When God created what is now the Czech Republic, He made the earth roll like endless
waves in a stormy ocean.
It’s absolutely ridiculous. So ridiculous I’m not even going to complain. What’s the use? I’ll just have to suck it up, grit my teeth, and deal.
And so I’m really tired. That’s not complaining – it’s statement of fact. Every time I saw a hill today (which was every five minutes) I’d give a little sob and decide I was going to get off my bike and walk up that hill. Then I’d roll my eyes at myself and pedal my way up just this last one. That went on for 90km.
Yesterday’s cycle was actually worse because it was 130km of hills. When I got to 75km yesterday I stopped for a burger and complained to my husband. “Just take it ten kilometers at a time, darling,” he said.
That’s actually a great strategy that I’ve used on and off with various distances. Today I
used the ten kilometer strategy. I started off and told myself that 80km was actually just eight ten-kilometers. Ten kilometers is EASY for me to do; so surely I could do eight of them just as easily! I knew my total distance was actually nearer to 90km but I decided not to count the extra distance.”When you have 5-15km left in a ride, you’re basically done. So you don’t need to count the last few kilometers,” I convinced myself.
So I cycled ten kilometers and gave myself a pat on the back. “Now all you have to do, Nadia, is get to 20km,” I’d tell myself. It sounded very reasonable to me so I worked on that. And so on. I was dead tired for most of the way. But as a mental strategy it does help. I used a similar strategy while climbing Kilimanjaro a few short years ago. “Can you put your left foot down in front of you? Yes. Can you now put your right foot down in front of you? Yes.” And I just climbed, literally one small step at a time.
I don’t know how I would have managed to get this far without my husband’s support. Every single day he tells me how great I’m doing. He makes me feel like a super hero. He wasn’t always supportive when this was still in the idea stage, mind you. And I tell you this not to publicly put down my husband but to mainly ward off the evil eye from my marriage. It’s also important for people to understand that everything requires some give and take. Colin was very worried about me going on a trip like this on my own. I think it was when he realized how determined I was to go through with this and when he saw how meticulously I worked on the details that he really stepped up to pull through for me. Colin is the only person who I can show my miserable face to on our nightly Skype calls and not expect him to negatively judge me, put me down, or tell me to do anything less than I had originally planned to. He always tells me to keep going. He always tells me that I can do this. And I end up believing him.
A few people have interjected here and there when I’ve expressed exhaustion in my posts. “Slow down and enjoy yourself,” was the message. When I was at my absolute most miserable today, I briefly decided I wouldn’t write about it. “It’s not what people want to hear,” I heard myself think. I stopped myself right there. I don’t write what people want to hear. I write was IS. If people don’t like it that’s their problem.
Enjoyment is not everybody’s everyday goal. Today I was thinking how hard Olympic athletes work since childhood to be the fastest, the strongest, or the best at what they do. There is no immediate enjoyment in waking up at 4am to start working out…and doing that almost every single day. There is no immediate enjoyment in the physical and mental pain one endures to try to get better at something. I hate going to the gym. I grimace throughout the whole hour of gym class. Most of the time I feel really good about myself after I’m done. Sometimes I’m just tired. But I always appreciate that it makes me generally fit and healthy. Always.
My goal in this trip is not enjoyment. If I manage to enjoy myself sometimes that is such a blessing. My goal is to achieve or to try to achieve a challenge I have given myself. Some of you may not understand that. But I know that many others will.
My husband Colin is in his late 40s, and every single time he goes to the weekly Saturday morning 5km run in our town in the UK, he tries to beat his personal best time. Every single time. Every week he runs against himself, aiming to run faster than his last-week self. He doesn’t do that because running fast and feeling pain is enjoyable. He doesn’t do that to brag about a better time. He does it, or so I think, because that offers him personal satisfaction.
Watching Colin try to be faster and stronger than himself has taught me so much. Seeing how focused and determined athletes are to be their best and to better others inspires me to push myself further. I don’t need to be an Olympic athlete or any sort of athlete to have physical aspirations. I just need to be determined.
So it’s all right to be exhausted. It’s all right not to enjoy myself every minute of the day. It’s all right to have doubts and anxieties. It’s all right.
In my case, Colin helps me through all that. So do many of my friends with their support on Facebook and Twitter. And sometimes even more importantly the positive comments I receive from complete strangers on this blog or through social media. So thank you. All of you.
You know those digital speedometers that are on some roads in Europe that tell cars what speed they are going at? Every time I see one I put every ounce of energy I have into pedaling fast to see if I register on it. When it doesn’t display a number for me, I get very upset. When it does, I am a very happy cyclist.
When I was a little girl my mommy told me, in order to rein in my natural instincts to touch everything, that dead animals lying on the side of the road were full of germs and diseases. That frightened the heck out of me. So much so that even now, as an adult cycling on her own in Europe, every single time I pass a dead animal, and there are many, I hold my breath so I don’t breathe in all the potential nasty death germs. Do you know how hard it is to cycle AND hold your breath? Thanks, Mom!
Today I’m in the small Czech town of Jihlava. It’s a nice little town with a huge McDonalds smack in the middle of its center. It’s homely, though. The Czech Republic, I’m finding, has a very distinct Eastern European feel to it. People are obviously not as privileged here as others are in Western Europe. The towns also feel worn down. Sometimes the people look worn down as well. I’ve noticed many more church-goers here than in any Western European country I’ve visited. And food is cheap compared to the other countries.
I have a VERY long hilly day tomorrow that I am not looking forward to. I hope I manage to dig deep enough to find the energy to keep going.