In an earlier article we talked about the wonderful sport of cycling and all the reasons we do it – for health, fitness, social reasons, competition, and personal challenge – to say nothing of the sheer joy of freewheeling down a steep hill as fast as you can. We decided to omit mention of the joy of wearing lycra …
In this article we want to pick up on just one of those reasons, and one which – once experienced and overcome – will stay with you for the rest of your life. Challenge!
To experience the sheer joy of freewheeling down that hill, you will of course have had to climb up the other side first. The greater the joy, in all probability the harder that climb before was. But the climb and the pain in your legs is very soon forgotten as you start going downhill again.
Now, we want you to imagine a different scenario. There is no downhill. There is no sheer joy of freewheeling. There is just the climb. And now imagine that the climb isn’t a few hundred yards, but perhaps fifteen to twenty miles. Instead of taking you three minutes, it takes you three hours. That’s three hours non-stop cycling up a hill (we should at this point reveal that we’re actually talking about mountains here). And there are no breaks, no flatter sections to rest your legs, no respite at all. It’s utterly relentless. And before we forget, it’s all steep too, perhaps a minimum of 5% (the “easy” sections), and as high as 20% at times. Sounds like a nightmare? Well, we can tell you that at times it feels like it … which begs the question, how would you feel when you reached the top?
Why do we like challenges?
There seems to be something deeply engrained within the human spirit to take on difficult challenges. We’ve all heard of people’s “bucket lists” – many of the things on them are undeniably (and completely) pleasurable, such as watching the sun set on the west coast of Ireland with a pint of Guinness in your hand (achieved, I’m very pleased to say). But some are difficult, extremely difficult, and seem to be on our list just so that we can say “I did that”. Three little words that mean so much.
Nearly everyone I know has set themselves a challenge like this. And it’s not a relative thing – one man’s 10k run is another man’s marathon – it’s about how difficult it is for you. You’re the one doing in. You’re the one who’ll have to dig deep when the going gets tough. And you’re the one who’ll experience that feeling at the end, that feeling that you can’t properly describe to anyone who hasn’t done it, who hasn’t been through exactly what you’ve been through.
There are numerous inspiring quotes on challenges and achieving goals if you look them up – and I’d encourage you to do that in fact. Here’s one of my favourites, from Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture:
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Inspiring stuff, I think you’ll agree …
The last five hundred metres
Now a brief personal story on this theme. On 15th September this year I set out to climb Mont Ventoux in Provence, one of the toughest climbs in world cycling and a regular feature (and often part of the toughest stage) of the Tour de France. You can see the full profile of the climb here.
As I left Bedoin a thunderstorm started. Driving rain, in my face, nearly all the way up. Sheets of water running down the road, making it slippery. Lightning flashes. Crashes of thunder immediately overhead. And still the climb went on, never stopping, never letting up, relentless. On at least two occasions I felt that I had nothing left, nothing left at all, and as I looked up I saw the road stretching up ahead of me getting steeper.
Finally, amazingly, I passed the Tommy Simpson Memorial and then saw a road marker: 500m to go, that was all there was left. I’d been cycling up the mountain for over two hours. I got off the bike, put my head in my hands, and just sat there for about ten minutes. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, I was just trying to psyche myself up for that last push when, inevitably, the gradient ramped up again. And after a while I got back on my bike, found a new energy source from somewhere, and finished it. And the feeling I had at the end of that last five hundred metres, which I can’t ever describe, when I said to myself “I did that” – that’s why I did it!
Choosing a bike
Here’s a marvelous quote to end on:
“I had learned what it means to ride the Tour de France. It’s not about the bike. It’s a metaphor for life, not only the longest race in the world but also the most exalting and heartbreaking and potentially tragic. It poses every conceivable element to the rider, and more: cold, heat, mountains, plains, ruts, flat tyres, high winds, unspeakably bad luck, unthinkable beauty, yawning senselessness, and above all a great, deep self-questionning. During our lives we’re faced with so many different elements as well, we experience so many setbacks, and fight such a hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and have a little hope. The Tour is not just a bike race, not at all. it is a test …”
(The clue to who wrote that is in the second sentence!)
I’m guessing now that you want to ride the Tour, or at least climb Mont Ventoux? Whatever this article has inspired you to do – and we hope it’s inspired something – you’ll need a bike to get you up (and, of course, down!) those wonderful climbs. So check out this link from Calderstone to see some of the benefits of a high quality product catalogue:
and the advantages of dealing with experts:
In our next article we’ll be changing topic again and looking at database marketing – we hope you’ll enjoy it.