Last Saturday I participated in the 2nd Annual Bo Bikes Bama cycling event in Cordova, Alabama. Bo Jackson, recently selected as the greatest athlete of all time by ESPN, started the event to help raise money after tornadoes devastated parts of Alabama two years ago.
I signed up for the 60 mile ride, which was 15 miles longer than my personal best last September. I almost talked with Bo and I easily pedaled past baseball legend Ken Griffey, Jr. I also spent a lot of time riding and talking with Andre Holland, an actor in the new movie 42 and on the NBC show 1600 Penn. Sadly though, I wasn’t able to complete the entire 60 miles.
At mile 47, after flying downhill at more than 32 miles per hour, I faced yet another in a long series of hills. Where I live in southeast Alabama, it’s very flat. There are no challenging hills to climb, but there are none to fly down with reckless abandon either. As I looked up the hill, I knew I wasn’t up for it. So I pulled over to rest for a moment and my legs seized up. The cramps in my thighs eventually dropped me to my knees, and a nice lady with a truck offered to give me a ride (her son is a pro cyclist).
There was no pride left in me to object. So I hopped in the truck and she took me to the next rest area four miles away. The rest and refreshments helped and I thought I was strong enough to press on, so with just nine miles to the finish line, I set out.
I made it almost four more miles. I had given everything I had and then some. It was time to quit before I had an accident or got seriously injured. I also had a 290 mile drive home and an American Cancer Society Relay for Life event that evening whispering that it was time to call it quits.
I don’t quit easily and normally this would have been a major bruise to my ego. But as I waited by the side of the road for the second time that day, with riders and cops and ordinary citizens checking to see if I was okay, I had time to think about it. I was okay with quitting because it was the right thing to do and because I had done all I could possibly do. Sure, I thought about hitting the road again after 10 minutes of rest, but I also knew I couldn’t make it to the finish safely. Another kind stranger gave me a ride to the finish line (and on my drive home, I rescued a lady who’s car was smoking…pay it forward!).
Knowing when to say when is wisdom. Quitting is smart if pressing forward blindly is stupid and dangerous. So I was okay throwing in the towel.
Will it happen again? Probably. But the other side of quitting is analyzing why I had to in the first place. Next time, I’ll train harder, eat better and sleep more the night before a ride. I haven’t even been cycling for a year, so there’s plenty of room to learn and grow.
I have two or three more “next time” rides coming up later this year. Time to find another gear!
Final stats on the day: 3:39:54 riding time covering 51.63 miles (~14.1 mph average). That’s a distance, time and pace I can be proud of!