This Saturday, I crossed another thing off my list and did a century ride for the first time (technically it was 112.5 miles). I thought it’d be a nice relaxing ride in flat, midwest Indiana where I could take my time, relax and finish at my own pace with a few friends.
Of course, I’ve never done done anything close to 100 before and this was my first time on the bike this year, so this seemed like a great idea, but I’ll get to the full story in a second.
I did an interview the other day and had someone ask me “Not everyone can do what you do, what’s your secret?” I usually laugh at those questions as there’s nothing about anything I do that’s particularly special. I just don’t quit very often.
This past Saturday presented me with a lot of opportunities to quit (and I really, really wanted to take them), but, I simply decided not to. I imposed my will the race and I beat it.
There’s a few techniques I used to do so – which might be considered “secret”, but I don’t think there’s much beyond simple perseverance Regardless, hopefully this is entertaining, helpful and useful the next time you run into a situation that simply needs to be “willed” into completion.
How To Impose Your Will On A Situation
Throughout this, I’ll be referring specifically to my century ride experience but you can use these techniques in almost anything you do.
Decide That You’re Doing It
Do or do not. There is no try - Yoda
The biggest decision is when you start. I decided that I was going to do it from the get-go. I could have said, “I’ll try to do it”, but in my mind when I set out that morning, I wasn’t going to “try”, I was going to do it.
Recognize & Embrace The Suck
Riding a century on a whim as your first ride of the season with zero training is not a “smart” idea. I just wanted to do it so I decided that I was going to do it. I realized quickly that it probably meant I’d be sore by the end of the day, but going into the race, I knew that it was going to suck. There was no getting around it.
I already accepted it and realized that was part of the deal of me signing up. That made what happened later during the race (slightly) easier to accept.
Break It Down
The first 56 miles of the race were relatively easy. But, while we started out in a large group with a bunch of other riders doing different distances, by mile 56, there were only 20 or so people left riding the full century ride and they were pretty spread out at that point.
At mile 56, my riding partner cramped up and headed home. At that point I didn’t really want to think about doing another cold, hilly, 56 miles by myself. We had already had some intense hills and a little rain and I was already cold, tired and wet with my nose dripping constantly, but I kept going.
However, I didn’t think about going another 56 miles in one set, I just thought about going 10. Then, every time I did 10, I mentally reset and did another 10. Over and over and over. No, it wasn’t anything crazy, but every 10 miles was a mini accomplishment and made it feasible – whereas 56 miles seemed much, much tougher.
I did the same thing when I was climbing some of the steep hills that seemed to take forever. Instead of worrying about the whole thing, I just focused on making it to the next tree, and then the next one. The cute butt strategy didn’t work in this scenario since I was surrounded by cows & sheep, but I could still use the same principle.
Say What You’re Willing To Give Up In Order To Accomplish What You Want
There’s one thing about knowing that whatever is coming up is going to suck & there’s another thing to actually say it out loud.
When I ask people “how bad do you want it?” – a lot of times they get offended because they think I’m saying they don’t want it bad enough.
“Wanting it” isn’t’ very specific and whatever you want probably requires something more sacrifice than you anticipated at first. In order to get what you want, be very, very detailed about what you’re willing to give up in exchange for that. Because, you will be tested and asked for every single thing in exchange for what you want.
I literally started talking out loud to the “race” about what I was willing to give up in exchange for finishing the race.
- I’m willing to be cold.
- I’m willing to get rained on.
- I’m willing to put up with all the wind you got.
- I’m willing to bike endless hills.
- I’m willing to ride the rest of the way alone.
- I’m willing to do all of that…
But you will not beat me…so bring it.
Expect The Pain
Well…it was brought.
When you tell the world what you’re willing to be tested with – the world will be sure to test you with it. You better be expecting it to show up.
Not long after I left my riding partner,
The wind started to gust as a support car came up next to me to tell me to expect a thunderstorm bringing 30-50mph winds.
The temperature dropped about 10 degrees and the rain became more constant. The wind started to come on full force and no matter which direction I headed, it always seemed to be a headwind. Somewhere in all of that, I found my face kept getting continually pecked with what I thought was dirt or gravel. Confused, since there weren’t any dirt roads around – I quickly realized what it was – hail.
Miles 60-90 with no one around me. Completely alone – I nicknamed this part of the race purgatory.
Something happens when you expect the pain.
It’s not a surprise anymore.
It might be hard, it might hurt – but you can’t say you didn’t expect it.
It actually makes things easier because you get rid of the fear & anticipation of what might happen.
Instead of having to battle fear AND the actual work, all you have to do is deal with the work. That work might suck, but you can’t say you didn’t know it was coming. All you have to do now is put your head down, pedal, and focus on the doing the work.
Never Stop Moving Forward
It doesn’t matter how fast you go, as long as you do not stop
There were a couple of times where the wind was blowing so hard it almost blew my bike wheels out from under me. Race organizers would have pulled us off the course if they had been able to find us out in the middle of no where Indiana, but I kept going.
When that happened, pedaling was futile, but I’d get off and walk until that storm died down.
Realize No One Cares About Your Excuses
Somewhere between miles 70-90, I had missed my last rest stop had about 15 miles left to the next one and hadn’t taken any sort of break in about 45 miles.
At this point, I was mad (see above) and talking out loud to myself about all the reasons why I deserved to be mad.
I’m tired, I’m cold, I’m wet, I’m hungry, my legs hurt, I’m all alone, and no matter which direction I go there’s always a headwind.
And then I looked around.
There was no one even remotely in sight except for a few dumb looking cows staring at me chewing grass.
I had to ask myself: Who are you talking to?
The cows don’t care about your excuses
No one cares.
Literally no one.
Just some stupid cows.
There’s no one you have to justify your reasons for quitting out loud to. You’re all alone – you’re the only that gets to decide.
So, if you want to quit, go ahead and quit.
Otherwise, get back on your bike and start pedaling & stop trying to convince yourself of all the “acceptable” reasons you should quit. Stop whining. The cows don’t care about your excuses. They’re too busy being distracted by the strange human in tight shorts & weird shaped hat.
Quit or don’t quit. But the cows don’t care. So stop trying to convince them.
I shut up and got back on the bike.
Create Imaginary Enemies
I couldn’t get mad at the cows, so I made the race my enemy.
The event wasn’t even about 112.5 miles anymore. It was a personal competition between the race and it’s friends (wind, hail, and rain) and myself.
This let me create a “tangible” something that I could push back against.
Make It A Game
There were times where I was laughing out loud because the “race” seemed to be personally invested in getting me to quit and delivering one massive middle finger to my century ride attempt.
In response, I tried to laugh it off and ask out-loud, “is that all you got?” – only to see that – sure enough – it wasn’t.
Cue hail. Stronger winds. And lower temperatures.
Are you kidding me?
If it was anyone else it would have been funny.
Refuse To Lose
At one point inside of 85 miles, I determined that the only thing that was going to stop me from finishing this event was a broken leg. I figured I could walk the last 20 miles if my bike broke down and I had to.
But I was not going to quit.
In my mind, failure wasn’t even an option.
Get Angry And Yell
Seriously, this works better than you think it would – especially if you’ve already made your goal your personal enemy that will be conquered.
You need to get mad at your goal & make it personal. Because, if you really, really want something, sometimes it gets ugly.
When your imaginary enemy starts blowing you around the road, get mad at your goal. Get angry. Then fight it and beat it.
Sometimes, getting mad is better than getting positively motivated. Kick your goal's ass and call its mama names.
— Chris Shugart (@ChrisShugart) May 12, 2013
It works for the hulk. It can work for you.
In a sense, I’m glad I did most of the second half of the race alone. Mainly, because if other people saw me yelling out loud & laughing at the wind in the middle of a thunderstorm, they’d probably think I was nuts – which at that point – I probably was.
But, as strange as it sounds, going crazy allows you to escape a little bit of the insanity going around you in a 40mph wind/hail storm.
Remove Yourself From The Situation
This might be the most “zen” recommendation here, but remove yourself from the situation. Forget all the pain, all the hills, and the storm (literally) happening around you. Pull yourself out of the situation and look at this from a third person perspective.
If this was a story (and you were the character), what would you root for the character to do? Do that.
Recognize Opportunities To Quit For What They Are
I finally hit mile 100 and the sky started to break. The rain was letting up & it warmed up slightly. 12.5 miles to go and I’m home free…or so I thought. Around mile 102, I was coming off a downhill and slowing around a corner when I realized there was about an inch and a half of gravel that I was about to hit.
In slow motion I could feel the bike sliding out from under me as I crashed down on my left side.
I let out a yell – more from anger than pain. 10 miles to go in the race and I crashed – I should have figured as much with how things were going. At least my bruised hip took the soreness away from my legs.
As I dusted myself off and looked at my bike, it would have been easy to give up at 102 and go home. I got the century – that’s what I wanted – plus a couple. But at that point it was personal. I recapped the race quickly and realized that all of the things that I had said “out loud” to the “race”, happened.
- I’m willing to be cold. Okay, how’s so cold that you’re constantly shaking sound to you?
- I’m willing to be rained on. Done. Plus how did you like the hail ?
- I’m willing to put up with all the wind you got. Done. How’s 40mph sound?
- I’m willing to ride alone. Done & done. Have fun out in purgatory?
- I’m willing to ride hills. Good, cause you’ll have to bike ALL THE HILLS.
- If you’re going to stop me, you’re going to have to break my leg. Well, we tried.
It would have been easy to quit. But I was 10 miles away from finishing what I started. I could walk that if I needed to. The crash was just the race’s final attempt at getting me to quit.
There was only one option.
I jumped back on my bike.
In order to pre-empt many of the comments I know are coming:
I realize a century ride is NOT that far. Heck, the 112.5 miles was only 1/3 of the 3 legs to an Ironman. I thought it was going to be a nice leisurely ride that I’d be able to kick back and relax on with a few friends as we rode through the plains of Indiana relaxing and enjoying the view.
But, as things go, something unexpected happened and changed the game entirely. It became much less about a certain distance than it was a battle of the wills between me and the storm.
I wasn’t fast and I definitely wasn’t looking very pretty by the end of it, but after climbing a few hills for a few miles after the final crash, the course from from 108-212.5 was all downhill and as I zoomed around a few hills as the sun went down, I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy to see a finish line.
THE POINT OF THE STORY
When things get bad, and you get rain, hail, wind and storms when you’re expecting, you can either quit and go home or you can push through it, impose your will on the situation and do what you came to do. If you do, eventually, the clouds will break and the rain will stop and the bruises you get will fade and you will finish.
Do something difficult – it’s worth it.
Please don’t take this as woo-woo fluff fluff mental crap either. Actually get on your bike and ride it. Ride through a storm. Take a cold shower. Have a real physical experience. Experience it for yourself. Let it make you stronger.
Do something difficult. It's worth it pic.twitter.com/ROYj1IvWBn
— Joel Runyon (@joelrunyon) May 13, 2013