5 Things I Learned from My First Distance Riding Challenge

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

I first learned of PeloFondo from Lara, a social media friend & host of the podcast Will You Accept This Podcast? PeloFondo describes itself as "a community event for Peloton Riders, focused on long distance mileage." You sign up, you commit to a certain amount of mileage, & you have a whole weekend to achieve it. 

I participated in my first PeloFondo April 17-18, just a month after recovering from COVID. I hadn't been riding much because my body was still just too fatigued, & I didn't want to push myself. About a week before PeloFondo, though, I started feeling better, started feeling well enough to ride again, & I did a few classes before jumping all the way in with my commitment of 35 miles.

Here's what I learned.

1. I can do hard things.

I opted into 35 miles, the lowest possible PeloFondo mileage, which was still more than I'd ever ridden in one or even two sittings (ridings?) Other people were going for 150, but, well, I'm not other people! Thirty-five miles seemed like the right level of challenge for me for my first time & so soon after being sick, & I tried to remind myself that just because it would've been easy for someone else didn't mean it was easy for me.

And it wasn't. I had to sacrifice weekend plans & forego relaxing midday naps to get it all done. Mike wanted to go eat burgers on a sunny patio, & I had to tell him no, that I had to hop on the bike. On Sunday, for my last chunk of mileage, my body was sore & stressed. I considered not finishing. And then I did it anyway.

2. Hard things are easier when you train for them.

In an ideal world, I would've worked up to this. Maybe I would've taken on more miles, & maybe not, but regardless, I would've practiced. I would've worked my way to greater & greater mileage with each ride. I would've tried to see how it felt to do 12 miles in a row. I would've experimented with nutrition, hydration, stretching, sleep. I would've logged my efforts & reworked as I went.

But because I signed up for PeloFondo before having COVID, & because it took place so soon after I had it, there wasn't time for that. I did a couple of random classes & declared myself fit to ride. The weekend of the challenge was the most I'd ridden, in aggregate, in months. 

I don't blame myself for not training, but I also know I could've done better if I'd trained. And now I'll know for next time, so that I can set a higher mileage goal for myself & work my way up to it. 

3. Take your biggest challenges slowly. 

I'd never really done distance riding before, so I decided to break down the challenge into two parts: I thought I'd do 20 miles the first day & 15 miles the second day, in two big ride blocks. When I hit the first 10 miles, though, I felt exhausted, & 10 more seemed totally infeasible for my body. Instead, I stopped at 12, then came back later in the day for another 12, & I finished my final 11 the next day.

4. You don't have to do things the way everyone else does them. 

When I looked through Peloton Facebook groups & scanned the PeloFondo hashtag, I saw that most people (errr most people that I could see) were talking about the way they were going about the event, & it was very different than the way I was. They were taking Peloton classes to get their mileage; I, however, had taken the "easier" route by using the bike's Just Ride feature, which is much lower-impact.

At first, I felt embarrassed. Could I really count myself among competitors if I wasn't, like... competing? And then I tried to go easier on myself. I was still doing it. I was riding 35 miles. Willingly. A month after recovering from an illness that has taken so much from so many, one that left me with a number of health issues of my own. Did it really matter how I was participating, so long as I was participating?

5. Reward yourself for your achievements.

You don't have to be the highest achiever in order to deserve a reward or recognition for achieving. After I completed my PeloFondo mileage, I qualified for a finished medal. "Should I bother spending the money?" I wondered, but ultimately I went for it because I wanted that reminder of what I'd done. For myself.

When Lara saw my medal, she said she'd been thinking of getting one, too, but that she was probably going to wait until she hit a better mileage in July. I told her to go for it & buy one now and then. Even the slowest of runners get a race medal for their completion, even if they hope to eventually do it in a faster time. Why shouldn't we do the same?

You don't have to be the best to be proud of yourself. You just have to have done your best, in the moment.

Have you ever done a long-distance ride or a marathon or anything like that? What did it teach you? And if you want to try PeloFondo, join me for the next one, the weekend of July 24-25! 

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