Lessons my worst ever day on the bike can teach us about business and life

You may or may not know this about me, but if I'm not sitting at my computer I am usually on my bike - it's a HUGE passion of mine. I compete on an elite-level women's mountain bike team based in the Chicago area, and this weekend I participated in an early season race called the Barry-Roubaix. 

This race, held in Michigan, is known to be very difficult - usually because of how early in the year it is (we aren't in as good of shape), the type riding (gravel roads), hills (very hilly - one of them is actually called "The Killer"), and the weather (temps have been anywhere from 20 F to 80 F). 

This weekend, Mother Nature showed up with a vengeance - temps just above freezing, driving rain, and gusty wind. I've participated in some pretty tough endurance races - some maxing out at 36 hours and in temperatures below 0 F, but none of them got to me as much as this weekend's did. 

I had initially planned on racing the 36 miler (57km) but quite a few people around me suggested I go for the longer race since I have some pretty big races planned for the year. So I ultimately signed up for the 62 miler (100km) even though something inside told me not to do it. 

On Saturday at registration, a couple of ladies approached me and said that because of the extreme conditions, they were letting participants change to shorter races - this is something they never allow. Everything inside me told me to change to the shorter race...but instead of listening to my gut, I asked others for their input. And of course they told me to stick with what I had signed up for. 

It'd make me look more hard core. 

So I stuck with it. 

Even sitting at the starting line, something didn't feel right. And I LOVE endurance races - 100 milers, 24+ hours...but the 62 miles ahead seemed out of reach. 

The gun went off and we took off. 

The first 60 minutes were okay. I felt pretty good and was having fun. And then all of a sudden, I went from thinking that I had been overreacting to realizing that whatever sinking feeling I had in my stomach was right. 

15 miles into the race, I started to get cold. But it was manageable. 

18 miles into the race, my brakes went out. The wet gravel had destroyed them. The only way to get down hills was to drag your foot on the ground or aim the bike and hope for the best. People were crashing all around me - their brakes were also out. 

20 miles in, I started to lose feeling in my hands. They were too cold. 

22 miles in, my pace slowed drastically. I was initially at an average 19mph...by now I was happy to hold 12. 

24 miles in...there was a split in the road...36 mile racers were to go left and 62 milers were to go right. I took stock of how I was feeling and realized I had 40ish miles left to go. 

I realized that I had to take a DNF. 

It's a very difficult thing to admit that it's time to shut things down when you have big goals. That you have to swallow a bit of pride in order to do so. But I came to the realization at that point that cutting my day short was really my only option. I had to renegotiate my goals...and the main goal at that point, became to get out of those conditions as fast as I could. 

I still had 12 miles to go...and they were the longest 12 miles of my life. 
 

  This isn't me (haven't found any photos yet) but it does reflect how I felt.

 

This isn't me (haven't found any photos yet) but it does reflect how I felt.


By mile 29, I couldn't feel or use my hands. I couldn't zip my jacket, couldn't grab my water bottle, couldn't grab food. I started shaking. 

I was the coldest I had ever been. 

Those last 7 miles were a blur. All I remember is that I had to focus on just one pedal stroke at a time. 

I knew stopping would only make it worse and I couldn't guarantee when a support vehicle was going to come along. I remember being really hungry and super out of it. 

By the time I crossed the finish line I was pretty out of it. All I could think about is finding warmth. 

I found my friends pretty quickly and realized I was unable to get my shoes, gloves, or helmet off. 

My friends got to work to get those off me and then buried me in warm blankets, fed me hot coffee, and kept talking to me to ensure that I was mentally starting to recover. 

Within a couple hours I was feeling warm again. I was pale and tired, but okay. 

Some of the friends who helped me out after the race celebrating being warm and having completed a grueling race. 

Some of the friends who helped me out after the race celebrating being warm and having completed a grueling race. 

In reflecting on my experience on Saturday, I realize that I learned some pretty important lessons that are pretty applicable to business and life and I feel called to share these with you:

Go with your gut
I chose to listen to other people's opinion on what race I should do. Had I listened to the feeling I had deep within me from the beginning (AND on race day), I never would have had to make a hard decision of cutting my day short. 

And how this applies to business:
While everyone around us usually has the good intentions, it doesn't mean that their intentions are the right decision for you. YOU know what's best, and that initial little voice inside you is often right. It's when we start to think about decisions in front of us that our fear and previous thought habits step in to confuse things. 

Take stock of the very first reaction you have to anything. Many times, that's what is going to be the best decision. Trust yourself to make the best decisions for you, your business, and your family.

Not everything is going to go as planned but everything will eventually be OK
I had thought through all my nutrition, clothing, and goals for the race. And I had done races far longer than this. I felt pretty confident on my preparation going into this race. But Mother Nature had other plans and there's no way I could foreseen my brakes going out or the extreme cold that would come from the temps + rain + bone-chilling wind. And because of this, I renegotiated my goals and cut my day short. 

But hours after having one of the toughest days I've ever had on a bike, I found myself laughing and sharing the tales of the day with friends and looking forward to future races. 

How this applies to business:
There are going to be moments in this entrepreneurial journey that are not going to be as fun as we'd like them to. BUT, just know that while in that moment things are not ideal, I things WILL get better. That one difficult experience doesn't define who you are as a person or as a business owner. 

So in those difficult moments, take a step back, close your eyes, and breathe. It will immediately calm you. Visualize some of your favorite moments in business and channel those in to that moment. Things might not be immediately better, but you'll have the energy to work through the situation and get back to those moments of goodness. 

Take stock on how you're feeling along the way
When I had to make a decision on whether to continue on with the 62 mile race or cut my day short, I checked in with myself: what was going to be the best decision for me in that moment. I started to have a lot of fear for my safety leading up to that junction in the road. And that's unlike me, because I'm usually one of those people who is okay pushing through a bit of pain. But this was different. So in that moment, I realized that the fear was really me loving myself and the need to get off that course as soon as I could.  

How this applies to business:
Often our fears will creep in when things start to go a little off track. And sometimes those fears are nothing but negative thoughts trying to steer us in the wrong direction. And other times, those fears are justified. It's up to us to take a step back, take true stock of the situation and make a decision not out of fear but out of love. 

Ask yourself: What's going to be the best course of action for me, my business, and my family in this moment? Is my fear justified or is it just trying to take me off my best course of action?

Make a decision and stick with it
In the past, I would have spent days beating myself up and being embarrassed for a lot of the choices that I made that day...not realizing I needed better gloves, not going with my gut and signing up for the shorter race, not pushing past the pain of the cold and just going for it...

But I made decisions and, regardless of what the outcomes were, I trust that I made the best decisions based on the information I had. 

How this applies to business:
There are going to be decisions you make in business that you'll want to question later on because of the outcome. However, every time we spend reflecting on the past, we are taking time and energy away from the present and not taking steps in the NOW toward our future. 

If you find that you're beating yourself up in the moment, stop wherever you are. Close your eyes and visualize yourself sitting in a room with a door to the left - leading to the library of all the experiences of our past. Go over to the door and close it. Then just sit in that moment and feel the present moment right now. Soak it in. 

Whatever decisions you make in the now are going to craft the future...and beating ourselves up for past decisions is not going to be productive for effectively crafting the future of our dreams. 

You're doing better than you think
After the race, I checked my time compared to those who completed both the 36 and the 62. And had I signed up for the 36, I likely would have won an award. And my pace would have had me likely winning an award for the 62 as well. So while I felt like I had given up and was slow, I actually was doing just fine. And I had actually shown up to race - many people chose to stay home due to the forecast. 

How this applies to business:
Oftentimes, when things aren't going as well as we'd like or we are down on ourselves about something in our businesses, it's really all in our head. I can guarantee that whatever is personal is universal - and you're often doing far better than that. 

It's actually a flaw of humanity - we are oblivious to our own goodness. 

So next time you are getting down on yourself, take a step back and work on flipping that mindset. Go look in the mirror and look at yourself - tell the person looking back at you, "You're amazing. You are enough. You are doing better than you think."

It might not feel good - but that is indicative that you need to hear it. Put it on a sticky note and look at it often. Doing so will eventually leading to this positive self belief. 

Get back on the horse
My race on Saturday was likely my least favorite day ever on the bike (and I've had some badddd crashes). But you know what I did on Sunday? I got on my bike again and went for an easy spin. Giving up on biking because I had one bad day was not going to do anything positive for all the cycling goals I have this year. 

How this applies to business:
When a launch goes bad or something doesn't go as planned in your business...just know that's normal...and human. Get back up the next day and keep going. Persistent, imperfect action is going to lead you to wayyy better results than giving up and taking no further action. 

The above tips are simple strategies that you can implement - starting today. Get in the habit of employing some of these practices so that when those tough days inevitably come, you'll have a strong mindset to get through them.  

Until next time,

xx, Kim

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