Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination. ~Fitzhugh Dodson
The target for the past two years was a 1000 miles. 1000 miles on black, rubber hoops of both the skinny and fat variety, rolling over dirt, rock, and pavement, wind in my face, sun and shadow accompanying me for hours on end, my mind lost in thought mile after precious mile.
In the first year, I tracked my progress in an Excel spreadsheet complete with macros to summate the data and create a progress graph (yes, I do have some geeky tendencies so can tell you I averaged 13.3 miles per ride). I engaged in a weight training program three days a week to supplement my physical conditioning and to ensure I had the necessary muscle strength to help prevent injury, increase power in my pedal stroke, and tune my body for mountain bike races. In the end, my mileage target was exceeded. I had a vision, a plan to achieve that vision, and surpassed the target two months prior to my target date. As a side effect, I dropped a couple of pants sizes to the smallest I have worn in quite a few years and felt very fit.
My second year started out strong. A few February days mountain biking in sunny Arizona during the frigid Chicago winter both jump started my miles count and stoked my hunger to be outdoors on a bicycle. I love the remote outdoors and find exploring the wilderness from the seat of a bicycle the ideal way for me to traipse through terra incognita. I used to be a backpacker and had an intimate association with all things wild and wonderful. My knees are no longer happy after long walks carrying a 40lb backpack so cycling has become my preferred mode of backcountry exploration.
This year, I purchased a brand new carbon fiber bike to replace my ancient aluminum road bike. My work friends were all road bikers and we had a goal, a loosely set goal to ride together every weekend. Road biking is much easier than mountain biking so our plan to ride 30-50 miles every weekend along with my own rides would allow me to surpass my 1000 miles by midsummer. For a number of reasons, some valid others not, we never actually rode for two consecutive weekends. By late summer, I was behind my plan by over 100 miles.
I was not too worried by the deficit because I had a century ride coming up and would easily close the gap. And the gap did close. After that ride, the deficit was down to a mere 9.9 miles from my plan for September and 134.9 miles overall. Well, this is now mid October and I have not been on my bike since the century ride in September and I do not foresee achieving a second 1000 mile year. My gym attendance is also down for the past three months to almost nil. The fitness level I achieved last year is a blip on the horizon for I have gone up one pant size in the past year.
There are a number of ‘reasons’ for missing my target but, as my sister says, “excuses are the nails in the coffin of failure”, so I see no reason to even list them because they are just excuses. Still, it is good to analyze the core reasons as to why I chose to allow excuses to keep me off my bikes.
I think a big difference in the two years is that, in year one, the miles were supplementary to my desire to improve in my mountain bike racing ability. They weren’t just miles, they were steps on the journey to improve my ability, primarily my ability to develop an endurance core that would allow me to climb those hills that typically defeated me when racing. This year, I was enjoying the hills, killing the ascents so much so that I felt reached the pinnacle of my training and no longer needed to improve to excel in my races. I also became complacent. Because it’s so much easier to accrue miles with a road bike than a mountain bike I never really worried about being behind schedule.
I am frustrated that I did not achieve but don’t feel so bad at falling short. After all, 865.1 miles in a Chicago year is not bad for a 50 year old. So lessons learned. Next year is another year and a renewed desire to pedal myself into fitness and, who know, perhaps I will ride more than 1000 miles next year.