A year ago, my son Michael invited me to join him, his wife Michelle, and a dozen friends on a 10-day cycling trip to Sardinia and Corsica in October 2014. The trip was initiated at the dinner celebration following our annual Bucks County Birthday ride, where we bicycle the celebrant’s age in miles. It seemed like a great idea at the time.
About a month later I realized that this was the location for the beginning of the Tour de France in 2013 and that all of the cyclists on our trip would be 20 years (and in several cases over 30 years) younger than I. I also did some research about the route and got a sense of how hilly it would be. Unfortunately, I am not a strong climber – but a deal’s a deal, and I stuck with it.
I’m writing this from Corsica, the day after completing the ride, waiting to catch a flight to Paris and then home. I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned, or relearned.
It was hard. The hills were frequent and steep. It was the hardest cycling I’ve ever done in any country, and it was just a week before my 77th birthday.
There’s always someone stronger (or younger, or wealthier, or fitter or better looking). I had to remember that I wasn’t there to compete with anyone. The goal was to do the best I could do, no matter what that might be. The good news is that I was able to complete every day’s ride. I was sometimes the last one up a hill, but so what; I made it.
There’s a great deal of satisfaction is taking on a difficult day’s ride and completing it. This helped build the confidence that I could complete the next day. It builds self-efficacy; the confidence in our ability to complete a task based upon having completed others.
The last day’s ride was the longest, over 50 miles with lots of hills. It was also the most beautiful ride I’ve ever had. I focused on the beauty versus the distance.
Several friends on the trip asked how much longer I thought I would be able to do a trip like this. I responded that I have no idea; I’ll evaluate each opportunity as it arises. We had fun planning a birthday ride in Bucks County on my 80th birthday, three years from now. Many of those on the trip committed to participating. We may well end up doing 80 kilometers versus miles, and then do another 50 kilometers the next day, just so we’ll all have the energy for a good party the first night. As one friend reminded me, I have nothing to prove.
My advice: do something hard. You’ll benefit from the preparation for it and will enjoy the satisfaction and self-efficacy it will produce.