At the weekend I went for a ride in the Exmoor National Park. We’d headed down the night before and stayed in the van just by Wimbleball Lake. It was beautiful there and I was really excited to get pedalling. After the previous weekend’s trip to the Lakes, I felt confident that I had a big ride in me, that my legs and lungs were primed and ready to go.
But it didn’t quite go that way. The ride we chose started with a long climb on the road; my legs turned and my heart pumped, but my lungs didn’t seem to be taking in enough air. I get a spot of asthma, so put it down to that and kept pedalling. The next section of the ride was a sticky, boggy slog along a muddy lane. My legs started to burn as I made slow headway, with the wheels sliding all over the trail.
And this is when it started. The little, niggling voice that tells me ‘You can’t do it’, started whispering away. I shook my head, trying to rid my mind of this unwelcome thought and kept pedalling.
We reached another uphill stretch. This time it was sticky and really narrow, with stinging nettles on either side. The humidity was high and I started getting a headache. And back came the voice: ‘You can’t do it’.
As the ride went on, the voice got louder and more persistent. No matter how much I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery and the fresh air, I couldn’t rid myself of the voice. And what’s worse – I started to listen and to believe it; I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t get up that next hill or over those techy tree roots. And of course there was no way I could make it all the way to the end of the ride.
The voice ground me down. It got to me physically as my muscles started to listen too. My legs didn’t want to turn anymore and my feet started to ache. My head was pounding and my lungs were saying no. We cut the ride short, taking the road back to the van, where I dumped my bike before heading to the nearest cafe for coffee and cake. I bemoaned the fact we’d cut the ride down and that I wasn’t fit enough. I kicked myself for not pushing myself harder and told myself I would never be good enough. Good enough for what, I don’t know – it didn’t matter, I just wasn’t good enough.
I let this stupid, niggling voice control that ride. I let it get to me and tell me I couldn’t do it. I stopped enjoying a challenging ride in a beautiful part of the world.
I don’t want to let that happen again. So I started looking around the internet and I found this well-timed post on Challenge Sophie, about something she calls ‘confidence training’. I read it and read it again and I will probably read it again before my next ride. It’ll remind me to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t, what I am doing, not what I’m not. It’ll remind me that I am on a journey and not every ride will be my best, but every ride will be brilliant for one reason or another, as I’ll learn from every one.
So thank you to Sophie, for posting such an inspiring blog. Feel free to remind me of it if you ever see me out on the trails, beating myself up for not being perfect. Nobody’s perfect after all.