Wednesday, August 11, 2010

in which i fail - for now

If you read my weekend recap, you may have noticed the conspicuous absence of a long bike ride in preparation for the Hotter'N'Hell Hundred, which is just three weeks away. The plan was to ride 60 miles on Saturday morning. We came home early on Friday night, laid out our gear and filled our water bottles, and then made sure we were in bed by 11pm. Nathan fell asleep quickly; I, however, was not so lucky. I spent the whole night tossing and turning, worrying and wondering, about riding my bike 100 miles in 100 degrees of hot Texas heat. At around 3am, I had a sudden and inspiring realization - I did not have to do the Hotter'N'Hell. I could throw in the towel and quit. I finally fell asleep.

The alarm went off at 5:30am. I turned to Nathan and whispered my confession.

"I don't want to ride this morning."
"If we don't ride this morning," he whispered back, "then we can't do the Hotter'N'Hell."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure."

We turned off the alarm and went back to bed.

This was not an easy decision to make, and I'm still wondering if I gave up too easily. But I've not been excited for this event in some time. In July, I said that I would complete the 100 miles, but I wouldn't enjoy it. Last week, I confessed that my training had "gone downhill." The only reason I've looked forward to this event is because once done, it would be over. I could focus on running. I could have weekends free to do whatever I wanted. I could never look at my bicycle again. Somewhere along the way I stopped enjoying the training, the journey. I lost the love I had for my bike and each looming ride filled me with dread. While I could probably have physically muscled through these last few weeks and the event, I'm not there emotionally or mentally. You can't ride 100 miles unless you want to, and I just don't want to.

(And there are other logistics - the heat, the six hour drive there and back, taking a day off from work, sleeping on an acquaintance's floor, finding someone to take care of my dogs for three days, the amount of money I just spent on plane tickets for a September wedding, etc. But if I wanted to do this ride, really wanted to, then all those other things wouldn't have mattered. Because my heart already isn't in it, those things make it that much harder.)

Even though I know I'm making the right choice, I can't help but feel a sense of loss, a feeling of regret, and a burning shame. Listen: I don't give up. I make a goal, I complete that goal. Failure is not an option. And when I've announced a goal, talked it up, put in 3/4 of the training, written about my love of cycling extensively on this blog - it makes it that much harder to step down. Last week, No Meat Athlete posted about failure, and I commented that I had failed at both meeting my secret goal for the Austin Marathon, and that I receive weekly rejection letters from literary journals. But those aren't really failures - they're just falling short, with the idea that success is on the way. This is different. This is straight up not even trying.

Of course, I have a back up plan. I can still ride the Pineywoods Purgatory in October. Last year, I rode 72 miles without training and even though the course is harder than the HNH - think huge hills vs. flat as a pancake - it's familiar terrain. It's in my hometown. I know people at the rest stops. I won't have to travel but 20 minutes to get to the starting line. The weather will be 10x cooler. I might even - gasp - enjoy the ride! So, while I won't announce to the world that I will do the century in the Purgatory, the possibility is about the only thing making me feel better about quitting this time around. That, and all the time I now have for running. ;)

What about you? Have you ever fallen short of a fitness goal or had to back out of a race at the last minute? Let's commiserate in the comments!