by Coach Sarah
“I will not be broken. You will not break me. I will not be broken. You will not break me.”
I was this close to being 100% mentally broken a few weeks ago on my very longest of long bike rides leading up to my Ironman.
I had 120 miles ahead of me to do. I was going to be alone for the majority of the ride (thankfully my dear friend Muneer from Spokes was able to venture out for the first 20 miles with me for some moral support). And the weather forecast called for 16-20 mph winds with 30+ mph wind gusts from the west the ENTIRE day. For anyone who’s ridden in these conditions, alone, with no drafting protection, you’ll know that these are not the most pleasant of circumstances.
I knew I needed to head directly into the wind for the first half of my ride. It would be the only way I’d ever get the full distance in—hitting the hardest part while as fresh and strong as possible. And I found myself on quite possibly the hardest ride of my life. Quite literally 60-miles into headwinds that were so strong I could barely get above 10mph. And this is where IT happened. Where I was this close to being 100% mentally broken. Mile 50-60 was completely into the headwind. Long straight country road without another soul on it. 50 miles from home. 8-10 mph was all I could muster. So I knew this final 10 miles west would take me at least an hour. Mile 56, the tears came. I couldn’t hold them back any more. I choked up, and could barely keep my bike upright. 4 more miles in these conditions was going to take me 30 more minutes. I didn’t believe I could handle it. I was all alone. Literally, all alone. I wanted to just pull over and stop. And lay down in the crusty brown and dead cornstalks, and go to sleep, and possibly wait for a stranger to pick me up and drive me home.
And it hit me. Forgiveness. For this was ALL I had in me right then. And I needed to just be okay with that. And I needed to remember my early days on a bike way back in Connecticut when I never went any faster than this, and I found so much joy and pleasure in ALL of those rides way back then! This was me, this was now, and THIS is what I had. I had the ability to keep pushing a pedal down. And another pedal down. And if I could just keep doing that, I would eventually finish those final 4 miles into the wind. And this thought clicked into my head, and it became my mantra for the next many many minutes:
“I will not be broken. You will not break me. I will NOT be broken. You will NOT break me.”
Pedal stroke. Pedal stroke. Pedal stroke. Pedal stroke.
And then, mile 58. I heard the faint whoosh whoosh of what sounded like a bike come up behind me, and suddenly there was another rider. A guy with a beard, and a bright red bike. And he pulled alongside of me, panted out the words “WOW! Crazy winds we’ve got today, huh??!”, and then off he went. 🙂 I’m not sure what it was, but somehow simply seeing another rider, and having them acknowledge the difficulty of the day and the conditions….somehow that gave me the final energy I needed for the final 2 miles of my trek west into the headwinds. My pace picked back up and I had newfound energy to turn my pedals over. I kept him in my sight, mentally letting him pull me along the next few minutes. And then, mile 60 hit my odometer and I was able to turn around and begin my journey home. With a lovely tailwind.
My tale doesn’t end here, of course. I’ve got a long day ahead of me (as do so many others) on April 22nd. But I know that all of these things have shaped me into who I need to allow myself to be that day. I’ve had to learn forgiveness for what I cannot always do in a moment, and the tenacity to still push onward with every ounce of my being despite it. I’ve learned that even when things outside of our control have the ability to break us, we don’t have to let them. I’ve learned that simply knowing that others are on the same journey as us, enduring the same struggles as us, can sometimes give us the boost we need to keep pushing forward. All of these things will be true on April 22 for me.
I will not be broken. You will not break me. I will not be broken….
This, I know to be truth.