When the going gets tough...
A few people on my trip have read a few of my blog posts and told me how positive I am. I would like to think of myself as a pretty positive and optimistic person, so I never feel like I'm deliberately omitting negative aspects of my experience in my posts. I even got recognized as "Rider of the Week" (which the leaders announce every Monday) for my positivity last week! I was pretty proud of it, even though it's fairly meaningless. :) I did have a low moment that week on one of the days, when I felt defeated and exhausted, but I definitely thought the entire week was overall an awesome accomplishment. However, this past week, we biked 375 miles in 3 days: 3 straight days of about 125 miles each, and I think I had the lowest morale I've had during the entire trip.
Biking up to 12 hours a day is obviously very physically challenging, but I don't think I realized before I started this trip in June how mentally toiling it can be. On days with over 90 miles, we get two lunch breaks. So, for the past 3 days, when we've ridden over 120 miles each day, we've had lunch stops about every 40-45 miles. The journey to the first lunch stop is always fairly enjoyable - you're at the beginning of the ride, and it's early in the day. But as I've noticed in the past week, I am most easily discouraged and down between the first and second lunch stops. When you're on your bike, 10 miles after the first lunch stop, and you look at your odometer, you get the sinking realization: even though you've already ridden 50 miles for 4 hours, you're not even halfway to the next lunch stop, and not even halfway to the final destination. And that realization can be really hard to dismiss.
The other day, my group of 4 was pacelining (where we ride single file, very close to each other, which allows us to exert less energy by drafting off the wind created by the person in front of us). We were only 65 miles into our 130 mile ride and the heat was radiating off the pavement into our faces. I had just gotten into the front (which is the hardest position in a paceline, since you're heading straight into the wind), and I was exhausted. I was trying so hard; it felt like I was pushing my pedals through clay and I could still barely keep a decent speed, and I just started crying. (Later I found out, my friend Beth, who was at the back of the paceline, also started crying around the same time.) Nobody really sees your face when you're single file, so it's really easy to cry without anyone noticing.
I'm not even sure why I was crying. For me, when the biking gets hard, a lot of emotions are just stirring together - I'm angry, sad, stressed, frustrated, irritated, overwhelmed, helpless, discouraged, scared. And most of the time, I'm too tired to even cry or scream or release all of that negativity. But when I did actually cry on my bike the other day, I felt a huge relief to just acknowledge that I wasn't having fun, and that it was okay to feel that way. And afterwards, I felt a lot better. (Apparently, crying releases endorphins. So biologically, that makes sense!) Many other people on my ride have also had similar low moments, and it's definitely comforting to know that I'm not the only one who struggles at times.
I also sometimes think about future employers asking me in interviews, "What is your biggest accomplishment?" or "What is the biggest challenge you've faced?" In the past, during interviews, I've always had to think pretty hard about an answer, and it's always been a kind of bullshit answer. But, with every pedal up a steep hill, I just keep reminding myself that THIS, without question, is the hardest thing I've ever done and probably ever will do. So that's a small silver lining when I'm feeling really worn down.
And usually, even after the hardest days, we get a second wind when we arrive at our host for the night. The feeling of accomplishment and the contagious energy from the local church members definitely helps dissipate bad moods. On our last day of 120 miles, we came to the church and opened the door to this Zumba class, which was an incredible welcome:
Anyway, we had a great July 4th (our 2nd completely free day off)! We got to sleep in until 8 am, had breakfast at the local Fire Department, and then walked in the Linton Freedom Festival's parade. It's the largest Independence Day parade in Indiana, with over 40,000 spectators. We were behind an awesome marching band, and I taught myself to do a little butt wiggle to go with the beat while riding on my bike. Learning some moves! :) On the way back, we DMed ice cream (i.e. got free ice cream) at the local shop Jiffy Treet - perfect for a day like this! We then had a really relaxing day at a local church member's farm and house, where we played corn hole. I also tested the waterproof-ness of my new LifeProof iPhone case in the pool. Not going to lie; I was pretty skeptical, but the $90 price tag is totally justified!
And THEN we had some fun with fireworks, which I haven't done in years, since they're illegal in many towns in California now. They were really cheap too! We had some fun drawing letters too - pretty successfully too. (P2C is the name of our route: Providence to California). The 4th of July celebration felt as American as it could have been here in Indiana!
Today we rode 90 miles, "like it ain't no thang." That's the other great thing about having just ridden 3 days in a row of over 120 miles: 90 miles feels short, especially with free ice cream at the end! I'm also getting really used to waking up at 4:30 am: we even have started dancing doing our chores....
And some other pictures for your enjoyment:
It's almost the end of week 4. We've now gone through 10 states! Isn't that crazy? We have 7 weeks and 8 states left. I can't decide if that seems like a lot of time left or not. I guess it's like a half glass full or half glass empty situation: depends on the perspective?
Happy belated 'Muricka Day everyone!