Looking back at my childhood, I had a fondness for going out in miserable conditions--alone. I would bundle up in -20 degree temps. and would burrow my way into snow piles pretending to be an Arctic explorer. I loved the feeling of solitude and self reliance. I always felt stronger mentally and physically after overcoming something big and somewhat uncomfortable on my own. On the other hand, if I were in the midst of a suffer fest with others, I tended to weaken and whine. I doubted myself in challenging situations when others were around. I didn't trust my strengths. Now, as an adult, I find these feelings to still be true at times.
Today, while starting on a long ride, into a strong headwind with my husband, I had fleeting thoughts this ride would be better alone. I felt a bit cranky. I was tired of battling the winds since yesterday's ride was even windier. I felt like a child on the verge of a temper tantrum. Then, out of nowhere, the saying "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" came to mind. So I got all Zen like and asked myself a question: "If I was riding alone, would I feel like complaining--or would I instead, see this as an adventure?" The answer became clear and I started to laugh. With this simple question, I no longer saw the situation as being miserable. No, I didn't "like" it, but I did find it quite comical. Here we were, choosing to ride into the wind for miles upon miles, just to reach a destination.
|The half way point|
|I found the train tracks across water to be ridiculously|
symbolic for today's ride
As I began to let this whole idea take root, I thought of other instances with similar outcomes. I remember hiking down scree fields on numerous occasions with either my husband or friends when I'd be in a complete tizzy. I would make the situation so much worse than it needed to be by hyping myself up. I wouldn't have done this if I were alone. In fact, I've stayed quite calm on solo hiking or biking trips when the shit has hit the fan.
This all comes at a time when I'll have to dig deep alone, or with friends, on an upcoming gravel road race called Almanzo. Next weekend will be a test for me. Can I keep my cool around others while I'm taxed physically and mentally? Can I simply ask for help if I need it instead of shutting down or shutting others out? Will I need to break off on my own to find my inner strength? Only time will tell, but today, I have to say, was a good trial run.
I'll end this with an excerpt from a book I just finished called "Ghost Trails" by Jill Homer, a female Iditabike racer. In this excerpt, she is hiking with her boyfriend in Idaho.
Geoff quickly climbed a good distance ahead and I let him go. We had learned over the course of our two month trip that we were happiest when we moved at our own pace, reconvening when it made sense. During any hard effort, Geoff and I thrived best in solitude. Geoff thrived at pushing his strengths when there was no one to hold him back. I thrived at overcoming my weaknesses when there was no one to criticize my efforts.