Secrets, Surprises and Setting Yourself a Goal

The bike lane to cross 370 bridge

Around my birthday, I set myself a goal to walk 55 miles over the summer to commemorate my age. I never kept track, but I’m confident between running, biking and walking our dog occasionally I logged way more than 55 miles. Since I didn’t track it officially, my competitive self told me it didn’t count.

This summer, my friend Kathy set herself a goal of riding her bike twenty miles on one ride, and invited me to join her. We’ve taken several rides on the Katy trail and so my trek today was inspired by her. I set myself a goal to ride my bike 55 miles in one day. I chose a solo trek, because I was inspired by a podcast by Bradley Rohlf to take a silent pilgrimage alone.

On his trek, he gave himself a prayer or mantra to think about while traveling. My mantra became “secrets, surprises and setting yourself a goal.” As I rode my bike I mulled over those words in my mind.

Up until this blog post I kept my goal a secret, only letting my husband and mother know my plan. I didn’t tell mom how long the ride was, so she wouldn’t worry about me. Sometimes keeping a secret does benefit others. Les helped me plan the trip. I really appreciated his idea to leave from our house, instead of hauling my bike to the trail.

I surprised myself by leaving around the time I planned, 7:00am. I ate breakfast, but decided to reward myself with a coffee at one of my planned breaks along the route.

I rode through the neighborhood bundled up with a jacket and gloves to stave off the chill of the morning. I decided to ride on the sidewalks to get to my turn by the library. Thankfully most of the trip was along protected pathways.

Part of setting a goal is to break it into doable steps. I knew if I could get to the River Greenway trailhead without incident my confidence would be set for the rest of the day. That section of the route includes riding on a busy street and navigating a major intersection. I took the lane at the light. Confidence was building and I was happy to note that a bike lane had been added along the Rock Road. When I got to the trailhead, I double checked to make sure I was on the correct path and headed towards the 370 Bridge and eventually the Katy trail.

I told myself if I could get the first ten miles under my belt I would be fine. The trail was mostly quiet with the exception of a couple early morning joggers. The weather was fine and I was enjoying the scenery, stopping along the way to take photos.

Missouri River viewed from 370 Bridge
There’s a lot of cool wooded areas along the trail.
Surprised by thorns in trunk of a tree

I always enjoy observing nature, and the trail is a feast for the eyes winding past the river, fields and woods. I made my way to Machens, the Eastern terminus of the trail. I was surprised to meet a couple there. They were riding the whole trail over the next two weeks. It was fun to chat with them. Also was surprised that there is a bathroom at that stop. Good thing because after 15 plus miles I needed the facilities. After that break, I got back on the bike fueled up with an apple and visions of the Bike Stop Cafe in St. Charles for early lunch and coffee.

On this leg of the journey it helped to have a reward in mind and knowing that at St. Charles I would be more than halfway done with my goal. At St. Charles, I texted Les my mileage just short of 30 miles. It’s good to have a coach to keep you motivated towards the goal. He recalculated the next leg of the trip and asked how I was feeling. I felt pretty good, and enjoyed my coffee, some Gatorade and the egg and cheese wrap.

To keep my momentum going I took another bathroom break and was surprised to get some encouragement in the loo.

Twenty five miles to go! It’s no secret that the next phase of my trip could have been bogged down with having a meal, but I reminded myself that I could take it easy and not push myself. I found it comforting to be riding a familiar section of the trail. More people on the trail, but I was able to stay in my pilgrimage state of mind. Keeping my eyes open for natural beauty and my spirit buoyed up by singing songs to myself along the way. I also decorated my bike with “flowers.” I find that doing things that make me happy enhance my ability to stay focused on the goal.

When I hit a certain milestone, I rang my bell. On this trip my bike odometer registered the 400 mile mark. I was surprised that I’ve put that much mileage on it, but I have had it for at least 10-15 years. My sweet husband bought it for me on a family vacation. I had decided not to bring a bike (Les and our boys had theirs along), but then when we got there I wanted to ride the trails with them. While my sister-in-laws chose jewelry for souvenirs, I got a new bike and matching helmet.

Back to the trail and my long ride. At 40.5 miles, I turned around because my coach had calculated that from that point I could ride home and be able to hit the 55 mark. I took a selfie and sent it to Les to celebrate.

40.5 miles!!!

You would think at this point I would be either pretty tired or overwhelmed by the last 15 miles. I thank my friend Kathy for all the “training” rides we did this summer that improved my stamina. I had a snack and some Gatorade, and gave myself another mini goal to keep me motivated. My plan was to take it 5 miles at a time. I paused at each 5 miles for a water break or bathroom break as indicated. And signs along the way kept me encouraged.

45 miles!
50 miles!!!

At fifty miles, I stopped and enjoyed a rest on this bench. A monarch butterfly and two dragonflies cheered me on. Five miles to go, and I was feeling fine. Another principle in goal setting—save the best for last. Most of the trip was flat, and seeing that I was staying so strong, why not take the path with four little hills to ride up to get home. I surprise myself quite a bit, don’t I?

55 miles!!!

I hit 55 miles as I passed through Creve Coeur lake, and this cute little van celebrated with me. I ended up having almost two more miles to make it home, but I didn’t care, I finished my goal, and then some. I pedaled into my driveway at exactly 3pm. A decent day for a bike ride.

The secret to life? Find new ways to surprise yourself; maybe even set a goal once in awhile.

Look ma, I did it!

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