In the summer, I ride a bicycle. A few years ago, I was training to ride across Death Valley. A friend of mine, Johnny, spent the summer training with me. We rode a century (100 miles) together almost every Saturday. Once we rode 107 miles in the rain. Johnny never complained. Not once.
On one miserably hot Saturday, we were riding through the hills in southern Ohio. One hill was really steep. I wanted to get off my bike and walk, but I held in there, barely turning the pedals over. Johnny was falling further and further behind. A couple of cyclists rode up to me and said, “Hey, you need to wait up for your buddy. He’s really struggling.” I said, “Thanks. He’s fine, though.” They persisted, “You should really wait.” I said thanks again and kept pedaling. These two cyclists were clearly disappointed I didn’t wait for Johnny. But I had spent all summer riding with Johnny. I really didn’t need to wait.
Later in the day, the same two riders who were badgering me to wait for Johnny looked up, surprised to see Johnny barreling by them with me barely hanging on to his wheel. Johnny doesn’t look like a cyclist. He doesn’t look like an athlete. But he’s tougher than nails. And his second wind is a sight to behold. I told him the story about the two cyclists, and he smiled at them as flew past them.
Cycling, like much of life, is a mental game. When the little voice in your head tells you that you’re done, that you can’t go on, you’re really just getting started. That little voice tries makes it easy to quit. It tells you that you’re tired. Sometimes it’s clever enough to persuade you not to start, that there will be time tomorrow.
But you don’t have to listen to that little voice. You are much stronger than you believe. You can go much further than you ever imagined. You have a second wind. And a third wind. And even a fourth.
Sometimes you might have to put the chain in the small ring and move slower than you’d like. But when your second wind kicks in, you can put the chain back on the big ring and pedal like there’s no tomorrow. Just keep turning the pedals over until your second (or third) wind kicks in.