Two weekends ago, I finished an event I’ve had on my calendar and Journey List for over a year. Conquering the Athens to Savannah Double Century was a double victory.
12 hours before the start of ride– this event that I’ve been training and gearing up for steadfastly for the last six months– I was pretty sure I was going to have to quit before I started.
Forget carbo-loading, I was carbo-purging.
All plans and expectations were flushed.
From the jaws of defeat
I was felled by a wicked bug. Bed bound and completely drained, my evening edition headline reads: Microscopic triumphs over big, strong, trained self.
By grace of the Universe I awoke at 4am and was able to swallow down some toast. I packed my gear and collapsed back into bed. After a short, fitful nap I got up at 6:30, swallowed a little coffee, and rode out to the start.
Clammy, weak and unsettled, I mounted my trusty steed surrounded by 70 other riders but feeling very alone.
As much as many of the people around me and more were helpful, through pulls and camaraderie on long rides and words of encouragement at just the right moments, I know that getting to that moment at the start was up to me.
I peeled myself out of bed that morning determined at least to try. I found the strength and energy to show up — both that morning and on the other hard days of training. I had to make the choice to continue in the tough moments (or sometimes give up so I could rise again).
Swallowing pain, and oftentimes pride, in active pursuit of my fitness passions has been the best growing and strengthening experience of my life.
While I was often buoyed, pushed, pulled and motivated by the peloton, there were plenty of times that I was out on the road alone.
When you have pushed through mental and physical barriers, accomplished something you set your mind to even though you had no idea that or how you could possibly achieve it… well no one can take that feeling away.
Riding the last 12 miles into lunch on the first day was the toughest, most mentally and emotionally grueling, hardest hour of effort I think I have ever had. I was alone on the road, between packs, no drafting assistance to be found. My guts continued to execute their flip flops and I had nothing left in my energy tank.
It was not a moment I wanted to be IN, but damn if I wasn’t fully in it and was going to grind it out to make it through.
It was only by dogged determination and almost bullying my spent self that I continued to move forward. That is often the only way.
No one else can push our legs down and forward for us, step after step and stroke after stroke.
No one else can drown out the internal voice of “can’t” with shouts of “will.”
No one else can take measure of our reserves and determine what we are capable of achieving if we simply do not quit until we reach our goal.
No one else can make us finish strong, with eyes up and giving it every last electron we have in us.
When we do, accomplish, achieve, no one else can take that away.
Which brings me of course to Katy Perry.
Part of Me
We have all had those moments where the right someone, book or sentence comes into our life at just the right moment. Songs of course are no different.
As I was running a few weeks ago, slowing appreciably as I was nearing my longest distance in 6 months, I clicked my iPod over to Pandora and Part of Me by Katy Perry came on.
Don’t judge. I’m sure you have your own list of motivational songs. With Katy Perry rockin’ in my earbuds, my pace quickened to match. Granted, I might have been a little dehydrated but then I actually listened to the lyrics and got a jolt as something clicked.
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me. No.
Even from the comfort of completion back on my couch, it is a powerful sentiment.
Now I intimately know that part of me that made it through to a life-saving peanut butter sandwich the first day; and the part of me that got up the next day to start another 100 miles; and the part of me that pulled on my shifts and pushed the pace despite feeling like I was just holding on; and the part of me that rode through to the finish.
I know what I am capable of. No one– but no one — can take that from me.
We allow others to diminish our pride and sense of accomplishment all too often. I have faced non-understanding if not outright belittlement of my goals. Some I would consider close friends haven’t shown any interest in the Double Century or my attainment of other Journey List accomplishments.
It is unfortunately par for the course of the uncharted to go it alone.
…But you’re not gonna break my soul
Stay steadfast in your journey.
Find the spark within.
Ignore the naysayers and critics.
Push your limits.
Celebrate fully your accomplishments.
Stick your achievements — the small hard steps and big finishes alike — in your confidence well and drink deep for the power multiplies.
The knowledge that we have the fortitude, wherewithal, soul-alight-power to DO — whatever it is — is ours.
No one — and I mean NO ONE — can take that away.
The big finish
The story comes full circle as Pandora in all her humor and grace dropped me Katy Perry in the final 5 miles of the Double Century. All I could do was laugh, say a thank you to the Universe for the moment, and breathlessly sing along to drown out my screaming quads and swimming head (and despite the bemused looks of my group).
When I finally braked at the finish I had one thought: “Done. And it is all mine.”
So to the linty above I add: have a good power song cued up for the tough times.
It doesn’t supplant nor take away from your own spark. It can simply be a powerful reminder of what you know, grease for your wheels and spirit, to make the road a little easier.
Inspiration might come from the outside but the motivation can only come from within.
What and when you finish — that is all yours.
If you haven’t already, make sure you sign up for my email brew, I’ve got a special personal blend percolating for this Friday — yes even more personal than admitting I rock out to Katy Perry.