“I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On”

Posted by on Jun 6, 2012 in Bike | One Comment

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

~Samuel Beckett

Bike racing causes us to do strange things. Like ride hard enough to throw up. Or ride while bleeding. Or dizzy. Or sick. And we pay to do it. We travel many miles, hauling boxes of gear and food. We tune our expensive bikes, wear silly clothing, and train incessantly. And for what? A few hours of bittersweet pain, an age-group podium, or a t-shirt.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. We race because we love to compete and test ourselves against space and time.

When the race is over, we are dirty and tired. Our bikes are caked with sweat and gel and dust. Everything hurts. If the day was good, we might manage a smile to hide the pain. If the day was not good, we brood and grimace. Either way, we immediately begin plotting and scheming our next grand adventure, and how we will be better and faster next time.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

In June 2003 I finished a cross-country race at Deer Valley, Utah nearly dead last. It was a terrible day. I rolled across the finish line with a flat tire, dead legs, and no desire to ever ride again. I went home, put the bike in the shed, and there it sat for nearly a year. I didn’t ride a bike at all until the next spring. I had burned out. I spent the rest of the summer playing video games and avoiding my bike. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever ride again.

But mountain biking was in my blood. It always had been. When spring came back around, I was ready to ride again. I was excited. Refreshed. The bike became new and interesting, as did the local trails. The competitive fire returned, and I raced gleefully, joyously, and eagerly. That summer may have been when I began to embrace racing (and riding) for the pure joy of it, rather than for the podium and the prizes. I didn’t stop trying to be competitive, but instead, I began to understand that training and racing is more enjoyable as a journey, than it is as a destination.

The burnout of 2003 was necessary. It helped me recalibrate my¬†priorities, and to realize the important part that mountain bike racing was playing in my life. Since then, it has been integral in shaping my attitude toward almost everything else. Problem solving in the “real world” is a rather trivial endeavor when compared to 100 mile mountain bike races, solo 24’s, or rugged cross-country events. That is, mountain bike racing teaches us to be tough, and patient, and to go on even when we can’t go any farther.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”

Next time you want to stop pedaling, don’t.

Next time you want to quit, don’t.

When you think you’ve had enough hurt and dirt, you haven’t. You can take a little more. And then a little more after that.

Mountain biking is what we do. We are mountain bikers. When we lack finesse, we use force. When we can’t do that, we shift into the little-ring and spin away our pain.

No matter the hurt, no matter the long climb ahead, we can go on.

We can’t go on, we’ll go on.


1 Comment

  1. John Halladay
    June 6, 2012

    Inspiring post, Adam! Thank you.

Sign up for email updates and get STOKED!

A FREE manifesto for subscribers.