Zero to Fifty: A difficult lesson

I should have known better. Heck, I’ve even made this mistake before. But I dismissed the voice in my head that quietly told me this might be a bad idea. And the result was a painful lesson. And a metaphor for so many things in life.

Let me explain.

An Annual Tradition

This past weekend, I was participating in my 10th MS Bike Tour, a two-day, 150km cycling fundraiser. We ride 80 km on Saturday, stay overnight at a local university, then get up and cycle 70km back to where we started. It’s well-planned, attracts all ages and abilities, has plenty of stops with water, food, toilets and bike repairs available.

It’s a great experience that has kept me coming back for a decade, and while 150km of riding is a lot, it’s completely doable if you prepare.

Yes. Prepare.

My First Mistake

I didn’t prepare. I’m part of a cycling club that rides every Tuesday and Thursday from April until October. Lots of opportunities for riding and getting ready for the tour. How many did I attend? Two. Yup. Two. Once in May and once in July.

I also did a more relaxed 20km trail ride a week before the tour. And that’s all.

My Second Mistake

Once the ride started Saturday morning, I was feeling great. As my riding partner and I passed cyclist after cyclist, I even said, “I love riding. Why don’t I do this more often??”.

We rode steady and strong for the first 50km with a quick stop midway. We were making great time and were so excited about finishing earlier than usual.

At the 50km mark, it was lunch. When I got off my bike, I realized my quads were very sore. Must be some lactic acid. 

The line for lunch was long so there was time to cool down and rest my weary legs.

We got back on our bikes, and that’s when things got really uncomfortable. The next 17km were incredibly painful. I just wanted to get to the next rest stop so I could stop and was about 80% sure I would hop onto one of their shuttles and call it a day at 67km.

I had a short break, ate a banana, stretched my quads, rehydrated, and suddenly, my legs were feeling a bit better.  Hm, maybe I can finish after all!

So that’s what I did. I felt like the banana and it’s combination of glucose and potassium had saved the day. I finished the 80km, albeit the last 30km a bit slower than the first 50km.

Not So Fast

Following the ride, I had another banana and signed up for one of the coveted massage sessions offered by the local massage school. There was some downtime until the massage, so I took it easy, got some food and relaxed. All good.

But, by massage time, my quads were burning again. I was hopeful the massage would be the answer to my problems.

Wrong. So wrong.

The burning didn’t going away. It got worse. And by 8pm, I was really struggling. It felt like a fire in my legs that I couldn’t put out.

Not The First Time

I’ve been here before. After one of my first tours, I felt this same pain the Monday following the two days of riding. It was the same intense burning and very difficult to get any relief. I had done too much without preparing properly. A friend later suggested taking an epsom bath following the tour, which has now been a tradition for me every Sunday night after the tour.

But it was not Sunday night – it was Saturday night, and I was in a residence with no bath, no epsom salt, and I wasn’t sure it would be enough even if I could.

A Painful Lesson

I knew the pain meant I would not be riding on Sunday or finishing the tour as planned. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I was sad, embarrassed, and mostly, angry at myself.

Angry because I knew I could have prepared more. I could have gone on more rides.

Angry because a little voice in my head told me early on during the ride that going this fast may not be a good idea.

But the damage was done and now I was dealing with the consequences. I couldn’t go back and change anything. I just had to learn from it.

A Bigger Metaphor

Since I had plenty of now freed-up time to reflect on Sunday, I did spend time thinking about how this situation is a metaphor for so many things in life. At least, in my life.

So often, I get excited about something and go all in. Fast. It’s exhilarating, and even when a small part of me wonders if I should slow down, I dismiss the idea and keep going full speed. Until I don’t.

I’ve had people ask me how I balance it all (work, school, side hustles, etc). The answer is usually that I’m barely hanging on. I tend to take too much on at once and then something crashes – usually it’s me.

The Lesson

There are a few lessons you could take from this experience. But here’s mine. Too much, too soon may feel exciting at first, but the consequences might be painful.

It’s hard for me to say no to something I want to do. It’s hard to delay starting an exciting new project. I’m not exactly one who likes to wait once I’ve decided what I want. But, the result is me starting too many things at once and not even having time to do things I enjoy – like participating in my cycling club’s regular rides.

So I’m refocusing. I’m pushing myself to be okay with not doing everything all at once. Just because I’m excited about a new idea, project or goal doesn’t mean it has to happen immediately. In fact, I’m probably better for it if I don’t.

It won’t be easy, but most things worth doing aren’t easy.