‘I’m feeling really bad right now—this isn’t a reflection of me as a person, it’s going to pass’ – Ashton Lambie
It was around mile 60 in Bohemian Sto Mil when the idea of quitting starting rolling around in the back of my mind. The heat index was well over 100° and it felt like the fires of hell were seeping up through the gravel. I stared down at it, not wanting to look up because I knew that if I did I’d just see another hill ahead. I have never felt so all alone in my life. I wanted to scream or cry or both. It would have been so easy to just stop. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t.
When I get really, really, really tired on the bike, something strange starts happening in my mind. I remember trying to rationalize when would be the right moment to quit as if there is such a thing. It seemed perfectly natural, this argument I was having with myself. It wasn’t, though. I mean, if I was going to quit why wait until the next hill? Why not just quit now and be done with it?
But no, I remember thinking. Just over that hill. That would be the perfect place to DNF. Then I’d get over the top and realize that it was not the perfect place. It’s not like in the movies. I wasn’t inspired or anything. It just didn’t seem like the right place. Too bad that wasn’t the end of it. The perfect place was still ahead…somewhere. I was absolutely sure. It was a nightmare that played out again and again over every hill until I just stopped caring. That happened at about mile 84.
It’s nice to know that a guy like Ashton Lambie goes through the same mental gymnastics that I do. Don’t get me wrong. I am not him. On my best day, I will never even be close. But we share this one thing, at least, and I like that. It’s comforting to know that the guys and gals up front are going through the same thing I am. It connects us, if only tenuously. If they can get home in under six hours, surely I can get home in under eight or ten.
There’s never a good time to quit, but if you ride long enough in the back of beyond it’s just a matter of time before it feels like there is. When I hear somebody say that “quitting is not an option,” I know they have never pushed themselves very hard. Push yourself hard enough and quitting is ALWAYS an option. It enters your mind innocently, almost unnoticed, and then builds until it becomes all-consuming. It is the most seductive, rational thought in the world. You are going to have to fight it to get home. That’s just the way it is.
Now that I’ve experienced this, I know what to look for at Steamboat. I suspect it will come no later than the blue course cutoff (Mile 86) with the long 20 mile grind up Trout Creek staring me in the face. I’ll have been in the saddle for seven hours or more and I’ll have to make a choice. Do I take the easy way out and head back to the comforts of town or do I choose to suffer for another four or five hours? Can’t say which I’m going to choose. That will be a game day decision. At least now I know what to expect and maybe because of that I will have my mind where it needs to be when the time comes.