Knowing When to Hold ’Em and When to Fold ’Em

posted in: Ride Reports | 0

Early last week, I designed the third route in our Spring Uprising training series. I’m not sure what demon was possessing me, but I managed to throw in almost every hill I truly hate… and then some. I even argued with myself about some of them, but then another part of me declared that I have been putting off these choice morsels for too long and go in they must! At first I thought, this route doesn’t seem so bad until the final verdict of 5200′ in 46 miles came through in the summary numbers staring at me from Ride with GPS. I still held out hope it wasn’t as bad as it looked as we gathered up at Peet’s Sunday morning.

I would like to get straight to the point – and this may seem very silly and trivial to some readers but here goes – somewhere around 3/4 of the way into the ride, I decided to STOP in the middle of a hill and not finish it.


Jill, my trusty riding partner (who was not present), could not believe I would do such a thing. I proceeded to beat myself up about it off and on for the last 12 hours or so (I know, I need something else to think about!).

I had a very similar experience with the trail marathon I did last month. At only about 10 miles into the race, I had to let go of my performance dreams in order to finish the race. I beat myself up for the next 6 miles or so until I finally accepted the fact that the race was going to be completed in whatever way it needed to be given the conditions – and if that meant a whole lot of walking, that’s what it meant.

You would think at the age of 42 I would be a little bit better about giving myself the grace to say, “Not today”. I have always been the consummate perfectionist. I cannot tolerate quitting. I need to learn to. I also have a voice in my head that I’m pretty sure is based on my middle school basketball coach that yells, “Stop being such a cry baby!” when I start to doubt myself.

The danger for some is that they too often say, “Not today”, and sit on the sidelines waiting for the right time to participate. That is not typically the struggle with the folks I have encountered first through Team Fun and now Swami’s – we are an extremely driven breed. We come in all different shapes and sizes, and all different speeds and abilities, but we are all looking to challenge ourselves.

I am writing today to talk about when we should allow ourselves to STOP challenging ourselves, without excuses and without guilt. Almost everyone we ride with has overcome a physical or mental challenge – we all have. We are completely and thoroughly tough as nails – there is no need to prove that every day you throw your leg over that bike and hop up onto the saddle. You know what it feels like to push your limits, but if while you are doing it, something doesn’t feel right, you need to stop. If you are developing a chronic injury, you need to stop. If you are exhausted all the time, you need to do less.

I’m very much talking to myself here in the hope that it resonates with some of you out there.

Another angle on this situation is to consider reaching out for assistance when you feel like you are in this position. Chronic injury? Maybe you have a poor bike fit. Ready to fall over and give up on life in the middle of Twin Oaks? Maybe someone can give you some climbing tips that help you learn to be more efficient and relaxed and suddenly you are at the top before you realize it. There are reasons some of the experienced folks fly uphill, and it’s not just their genetics.

Or if you’ve just had it, you’ve just had it. And that’s completely ok. That hill will still be there tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

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Founded in 1989, Swami’s Cycling Club is one of the premier and most recognized clubs in southern California. We are composed of more than 300 male and female cyclists in the San Diego region who participate in the entire spectrum of cycling activities from the adrenalin-pumping action of racing to mountain bike and fitness rides.

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