I don’t know where I got the idea, I can’t explicitly remember, but I had the notion somewhere driving through Ottawa around Christmas time in 2017. I thought to myself: ‘What if I rode 50 kilometers a day, for 50 days?’
Quick math brought up a total distance of 2500 kilometers.
That’s a respectable distance if I do say so myself.
A few days passed by and I let the thought fester in the back of my head, seeing if it would take root and oh boy did it ever. I couldn’t get it out! I was craving a challenge, something physical and momentous that I could look back on and think: ‘Damn, I did that!’
This is also around the same time in my life when stress was really starting to have a negative impact on my life. I had so much crap stuffed into my dorm room that I thought I needed and didn’t know what to do with. This challenge was yet another catalyst that led me towards minimalism.
First though, I needed a plan.
In Canada, winter is unforgiving and riding a road bike with 23 mm tires outside in the snow and ice isn’t exactly the safest, or smartest thing to do. In the summer past, I had bought an old, second hand indoor trainer from a lady off Kijiji. A completely intentional purchase, although I wouldn’t reap the value from it until a few months later. The premise of the gizmo is that it holds your back wheel in place to spin freely whilst the bike itself stays still. It allows you to ride wherever your bike can fit.
I knew that my idea wouldn’t be extremely well received at home, so I decided to wait until I moved back to college to start my challenge. 50 for 50.
My dad dropped me off at college on a Sunday afternoon, with classes starting the next day. I unpacked my stuff and brought my bike with me, sneaking it into the residence under a duvet so they wouldn’t get suspicious. My already small dorm room had now gotten even smaller thanks to the road bike and indoor trainer set up.
I moved some things around, shoved stuff in my closet, filled Rubbermaid bins with crap and shoved them under my bed, then got around to setting the bike up. Realistically speaking, there was only ample room by the window, right next to my desk so that’s where the bike went. I set up the trainer, attached the tire and before long I had a fully functional indoor training set up.
This was a pivotal moment because I knew that once I started the challenge, I’d have to see it all the way through till the end. Failure isn’t something I’ve ever been super comfortable with. Neither was quitting. Until reading Seth Godin’s The Dip, I never fully understood the abstract concept of the word. Now that I can reflect upon my experience, I had a subtle understanding that there would be a Dip in this challenge, only I didn’t know when I would hit it and how long it would stick around for. It would be a strong demotivation phase that would either get the better of me or I would push through.
I intended to push as hard as I could.
But still, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I knew that no matter what, for the next fifty days, I would make sure that I got on that bike and pedalled for 50 km, regardless of what I had going on.
That alone was a huge commitment, bigger than I realized at the time.
So, on January 7th, 2018 I started riding.
Day 1 was pretty easy. I knew I had to get a feel for how long it would take me, how much water I’d need to keep near me and whether I’d need to eat during the session. I also learned quickly that a small, 9’X10’ room heats up pretty quickly when you’re breathing heavily for an hour and a half.
Regardless, I finished Day 1 and felt really good about it all. I had embarked upon a journey that was much bigger than me and I had already amassed one victory.
Day 2 went much the same as Day 1. It was still a learning process and this time, I had the window open to bring in fresh, cold air. I woke up at 5:30 that day, which I wasn’t used to at all. I made a single cup of coffee, filled up my water bottle and changed into lycra and sat on my bike. It took a few minutes, but I got into the groove.
Day’s 3-8 were all similar. I woke up each day, motivated and excited to get back on the bike. The 50 km mark had slowly gotten easier to reach and I found myself learning pacing techniques and effort control through the various training regimes I had implemented.
It was never a constant effort. I would always start with a twenty-minute warm up, varying my cadence from 70 up to 120 RPM before ever getting into the groove of the session. Maybe I should do a breakdown of the training sessions some day?
Day 9 was the first exhausting day that I had. It was a Monday and I woke up at 5:30 again, made my coffee and filled up my water bottle, changed into lycra and sat on my bike much in the same way I had done for the last eight days. I made it halfway through the warm up and my legs were still screaming in protest, like they wanted no part of this adventure anymore. It felt like my body had given up on me. Right then and there, the urge to get off and stop was huge. I paused my timer and sat on the bike, my feet still clipped into the pedals and rested my elbows on the handlebars.
I don’t know how long I sat there for, but it was a good while.
I was exhausted.
The room was dark. By now it was close to 6:00 am and the world outside was just starting to wake.
My legs were tired, my eyes were tired, my mind was spinning. I had blisters on my feet and callouses on my palms. Sweat stung in my eyes.
But I decided to continue. I don’t know what drove me to keep pedaling, but something did. Maybe it was the satisfaction of rolling over that 50 km mark that I was chasing or satisfying the moral commitment I had made a few days earlier. I’m not sure.
Regardless, I got over it.
I gritted my teeth and kept pedaling. And let me tell you, that day sucked. That was the hardest ninety-four minutes that I had had on the indoor trainer yet. The whole time was brutal. I wanted to stop.
But I didn’t. I had made a commitment to myself and I wasn’t going to break that.
This practice taught me a lot about dedication and devotion to one single project. When I started out, I had made the promise that no matter what happened, I would get fifty kilometers done each day. It could have been in the morning or it could have been later, after dinner but no matter what, I would get it done. I remember going out for sushi with friends and then rushing back to my dorm room and started pedaling around midnight, knowing that I had to wake up again the next morning and do it all over again.
I went through several dips throughout the challenge, but each day was another learning experience. I learned more about myself, about resilience and dedication than I had ever learned before.
I think that everyone should have something like this in their life. Something to commit to.
For Casey Neistat, it was daily vlogging.
For Stephen King, it was writing every day.
For me, it was riding every day. 50 kilometers a day. For 50 days.
Falling into a routine helped set up the consistency that I needed. I was over halfway through the fifty days when I began to start reading about the importance of routines in successful people’s life. From what I read, it seemed that every CEO, billionaire and successful entrepreneur has some form of daily ritual that they commit to each and every day.
For me, it became waking up, making coffee and getting on the bike. It was so simple, that its almost impossible to mess up and therefor, easy to maintain.
Spending nearly two hours on a bicycle each day really helped me learn to deal with my time to. I knew that there were now two less hours in my day for school work, potential socializing with friends or other activities. So, I needed to make the hours that I was off the bike really count. This amped up my productivity and work ethic in school. I became a productivity machine and somehow, it didn’t feel like I was working any harder than I had before.
I had become truly focused.
The final lesson I took away from this whole experience, more of a mantra than a lesson in a way, was to just do it.
Just fucking do it.
I did the thing I wanted to do, and I didn’t let any excuses stop me.
Through days of blisters, aching knees, saddle sores and a wack tone of leg muscle, I did it. No excuses were going to stop me. Even though the path to success, 50 kilometers in 50 days, was riddled with obstacles and challenges I still did it.
Nothing was going to stop me.
So do the thing that YOU want to do.
No excuses stopped me.
Don’t let any excuses stop YOU.