Breaking Barriers and Exploring New Territory (Pt. 1)

Green Arrow Breaks Through Maze WallsHave you ever started down a path (towards a goal) after which you immediately asked yourself, “What in the world did I get myself in to?” I know I have. I was just there (in that same mental state) this last weekend. During a personal challenge, I was able to learn more about me: who I thought I was; who I really am; and what I’m capable of doing.

I love riding bikes recreationally (for fun and exercise). I also like challenging myself with new routes and routines that are farther and harder. For two years, now, I’ve wanted to go on a specific bike ride along the foothills of some neighboring mountains located just eight miles from my house. I thought it would be fun to ride the thirteen-mile scenic loop inside Red Rock Canyon National Park. After all, I would see other bicyclists spinning up those steep slopes, so I figured I could do it too.

Knowing my bike (at that time) was inadequate for that type of riding, I made the excuse not to try it just yet. In reality, I could’ve attempted that ride anytime I wanted. It might’ve even been a cooler story for me to tackle a trip that most experienced riders would say is already tough while riding a bike designed for a different activity. Regardless, I allowed the justifications for why it wasn’t a “good time” to prevent me from attempting such a ride—even though back then I was in much better shape and much more used to long distance riding.

For the last month, I’ve been recovering from a recurring foot injury that has been preventing me from exercising at previous intensity levels. Therefore, my current endurance is nowhere near what it used to be (pre injury). However, I’m not letting my foot injury stop me from my fitness goals. I’m just modifying how go about achieving them.

Four days ago, I found myself near the edge of town on my single speed bike near the road/highway leading to Red Rock Canyon. All of a sudden, I making an impromptu decision to ride all the way to the overlook right off the highway located just passed the park entrance. Riding a bike without any gears to help on the hills was tough, but it got me thinking. I’ve wanted to ride that thirteen-mile loop for a couple of years. It’s now or never.

The next day, I’m grabbing my newer adventure bike, which is way more suitable for this type of feat. Loaded down with water and snacks for a ride of unknown length of time, I was in the mindset of “I can do this.” All I really knew is that I wanted to do this (I wanted to ride the scenic loop), and I was going to, even though I was in questionable condition.

The eight mile ride there was much easier than the day before on my single speed. Now I’m on a geared bike, but I could already feel remnants of the previous day’s efforts. My legs were slightly soar, my triceps were fatigued from holding myself up, and my seat was already a little tender from jumping into a fairly lengthy ride the day before without any real build-up conditioning. I just jumped in.

After showing my annual pass at the entrance and merging onto the scenic loop roadway, I immediately got hit with a slope more intense than any I rode on my way there—and this was the first tenth of a mile. I knew I had my work cut out for me. “What in the world did I get myself into?”

Please return on Thursday (12.19.13) to finish reading about my personal challenge and the lessons gleaned from this experience.

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