My eyes are stinging. Half squinting. I’m typing whilst shuffling around on my seat to ease the back pain. Equally tired as wired. It’s the come down after a heavy dose of pain cave.

 0630: Pre Pain Cave

0630: Pre Pain Cave

Today I rode 120km with a group of riders from work. The group, that go by the name ‘World Champs’, complete the same route each week. With the aim to get stronger, they push themselves and each other to ride harder than a solo effort could ever achieve. It’s fast. It’s intense. And it couldn't be further away from a 'bike to brunch' ride. 

Let’s add up the numbers. I’ve never ridden anywhere near their pace. I don’t race or compete. I’ve only cycled consistently for a few years. I don’t know the route. Or the hills. The grand sum = on paper, I shouldn’t have been able to join this ride. So, how did I silence my mind long enough to get myself to the start line at 0715 this morning? And then, continue to manage my thoughts long enough until I arrived, absolutely cooked and covered in mud, at the finish line (Rapha HQ).

Broke the rode up into sections:

120km is a number my mind can not manage in advance. After the first few miles when I, very quickly, realised that this pace was so out of my comfort zone, I had to manage the peloton-fast stream of thoughts that were suddenly rearing their head. If I’d thought too much about having to keep this up for nearly 5 hours, I’d have been turning around quicker than I finished my 0530 coffee and porridge this morning. Splitting the ride up into 3 sections enabled my mind to use its energy elsewhere, knowing I had given it a clear and ‘manageable’ check point to focus on.

Became my own best friend:

When painful became 'very' painful, it would have been easy to turn on myself. Filling my depleted stomach with negative affirmations about how much better I should be. I consciously chose to be own best friend and congratulated myself on effort, not the current situation (me dragging myself up another never-ending gradient accompanied by more lactic acid than cadence).

Sang to myself:

I could sit here and write about trying to get in the middle of the pack, riding within my own limits or taking in sufficient fuel. But, in the moment, these logisitcal pieces of advice aren’t the answer your mind needs. So, I sang to myself. I often wear headphones when I’m doing hill climbs and I was craving the musical distraction. Shut up mind. I'm just about to drop the cycling karaoke bass. 

Accepted the situation:

When my legs gave up, I had to find the will elsewhere. I accepted the pain, the situation and kept reminding myself ‘I can handle this’. Whenever the thought ‘I can’t do this’ creeps into my mind, it catapults me to the exit door. It may be the mental version of a 20% gradient, but being able to find hope and trust in your abilities when your legs are telling you otherwise, is the quickest way to finding some hidden strength when your body most needs it.

It was the most physically demanding ride I’ve ever been on. It bloody hurt. I discovered the true meaning of digging deep. I leant on my team-mates to drag me to the finish. I bathed in food when I returned to the office. I’ve not washed my bike. I did plenty wrong that I’ll learn from next time.  But, I’ve made the first step out of a comfort zone I’ve been clinging on to for far too long.

A ride of a thousand miles starts with saying yes. When there’s plenty of logical reasons to say no, dig deep next time and find that one reason why you should make your way to the start line. Your mind may disagree with me but, you can handle it. 

Strava upload here