June 15th, 2019. The thought of riding 100 miles came to me about 6 months ago when a 50 yr old woman was telling me how she’s run 3 different 100 mile marathons in the past 5 years. I was impressed with the fact that she had to run all day and into the night to finish some of the races since one was in the Rocky Mountains which meant “running” includes walking part of the way. For many, it is not possible to finish it during daylight hours!
Her story reminded me of my first major failure I faced in my early 20’s. For whatever reason, I thought I’d run across the United States to beat the all time record of 48 days (today the record is 42 days). Over several months I pictured the fame, fortune, and glory that would all be mine as I crossed that finish line in San Francisco. Then finally, I decided it was time to do something about it, I needed to see how far I could run! So one hot muggy July day in Georgia, I began my training. I can still remember that day clearly in my mind. I ran for maybe an hour before giving in to the heat, humidity, my aching legs and dashed dreams. I had a lot of time to think as I walked home downhearted and glum, my dream of glory gone as I finally reached home, collapsed into bed and fell fast asleep for hours from physical and mental exhaustion. I never tried running long distance again.
Over the years I failed at other endeavors. In my late 20’s me and a friend wrote software to keep track of the hours aviators flew (called a flight logbook). We were convinced we’d make a lot of money. Over the next few months we spent hundreds of hours coding and testing. Finally the software was finished. We didn’t even sell one copy of our software! Pilots preferred to just write it down in their leather-bound logbooks. Go figure. Maybe we should have done a little market testing. As years became decades, I joined a few companies that went eventually went under, totally bankrupt. One was a billion dollar company when I joined! Two of those companies I held a good bit of stock options, thinking I’d cash in for millions! Every stock option I was ever granted became worthless. I was also part of many layoffs which takes its toll on the spirit and soul. In my 40’s I changed professions, thinking sales was a better match for my personality than sitting in a cubicle coding software or managing people who sat in cubicles all day long. Over the next 2 years in sales, I was fired from 4 companies. The 5th company was a large software firm and I was told my 3rd month that if I didn’t meet quota I’d be fired in 30 days. I don’t know what happened within me but something changed. I told myself I was tired of being part of layoffs. Tired of being fired. Tired of losing. Tired of failure. I made quota at the end of the month. Barely. But over the next several months I became the 2nd best sales rep on our team of 15. And for the following 9 years I was always in the top 5% of the all company sales reps (100+). Since then I’ve learned a lot about setting goals. I’m still learning. In the past couple of years I’ve learned how important it is to follow through on all goals so our subconscious doesn’t tell us that we are failures or quitters. Instead, we want to know that we positively, absolutely will do what we tell ourselves we will do. That we can always trust ourselves!
Now about my 100 mile ride: I began training about 6 months before I rode the century. At first it was 15 minutes a couple of times a week. Then I bumped it up to 30 minutes. It was during one of those 30 minute rides that I was thinking, why am I doing this? What is the point? I’m tired. This is stupid to be doing at my age (60). Why did I make this a goal in the first place? Why don’t I quit? It was then that I realized I have to keep training and MUST finish my goal of riding 100 miles. Or at least attempt to finish …. but quitting before ever starting? Nope, not gonna let my mind think I’m a failure. So over the next couple of months I’d ride at least an hour, sometimes two, once a week. And believe me, the idea to quit popped into my mind a few more times but by then I’d firmly made up my mind I would at least keep training, then try to finish. I was suppose to work up to riding 6 hours before attempting the 100 miles but had too many other things on my plate to ever ride more than a couple hours each week.
Finally, the day arrived. June 15th, 2019. It was a near perfect weather day to ride. High 60’s in the morning and low 80’s when I finished around 4 pm. I left the house around 6:15 in the morning and arrived at the start a few minutes before 7 am. I was surprised the parking lot of the Silver Comet Trail was almost full. I took a couple of pictures at the “0.0” starting line and began my ride. The first 10 miles went by easily. I drank one coconut water before I left. I held a water and an orange when I started out and ate the orange and drank water while riding (it makes the time go by faster). The 20 mile marker was my first milestone and I took a quick break to walk around. I was riding at a good pace but not pushing myself. Sometime after the 20 mile mark my left knee started bothering me and after the 30+ miles my right knee felt the same stresses. The 34th mile marker I was telling myself I’m 33% done but I wondered if I would make it. I got off my bike the 2nd time a bit after the 50 mile marker. Somewhere around the 60 mile mark I started feeling like 100 miles is way too long to ride. The tendons around both knees were still feeling stressed as well as muscles in various parts of my body.
During miles 30-50 I noticed groups of cyclists passing me, each group wearing identical jerseys. Obviously various riding teams. At least that is what I told myself as they blew past me. I noticed the lone rider with an orange Terradata jersey around mile marker 30. A few hours later, around mile marker 80, Terradata gave me a thumbs up as he passed me by (again) on the way back. I have no idea how far he rode but apparently he realized I’d ridden at least 60-80 miles at that point in time. Apparently I did not dress or look like I was suppose to be riding 100 miles!
I Stopped at least 4 times on the way back, each time to stretch a bit. By now, my knees, calves, achilles tendons, and surprisingly, my biceps were all complaining at different levels. More than once during the last 20 miles I thought I must have a flat tire. I was in 5th gear and going slow (the 1st 50 miles I rode entirely in 10th gear). It wasn’t a flat tire. It was me. Both times I thought I had a flat tire, I ate something (nuts, energy bar) and drank coconut water which miraculously made my bike work better.
During my last two stops I didn’t even try to sit on my heals to stretch out my calves and thighs. It felt too painful to my muscles and especially me knees to stand back up. Finally, 9 hours and 11 minutes later, I made it! 100+ miles in a day. I’d programmed another “win” into my brain!
A couple days later I could walk down the stairs without my legs or knees complaining. 3-4 days later my body was back to normal (no aches or pains). But my mind, my belief that I will do what I tell myself I will do …. is feeling better every day!
May we all set a goal, create a process and plan to complete the goal, then follow our plan to completion! We need to believe in ourselves and have proof that we will always follow through!
All the best, Greg