Make It Personal

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked – and used to ask – is this: “How far did you ride?”

Why did I want to know? Okay, part of me wanted to be proud of their accomplishments. I’m always proud when a rider puts on miles, of any distance. But another part? It wanted to know because I wanted to do more. Plain and simple. I wanted to ride farther and ride faster. Why? Well, might be because I’m too competitive. But more than that, I was judging myself, and using these external gauges to see where I was at.

I’d gladly tell people how far I’d ridden. How many miles I covered that day. How fast I covered them. But as I rode more and more on my own during the early days of this year, something changed. With no one else around, there was nothing to compare against. I realized I was judging my abilities against everyone except for the one person that counted: me.

I stopped posting rides on Facebook. I stopped posting on this blog (about my own riding status, except as pertains to training). And when someone asks me “How far did you ride?” I’ll say things like “An hour or so,” or “A good distance,” or “Just got in a nice warm-up.” If they push, I’ll tell them the distances and the pace. But otherwise, I just keep it to myself. Why? Because that’s who I need to compete against.

It wasn’t someone else who failed to finish Tulsa Tough last year. It wasn’t another rider who kept me from doing better than I did. It was me. And I gotta deal with that head-on. I’m now in a head-to-head competition with myself.

Every ride, I think about how I’m doing versus how I used to do. Am I riding with better form? How am I feeling X miles into a ride – better or worse than I used to? Has my average distance increased from last year? Last month? How’s my overall speed – dropping, increasing, holding? These are the important questions. And I’m the only one that can answer them.

So, advice from this perpetual newb? Make it personal. Internalize your goals, and let your achievements shine on their own. One of my favorite quotes:

Everyone knows the form by which I am victorious. But no one knows the form by which I ensure victory.” ~Sun Tsu

I guarantee this: when you’re doing better, others will know it. You won’t need to tell them how far you’ve ridden, how long, how fast, whatever. They’ll see it the next time you’re taking a long pull into a strong headwind. They’ll know it by your confidence and your poise after long, hard miles. They’ll feel it as you drop them on large climbs, or as you continue giving them encouragement when they’re flagging.

Other riders will be proud of your accomplishments, or they won’t. Either way, the only person you’ve gotta satisfy is you.