Getting started

I’ve never felt comfortable calling myself an ultra-distance cyclist, or being called the same by others, I think the label thing isn’t all that cool, I just like to ride bikes, and if I’m lucky to be able to get a pass to go for a really long ride then that’s great!

That’s one of the aspects I love about riding bikes, essentially we are doing the same thing as a Mark Cavendish or a Marianne Vos, the only real difference is the speed and distance of that which we are doing. We’re all out just playing bikes, doing something which gives us huge benefits both physically and mentally.

When I started training for LeJogLe I hadn’t ridden a bike (other than a BMX) in nearly 2 decades, but I lycra’d up to ride 3 miles to a PTA meeting, and felt a surging level of seriousness that had laid dormant in me for some time.

There are plenty of people that will say that the hardest part of starting an adventure (or even the training for it) is the getting started – Confucius said that a journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a first step, some other dude will say that to eat an elephant you do it one bite at a time.

But the starting can be the easy part. It’s easy to make promises whilst deep in your cups, or to be filled with bravado and exclaim proudly how you will do some wondrous thing, but the reality is a little different.

It’s better to smolder than to sparkle, slow and steady wins over fast and reckless – just ask the Tortoise!

If you want to do something, then for sure you need to take those first steps; that first ride or run, the first gym session, or even simply filling-in an application form – but it’s the steps that come after that truly count.

The building of a positive habit, the repetitive trips, the making time to sit quietly with a book, with your thoughts, with a pen and paper; those are things that count.

Build a series of smaller steps, build a routine to stick to, a goals-list to aspire to. I went from riding 3 miles to 100km (yes yes, I know) in 36 days, and from there it was only 9 more days until I hit 110miles – but to get to those numbers I was waking at 5am to ride whilst the city still slept.

The TV is not your friend, advertisers are not there to be your buddy, but to sell you things you probably don’t need. Turn it off, get outside – earlier I used the phrase ‘make time’, I used to think of it as ‘finding time’, but you can’t rely on finding alone, the act of preparing and building towards a target requires you to make time, it’s currently filled with other things so you won’t be able to find it, you must be able to proactively make it  – we got rid of the TV, instantly freeing up 2-3 hours every night, getting to bed and waking earlier to make that time count.

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.

Henry Ford.

Like the three little pigs, that belief must have foundations of strength, build your foundations with care and time, put in the hours to develop both physical strength and mental fortitude, for in the end you will need to turn to both to succeed.  If that means being at the gym or on the rollers at 6am then that’s what you must do, and each and every time you succeed in getting up at 5.30am you are banking those little victories which will help you need to call on them.

For they can conquer who believe they can.

Virgil’s The Aeneid

Current research in performance thinking highlights the need to understand the why of what we are doing – so when you are sleeping under a bin liner in 2 degrees you are able to find the joy in the moment, not just think of the big picture. Build those little goals, the 20 mile ride, the 50, the 100; mix and match between miles and km – a 50 mile ride followed by a 62mile ride will turn to 100km and thats a big milestone.

It really doesn’t matter whether your goal is to cross a continent or to ride 10k, it’s your goal – you don’t need to impress anyone else, work on being that little bit better every time you go out, some times you will surprise yourself in a great way, other times you will let yourself down – either is ok. Both can be learned from.

In the final submission of my MBA I quoted the Delphic maxim to ‘know thyself’; as you train, as you race, and as you build that inner strength you will come to know yourself, you will know when to go hard, when to ease off, and sometimes when to take a pause completely. As you come to understand yourself you will be in a better place to think back to those small victories, those times you succeeded at a little thing, to help you master the bigger challenges.

Some days you will be the hammer, some days the nail, and some times you will be that person screaming into the wind and rain, or the person gently sobbing as the sun rises over the mountains, and you will be grateful for those moments, and for the training that you did that prepared you for being there.

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