“A man’s got to know his limitations.” Harry Callahan.
The second to last climb of the trip was a great ego test for me. I made the decision on the car ride over that morning that my right knee was in need of some rest. The twigs and my 30 tooth (granny gear) had been grinding all week on steep mountain passes. Unlike my trip over at age 50 and 55, this trip at 60 had me paying more attention to my body. About time, right?
So, I said nothing but made a mental decision about the first 7 kilometers of the climb. I was going to stay in my granny the entire time and monitor my breathing too. You see, for over a week, I had been pushing my body hard. For instance, my lips are severely chapped/blistered not from the sun but from the constant mouth open kinda panting for hours at a time. My lungs, legs, butt, and back felt great. My only sign of wear (besides my lips) was my right knee. And, there was no pain when I could spin the granny, only when I tried to push a bigger gear to keep up with Littlest, Downer, or Blondie and, when the mountain grade went 10% or higher. Looking at the climb profile during my pre ride planning, I decided to spin as best I could through the first 7 kilometers of 6, 10, 9, 9, 8, 10, and 10. I would watch them ride away and not push to stay close. I don’t like watching others ride away from me. My ego is my enemy. Your’s may be yours…
So, I executed the plan. Got dropped like a bad habit. Watched my friends ride out of sight and monitored my breath. Nothing else. Took in the beauty (I always did this) and breathed somewhat easier. Once the 7 k test had come and gone, I didn’t shift up or push harder. I spun like a top and took it in. The knee felt great. On the last climb up Mount Cenis, the grade was all under 10%, the twigs weren’t tweaked, and I decided to ride like I stole something. So, when we crossed the bridge and headed up the first switchback on Cenis, I pushed the pedals and listened for the right knee’s response.
So, I decided to keep pushing. My breathing immediately went nuclear, legs started to sing, and I felt the pain that comes from pushing the limits but not exceeding them. It is a fine line. You’ve got to know your limitations, as Dirty Harry would say. Sounds easy. It is not. Most of us stay way below our performance threshold because we fear pain and back off before we ought. We play it safe, take it easy, and keep it comfortable. High performers know their limitations and push beyond them, just not too far. You’ve got to know when to talk back to your body and when to listen to her early warning signals. Downer, are you listening to me?
Life is a test, a hard, unforgiving, never ending test. You’ve got to know your limitations and push them. You’ve got to embrace pain and suffering and know when to back off and swallow your pride. You’ve got to think beyond the first mountain and keep a little something in reserve. And, you’ve got to figure it out for you. We all do. So, friend, slow down and sit with this one for awhile. Do you need to kick yourself in the ass and shift it up a gear or two? Or do you need to ease off a bit, let some recovery seep into your system, and live to fight another day? Know your limitations. Push beyond them. Rest and recover too. You choose. Your choices have consequences.
Live hard. Love harder (Thanks, Teeks)…