You’ve all heard it before: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Usually, that idiom just means “don’t worry, it’ll get better.” There are plenty of these little perk-you-up phrases, like “Every dark cloud has a silver lining,” and “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” One I’ve heard in Spanish is “No hay mal que por bien no venga,” which literally translated means there is no bad from which good does not come.
In cycling, there are plenty of dark times. Everyone’s been there: you’re out on a century and you’re feeling awesome; 70, 75, 80 miles in. Then you do a particularly strenuous climb, and suddenly that finish line seems eons away. Maybe you’re in a race and you’re riding with the leaders, but suddenly it seems like it’s taking everything you’ve got just to hold.
And we’re always told to focus on the dawn, on the silver lining, on the good that’ll come. That’s a good notion, and a positive outlook. But I think we’re giving those dark moments a raw deal.
See, when things are going well, they can only get so-much better. But when things are going badly, there’s worlds of way to improve. And though I admittedly don’t like those dark moments in rides where I think I’m going to break, where I question my sanity and my reason for being out there, those are the moments that allow you the opportunity to grow.
It’s the challenge that allows for success. Think about it: when can you be brave? Only when there is something to fear. When can you stay strong? Only when there is a chance to be weak. When can you be committed? Only when there is a chance to give up.
I’m not saying a sunny day, light-spin ride isn’t great for the soul. And I don’t mean every outing on two wheels needs to test the limits of your physical and mental existence. But when you have one of those situations that does test your mettle – whether you expected to be there or not – embrace it. That beautiful light at the end of the tunnel? That’s miles off, and it can’t help you now. The only one that can help you in those moments (apart from good team mates) is you.
It’s not the top of the hill or the start of the hill where you grow. It’s about 75-80% of the way there. It’s far enough in that you can’t turn back, but the end is still seems unattainable.
Think through your rides. Think on those dark times and hard moments. Know that it is those moments and the dark ones that lie ahead that will give you the chance to be stronger, be faster, be focused, be committed, and in the end, be better for them.