. Set goals for the next year, next 3 years, and decade. This is what smart business do to keep themselves on track to achieve goals, and it’s what we should do to achieve more. That said, stay flexible, and don’t pass up a good opportunity because you have a rigid list to obey.
Another rule to follow though when jumping in over your head, have a good life guard on hand.
When on a long event, you are all alone. The only people you have are the riders around you for mental support, and the person you have arranged to pick you up, should you quit.
Believe it or not, this is a good thing for you. There has been at least a time or two that the only reason I kept pedaling was because I was too proud to make a phone call. Had there been a bailout point, I would have taken it. Sometimes the fact that the bailout has to come to me is what gets more miles out of my body. But none the less, a friend on stand-by is as crucial to getting in over your head as an extra tube is, if not more. Don’t show up to an event without knowing how you will get home should you taco a wheel, hit a deer, fall alseep, etc.
Lastly, and most importantly, there is nothing wrong with failing an event.
You know that person you ride with that has never failed to make the finish line of an event? They are sandbagging life.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.~ J.K. Rowling
Failure is not in any way an indication that you suffer from inadequacy as a rider. Failure can be an indication that you are striving for more, pushing your boundaries out, and working hard.
If there is one thing more successful people in all walks of life will tell you about achieving success, it’s about building off of failure and using it as a teacher and as motivation.
In a similar lemonade making style, adversity is always the best breeding ground for stories and memories. Talk to people at the past Gravel Metrics, and the year of the flash flooding and almost tornadoes is treated as legend.
The new year is coming up, the thing to do is set New years resolutions, and coincidentally many of the summers events open registration around the first of the year.
Pick an event or two, register so there is no backing out, work hard until the day arrives, and learn a bunch regardless of the outcome. Make 2015 a year you accomplish something you never thought you could, or at least lays the foundation for it.