The Most Important Thing

I am not a big fan of the idea of a bucket list. It’s definitely a good idea to have goals, and things you’re working towards, but putting it into a big list like that has the potential to cause problems. There’s a concept in the hiking and climbing world of “peak bagging”. The idea being that you just climb mountains in some group or category and check them off a list. As I recall, the community’s feelings on this are mixed. Some think it’s a fine thing to do as a challenge. Others see it as cheapening an experience of climbing and exploring nature.

I myself engaged in something similar to “peak bagging” a few summers ago with my cycling. Early in the season, I declared I was going to ride 2000 miles. The number was mostly arbitrary, but based a bit on what I had done previously, and what I felt I could do if I focused on it. In the end, I did achieve that goal. Unfortunately, after reflecting on that summer and the rides I did, I was far from satisfied. To ride that much, with the schedule I had, meant that every possible free night, weekend and good weather time slot needed to be devoted to a ride. I passed up doing other things on weekends saying, “oh, no can do, gotta ride this weekend.” The rides I was doing weren’t even that fun either. I had one ride that was a relatively straightforward perfect metric century. It was far from the most exciting ride, but I just kept doing it. Over and over. Sixty more miles on the tally each time.

The following summer, I really regretted doing that. I was proud to have ridden so much, but the cost felt too high. I wasn’t riding for the love of the sport, and the enjoyment of going places by bike, but for the miles. Instead of trying to find the highest mile rides, I started doing rides that were just fun and interesting, regardless of how many miles they were. At the end of the summer, I hadn’t ridden 2000 miles, but I did have some good memories of fun rides. I was also able to diversify the stuff I did because I didn’t feel like I had to ride all the time. It was much more relaxing.

A part of me now wants to think that of course it’s ok to do those fun rides now, I’ve already proven that I can put up big mileage numbers. Saying that isn’t really fair to me though. I know I’m a good rider. I didn’t need to put up 2000 miles to prove it. No one does. If you love the sport, then you’ll be good. It’s as simple as that. You’ll be good enough for you. Also, you never know when you might start having health problems that really limit how much you can do. This past year, I was going through (still kind of am) some things that made good sleep hard to come by. Basically, I wouldn’t know whether or not on any given Saturday I’d get enough sleep to do a real ride, so it was hard to plan things in advance. If I planned something, then didn’t get enough sleep, what was I supposed to do? Those difficulties, combined with the unpredictability of the weather meant I didn’t get nearly as many miles this summer. I didn’t even get to ride in the century ride. It was good to know that the miles aren’t the most important thing. If you’re enjoying the rides, and enjoying the sport, that’s the most important thing.