Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The mental aspect

I think it varies greatly from person to person, but I think in doing whatever you do in life, it takes some motivation and mental readiness for it. A lot of people seem perfectly capable of commuting in a fully packed train or gridlocked freeway traffic to a mind numbing job day in and day out. I'm not one of those people.

I think this also applies to bicycling. After having done the ride to the Columbia River Gorge, the previous weekend, I wasn't quite mentally up to doing it or an equivalent ride again this past weekend. (I did do a shorter more leisurely ride) That's the nice thing about not being a committed athlete. I don't have to keep some training schedule to keep a certain level of form. I can ride whenever and however long I feel like.

ride to Multnomah Falls

During the ride, on the way back from the Gorge when I stopped roadside to buy some fresh corn, I had a brief conversation with the elder gentleman selling the corn. He asked me where I had come from and how far I'd ridden. I told him I came from Portland and had just gone to the Multnomah Falls and he seemed impressed by that and told me about friends of his who tried to do a similar ride once, but stopped halfway and called him to come pick them up. The ride is pretty challenging, but I think they would have been capable of it. I think it was just that they weren't quite ready mentally for the physical exertion it required. For me, it would be the absolute last option to call a friend for a car ride if for some reason, I felt I couldn't ride my bike any longer. It would take quite a lot for that to happen like the bike frame breaking in half which is highly unlikely. Even if the Max light rail (which I rode on to bypass the sprawling outskirts of Portland) had stopped operating for some reason, I probably would have ridden back rather than calling for a ride. I would probably find a Denny's or something like that and eat & rest a bit and then ride home.

I think it's sometimes difficult to do things we're not accustomed to doing. For example, an American visiting Japan for the first time might have difficulty at finishing a bowl of ramen (not instant ramen, but a big bowl of steaming hot ramen from a ramen shop) while a Japanese traveling to the US may have a hard time finishing a big pastrami sandwich. I think in both cases, they can't finish it not because they are full, but more because they are just not used to eating the seemingly strange food. I think the same can be said for cycling long distances. If you haven't ridden your bike over distances longer than just casually riding around town, you may not be mentally ready for the effort it requires, but I think you can get used to it pretty quickly as your body does too. Then you can challenge yourself to go even longer.

Not sure where I'm going with this, but I think you can surprise yourself with how far you can ride if you try. It's definitely a different experience than passively sitting inside a car and stepping on the gas pedal.

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