On The Lows of the Journey

Sunbeams on Skyline


The pain and difficulty of the moment is all too familiar.  The road , stoic and unmoving, companion of the traveler  – looms sinister now. Once simply observing, it now sneers at your suffering as it zooms above and ahead, challenging your faltering pace from the far off horizon. The surrounding hills watch the show. The roadside begins to beckon.

Just a minute. Pull over here. Rest your empty legs and ease your churning stomach.

That once irrepressible drive to keep moving has morphed into a nearly irresistible urge to STOP. Ignoring its pull entirely consumes your willpower. The dread of the countless miles left to go meets the immediate concern of the task at hand. First the last few miles of the climb stretching hopelessly long ahead. Later..the rest.

It happens so quickly. The decline from strength to weakened misery. The body sputters, and more dangerously, the mind quickly follows. This is what the edge of ability feels like. From the confines of this pit it seems the world is defined by the limitations of the moment. Endurance cycling is a tightrope walk. 3 hours, 30 hours, or a week. No matter the ride length, no matter the rider’s experience, from aspiring century rider to experienced ultra distance racer – no matter the heights and exhilaration of the ride when all is in balance – still the chasm is just a misstep away.

So then what?  It will happen.  And when it does, it will not be welcome. Maybe just an overly ambitious training ride. Or the heat. Forgetting about your bottles for a few hours. Neglecting the salt capsules, or running low on calories.  An overly zealous attack on the climb. Extreme fatigue taking hold in the depths of the night, or just an off day. Could be on a leisure weekend ride, or in a race you’ve been targeting for years.

This is where you are defined as a rider. Seize this moment. Cast off the frustration and set aside the suffering. The body is an amazing machine, and there is an answer. There is a way back up and out.  Get in the calories. Take a cool down break. Throw up.  Take a power nap. Drink. That rider you were not long ago – pounding the flats and bounding up hills – is not just a dream. That reality is waiting up ahead, just around the corner. Yes this is a nightmare. But you can wake up. Fix your problem. Get back on the bike. Enjoy the ride.