When Your ‘Why’ Does a 180

I have always been a competitor at heart and have thrived on events that test my endurance — a.k.a a glutton for punishment some might say; so when I signed up for the Rebecca’s Private Idaho Challenge with all intention of conquering the Queen Stage Race this coming Labor Day weekend, my mind, energy, and complete focus turned to specific and more intense training, to diligently reaching new levels of power output and strength, to making sure I had all green boxes in my TrainingPeaks dashboard at the end of each week.

My ‘why’ was to prove I could cover the 196 miles and 12,646 vertical feet of predominantly gravel roads on my bike feeling stronger than ever. For me, this would be a greater feat than anything I’ve tackled before including Ironman, XTerra Worlds, pacing a friend at the Leadville 100 Trail Run, trekking Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon in two days, any of the marathons on foot. This would be my next epic challenge both physically and mentally, a goal to have on the calendar, a plan that wouldn’t get cancelled due to a global pandemic.

Two weeks into my hyper-focused training and six weeks out from event weekend, I was feeling the benefits of pushing myself even harder than I normally do. I was feeling strong. And then like the flip of a switch, I wasn’t.
I felt off. Way off. I slept for nearly 3 days and had bouts of dizziness, headaches, lack of appetite, and zero energy. I couldn’t correlate these symptoms to my increased efforts on the bike, and yet in today’s world, “feeling off” can send one’s mind into a place of scary possibilities, which I have never experienced in my lifetime. Bottom line per the doc — it was likely one of 10,000 viruses out there with no confirmation of how I got it given my tiny bubble I live and play in, but confirmation that it was not COVID-19.

What has struck me the most through all of this is how a multitude of what I’ll call ‘micro moments,’ made me perhaps unintentionally revisit my ‘why.’
I was forced to take some down time, to maybe adjust my high expectations, and to really think about how I was stacking my order of priorities.

One of these micro moments came to fruition through our homework from Rebecca Rusch and Tim Cusick this past weekend, following their Garmin Connect webinar on how to build our courses for the RPI Challenge. We were encouraged to build a test course, or part of a test course, and go ride it — just get out and adventure, explore, play (and get the training time in). My energy was very slowly on the upswing and I knew anything would feel better than nothing after nearly a week off the bike and being housebound.

On Friday evening, Jesse and I turned our phones to airplane mode, drove about 85 miles north, set up camp in our van, and went to sleep with a nearly full moon rising, the sound of the river, and anticipation for what our ride the next day would bring. Already, my priorities were feeling a shift.

Saturday morning: Cue the Stanley PMI French Press, the fixings for our favorite pre-ride ‘groatmeal,’ and a bluebird, sunshiny day for exploring a new gravel road. And when I took that first sip of coffee, and realized my GSI Outdoors coffee cup could very well serve dual purpose as a bird call… that little chirp-like whistle brought an even bigger smile to my face. #itsthelittlethings

Time to roll out easy and test both my energy level and part of a course we built on GarminConnect, with invaluable instruction (and inspiration) led by Tim and Rebecca. Call it a week of forced recovery. Call it fresh mountain air. Call it being alone and away from it all with my favorite riding partner. Call it being disconnected. Call it inspiration from Rebecca reminding me to keep it fun! Whatever you want to call it, it all blended together like a smoothie on Saturday as a few of those priorities started to settle into place. I kept pedaling, the wheels kept rolling, and the new sights and sounds quenched my mind with further clarity and less noise.

“The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.” — Charles Kuralt

These micro moments of an off-week plus an off-the-grid weekend — when I put them together like pieces of a puzzle, I’m pretty certain they spelled out “THIS IS YOUR WHY” and the finished puzzle looked like this:

Five weeks ’til event weekend. I know I’ll put in the work to be strong. I know I’ll show up and do what I can. I just know I’ll be taking a slightly different approach. One that regularly revisits how those micro moments feel, how taking such delight in little things makes your heart feel bigger than ever, how smile cramps make the hard work not feel so hard.

And how my ‘why’ isn’t to prove anything. It’s to push my boundaries a little bit, but more to savor times spent with my favorite riding partner and a few close riding friends… seeking out those micro moments and assembling a few badass puzzles along the way.

A life lived all-in.