Roughly 7 years ago, my friend Travis noticed that I was getting in to cycling. By getting in to cycling I mean that I was biking the 1.5 miles from my house at the time to the office. But still, getting in to cycling all the same. After noticing this development, he asked if I would join him for the Bike MS event he was a part of every year, wherein we would ride 150 miles over the course of two days. I said, foolishly, yes. I was at that point in no way ready to ride 150 miles in two days. I was barely ready to ride 10 miles. But I trained and I trained, and I bought a new bike, and I trained and I trained some more.
As we got closer and closer to the ride, Travis asked if I wanted to do the century option. Being new to cycling I asked “What’s a century?” Instead of doing 75 miles the first day, I was informed, you would go the extra 25 and do 100 miles in a single day, bringing your total closer to 175 miles over two days. Remember at this point that I am new, and can barely climb the hill by our church without walking, so naturally I said yes I wanted to do the century route.
The event includes a time at which the century route closes, because they want to get everyone in and clear the streets. Because I was slower than a turtle who somehow managed to learn to pedal, we didn’t make the century turn in time that first year. Or the second year. Or the third year. Every single time I signed up I indicated my intention to do the century, and every single year I missed the goal. It started to look like Ahab and the great white whale. I just couldn’t beat that goal. To be sure, I came close a couple of times. One year on Bike MS I made it to the turn by the cut off, but was so spent from riding that fast I decided I didn’t have another 25 miles in me. One year I rode another charity ride, and made it 83 miles before double flatting and running out of inner tubes, and so had to abandon. The closer I got, the more frustrating it was to miss.
At the end of last year, my good friend Ed picked up on my frustration, and announced that 2019 was the year of the century. Come what may, however we have to get ready for it, I was going to ride the century. We worked out a training plan. We came up with a strategy that involved some drafting and teamwork. Ed, Travis and I would come together for team century, to make sure that we could get there. This worked out in two ways. For starters, having a team to ride with one goal meant that I had people to draft, conversation partners, and encouragers along the way. But these friends also provided a means of accountability. Two guys had set aside their ride to get me to my goal, there was no way I was going to punt on it with them there. We had something to accomplish.
And accomplish it we did. A few early drafting lines, and some absolutely killer climbing got us to hold down a 16.5 mph average for the first half of the ride. The cut off time was 2:30, and we were at the turn for the century at 1:00. I can’t even begin to imagine how many right hand turns I’ve made on a bike in my career, but I’ll remember that one forever. It was such a small, but totally huge victory! After that the course turned uphill, almost as if the roads themselves were asking “Are you sure?” But it didn’t matter. At that point as long as my bike held up, I was going to finish. So with a total of 7 hours 26 minutes, we rode 102 miles. The century was in the bag.
To be sure, none of this should be meant to be heard as bragging. Tons of cyclists do centuries, and in fact do them quite frequently. That alone is not an accomplishment to most. It was however, a monumental accomplishment for me. There is something so wonderful and beautiful about setting a goal, one that at the time of its setting might seem impossible to accomplish, and then seeing it through to completion.
The neat thing is the question I asked myself as I was falling asleep on the bus ride home. I wonder what’s next? I wonder what my next century would be? What’s that next mountain to climb? To be sure I wanted to sit in victory a little bit, but only just a little bit. There are more goals out there. There are more things I want to do. There are more centuries to accomplish.
So I wonder. What is your next big goal? What are the goals you thought you’d never achieve, but find yourself having accomplished? Leave some thoughts in the comments!