When you saw that word, did you think love? Or perhaps even sex? So often do we wrap that word in the language of love. We speak of “my heart’s desire.” It’s as if love itself could want something. And by wrapping that thing we want in a gentler word, we elevate what it is we want. Again, with sex. If I say to someone, “I desire you,” I’m saying something different than, “I want you.”

With a fifth hour in my legs, and many more to go, I couldn’t think of goals, of defeats, of the nature of want. Desire became a way to think about what I was doing, why I was out there, what it meant to me. History has shown me how darkness falls during any event over six hours. Somewhere around completing half the distance the enormity of the endeavor thunders into view.

That’s when the question becomes as present tense as anything does. How far are you willing to go, both on the road and inside? I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that the longer the course, the greater the distance inside.

Desire. It’s a way for me to think about how much drive I have, why I have the drive, what it’s meant to help me accomplish. And when the route turned so steep that I had to dismount and walk, I began to wonder, what does it mean to finish even if you don’t finish at a pace to which you are accustomed, in the style to which you expect? What does that mean? Does it reveal more desire, or did you downgrade it?

My mind drifts to those video clips of people staggering across the finish line at triathlons. The view I’ve held in considering my athletic endeavors was that I wouldn’t permit myself to humiliate myself. If I couldn’t finish an event as a capable athlete, I wouldn’t start it, and falling repeatedly in sight of the finish was something my ego dismissed with prejudice.

And yet I was walking up a hill, pushing my bike, feet slipping on gravel. My hamstrings were offline. But I could still push on the flats and let the bike run on the descents. In the switchbacks I laughed at the absurdity of the terrain, of holding the lion tamer for the end of the show.

I blinked as I approached a turn, and blinked again to make sure I was seeing the landscape accurately.

Can I really be doing this? Can I really be letting a bike run, no brakes down a hillside on a course with no margin for error? Yes, of course, was the answer. I was, and it seemed the answer that made the most sense. Let the bike run, feel the air run over your shoulders.

As I pedaled up the final grade of the day, I considered that as I was closing on on my tenth hour astride my bike, I’d gone to a silly length to argue with myself. But completion was a way to win, to prove that I could persevere, that I could complete anything, no matter how hard it was. Of course, what can be accomplished in a day does not reflect the endeavor that may take years to complete. And yet, the day makes for a good story, the bite-sized lesson, a data point that requires no footnote.

But sometimes, what you prove is a lesson you didn’t want, a truth you could have done without. I’ve got all the desire I need. I’ve got grit and determination like the Pacific has water. What’s missing is confidence. Every fear I experienced floated my way thanks to a confidence deficit. Can I finish? Can I avoid crashing? Can I fuel myself and stay hydrated? Can I make this something meaningful?

Where I need to focus my desire is on my confidence. At some point I need to believe that because I want to, I can.


Images: Grasshopper Adventure Series


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  1. Dave in ME

    When you do epic stuff like that maybe you need to recalibrate your goals. Instead of finishing with a certain average speed or in a specific time, make the goal meeting new people or some other metric you currently don’t use. Remember to have fun!

  2. Austin

    Well stated, my friend. I am sorry I was not able to attend the Super Skaggs as I remember fondly doing this ride 2 years ago. I also look to go deep inside during hard rides and events of the magnitude of Hoppers are “therapy” sessions of sorts that are hard to recreate off the bike.. A sort of “primal riding” if you will that allows myself to explore questions that are typically repressed. I have not felt the clarity of thought and state of extreme presence anywhere as close to the sensation of being deep in West Sonoma County after 5+ hours of pedaling. Until then, I try my best to stay focused on the issues confronting me and hope that I may get out on a ride sometime soon!

  3. Pingback: Top cycling resources and blogs you should read – Harsh Raval

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