That extra day given to us by the leap year stirred up a storm of trouble. After a remarkably mild winter, we got snow on the last day of February and first day of March. Then overnight the temperature fell and this morning the roads are snow-encrusted still. Frustrating for someone who had a carefully crafted training plan for a difficult century ride at the end of the month. If this weather continues for the next couple of weeks, what then?
All kinds of thoughts are now racing through my mind: "I shouldn't have taken time off over the winter... I should have ridden on those days when it rained, 'cause at least it wasn't snowing... I should be riding on the trainer more... There is no way I will be ready at this rate..." Advice from others is so diverse that it's only making me anxious with uncertainty. Some seem confident that I can do the ride, others seem equally certain that I cannot. And that's just among those who know me in person.
But pottering around my neighbourhood in the snow on a day I'd hoped to put in 50 miles, I realised that I need to let all of these worries go and just do the trip no matter what, ready or not.
I am not downplaying the importance of training. I am also not ignoring the fact that proper training can make the difference between being able to complete a challenging ride and not. But in the past, being worried about this has kept me from doing a lot of things on the bike that in retrospect I wish I'd done sooner.
It took me two and a half years to work up the nerve to try a century. I got as far as 65 mile rides pretty easily, but just couldn't take that last step. I read articles about it, listened to advice, and the timing never seemed right. Then one day I just did it. The timing was not any more right than any other time, and I hadn't trained in the weeks leading up to it at all. But I took it easy and rode those 100 miles.
I waited two years to join the local paceline rides, because I didn't feel ready. And it's true, I wasn't ready two years ago. But when I did finally get up the courage to try them, I wasn't ready either! I showed up, felt completely out of place, and struggled like I'd never struggled on a ride before. But I did it, and it changed me as a cyclist. I wish I'd tried it sooner, even if that meant failure.
It seems to me that we can't know where we stand unless we allow ourselves to experience failure, or come close to failure. Maybe the real benefit of the trip to Death Valley is that it will teach me about my limitations. Whether I get enough training or not, I will just have to deal with it instead of backing out or putting it off as I've done so many times before.