February 14, 2011

When You Hit the Wall

Day 45: 21.0 miles/1:20

“Feeling stronger every day!”

Today was a milestone day. I have now traveled 1000.2 miles on the bike since January 1, 2011. Forty-five days on the bike, around 22 miles and 80 minutes a ride. Today’s ride was as much mental as it was physical. The reason I know this is because I had to have this milestone to celebrate just to get my head into the ride.

If you have ever engaged in a physical commitment, i.e. a 10K run, a marathon, a triathlon, etc. one of the first things you learn is that the test is as much mental as it is physical. When people train for a marathon the final big test is often the infamous 20-mile run. This run is not designed to train you body to run 20 miles; it is designed to teach your mind how to stay focused for 20 miles. Because of all the numerous training runs that have preceded it, your body is a prepared as it can be to engage in a 26.2 run. Since your body will eventually shut down somewhere after the 20-mile mark, known as “hitting the wall”, your mind is the only component left in your body that will keep you moving through to the 26.2 mile finish.

Riding the bike every day has not been that much of a physical test. I know I long for a rest day. I sure could use a massage. I thoroughly enjoy any and every opportunity to soak in the hot tub. But, for an average of 80 minutes per day, my body can pretty much handle the pressures – so far—of this commitment. Where I struggle the most is in my head – between the ears. There are times where my mind does not seem to be going on these rides at all. Even worse, there are times where my head is actually trying to get me to quit. Like the marathoner, I am spending more time right now teaching my mind to stay with me on this journey.

I remember when I ran a marathon in 1991. For the first twenty miles I was running right at eight minute mile pace. I felt good enough and confident enough I was going to make the finish line. Then I hit the wall. The last 6.2 miles took me 62 minutes – ten minute miles. I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. I was running in Columbus, Ohio. The race finished in downtown. The last four miles was one long straight away into downtown. I zeroed in on a building in the skyline and told myself with every single step, “just get to that building.” Unknown to me, the building I picked out happened to be the finish line. I stayed focused and committed to getting to the finish line one very slow, tired, painful step at a time, never losing sight of my goal.

Our life’s challenges are very similar. There are days where engaging nearly impossible. I have talked earlier about pressing on, celebrating your success, fulfilling your commitment, etc. Sometimes all the talk and inspiration in the world doesn’t motivate a tired, abused mind. Believe me, I know. The reason understanding this is so important is because this is the point where dreams and goals and commitments often die – when the body fails and the mind follows suit. Now more than ever, this is the time to stay engaged and move forward to your goal. Focus on the finish line and keep moving. You will get there, even if progress is slow and painful. The results will make it all worthwhile.

About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.