I took the dog for a walk this evening. Yes, I realize that sounds really mundane but let me explain: If you live in Perth, you will know that the weather outside is thoroughly wild today! There are blustery winds of up to 96km an hour and rain is pelting down in solid moving sheets at the most unpredictable moment.
On any other day I would explain to my beloved chocolate lab, Chester, that the weather was just too awful for us to even contemplate a walk. He never understands and gently places his paw on your leg, kindly asking you to please take him for a walk because he has been waiting patiently all day. Today I finally understood. The rain and wind were not something I needed to be so afraid of. How did I come to this realization? In the most unexpected way.
On Saturday I took part in an event that has changed me forever. The weather on Saturday was very similar to what it is today and at 6am that morning I set off with three companions to complete The Rove 200km cycle from Perth to Bunbury. We were exposed to rain and wind that I have never experienced in my entire 40 something life! It was a totally foreign experience that taught me so much about myself, my limiting self-beliefs and my unknown resilience and strength – both physically and mentally.
Cycling this distance was no ordinary feat, especially in the conditions that all the Rovers endured. I’ve always wondered what the attraction is to submit yourself to such extreme endurance events. This time I was my own experiment and it was truly a remarkable experience. I learnt many things that are so hard to put into words, but I will try because perhaps you too share or can be encouraged by my experience:
You have to seek opportunities to re-define and understand your limits.
We live in a world where we are not really required to test our physical endurance or mental fortitude. It is the most wonderful, awe inspiring realization to know your own ability to endure and remain strong despite the conditions you are facing. You come away feeling sore, tired, even exhausted but also very reassured. It’s a personal knowing you feel deep inside you that is calming and soothing.
A peloton, regardless of size, functions as one.
Each individual makes their own decisions, but there is a shared unspoken consciousness that guides the group. It’s like a flock of birds navigating the skies, intuitively knowing what each member’s action or direction will be. There’s something incredibly powerful about experiencing this community of consciousness. It is magical and requires precise focus, and commitment to being part of something greater than yourself. It takes trust and a willingness to share an individual goal in a common forum. When it works and you are part of it – one collective consciousness working in synchronicity – it is truly exhilarating.
The prize is not coming first.
This is not the measure of your worth or ability. The measure is different for each individual. No matter how old you are or how fast you can cycle, you can have this experience. It’s up to you to decide what you want to get out of it. I am not a fast or experienced cyclist, but with the support of my companions who felt similarly, we took up the challenge and we succeeded. We started earlier than the rest of the group and we finished after most of them, but we did it! I can’t explain the deep sense of satisfaction we felt just completing the task, despite the hard work, pain and soreness.
You won’t know unless you try.
I decided to do this event because my husband had done it three times and my daughter wanted to do it. I was drawn into the euphoria of the excitement and decided to give it a go. My friend who has completed a half Ironman event wanted to take part too. So we became the awesome foursome. We started training for this event 9 weeks earlier. At that point the longest ride I had done was 100km and it took all day! On one of our training days we started by doing a group ride with Bike Force Joondalup and then after coffee (most important) we extended the ride on Ziatus. (Ziatus is a long road with a pretty rough surface just outside of town and is a good training ground). There is one little hill on Ziatus. Most of the group was ahead of me when I started to climb this little hill – it is really little. I couldn’t do it. I burst into tears crying and sobbing as I struggled to get to the top. My husband was worried that I would end up falling over the edge of the road and I think he was so shocked he really didn’t know what to do. I manage to gather myself and continue until 75km, but my ego was severely bruised and I felt such an utter failure. I decided that I really didn’t have what it takes to do the Rove. I just didn’t have the endurance or fortitude. I was depressed for several days as I contemplated that I was reaching way above my own ability. Despite my disappointment, I decided to keep training with the “awesome foursome” and allowed myself to keep an open mind. I learnt about nutrition, pacing myself, using my heart rate and working with my team mates. It wasn’t until the day before the event that I knew I was going to give it a go. I still did not know if I could do it, but I was going to try and yes, I did it! If I had given up, I would never have known that I could do it! I learnt that if you do the work, you can achieve anything.
My creed is to rage against the dying of the light:
The Peloton did not go gently into that long ride,
Rovers mounted their steeds in
Quiet unspoken determination
To rage against the wind and the rain:
Rage against the dying of the light,
And we were “bad ass” and it was good.