Three years ago, Evan and I rode 200 miles from Huntingdon, PA to his parents house near Phoenixville, PA, just west of Philly. We did it on a tandem, in one shot, through the night. Ever since, I’ve wanted to do the ride again, but on my own. So when we decided to go to the Philly Bike Expo this year and Evan threw out the idea that I could ride down, I made a decision that now is my time.
In some ways, I feel confident. I am in the best shape of my life and a lot stronger than when I did this ride with Evan a few years ago. Not only on the bike, but with running, general physical strength and mental fortitude to keep pushing even when it’s uncomfortable. The ride is on mostly pavement (read: easier than a lot of the other long rides I’ve done that are mostly gravel) and has relatively little climbing per mile compared to what I’m used to.
In other ways, I’m terrified. The longest ride I’ve ever done on my own bike is just over 100 miles, and those rides haven’t been easy. Can I really double that? Do I have what it takes mentally to keep going all alone through the night and cold? I think of all the things that could go wrong. What if I can a mechanical that I cannot fix? What if I am too scared of being solo and I freak out? I’m worried that if I can’t do it, I’ll feel like a failure.
I rationalize with myself. I’ll never know if I can do it until I try. It’s rare that I have to bail on a ride, no matter how hard it gets. If something happens, I can call Evan or any number of people I know along my route that could be there to help. I’m not going to be riding somewhere super remote. If I have to bail for some reason, there will be other rides. I am the only one putting myself up to this, and I can do it again. I can keep trying. The anticipation is nerve-wracking but in reality, I doubt I’ll be scared once I’m out there doing it. I hardly ever am.
My fear turns back into excitement. The excitement overpowers the fear.
At this point, I have to start resting, hydrating, eating extra well, dialing in my bike setup, gathering my gear and practicing packing it on my bike, trusting that I have been riding and running and pushing my body enough that it is capable of doing this. I have to tell my mind that it is capable too.
In 9 days, it’s go time.