The Journey of a Finisher

On the walls of my garage are two picture frames. These frames are filled with numbers. They store the reminders of challenges overcome and achievements unlocked. Not of the kind from getting a high score in a game. Not of the kind that gives you a letter grade upon completion. And not ones that result in more zeroes behind one’s net worth. No, these are accomplishments of a different kind. Ones that take you to your limits – physically and mentally, and one may even say spiritually. Ones that push you to your max, and often times to even dark and lonely places, only to draw you back. Cycling often times pushes you to your limits. Sometimes it can push even beyond what you thought you were capable of. And it makes you stronger for it.

These Numbers Tell a Story

These numbers tell a story. 2790, 2791, 2792, and 2793 – The first time my wife, son, daughter, and I completed a 25 mile ride together. 509 – This one’s still covered in mud and dirt. 188 – Not finishing last in a local 50 mile bike race. On dirt. 125 – The time I stopped for fish and chips on day two of an organized ride.

Challenges Overcome

Each one of the numbers that fill these frames reminds me that I am a finisher. 143 – The time I stopped at 8000 feet (of 10,000) while riding up a volcano. Not because my legs were tired, but simply because I was out of breath. 270 – The day that I rode from sunrise to sunset. 1823 – My land speed record of averaging 18 mph for 100 miles. 639 – A rough day of riding where I rode past other riders at mile 99 who were lying down in the shade from the heat of the day and from sheer exhaustion – 3 miles from the finish line.

Lonely Places

Cycling can take you to some lonely places when you have reached your physical limits. When it’s just you, the pavement before you, and the sun beating down on your back. When you’ve already gone 10 miles further than you ever have. As you continue to ascend the mountain with no sign of the crest in sight. And the only thing you are telling yourself is to take one more pedal stroke. A part of you wants to just stop and phone it in. You get off in a shaded section of road and stretch out and catch your breath. You take in the surroundings. You get passed by a few other riders. You look at your computer. You eat something. You take a swig. And you get back on.

Overcoming

Just one more turn. Just around the bend. How many more climbs to go? Ask this question on a long group ride and the seasoned riders usually respond with, “probably just one more.” (It doesn’t matter at what point on what ride – this is the response I’ve heard most). You learn. You get back on. You turn off the voices that are telling you to quit. You clear your mind. You take a deep breath. You look at nature around you. You chin down. And you keep pedaling. You look up and see the finish. A wave of emotions crash over you. There are feelings of elation, joy, and disbelief that wipe away the feelings of exhaustion and emptiness as you draw near to the finish. It feels amazing. You get home. You unload and unpack. You take the number off your jersey and your bike. You pin it to the wall in your garage or room. And it serves as a reminder of the time when you [fill in the blank] and it reminds you that you are a finisher.

Do you have a favorite number and story? Would love to hear about it in the comments below!

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