When Is A Mile Not A Mile?

A mile always is 1760 yards or 5,280 feet.

I have known the distance of the mile since childhood. During my youth the mile was the glamour race. Roger Bannister first broke the magic 4 minute mark On May 6, 1954 with a time of 3:59.4. From that moment on, people have been striving to conquer the mile.

Fast forward 54 years from Sir Roger’s historic achievement. For the last five summers, I too have been striving to conquer the mile. One mile at at time, typically 50 + of them on a Sunday morning. On a good day energy flows through my body into my legs and they make revolution after revolution. I do not glide through each mile or passively cycle. I take the initiative. I apply force. That mile is mine.

Over a course of 50 miles some miles some are covered faster than others. You can’t, I can’t, sprint 50 miles. But each on is taken. One by one. That is how a good day works.

Typically by the end of August they are all good riding days. Not this year. Last week i was dead from the moment I left the house. Today felt decent for the first have of the ride and then lost it completely. None of the last 25 mile were conquered. They were ridden, after all I had to get home, but the experience was mentally and physically gruesome.

I can’t say why my riding has deteriorated. I suspect the demands of this summer are getting to me.

So let’s get philosophical for a moment. How do you know when to “be mentally tough and work through it” vs. “listen to your body”? Both of these are reasonable approaches to a situation and I am sure that I can find self-help books to promote one philosophy or the other.  Do winners always go for it? Are people in touch with their needs more effective because they play within themselves?

The practical application for me is that four Sundays from today is the North Shore Century. This is the one I rode last year. I started the summer with a goal–beat last year’s time by 30 minutes. I did not anticipate a sick Mom or a horrendous work schedule and the exponentially greater strain when these two things are combined with all of life’s other irritations. Do I go for it even knowing I am not near the conditioning of last year? Is “going for it no matter what” the sign of a winner? What does it say about me if I do not try.

I realize that the downside of starting and not finishing the ride is relatively small. I am guessing that I can get someone to pick me up. But if over the next three weekends I am still unable to complete a solid 50 why go for 100?

For the moment I am taking inspiration not from world class byciclists but from Sir Roger. The year he broke 4 minutes he had already started Med school and could train for less than an hour per day. There is still hope for me.

A mile is not a mile when you cannot attack it the way that you can. A 5+ minute mile is not the same as one ridden in 4 minutes or less. That is when a mile is not a mile.

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One Response to When Is A Mile Not A Mile?

  1. Frank Roche says:

    You’re gonna make it, brother. You’ve prepared, and even though life has intervened, you’re in great shape. I’m hoping the day is nice…let’s go with a tailwind. You deserve at least that.

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