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Backpacking Fitness

Scary Stuff Changes Lives—For the Better

Set Goals Just Beyond Your Comfort Level

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I have an admission to make: I’ve held out on telling you what my first big event of the summer is. That’s because, until now, I was a little freaked out by it. I’m doing a 24-hour mountain-bike race at the end of May, and I’ve never done one before. And did I tell you that I’m doing it on a single-speed mountain bike and with only two other teammates—one of whom might have to drop out without notice? (His wife is expecting her second baby anytime that weekend.) So there’s a decent chance I’ll be doing this race as part of a two-person team.

I didn’t go into this trying to make life inexplicably harder for me. It just ended up that way. I only own a single-speed mountain bike, and I couldn’t find more than two other people insane enough to take on this challenge with me. So here’s why this is so cool. It was only today that I finally crossed the threshold from slow-burning fear of this goal to mild glee over pedaling through whatever mayhem awaits me in four weeks. And a lot of those good vibes stem from the fact that I finally feel fit enough to do the race. I’ve been diligently riding trails for the last 3 weeks, and today I rode my control loop with its 1,500 feet of hard climbing, swooping single track, and fast flats, and knocked 90 seconds off last week’s time. This result came despite the fact that I felt like s*&$t from a poor night’s sleep. That was cool.

Looking back on today’s ride, I realized that A) I probably wouldn’t have gone for a ride if I wasn’t training for something. I would’ve taken a nap; B) I know I wouldn’t have pushed myself as hard as I did today without the fear of the upcoming race; and C) My more brutal training rides are now something I genuinely look forward to since I can now “feel” how they’re going to have a positive effect on my performance come race day—and night.

While I don’t have any wild dreams about actually winning this race, I can now visualize myself thriving, not just surviving those 24 hours. And that attitude permeates everything I do now, which in turn promises to make every mile of riding from here on out that much more intense and satisfying.

In terms of mountain-biking shape, I crossed into a zone that I’ve never visited before: the one called “Fast.” Sure, I’ve done “Endurance” before, but never fast. All it took was setting a semi-frightening challenge in front of me to take me there.

I gotta say, I kinda like here.

So what’s your slightly scary goal this year? If you don’t have one, get one. Trust me, it makes everything leading up to it immensely more productive and satisfying.

Grant Davis has spent the last decade writing and editing articles about health, fitness, and nutrition. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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