One Friday in September 2018, I rode in the hills of the Dolomites in Italy.
It was day one of the Haute route, my first Haute route.
It was one of the worst days I’ve ever had on a bike.
The last climb was called the Sella, it was enormous; at the end of an enormous day and I remember climbing off my bike in a village at the foot of that climb and looking upwards and understanding that I would never be able to get to the top.
I was not fit enough, I was not good enough, I was not young enough, what was I doing there?
I realised that it was a long walk with a bike and that the only thing I had was the next peddle stroke and then the one after that.
About two hours later I managed to reach the summit.
It was brutal.
The next day I rode with Suzy. We had met her the day before the Haute route started and that’s the only day I’ve ever ridden a bike with Suzy although we’ve met on two Haute routes.
On day two she was lying third in the women’s race (I had no aspirations of any sort of position anywhere near anyone).
That day she had one of the worst days on a bike.
It kind of mimicked the day that I had the day before.
That day was probably, almost certainly the best day I have ever had on a bike.
For that reason, Suzy and I were close in ability and I was able to ride in front of her, letting her grab my wheel (metaphorically) and rode all the way through the Stade with a massive smile on my face, loving every minute.
When we finished after another brutal day, Suzy broke into tears and was inconsolable for about 5 minutes.
I have been there too at the end of things like that and sometimes wonder what it’s all about.
Firstly, stamina is about turning the peddle in that village on day one.
Failure is temporary, it’s giving up that makes it permanent.
Secondly, stamina is about preparing for the opportunity.
Eight weeks before the Haute route I would never have managed day one let alone day 2 and forget day 3.
The preparation through that final eight weeks was what got me through the 3 days.
Finally, the tears at the end are the understanding that you have given everything you can and finally gotten to a place of relief and honestly, there is almost no feeling better than that in the world.
The punch line is that Suzy rode through the time trial in day 3 and finished 3rd on the podium and collected a cheque for her 3rd place.
I got the glory of a bit of tin around my neck and for just finishing something which I felt was beyond me in the first two hours into the first day.
You earn the stamina through the practice; you prepare for the opportunity and at some point, feel the relief that you’ve achieved something.
It doesn’t just apply to cycling.
Do you get it?
Blog Post Number - 2613