A few weeks ago, on August 18–19, Gus and I completed the RSVP [Ride from Seattle to Vancouver, and Party] 200-mile bike ride organized by the Cascades Bicycle club. It was a wonderful experience that we shared with a couple of thousand bikers, and it was truly an achievement for me. I have always been a fairly casual city rider, and rode most of my life on the flat streets on Montreal. Riding the Seattle hills was tough, but I soon became more used to the hills and started loving the challenge.
In the beginning of the summer, we signed up for RSVP, I got a new Mercier bike that I’m in love with, and we started training. We went on rides around Seattle and the surrounding areas and islands, and every weekend we added 10 or 20 miles to the ride. The most I had done before RSVP was 60 miles in one day, and 80 miles in a weekend. I wasn’t sure if I was really ready for the ride, but the day came, and I was definitely excited to do it. I was curious to see if I will actually finish it.
It was not easy. There were a lot more hills than I thought, it was long (200 miles and 18 hours on a bike over 2 days is quite long, yes), and it was windy some of the way, which makes riding a lot more difficult. But I did finish it, and in the end, it was totally worth it. It was amazing.
As I was riding, and after I was done, I noted 6 prominent psychological stages I went through. After thinking about them a bit, I realized they applied not only to this biking event, but also to other projects that I’ve successfully achieved, such as Surtex in 2010, and a theatre play that I was part of back in college. All three events were very important to me, they required a few months of preparation, and I went through these 6 emotional stages through all of them.
The RSVP ride, and the 6 stages of an important event
Stage 1: EXCITEMENT?
There is a question mark, because I was really excited, but I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, as it was my first time signing up to such an event. There was a lot of excitement, mixed with some fear and curiosity of what was going to happen next, and how I was going to do.
Stage 2: CONFIDENCE
A few miles into the ride, the fear was gone and I was feeling confident among my fellow riders. Some people seemed a lot more prepared than I was, but I felt I was doing great among the biking crowd. Hooray!
Stage 3: DOUBT
Fear crept back. Uh-Oh. After a lot more miles than I was used to, I started to get exhausted, and there was still a lot more to go, and oh dear, I wasn’t sure I was able to make it anymore. It was getting more windy, and every time I climbed a hill I swore it was the last one I physically was capable of finishing. This “I’m not good enough” feeling is really a terrible thing.
Stage 4: INSPIRATION
The last food break was about 20 miles before the end of the ride. We stopped along with dozens of people to eat and reenergize before the last stretch. I needed food for my body, and for my mind as well. I desperately needed a boost, so I looked around: I was doing this with hundreds of people, some of whom are over 60 years old. There was a man doing the ride on his skateboard! How sick is that? He must have walked up the hills, but he was still doing 200 miles on a skateboard! There were couples who were clearly about 70 years old, riding on tandems. Looking at these people was truly inspiring; I was ready to take on the last miles.
Stage 5: MOTIVATION
Knowing there was still 20 miles after biking for a very long time gave me an incredible boost. Only 20 miles left! And then I’m done! The last part of the ride was all uphill, and the hills are not my strength. But miraculously, I was riding faster than ever before on the hills. I was actually passing one rider after the other, which rarely ever happens with me uphill, and I was totally fine! Gus was impressed, and I didn’t understand how this was happening. Where did this sudden energy come from? I was so motivated and eager to get to the finish line.
Stage 6: PRIDE
The smile on my face when I saw the finish line and the people cheering was wide. Knowing that I’ve done it despite all the challenges along the way is so rewarding; I felt great.
This was what I went through during the event itself, however, my mind did not stop there. There are more stages that I went through, and that I think also apply to other first-time events that I took part in. I called these the 3 post-event stages.
Post-event stage 1: RELIEF
Because I felt a hint of fear in the beginning of the project, I felt a hint of relief when it was done. A relief that all my hard work paid off and that the event (or the mission) was completed successfully. I think as pride follows confidence, relief follows fear.
Post-event stage 2: EMPTINESS
A couple of days later, I felt like my life was a bit empty. I’ve been working towards a goal, and now it’s been achieved. The bike ride was a part-time project though; this emptiness feeling was more dominant after Surtex. I was working on Surtex full-time for months, eating, drinking and breathing Surtex. When I came home after the show, I thought “now what?”. There was indeed a lot of follow-up to do, but the Surtex mission was accomplished. The same goes to the theater play we played in college. No follow-up for that; the feeling of emptiness was so overwhelming that the crew kept meeting up every day for the following week or two.
Post-event stage 3: THIRST for more
The ride/show/play were a great challenge, and the whole preparation process, going through the project and actually finishing it were very fulfilling. The feeling of accomplishment at the end of each project is quite addictive and makes me look for more challenges to take on. The key is to start with a new project while this thirst for more lasts. It doesn’t last too long.
After we came back to Seattle, we went to the Cascades website and signed up for another bike ride at the end of September. It was too good not to repeat :)
How do you challenge yourself?
Trying new things and constantly challenging yourself is very important for a healthy mind. I think it is also one of the keys to happiness. What do you do to challenge yourself? Do you also go through my 6 (9) psychological stages when you sign up for something big for the fist time? ☮