"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."
Henry Ford was definitely onto something with that one. With just a handful of short, simple words, he perfectly described the vicious cycle between expectation and outcome.
Of course, there's a world of difference between understanding a problem and willing yourself to change it. Kind of like how I acknowledge that eating fistfuls of Slim Jims is not one of my better life choices, but there's a higher chance of my Slim Jims expiring than of me addressing this particular poor life choice.
I'm not quite sure when it happened, but at some point between working more, sleeping less, getting older and that whole dehydrated-meat-stick habit, I began expecting less out of myself. And I'll be damned if each ride didn't become a little shorter, a little harder on the ego, and a little more evidence that I should expect even less next time.
Then came The Season of the Glom. Like most of my best plans, this one was born from an unplanned collision between stupid ideas and dumb luck. On the first borderline-balmy break between freezing temperatures, I glommed onto a friend's margarita-powered ride idea, ignoring the tequila in my stomach with the same resolute determination with which I ignored my bikes all winter. A few hours of sleep later and we were piecing together every backyard trail around, hangovers be damned. Over the course of the six-hour ride, everything went wrong, which is exactly what made everything so right. A few weeks later, I glommed onto another suffer-fest and spent the better part of a sunbaked afternoon winding along dusty, hot trails at the eastern edge of Utah. With a few dozen hard-fought miles under my legs, I melted into a camp chair and scarfed bacon dipped in guacamole, which might be the best Fun Dip flavor never created.
After hours of pedaling mixed with audible swearing, the damndest thing happened. Everything from the hot desert air to my centrifuge of thoughts took on a stillness that was as sweet as it was unfamiliar. It's these understated moments in life's whirlwind of "What's next?" that ingrain themselves in fine detail onto a canvas of blurry memories. After running my inner border collie to exhaustion, my world was now only composed of only the feeling of old bacon melting onto my tongue, warm sunshine beaming down on my cooked legs, a stomach teeming with hard-earned hunger and knowing that sleep would finally come easy. And I almost missed out on it all because I was afraid. I was scared of holding others back and unsure if I was up to the task at hand.
Putting the bar of what I thought possible in the hands of others revealed that I'm a really crappy bar-height guesstimator. So I took myself out of the equation. Instead, I resolved to glom onto others' adventures thrown my way, no matter how stupid, painful or illogical they seemed. So, I tagged along onto weekend trips to anywhere but here, even when it meant packing 10,000 feet of climbing and 70 miles into less than 48 hours. An invite to a campout lead me to schlep carsick kids and bikes and barf-filled bags to Fruita, where I'd listen to my boys reminisce about riding these same trails on kick bikes.
I got over my hatred of climbing and learned that I'll never be an endurance junky, but I am stubborn enough to keep going until long after the sun sets. Each trail and challenge crossed off my adventure list served a reminder of just how close I came to missing out on it all. After making a habit out of putting myself on the line and taking a few licks along the way, I stopped being afraid. I couldn't guarantee that I'd be fast, but I could promise to keep going no matter what.
Then winter came and brought with it freezing temperatures and pervasive darkness that bookended long days in the office. By the time the first snowfall took out the remaining fall leaves, my go-to adventure buddies had turned to indoor trainers and snow-packed mountains.
But I didn't want to stop riding.
More to the point, now I was scared to stop riding. I'd spent the summer chasing my breaking point, and somewhere along the way, all the static fell quiet. I stopped second guessing myself and worrying about not being strong enough, fit enough or skilled enough. My training plan of relying on the ridiculous ideas of others gave me the kick in the ass I needed, but now it was time for a new plan, one that didn't rely on others.
With the whiteboard of adventures wiped clean, I headed into the frigid air leaving a single set of tracks in my wake hellbent on becoming my own ringleader of stupid. When I told my friend that my night's plan was to ride frozen trails in the dark when temperatures were in the low teens, she decided that I was insane—and that we should bring whiskey.
"Wait, you want to come?"
With visions of summer keeping my eyes locked on the horizon, frosty memories are building up quickly, memories of racing road bikes on trails in the dead of winter, deciding over breakfast that I want to spend the entire day pedaling, and learning to respect the Colorado trail feature affectionately named 'death ice.'
Some of my best memories are mine alone, but somehow my stupidest ideas are the ones that pique the interest of others. Maybe they're on their own search and rescue missions to discover their personal breaking point. Or perhaps stupid ideas are the tie that bind.
Whether I'm glomming onto others' adventures, they're glomming onto mine or I'm heading out on my own solo sojourn of stupid, I'm not wasting time thinking about if I can or can't.
Instead, I'm riding, perfectly content to find out how the story ends when I get there.