Last weekend, I set out on a bike ride. The weather at that point was lovely, and I even wore arm warmers in the crisp early fall air. I felt good, I took in the various scenery, and the miles rolled by. I had planned out an 85-mile route, which would beat my previous longest distance of 75 miles. I had planned to ride a couple new-to-me roads, see new things, and complete the final ride before I attempted a century (100 mile) ride.
I even started writing a blog post in my head. It would have gone something like this: “I haven’t mentioned it a lot, but in two weeks I will attempt to do a century ride. I don’t have a road bike and I’m nervous about riding with a lot of people, but today I rode 86 miles. I crawled up big hills and careened back down them. I passed windmills and cows and uptight drivers. I burnt a bunch of calories, tried not to get sunburnt, and barely conquered my stairs when I got home.”
That blog post vanished at mile 41, when I reached the top of a hill (which wasn’t even the beginning of a five-mile climb). I managed to unclip, stop, plant both feet on the ground and get my head down before everything went completely dark. I knew what was happening, because I’d had it happen to me in races a couple years ago: my heart rate got so high that the blood just didn’t get to my head anymore. It happens when I push harder than I’m trained, and dehydration is a contributing factor (something I battle a lot).
According to my text message timestamps, I spent 19 minutes on the side of the road. My mental repetitions of “don’t pass out, don’t pass out” worked, as did hanging upside down while holding onto my bike for dear life. From my upside-down viewpoint, I could see down the hill when other cyclists were approaching, so I was able to lift my head up in time and say, “Yep!” when they asked if I was okay (as cyclists always ask any rider who is stopped).
But my 86-mile day was done. At that point, I was 26 miles from home and the day was warming up quickly. I consulted my phone for the shortest way home, and then had to keep stopping every few miles because my brain couldn’t remember anything. At one point, a guy asked me for directions to the train station, and I realized later that my wrong directions mean he is probably still lost…
Anyway, I made it home, crawled up the stairs in what was by then 91-degree weather, and collapsed inside my front door. I peeled off clothes right there on the tile floor, not caring about the sweat like I normally do. I was defeated.
Today, the last weekend before that century ride, was another “blah” ride. I’ve had a week to sit myself down and clean up my diet, but I have not. I’d had a week to do a bunch of solid cardio workouts, but I did, um, one. While I do suspect a different medical issue is affecting me a little, it’s not enough to be a valid excuse. Simply put, I’ve failed to train properly.
So now I sit here on my couch on a Sunday evening while the San Francisco Giants give everything they have in the National League Championship Series. I’m struggling with whether I should attempt the century ride, because I do not have the strength to deal with yet another failure right now. Exactly one year ago today, my IT band gave out. Since then, my life has been a string of one failure after another, one bad decision after another. I trusted my leg, I trusted people, and I trusted my gut — and they all rejected me fully and completely. I still want to do the century ride, but I know that’s probably my gut talking, which also means that I should probably make the opposite decision.
I went back and read this post full of good advice about facing the fear of failure. One line jumped out at me: “You only regret the things you didn’t do.” That makes me want to do the century ride, and I know I will probably attempt it next weekend. But I can’t stop thinking: “If I hadn’t run those races on my injured leg, maybe I could run now. If I hadn’t followed what I mistakenly thought was happiness, maybe I wouldn’t feel so unhappy now.” So I wonder: Should I NOT do this century ride, so I don’t risk failure? I don’t know, but I guess I’ll have an answer by Saturday morning.