Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Milestones are important. In general, we measure every aspect of life by milestones. From a very early age a baby’s first milestones are recorded in the heart of a mother. First tooth, first step, first word, first day at school, first sleepover, first pretty-much-everything.
Reminds me of a lovely story from many years ago. I had met an old Kerryman. He was so interesting, and at one point I asked him how old he was?
I’m not exactly sure, but I was born very young!
This may be seen as an example of milestones being rubbished as being unimportant. Indeed, milestones are not unimportant! It is via measuring ourselves against “normal” that we actually come to realise that we are in fact quite normal. Furthermore, anyone with a wee bit of savvy will have realised that “normal” does have quite a wide range, so it does not come as much of a surprise that my first tooth and your first tooth may be separated by weeks or even months.
Yet, there is an important point I feel is worth making. It is this: Each and every one of us is far more than the sum of our milestones. For a moment, let’s move ahead to an adult version of the world, one where we create a goal, and by various means we then set about achieving it. This might be seen as a milestone, yet some adult milestones tend to be seen in a rather less-than-shiny light. For example:
- turned thirty
- first child
- separated or divorced
- turned fifty
In particular, because this is a cycling blog, let’s turn our attention to cycling goals. This was mentioned last week, and now it’s time to put some meat on the bones of it. In my case, when I started cycling in 1998, I had no goals. I soon progressed to having some very small goals. The first and foremost was to be able to hang in with the group on a club spin, and to finish the spin in a state of not-completely-knackered. This is critical, and I’d assume it’s the main priority of most group riders. The cycling bug hits us in many an identical manner. What comes next? In my case, moving from being thankful to be able to just stay in the bunch to a higher place: managing just fine in the bunch. This is a goal of many a group rider and is rightly prioritised. In cycling-speak we hear of phrases such as these:
- some buzz!
- happy out
It is just after this euphoric point in a cyclist’s career that things may go pear-shaped. While some are content to remain in this blissful state, others want MORE, in the form of faster or longer or steeper or more challenging. Let’s examine these
Most leisure cyclists want to participate at a level that allows them to enjoy the sport. Indeed, they do want to know their place in the pecking order, and to this end, a little bit of a race up a hill or at the end of a spin is enough to cement ones’s position until the next time. On a more competitive level, cyclists who opt to race are prepared to lay their ambitions open to scrutiny in a winner-takes-all scenario. Finally, truth be told, whether leisure or competitive, there is an upper limit to our ability to go faster. We just get tired sooner, or enjoy it a bit less.
Moving on, some of us prefer longer events. While many sportives offer the three-tier approach (50k, 100k and 160k) there are some that go above and beyond. In 2016 I became a member of Audax Ireland and the event calendar for the coming season looks pretty
impressive daunting. Myself and a few buddies will be hoping to tackle 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k between now and August. Beyond this, there’s ultra long, but we won’t go there just yet!
Perhaps there are some out there whose kicks come from harder steeper mountainous rides. I’d not be one of them. The main reason for this is because coffee stops are less regular, and sometimes not available at all. My peak of steepness was back in 2006 at the Alpe d’Huez. Nowadays, I admire the mountain goats rather than pretend to be one.
A beautiful day for cycling saw 11 Group 4 cyclists set off with a new route and a new challenge of longest distance yet. Keith joined us en route as we hit towards Carrick at a brisk pace. The sun on our backs had spirits up and the banter on You’ll NeverWalk/cycle Alone had everybody smiling. After a coffee stop in Kilmeaden it was decided to lengthen proposed spin of 90K by 10 more and as we hit the 100 there were raised hands and shouts of “Yippee my 1st 100K ” from some. The group returned a pace of 24.6kph for 101km and a great day’s cycling was thoroughly enjoyed. This group is open for new members. If you can cycle at approx. 24-25kph pace, you’ll be in good company. (Tony S)
Reading through an interesting running blog recently (link forgotten and seemingly unfindable), the tables are turned. A milestone becomes simply a point in time when, as athletes, we set our sights on the next milestone. So here’s a thought for the group I’m currently cycling with. We are training to participate in and complete the Sean Kelly Tour 160k next August. What if that then becomes the starting point for something more challenging? Perhaps longer. We are limited only by lack of ambition. Could we cycle an extended three-day event? Could we cycle England-Scotland before they tear themselves away from one another? Could we cycle the French Alps?
Perhaps faster? We could decide to cycle with a different faster group. We could decide to race.
We could decide to do whatever it takes to stay motivated. We could decide to enjoy the journey.
Critically, let there be no devastation when setbacks get in the way. Akin to the old Kerryman, let’s do whatever it takes to stay young.
Happy cycling, and stay safe out there,
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking. He began the cycling adventure in 1998, and because he was given so much good advice by experienced riders back then, he likes nothing better than to pass on some of it. Many milestones later, Paraig is chasing a few big ones for 2017.
Paraig also has a gardening blog at Petals by Paraig.