Small Wins.

It was around mile 70 when I could start to feel the tears welling up in my eyes.  My legs felt like lead.  I was dropped and watched the rest of the group ride away.  Last week at this same hill, I felt so good.  This week I could barely pedal my bike.

Keith dropped back and as I slowly rolled up to him he asked, "How are you feeling?"
It was hard to breathe because I was crying.  "I'm having a hard time.  Today is a bad bike day."

Yes, this did happen.
With the physically and mentally challenging day I had experienced, I was perfectly fine riding back at my own pace since we were only 10 miles away.  His answer surprised me.  "You didn't work your a$$ off for 70 miles to ride home alone.  We're all gonna ride back together."

The last 10 miles were a tangible reminder that in life we are never alone- there are people who act as our steady wheels, shielding and blocking the wind from us so we can arrive at our destination in one piece.

Was able to do this with the wisdom of my teammates and coaches.
In his book The Power of Habits, Charles Duhigg presents the concept of "small wins."  A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power.  Once a small win has been accomplished, it fuels transformative changes that favor another small win. This chain reaction and momentum that is created can convince people that bigger achievements are obtainable.  Even in difficult or challenging times, this momentum still continues to propel you forward.  Pyschologists refer to this as the "science of small wins." The concept applies specifically to business and work models, but I found it can equally apply to sport. 

Thinking back on past training workouts, I rarely remember the easy, good days.  It's those hard days; the ones that really made a dent physically and mentally- that I can recall vividly. 

I can remember the first time I climbed through Morgan Territory, feeling the lactic acid in my legs, and with each turn, seeing the pitch in the road curve ever so slightly upward.  Countless times I contemplated getting off my bike to "stretch" (aka. catch my breath).  But I didn't.  I kept chugging onward.  I kept moving forward.  And I remember how that ride taught me that my little legs have more stamina than I give them credit for.

Or that steep little climb right at the top of Mt. Diablo.  You know, the one where you want to zigzag your bike to offset the grade percentage, or walk your bike up, or kill whoever constructed the road at such an angle?  Yes, these are the rides I remember.  These are my "small wins."

Today's ride distance and the yummy Wolf food that helped fuel me.
Physically, there was nothing "winning" about this ride today.  But it taught me that it is important to finish what you set out to do, and there are people who look after you and help you reach your goal.  During Ironman on the lonely parts of the course when it starts to feel hard, these are the moments that you recall.  This recollection of "small wins"- the times when you resisted the temptation to quit, moved past it and finished intact- provides the momentum that fuels you to that finish line.

Today at mile 70 I said that it was a bad bike day.
I was wrong.
Today was a small win.