Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"Never Gonna Give You Up", or "The Ups and Downs of Goals"

A small spot of respite on the Clark's trail climb. 
Jared wanted a goal to motivate him to ride this summer. My friend, like me, loves to ride, but work, family, home improvement projects and drinking beer tend to get in the way of riding as much as we'd like. And because neither of us like Ikea and herring enough to move to Sweden where they are considering a 6 hour workday, a target like a mountain bike race seemed like a good way for us to reset our priorities.

Before I knew what he had in mind, I had already planned to agree. As men with our fittest days in the rearview mirror, we were very prone to falling into the mid-life motivational trap that triggers 50% of all marathon, tri and LOTOJA registrations.   Setting goals requires a balance between challenging yourself while also protecting yourself from disappointment if (and in all likelihood "when") you fall short of your goals. That's why I tend to keep goals to myself. When they are "on the record", goals can be like singing Rick Astley at karaoke, some people may have respected me for trying it, but ultimately, everyone at Bar Deluxe saw it as a fail.

Big goals are achieved with smaller goals, or as I call them, "one little victory". I'm going to share a little victory from last week when I dropped the hammer mountain biking at Corner Canyon and recorded my personal best on the Clark's trail climb. Now, before I start belting out, "Never gonna give you up," bear in mind that at 40 years old, I agreed to Jared's preposterous idea to ride 25 Hours in Frog Hollow, a one-day race near Hurricane. 10 years ago, this would have been very feasible considering my fitness, but now I have to admit, at this point in my life, it seems a little questionable. As a member of a four-man team, I'll likely ride at least four, maybe five, 13 mile laps over a 25 hour period. In recent years, that could have equaled my entire annual mountain biking output. So you might understand why I'm trying to cling to little victories in the saddle of my Scott 29er.

So last week on Monday's I beat my best recorded time on Clark's by 2 minutes and had a little victory. A jump even I didn't expect. Most of my climbs to that point were between 22 and 24 minutes, so breaking 22 was really all I was looking for. With my buddy Jared and his uncle, (lean riders built for climbing) breathing down my neck, I kept cranking that middle ring with all the energy I could muster from my power plant legs. I rarely let up until the last third of a mile and somehow kept my chest from exploding. Say what you will about my body, but after years of hauling me across this earth on two wheels, my legs found a way to keep turning that middle ring. I got me to the top in 20 minutes and 4 seconds, still nearly 8 minutes off the time of some carbon fiber asshole... meaning his mountain bike is carbon fiber, not an actual asshole made of carbon fiber, (although I'm sure someone's looking into that. After all, carbon fiber makes everything better.) 

Yet this was a cause for excitement. I told myself the night before that I wanted to crack 22 minutes, and I did much better than that. "So what will happen on the next ride," I started wondering. "Could I make another 2 minute jump? What if I slid backwards? I can't regress!" Just like beer leads to more beer, goals lead to more goals. Regardless of whether the 20 minute time signaled me entering a new level of fitness or just had a day where everything came together, improvement should not be assessed and analyzed, it should be appreciated. So even though on my next rides out, I wasn't any faster, they were still fun because I know what I can do. Frankly, I'm certain that regardless of how I ride at Frog Hollow, it really won't change my life. Saying I did it is really only of value to me and maybe my wife who won't have to listen to me bitch about it. And if for some reason I don't do it, no one is really going to give a shit. They'll just leave thinking, "Damn that dude really likes Rick Astley."

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