Journey Along The Great River



Written by: Tino Hernandez

My last post was all about conquering. Conquering those things in life that have been holding you down. I used my experience as a cyclist to draw a correlation between cycling long distances and living a conquerors life at home, at work or at play.

Imagine the Mississippi River as it flows between the states of Illinois and Iowa. The route is nestled along the mighty river and the small quiet river towns along its banks. Imagine the sun is hidden by a veil of clouds the humidity is high and the wind is at a mere 3 miles per hour. These are not bad cycling conditions. My bike and my mind were prepared for the task at hand, to break my own distance record of 100 miles in a single day, ensure that I conserved energy and feed my body well for the journey. These were the goals that I had set for myself.  In life if we don’t set goals then we will only end up where circumstances take us. Then when we arrive we will be filled with regret for not having done something more worthwhile with our time.

I left on my journey at 8:30 AM and was no more than a mile down the road when I realized that I had left my earbuds behind.  Back to the start I went to retrieve my forgotten earbuds because I like ridding with music to keep me company. I really don’t pay much attention to it but it fills the background with a pleasant sound. Sometimes we set out to reach our goals and we realize that our best plan has some holes in it. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that and making a fresh start but just don’t wait too long. Once you realize that something isn’t right find the correction and act quickly so that you can get back on track. When trying to reach your goals make sure that you are taking care of your mind, body and soul. Rest, eat well and exercise.

The first 45 miles were a lot of fun. I made sure to pace myself so as not to use too much energy that I knew I would need down the road. This is one of the most difficult parts of long distance endurance sports. Knowing how much effort to put out when your fresh and knowing that you will still have enough to put forth when your weary from the journey and bodily exertion. In life our greatest test might be that of patience. We want to get out there and prove ourselves to the world. We might burn ourselves out in the process though. Someone once said that patience is a virtue. When you’re looking to reach new heights patience is necessary and pacing your efforts so that you can finish strong is imperative. You don’t want to be seen as a good starter but a bad finisher. Reaching worthwhile goals is a marathon not a sprint.

This ride for me was more about eating than anything else. Sure I wanted to beat my previous best of 100 miles, but I knew that the real test would be the mid point. It was at this midpoint that I would have to take on real food and not just an energy bar or two. When we perform endurance sports like cycling many of us have a difficult time eating. In fact you might spend much of the time feeling a bit nauseous. This is because the stomach is receiving little blood as many of your major muscle groups are working long and hard and the body fuels these muscles with all of the bold that it can. The challenge for me at mile 59 was to take on real food and get back on the bicycle for the last 41 or more miles.

When I finished the first 59 miles my body was very hungry. I had already burned over 2,000 calories but the last thing that my body wanted to do was to eat. My wife brought me a banana, a ham sandwich, a coke for a good caffeine injection and some water. It’s the oddest thing when you feel hunger but the nausea you also feel makes the very sight of food repulsive. Now try eating that ham sandwich, banana, coke and water. Tiny bites. That’s about all I could do. I finished everything on my plate but my body wanted to reject every ounce of nutrition. After feeding myself I felt stronger and ready to finish my ride. I was ready to conquer the goals I had for the day. Meeting our goals not only takes planning but it could very well take learning. Like eating when the body doesn’t want to, taking the time to learn new ideas or skills after you’ve gone through a hard days work feels about the same. But just as I knew that I would not reach my goals without that nutritious food, I understand that to reach new heights and conquer my fears I need to develop my mind. Even if my mind would rather not be feed new information my goals demand it.

I will admit that after so many miles I wanted to quit. My legs began to cramp around mile 85. I had to stop and rest at mile 86 then again at mile 93. At mile 86 I found a park bench and rested for fifteen minutes so that my body could recuperate. At mile 93 I stopped and found a soft patch of grass to lay my body down. After five minutes I mounted my bike again and finished my ride. After 7 hours and 20 minutes I had gone 101 miles and I stopped. Reaching goals will take work. That work will wear you down physically mentally and spiritually. Anything worthwhile is going to take work and work wears the body down. We may experience pain we’ve never felt before. Don’t lose sight of your goal and why you want to reach it because it is those thoughts that will keep you going.

Along the last part of my route I met up with another cyclist and we rode about 7 miles together before I left him behind. This happened around mile 70 and after I left him behind I wondered how I had done that. If my body was so tired how was I able to leave a fresh cyclist behind? Synergy. When I ride with other riders I feel stronger and feeling stronger makes me stronger. Well at least in my mind it does. You forget the pain and exhaustion and are focused on the job at hand. In this case pedaling a bicycle. Reaching our goals is not a one man or one women job. Sometimes it takes teamwork or collaboration with other like minded people. That’s important to consider. Like minded people create energy for one another and that energy we call synergy will propel you just when you think that you can’t go any farther.

Besides being a physical sport cycling is a mental sport.  7 hours on a bicycle can wear on your mind.  What I’ve noticed is that when I set out to ride 50 miles I can do that but anything more feels like a battle in my mind.  This ride was scheduled to break the 100 mile mark and after 101 miles my mind said we had had enough.  Had I prepared my mind to reach 120 miles I’m certain I would have made it to that goal.  In a few weeks I along with another 400 people will ride our bikes across the state of Wisconsin in a single day and I know we will get it done.  How do I know?

Patience, rest, fuel, a goal, synergy and mind preparation.

Tino Hernandez

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