July 10, 2015
Sometimes the most challenging thing about long distance cycling isn’t the mileage or the hills or the weather. It’s the food.
When you burn 4000-5000 calories on a 75-mile ride, you have to intentionally plan what and when you eat before, during, and after the ride. I know this.
But last night I did a foolish thing. I ate a good late lunch, but then ate only lightly in the evening. I felt fine when I got up a little before 5:00 am, had a normal breakfast, and hit the road.
Within a very few miles, it was clear to me that I was under-fueled. I didn’t feel weak, but was listless and unenthusiastic. A few miles more and I began to experience brain chatter.
“75 miles? I don’t know if I can do that. I know I don’t want to ride 13 miles on the Interstate. What am I doing here?”
These are classic doubt thoughts that are part of hitting The Wall—that state when fatigue or lack of fuel or both diminish our strength and will.
I didn’t bonk, when the body’s fuel supply bottoms out and our muscles literally stop working. I was carrying food and water. At a rest break, I ate a couple of tablespoons of honey and a bar, and started to revive.
At 10 am, we rolled into New Salem, ND. A church there served us lunch in their basement. Sloppy joes, chicken chili with white beans, a vegetarian chili, fruit salad, local summer sausage and crackers and, for dessert, Cheerios cookies dipped in chocolate, and peanut butter/chocolate-chip balls. They also had coolers filled with Gatorade and bottled water.
By the time we left, I felt like myself again. The 13-mile stretch where we had to ride on I-94 followed shortly afterwards. It wasn’t pleasant, but I was able to hammer through it at just under 19 mph, so it passed relatively quickly.
When we left the Interstate, we turned south into a headwind, but a significant portion of the two miles before our route turned out of the face of the wind was downhill, which made it much easier.
As a perfect ending for a 75-mile day in the saddle, the last 14 miles were flat, smooth, and had a tailwind, so I was able to average 21 mph on that final leg.
The day was a lesson confirming the truth of “Eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty,” as well as the importance of perseverance, staying within yourself, listening to yourself, and enjoying what one of my teachers used to call, “The Cosmic Learning Game.”
When we approach learning with joy, any obstacle, any wall can become not an adversary, but a teacher in the moment. And when we can turn an adversary into an ally, we can change reality…