I tell people I biked across the country one summer, averaging 80
miles a day. They, unless they are fellow cyclists, often respond by
saying something like, “You’ll laugh, but three miles seems like a lot
I don’t laugh outwardly, but I sure as hell am laughing on the inside.
I’m a pretty bad cyclist and routinely get passed by hipsters on
goddamned fixies all the time. I have a lot of physical problems in
general. Running makes me dizzy. I often skip meals because I slept
poorly, which causes nausea, which then causes the lack of appetite.
People laugh at me when I try to pump my own bike tires because I am
so weak I fall over.
But I can still ride 120 miles in one day, for the same reason an
ultra marathon cyclist can ride 500 miles in twenty-four hours.
It is the athletic gift of masochism.
What you have to know about endurance sports, like long-distance
cycling, is that your body is lying to you when it feels tired and
achey. To illustrate my point, let me tell you about Jure Robic. Every
year, the most determined cyclists gather for the Race Across America.
It’s about three thousand miles long, and usually completed–if
completed–in a little over a week. This means averaging about three
hundred miles a day. Jure Robic has won RAAM four times. He wins by
sleeping 1.5 hours a night and riding the rest of the time. He rides
to the point of hallucination, believing that mujahedeen are firing
upon him, and even tries to assault his support crew. These
hallucinations are the result of his sleep deprivation. And yet, his
support crew forces him to keep pedaling instead of letting him take a
nap. Why? They estimate that even once Robic reaches the point of
hallucination, his body has still used up only half its physical
Pay attention to that.
A man rides across America, sleeping only an hour and a half a night,
pushing his body to the point where he forgets the line between
reality and dream. To the point of screaming and threatening to do
violence to his closest friends.
He still has half his strength left.
And that, there, is the secret to riding a long distance. It isn’t
your body that’s the limiting factor. Your body is not the weakest
link. It’s not your body that’s giving out first. It’s your brain.
It’s the will to keep going.
However far it is you think you can ride right now, you can ride twice
that. Triple. Maybe more.
But definitely more than three miles.