Last month, I rode The Big Wild Ride in Alaska, one of the most unusual and challenging bicycling events in the world.

The BWR demands that its participants traverse the wilderness from Valdez to Fairbanks to Anchorage – 750 miles – in under 90 hours. As you can imagine, the ride gives Mother Nature a chance to display her best stuff – and come up with some of her best tricks.

True to form, she picked the first and most challenging day of the ride, a 270-mile dash that began at midnight, to show us what she had up her sleeve. And she taught me an important lesson in the “mind over matter” category.

The first day began with a difficult climb out of Valdez, seasoned with some cold rain that blotted out a gorgeous full moon. By the time the sun came out to warm the chill, a stiff 25-knot headwind blew out of the north to join it.

Every rider knew we would fight this wind for 200 miles. Every hill would feel steeper. The heat, rapidly climbing through the 80s, would feel hotter. Progress would be slower.

The speedometer, which should have been averaging 16 or 17 MPH, was registering about 12 or 13. It would be a long day. This was not an inspiring story. The prospect caused some very good riders to quit.

I began to search for higher-energy story. I found it on the heart rate monitor, just a few inches from the speedometer. I noticed that my heart rate was registering about the same amount of effort, in terms of beats per minute, to go 13 MPH as it typically would to go 17. Normally, that would be cold comfort.

But I knew I could roll at that heart rate almost indefinitely. In short, I wasn’t working any harder, I was just going slower. Just like everybody else.

The part of my brain that wants to give up seemed to be satisfied with that. I was okay. I would make it....eventually.

That reminded me that we often want to give up because we’re looking at the wrong numbers. We look at sales revenues when we should look at profits. We look at accounts receivable when we should look at cash flow. We look at annual salary when we should look at time spent with the kids.

The bottom line for me was simple: the heart does not lie.

Blog Published August, 2013