In my last article, I described the three kinds of people that prepare for a race – whether in life or in sport. I realized that while I may have certain qualities from each of the three types, I learned what it really takes to succeed at a challenge may be totally different.
Last weekend I took part in the 7 Emirates Cycle Challenge organized by The First Group. A 520 km bike ride across the 7 emirates over 4 days with a team of 23 riders to gather support for The Rashid Center for People of Determination. You can learn more about the cause and support with your contributions here.
To be able to successfully complete an event like this one, there’s no denying that you require the right level of physical fitness and practice before you even consider attempting it. But is that enough? Having allowed myself to sweat, toil, and break a leg (quite literally) over these 4 days I can confidently tell you what worked well and what didn’t for me.
I hope these reflections allow you to better prepare for your next challenge in life or with your body. Here are some of my observations from the ride:
1. A strong coach or guide can get you through most obstacles and hurdles if you’re willing to put in the work.
On the first day at about 100 km into the ride, my legs were completely beat. We were biking at a relatively fast pace and having reached the mountains, the ride got tricky. There were times where it was pretty intense for me, maybe not for the rest of the group. At some point, I had to call it quits. And at roughly 104 km, I did, only to resume when we had 14 km remaining for the ride.
When we were done for the day, my coach, Tom Walker, asked me what happened. I said, “I didn’t have the legs for it, I was tired and was trying to save myself for the rest of the 3 days to come.” His question to me was, “What was your nutrition like on your bike? How much did you eat and drink?”. And I told him what I had consumed. Apparently, I had fallen short on my consumption of food and this was one of the reasons why I probably crashed out and my legs didn’t have the energy to go further.
The next day when we were riding, my coach stayed behind me. Every 20-30 minutes when he saw me make an effort to climb up the hill, he would shout out to me to consume some nutrition.
“Have a gel right now, have a swig of my carbohydrate drink right now”
So, having somebody technically sound and qualified in your corner when you’re attempting feats like this in life or on the terrain is crucial.
Especially for someone like me. I tend to make a decision on very little information and that may not be the best way of doing things. My workaround is to take the help of qualified people to help me get through that. If you’re going to be like me and take decisions without much information, then you better have the qualified help, your coaches, and resources available in your corner. Otherwise, it is going to be a very difficult effort.
2. A strong why for doing something will get you through most, if not all, hurdles and obstacles.
Knowing why you’re doing something, knowing the purpose behind it, and being clear about the intention, can get you through most of it. Even if your body might fail along the way, your mind and your heart will keep you going.
Here is some context on the level of difficulty that this challenge was for me. This whole year, I’ve done about 2700 km of riding. Of this 2700 km, 450 km came in the last 4 days – which is one-fifth of all the riding I’ve done in the last year. My longest ride this year has been an 88 km ride so this is way outside my comfort zone. Undeniably, my body was not physically ready to ride this distance.
During the challenge, it had been an average of 112 km a day for 4 days.
So, the question then is, what was my why? Was it to ride 7 Emirates? Yes. Was that the big goal? Absolutely not. The big goal for me was to ensure that a lot of attention went to the websites of The Rashid Centre for People of Determination, and they were trying to accomplish. That was the main intention.
3. Check Your Ego at the Door
Would I have liked to complete the rest of the 70 km as the rest of my peers did? Absolutely.
Did I have the physical fitness for it? Absolutely.
Did I have the bike legs for it? Absolutely not.
Was I physically trained for riding 550 km with elevation and climbing hills over 4 days? Nope.
Did I put in the time and the work this year to do this? No.
A strong reason can get you through most of your obstacles. But is that enough?
You can’t expect to not ride for most of the year and then cover one-fifth of the entire distance that you did for the whole year in 4 days. That is a bit of a challenge.
I managed to complete 450 km out of the 550 km that was ridden in total. For the rest of it, it was important for me to be present with my body and pull away. Not allowing my ego to ride me further meant it required me to take a break from riding for the day, sit in the back seat of the car, even if I was the only person doing that in the whole group of 23.
I had to take the call to pursue it at a point when I was rested enough to be able to complete the rest of the ride.
I’m curious to know how you would approach a challenge like this, feel free to comment below.
The Rashid Center for People of Determination is dedicated to mentoring and equipping students with essential life skills to help them forge their own unique path in the world. The center’s integrated curriculum combines practical education with vocational training tailored to its students while promoting social inclusion for all.
You may contact Vivek Rao on +971 55 156 5656 or go here to extend your financial support. 100% of all contributions will go directly to benefit the center.