I was recently reminded of the time I did a long-distance bike trip on a bike with mountain biking tires. Here’s how that colossal misjudgment came to happen.
The first time I did a really intense workout to prepare for an upcoming mountain climb, my legs were shaking, I thought I’d pass out or throw up, possibly both, and instead I hung in there with the thought, “I can do anything for 20 minutes.”
And I could. So when it came to the next progression in the training, a fast, steep hike, I was equally as wobbly but thought, “I can do anything for a couple of hours.”
By the time it came to actually climb the mountain, I arrived with a 50-pound pack and the mantra, “I can do anything for two days.” I didn’t summit the mountain on that particular attempt but I did prove that I could endure for two days.
So when a friend invited me to do a long-distance bike ride down the California coast and my work schedule meant I could only be on the trip for two days. I thought, “No problem, I can do anything for two days.” It seemed to me that biking is very similar to mountain climbing – takes a lot of leg strength and more importantly, the same endurance muscle.
But I didn’t think long-distance biking was going to be the mainstay of my hobbies so when it came to shipping my bike to the starting point, for reasons of time and money, plus a little ignorance, I just sent my bike that had mountain bike tires. Not super heavy duty, grip the trail mountain biking tires but grippy enough to have a high amount on friction on a paved surface.
By lunch on the first day of the bike trip, my legs were completely gassed. I don’t think I’d experienced that level of fatigue even on the toughest mountain climb I’d done. I made it to the end of the day and then had to immerse myself in an ice bath to have any hope of getting my muscles flushed and restored to ride the second day.
But hey, I can do anything for two days and I made it.
Which is to say, it was a good lesson in endurance. Now when I look at a particular phase with my children that is getting my goat, I think “I can do anything for two years.”
But, and this is a big one for me, I’ve learned that enduring and enjoying are two different things.
On a recent Sunday morning, I was at home with my kids who are now 7 and 3 years old, and they were happily engaged with each other on a project. It left me with 20 minutes of discretionary free time and I was thrilled. As I actually took my time with some self-care, I marveled at the feeling of freedom and enjoyment I was experiencing.
That’s when it hit me. I thought “I can do anything for 20 minutes.” But that’s “anything” said with a sense of wonder and good fortune of an unexpected gift. That’s “anything” that acknowledges the enjoyment that comes with a little lessening of the strictures I tighten around myself. That’s “anything” that remembers that life is to be enjoyed and not just endured.
I’m so good at putting my head down and grinding out the miles to the end of the planned route each day. But it’s completely different training to raise my nostrils to the wind and my eyes to the scenery and notice each mile as it goes by. It’s a practice that is a lot less of a dramatic story tell but instead makes for a story worth telling.
So on Sunday, with a nod to the authors of The Power of Awe, I intentionally savored having unexpected moments to myself and micro-dosed some mindfulness full of gratitude and enjoyment and that made the experience even more impactful.
So I’m entering a new phase of training, one where I’m allowing myself the freedom and unscripted time so “I can do anything for 20 minutes.” I’d like to work up to “I can do anything for 2 days” but I’m taking my workouts slowly.
(featured photo is mine)