What Drives Me
We all have reasons for WHY we cycle.
— why we log the long hours, why we climb the mountains.
The “why” might come from a certain motivation — or the “why” might come from a sense of purpose.
and what’s the difference between the two??
I recently came across an article in Runner’s World comparing the mentality of the “standard distance” runners to “ultra distance” runners — a study was published in Psychology Research and Behavior Management questioning over 1500 runners about their motivation:
“They divided the motivations into four categories: psychological (life meaning, self-esteem), achievement (personal goal achievement, competition), social (affiliation, recognition), and physical (health orientation, weight concern).
Then, they separated the participants into two groups: ultrarunners—those who raced longer than 50K distances—and runners who competed in shorter distances.
The researchers noticed a significant difference: Shorter-distance runners rated psychological coping, self-esteem, competition, health, and weight concern as larger motivators than their ultrarunner colleagues. The ultrarunning group was driven more by qualitative motivations, like life meaning and affiliation.” (To read the full article, click here)
What drives me is similar to what morphs a 5k runner into a marathon runner into an ultra runner.
Why am I doing Silk Road Mountain Race? Why fly to Asia to compete in the completely unknown discipline of bikepacking, when I come from a road racing background?
Over time, cycling has become my way of life.
Many who know me would think, “Duh, hasn’t it always been?” And the answer is NO. Cycling, in its purist form, has not always been my way of life. Competition has.
I chose the Silk Road Mountain Race to be forced to answer questions such as, “how much can I handle?” and “how far can I make it without stopping?”. Those remain complete unknowns. I want to push my tolerance for what’s uncomfortable, but only to compete against myself now. I want to get out of my body everything it can give. I want to task my mind to stay positive in the craziest of circumstances…because cycling has become the way I filter my experiences in the world.
In the same article quoted above, lead author Zbigniew Waśkiewicz, Ph.D., told Runner’s World, “Ultrarunning is a specific style of living and competition. There is no place for temporary preparations just for one race, such as a half-marathon or even a marathon,” Waśkiewicz said. “If you want to perform well in ultra-running events, you have to dedicate to a specific style of living and continue it for many years.”
I’ve found this to be true with training for the Silk Road — that it’s not about rushing life to get to the event — the event is part of a fluid lifestyle that’s already been adapted. Therefore the race isn’t what defines the athlete. It’s just part of the journey that is continually defining and redefining along a continuum.
If I could change anything about my cycling experience thus far, it would be to have adapted this mindset YEARS ago — and I am honest about this with the athletes we coach now, and encourage them to learn from this wherever they are in life at this moment. I wish I had applied this lifestyle philosophy to my road career, because it would have provided me a fuller sense of purpose and enjoyment (and infinitely less pressure). You don’t have to do an ultra distance race to adapt this mindset, either — you just have to make what you’re doing and pursuing an enjoyable habit and a way of life, so that you base your success off of growth and progression instead of performance. In other words:
And this leads me full circle back to what drives me. The fluidity of time and how it passes in the context of the Silk Road Mountain Race is only defined by two fixed things: the starting point and the finishing line. What becomes of me during that unknown amount of time between those points is an incredibly exciting process, one I’ve been preparing for and welcoming for months now. But also one that I’ve realized will continue to evolve even after the race has long passed.
The human that finishes this event will be different than the human who began.
This is me against me. And that’s what drives me.