Be prepared to face this question. It is either something people get – or not. And the trouble is it isn’t always very easy to answer if they don’t get it.
For most people that do it, long distance cycling is about facing a challenge of endurance and endeavour. Of course, each individual has a mix of other stuff that they get out of it, but at the core is that feeling of satisfaction, of a job well done, on reaching the end.
And at the end, in that warm glow of achievement, we forget the pain and suffering we have endured during the course of the ride. Those swear words that bounced around our heads halfway up that 20% climb have faded away. We have forgotten our pledge, ‘never to do this #@NM ride again’, whilst battling against horizontal hail in the teeth of a 40mph headwind. We are left only with good memories, even if that good memory is, ‘It was a pig of a ride but I finished!’ [and if only 10% of the starters did, even better].
The point is, we can’t remember pain. Yes, we can remember that we suffered pain but we cannot actually relive it. So the memory of the pain is weak and soon subsumed.
By way of illustration I can point to my own experiences on my end to end. In the aftermath of my ride I was left with the overall feeling that it went much better than I anticipated and was, on the whole, much easier than I thought it would be. I had ridden steadily each day with a fairly constant energy level and had not suffered much at any point on the ride. I knew a couple of stretches had been tricky but nothing to have gotten me down.
What I wasn’t aware of is the fact that my wife had been typing up all the text messages I had been sending her (I sent one every two hours or so to show I was still alive) and converting them to blog like emails to send to my work colleagues and sponsors to show how things were going. And they were copied verbatim. You can see a transcript in Appendix 2.
I was most surprised to find words like, ‘strain’ and ‘sick’ and ‘tired’ and ‘hard’ and ‘crap’ in my texts. And they also reminded me that I had felt so bad on day two that I had decided to cut out my slight detour over the Kirkstone Pass (which was to be a highlight challenge) because I was worried it would rekindle the sciatica in my right leg.
The thing is, even with the reality spelt out in black and white before me, I still can’t quite conjure up the memories to go with the texts. It is all very positive in my memory and that is why I would have no hesitations in doing it all again. In fact I have. Twice.
But all of that is hard to explain to somebody who can’t grasp the concept, perhaps because they have never challenged their body and mind in that way. So, if you get fed up with trying to explain why you are doing it, then do the ride for charity. Everyone understands that.