I was talking to a friend the other day, who happens to be a fellow professional triathlete. We were talking about training (I know, boring, but we frequently talk about nothing to do with training) and she mentioned that ‘swimming scares her’. Now, she did not mean getting into the pool and swimming back and forth scared her, but rather, the idea of the race, and the distance of the race day swim scares her. Likewise, I said back, “Long rides scare me.” And I mean this 100%, though it is a bit embarrassing to admit. I am sometimes scared to go out on a long out and back ride, really any more than say 80 miles total, because that is 40 miles OUT in one direction and while I know I am likely good for the duration, the ‘getting back’ seems a bit daunting to me. What if I bonk and cannot get all the way home? I mean we all know that usually when we bonk, more food is what we need. However, have you ever had those days where more food did not equate to more energy? I know I have, when I am truly just worn out, and every pedal stroke just seems harder and harder.
The last week I have put in 2 pretty long rides (75 or so miles) which I have done solo, on a simple out and back route. While I enjoy the company of others, I also thoroughly enjoy tackling these rides on my own, just me, the open road, and some music in my ear to keep me company. Doing them solo allows me to push the intensity if I am feeling strong, yet dial it back if I am not feeling so great on the day. I can feel good about it without comparing myself to others. It also forces me to hold myself accountable for the workout. It is a little bit easier to have that company next to you, knowing that all you have to do is keep each other going. It is a bit harder when you have your own head and your own thoughts with you for 4+ hours on the bike. If you are feeling strong, it is great. If you are feeling tired, it can be tough mentally to keep going, and to put in the duration that you know you need to for the day.
What scares you? I know some people I have coached are scared to bike up hills for fear of falling over. It is a totally valid fear! When you are clipped into the pedals, and it gets steep, it can be a scary feeling to actually stand up on the pedals and maneuver the bike. I know many who are simply scared to push themselves to the limit; scared of ‘blowing up’. I guess for me this has always come rather easy, in the avenue of athletics… I am enjoy pushing so hard that I may blow up in a workout or in a race, because I know that the reward can be so great if you don’t blow up, and if you do have to stop (as we all have), then you realize where the limit is; and you may even go somewhere you have never gone before. That is exciting. That being said, I do lack confidence in pushing my limits in other areas (mountain biking being one, even skiing…I have a protective mechanism that kicks in and I like to play it safe).
I guess the underlying message here is, don’t be afraid to do what scares you. It does not have to be every day, but think about those things you want to do, or things you want to try, but you realize you don’t because you are just too scared. It is normal to be scared, but that is what makes life interesting, going after things sometimes knowing you may or may not get them. Risk = reward. You cannot have much reward if you are never willing to take a risk. I know that if I ever want to be successful at the longer distance racing, I have got to get over my fear of long rides. Last summer, I did a handful (as in, I can count on one hand) of 90-100 mile rides solo. While it was daunting leaving the house that day, knowing that I had 5-6 hours ahead of me on my bike, alone, on unknown roads and quite a ways from home, finishing the rides and the satisfaction I took from having done them solo was so rewarding. It boosted my confidence in my cycling, the weakest of the three disciplines for me. So, without sounding cliche or preachy… get out there and do what scares you! I guarantee the reward will be worth it; whether you come out successful or not, you will be stronger for having tried.