I have a confession to make. I am a quitter. I know, not exactly the stuff motivation is made of, but it is what is on my mind as I stare up at Skinner’s Butte, a hill that lays right along the Willamette river down town Eugene. By hill standards, it might not seem very big. The road that leads to the top is an even .75 mile corkscrew that rises 220 feet at a 6% grade. From where I sit gripping the bars on my bike, it looks like a monster. So I remind self again what a big quitter I am.
I picture my cluttered garage chocked full of half completed projects that I never found the time to finish. There is a microbrew kit out there that only made a single batch of beer, and a pasta maker that could probably be passed off as new. I picture the sketch books and canvases that clutter my apartment, unfinished works still waiting for those final details. The Bonzai tree book from my cultivating phase lays upon the architecture course books from the classes than i never managed to pass. I cringe at the notion that this junkyard of discarded dreams is to become my opus.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in the power of positive thinking. I really, truly believe that deep inside we all have the power to commit amazing feats. So you might be wondering why I would be dwelling on such negative thoughts at this time. This conversation serves a purpose though, It’s time for a dose of reality. I have ridden this hill before and I know that in 60 seconds my body is going to start doing everything it can to convince me to quit, and I need to decide now, right now, how I am going to respond. I click my shoes into my pedals, take a deep breath and start the timer as I begin the climb. It’s easy going at first, but doesn’t take long before the familiar burning starts returning to my legs. 60 seconds in and the road splits, the right side curves back down the hill. The left side, the road to the top, takes a steep pitch at this point. I dig in and push hard, my breathing goes anaerobic as I struggle to the summit. I want to give up, but grind it out to the top. Lap 1- 3:37. I coast back down and turn around to do it again.
Every day for the last six months, I have been guided by a vision. I imagine that perfect day in the not so far future that I am going to be crouched at the starting line of the ITU triathlon world championships. I’m wearing my Team USA uniform, my name spelled out across my chest in large block letters. Lap 2- 3:33. I imagine the starting pistol firing and I jockey to get position among the Brazilians, the Ukranians, and the super tough Brittains. I picture nationals along the crowded streets waving their flags and cheering in languages I don’t understand. Lap 3- 3:30. I imagine taking the podium at the National Championships, I picture my son cheering for me from the sidelines. The pain is growing to a fever pitch. My legs are burning, my chest is burning, I can’t get enough air. But I continue to push. Lap 4- 3:29. It’s almost impossible to ignore my body at this point. I want to give up so badly. I start to rationalize with myself, I have definitely gotten a good enough work out at this point. Nobody is watching, why not just go home and cut your losses. My legs are useless, my body is useless, I can’t go on. Lap 5- 3:44.
I roll back to the bottom disappointed with my time. I have 6 reps of climbing this damn hill scheduled today, I know it’s going to be my toughest workout of the week. I wonder to myself if it’s worth even trying one last feeble trip to the top. I breath deeply and again picture that perfect day. What is it going to take to get there? Do I really have what it takes? Is today going to be the day that I give up on this dream? Is today the day that I give up on this dream?
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”- Mahatma Gandhi.
Back up I head for my final rep. This time I don’t try to ignore the pain. I let the burning spread through my body, but I don’t care. This is my last chance up this mountain today and I have decided that nothing is going to keep me from the top this last time. I push harder and harder, everything burns, my lungs aren’t getting any air, i want to vomit, but I don’t surrender. I pass the fork in the road and choose to push to top, every turn of the pedals is excruciating. I will myself on till I make it to the crest. Lap 6- 3:25.
“Someday you will not be able to do this. Today is not that day.”- Dane Rauschenberg
I head back home at a nice easy pace, satisfied that I managed to slay the beast one more time. Every week I attack that hill, and every week it almost does me in. But every week I manage to get up to the top just a little bit faster. I think again about my dream of making Team USA Triathlon. I know It’s an extraordinary dream, and every day I am fighting an uphill battle. Honestly I don’t know If I have the stuff inside that it takes to get there. I do know though, that when the time comes, I have to know that every minute of every day I gave every bit I could. If I can do that and still fall short, I can live with myself. The only way I can really fail is by quitting. I spend a few more minutes of numb bliss reflecting on my day’s victory. But, it doesn’t last long. I have to get home and change clothes because I still have a run scheduled for the evening, and another chance to prove to myself that I have what it takes.
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”- Lance Armstrong.