Mile 40


I would call my bike ride on Saturday a grind, but that doesn't really do it justice. A total slog isn't accurate enough either. Three-and-a-half hours during which I threw out the f-bomb more times (into thin air) than I'd want to admit, 210 minutes during which I was just thoroughly, completely bitchy and bitching.

A little background: the ride itself is a grind. Nearly 4,000 feet of climbing over 25 miles. The last time I did this ride around and up Deer Creek Canyon was over two years ago. In other words, plenty of time to forget the intricacies of the ride.

After 45 minute of I did my best to get over myself. I tried to smile, as we talked about on a recent podcast. Eases the effort supposedly. Felt too forced.

I counted cracks in the pavement: ride over 5, start over again. I got to about 30 before I fell back into my mood.

I asked myself, "Would Susan quit right now?" No. "Would Michelle quit right now?" No. "Would Cynthia quit right now?" No. "Would any mother runner quit right now?" No. I didn't care. I wanted to quit.

I told myself I was so lucky to be climbing in Colorado, that one day, I'll long for the days when I could actually do this. No dice.

I told myself I needed a training partner. I'd be much happier if I had a pal next to me. But who would want to be with me right now? I thought.

My Garmin, which, when it is in bike mode counts each "lap" as five miles—instead of one, when its in running mode—didn't help things. As I was teetering along, something like "32:30" came up as a lap time. I'm not even going six miles an hour, I thought. Just pissed. I promised myself that would be my slowest lap time for this ride. For sure. I would pick it up and push harder. 37 minutes later, another lap came around. F*&^.

The sky was flat and listless, and so were my legs. The canyon looked brown and weary, like spring was never going to come. My thoughts exactly. I was supposed to keep my heart rate below 155; even in my easiest gear, I couldn't get my heart to work less than 160 beats a minute. I felt defeated, alone, so sick of training, and most of all, so sick of myself and my attitude.

Somehow, I slogged it out to the top, and relief flooded through me. Done. Then I headed down the way I came. Dare I say it was worse? It may have been.

I am pretty good at knowing how to dress for a run, but knowing what to wear on a bike on a 45 degree, overcast day is different. Especially when I'm climbing (sweat-tee!) and then descending (freeez-zing!). I brought a windbreaker, which I put on before I went down, for a fourth layer on top, but I didn't bring thick enough gloves. By about halfway down, I couldn't squeeze the brakes hard enough. I had to stop, take off my little Lycra numbers, and stick each hand under my layers and in its opposing armpit to warm up. And before I left home, I didn't want to waste time trying to track down my shoe covers, so my feet felt like I was standing barefoot on an ice rink.

Have I made it clear how unhappy I was?

Because then mile 40 came. And Bri, my coach, loves to throw in pick-ups; run fast for 30 seconds every mile or speed up for this lap in the pool. Even though I know they are beneficial, I do not like pick-ups. Especially because I'm not the type of person who, when I'm in a race, thinks, "Oh, that person is passing me. I should pick it up so they can't get by me." Instead, I think, "Oh. And I'm passed yet again. By somebody looking stronger than I feel." I am just not a pick-up gal.

Mile 40, another way. Heart rate is red, speed is blue, elevation is green.
Mile 40, another way. Heart rate is red, speed is blue, elevation is green.

Anyway, mile 40. When that magic number hit, I was supposed to get my heart rate up to at least 160 so I could have one strong effort when I was tired. I was still descending at mile 40, which meant I had to turn around and head back uphill.

I could've pretended I didn't read the instructions. (I almost didn't, actually.) I could've just said no way, I'm so wiped and I want to be done. But I'd made it to the top of the climb, in spite of my listless legs and awful attitude, and now I'd made it this far. I hung a U-turn and headed back up.

My legs groaned as they were called back into action, and despite shifting into my second and even third easiest gear, I couldn't get my heart to cooperate. I hit and plateaued at 153. Winning the lottery would've been easier than finding 7 more beats. I huffed and puffed for about 5 minutes, and then swung around again and finished the ride.

I could zoom out and say, as I was strengthening my quads, I was also building character and mental toughness. And I guess I was, but really, that feels more lofty than how I felt.

I wish I ended the ride having some amazing insight about toughing it out when I'd really, really, really rather not, when ever fiber of my being is saying, "What in tarnation? Why are you even out here on a Saturday morning, by yourself, climbing these crazy hard switchbacks? Who even cares? Go home, have a latte, read the paper, play Apples to Apples Jr., and just get over it."

That's the thing: I'll never get over it. For better or worse, challenges like Mile 40 define who I am. Even on the days when I question my goals and my lifestyle with every.single.pedal.stroke, I take comfort and pride in the fact that I will always turn around at Mile 40. I will always do, to the best of my ability, the work that needs to be done.

And that, I realize as I type this, is more than enough wisdom to come out of a crapalicious Saturday morning ride.

21 responses to “Mile 40

  1. Finally found a moment to ready this blog – it had been dwelling in my inbox until I could get a tasty moment to do it justice. So glad I did – I LOVED IT. What you were thinking is so often what crosses my mind. Someone says, wow you did a 30k training run this morning? Amazing! I think, well, yeah, but I hated the last 10k and just wanted to quit the whole time. I ran like a sloth and thought a toddler could go faster than me. I always wonder whether the way I do my training is as important as what I get done.

    You nailed it. There is comfort and pride in knowing that you will always do, to the best of your ability, what needs to be done.

    High Five! Here is to a crapalicious ride. 🙂

  2. yes! thank you for your transparency and taking the time to put into words things that resonate so much. i just finished a few weeks ago the most horrible marathon in my life (granted it was only my 6th one) b/c I had a stomach bug and still finished it. i spent a good part of the run and days after questioning why i couldn’t just quit and call it a day, and your last line ‘i will always turn around at mile 40, I will always do, to the best of my ability, the work that needs to be done’ totally got me- yes, I may be crazy to other people but I like my kind of crazy. (:

  3. You are one tough Chicka Dimity. Nice story. So honest. Yesterday was Raegan’s first rowing practice (indoors of course!). I hope she is half as persistent as you are! You’re incredible!

  4. I loved reading this! Thank you for being so brutally honest. I’ll think of you the next time I feel like quitting…..and then I’ll keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

  5. Thank you for sharing your lows in addition to your highs. Helps motivate us all to keep up the good fight. Keep up the rockstar training. You WILL do this!!

  6. This really hit home with me. I’ve had my share of long runs (solo) where I’ve gone through similar mental gymnastics. Ugh. But I’m ALWAYS ALWAYS glad I toughed it out when it’s over.

    I like to think that for every craptastic run (or bike ride), there’s an equally opposite awesome run/ride waiting for you on the other side. 🙂

  7. That is actually really amazing! There are so many moments in life, not just when working out, that I feel those emotions. But, it’s those that persevere that truly gain success.

  8. Hey we’ve all had those moments. Every week I hope that the weather would warm up ~ I’ve been training in the dark & cold WAYYY too long. Guess what? more snow in our forecast! UGH (Feel my pain) Coupled with the time change put me in darkness again.

    But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I have 12 weeks completed – YAH! And 6 more to go (1/3). I registered for my 2nd 50K on April 27. I’M GOING TO BEAT MY TIME BY 30 MINUTES. (I’m visualizing and it can happen.) We love you, Dimity

    Visualize what a Bad Ass Triathlete you are! I wish BAMR group could sit around with a mug of tea and chat our cares away.

  9. Love this post! Way to make it through a brutal session — and I am grateful that you shared all of the inner struggle with us.

  10. I love that you can put into words what I have felt time + time again! My words are always, “That SUCKED!” Be glad it is in the bank!

  11. Way to go, Dimity! I give you so much credit for sticking with it and finishing that truly awful ride – but to turn around and go back uphill and push at mile 40 when you were so over it already – I salute you. Someday, you will look back and realize how freaking amazing you are for doing that – for having that kind of drive and perseverance in you. Amazing!!!

    I had a similarly crappy run on Saturday – couldn’t get anywhere near my target pace, even though I’ve run much faster than that pace easily for weeks, my leg hurt, every step was such an effort and I really questioned my sanity for being out there doing it. But I wasn’t freezing, I wasn’t biking uphill, and I most certainly didn’t turn around and retrace my steps and go back uphill at any point. You are hardcore. You are amazing. You inspire me.

    Thank you for sharing this and being so honest about how hard it was. It just makes the finish that much more awesome.

  12. I can’t tell you how much I love reading this. Not that you suffered on the bike, but that you have mental demons just like all of us and that you just sucked it up and DID IT ANYWAY. Go Dimity! Sometimes being a hero is about finishing. Did you see the coverage of Taylor Phinney’s 4 hour solo ride to finish an absolutely brutal stage at the Tirenno-Adriatico? (30% grade, three times!) He didn’t make the time cut-off but was pretty much universally regarded the hero of the day. Just like you!

  13. You are seriously amazing. I cannot imagine doing that ride. I am a huge chicken on a bike on hills…and they’re HARD! Nevermind for 3.5 hrs. Some days are a fight, whether it’s a run, bike or swim, but I always remember how without these terrible days, how do we appreciate those amazing days of a totally awesome workout? Great job!!!

  14. “Winning the lottery would’ve been easier than finding 7 more beats” You crack me up. I’ve been there. Not on the bike, but at mile 93 of a 100 where the difference between finishing or not is “running” a 14 minute mile versus 15. The workout is in the bank now. It’s worth something.

  15. I can’t imagine even starting a ride like that, much less finishing. The way you stuck with it and got the workout done as prescribed by your coach speaks worlds about your drive and dedication. Way to ride Dimity!

  16. I’m so sorry you had a bad ride, biking is just different than running, so don’t be too hard on yourself. You probably didn’t have a granny gear (really key to climbing mountains in Colorado unless you are a Cat 2 rider….) you didn’t have the right clothing, and it takes a long time to get acclimated to the altitude. Oh, and biking uses totally different muscles. I run and bike and love both, and I hope you will find it in you to return to the bike and give it another shot.

  17. I give you enormous credit for not quitting. I think it’s the sucky workouts that define us in races, will you quit in a race? Only if you risk permanent damage, nothing as minor as a piss poor attitude. Why? Because you don’t quit when no one’s watching, which counts for so much more.

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