"It’s All Mental"

For once, I’ll get right to the lede: if it’s all mental, then we’re bigger failures than we thought. And I’m saying “we” when I mean “I” because it seems gentler I guess?

If succeeding, if finishing a very challenging physical task like a gravel century is more mental then physical, if it’s, as many say, “all mental,” and I [don’t choose to]* finish, then it’s not because my body can’t do it, oh no, it’s because I’m a mental weakling, or lazy, or just not dedicated or determined enough.

*[because another thing they say is there’s no such thing as “can’t”]

As if dealing with the physical shortcomings weren’t overwhelming in itself, we’re going to tell people they just didn’t try hard enough?  Can we not?

The “truth” coming from any elite athlete about what it takes to finish 200 miles and 6,000′ of gravel in 22 hours or less isn’t Truth — it’s an anecdote, a personal truth from an elite athlete. The people who finish that kind of race are a subset of the general population and they are a physically healthy subset who has physically trained for that race. So I don’t care if 99% of the finishers tell you the same thing – that finishing Dirty Kanza — or finishing a Death Valley marathon, or climbing Denali, or hey, how about beating fucking cancer? — is all mental. You are hearing from the winners, those who were physically strong or fit enough to survive, and their opinions are skewed.

I don’t know what I’m so mad about except that I feel ashamed with no one to blame but myself. I knew or should have known that attending the gravel camp in my current state would be an exercise in humiliation. It was a long winter with minimal riding, I’m still trying to manage this tremendous weight gain, and wow was that extremely unfortunate timing with the labial tear/abscess.

Not only did I drive 6 hours and spend vacation time and hotel money to attend, what I left behind while gallivanting about the Flint Hills with the celebrities of gravel was a weekend helping address flood damage at the cabin – a place I was needed and would have been appreciated instead of embarrassing myself — the fat girl at camp, watching her portion sizes at the buffet because everyone else is.

Maybe it won’t sound like I mean it, but the camp is truly top-notch, excellent as long as you’re in physical shape to keep up. I wasn’t, and that’s on me and not the camp. I guess I’ll save my glowing recommendation for another post; it may fall flat in this one.

I acknowledge the self-flagellation here. I rode almost 100 miles of tough Kansas gravel over the 3 days, I worked hard. But the schedule was 200. And once again I was miles behind the group with the camp assigning me essentially my own ride guide because I am so fucking slow, taking that guide from the group.

Those who finished their century on Saturday were celebrated, no matter how late they came in (as well they should be !)  One man crashed at the bottom of a tricky descent, splitting his helmet and knocking himself out about mile 50.  He was taken to the ER, checked out, and returned, at his request, to the halfway point to finish his ride in a borrowed helmet. Which he did. He’s 60 years old, by the way, but with the calves of a climber. You know that insurance commercial with the cyclist who’s insured his legs? Like that.

I am down.  Well, I WAS down, but something has grown from rumination over it and this post over these past several days since returning home.

I realize more than ever that I am the right person to write the blog I want to write, this very one about a regular human trying hard, getting knocked down, and then trying again just to get on her bike and make the wheels go ’round. And I mean a real regular human, not an athlete or a celebrity or a pretty, clever thing. Just me.

Well shit, I guess I buried the lede after all.

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