The mountains rose before him. Majestic. Yet menacing. They could deliver delight or despair. Hope or heartache. However, he knew the real foe was not one of nature’s great wonders. Instead, it was himself. Could he conquer the battle within his mind. The fatigue within his legs. The stress upon his machine.
Not a machine that relied upon oil or gas for its power. Instead, it merely had two wheels. And its source of power, was him. But as he, and the world would soon learn, he’d emerge victorious. A winner.
Okay, by now, you probably know whose tale I’m telling. Likely, Lance Armstrong’s. The seven-time champion of the demanding Tour de France bike race. Right? Wrong! It ain’t Lance! Instead, it’s the story of PJ Harrigan. A client and friend.
On Aug. 11, 2001, PJ competed in the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race in Leadville, Colorado. A 100 mile challenge affectionately called, “The Race Across the Sky.”
To prepare for this grueling competition, PJ committed his mind and body. Here’s how.
Beginning in January, 2001, PJ dedicated himself to a strict training schedule; no booze, no ice cream, a changed diet, limited coffee consumption and a new early-morning companion, a blaring alarm at 4:20 a.m.!
PJ would wake-up, hop on his bike and hit the pavement. Long before the hot, debilitating Phoenix sun would consume him. About 19 miles later, he’d shower and head to work.
With this exhaustive, yet dedicated strategy, by race-day, PJ had lost 35 pounds. (Hmmm. Apparently success requires dedication and sacrifice. A willingness to change. To do things differently. To tweak. Fine tune. And upgrade.)
PJ also invested in the right clothes. For he knew, Leadville is the highest city in the United States, looming 10,152 feet above sea-level. Plus, he’d be pedaling up, down and around five mountains. And through weather that would include sunshine, falling temps, rain, sleet, and hail. (Do clothes make the person? Probably not. But they can sure protect you. Or offer security in a risky environment. Ah-ha! Taking control of your environment. Sounds like a good idea too.)
PJ also invested in a new bike. One light enough to climb, yet still sturdy enough to absorb unforgiving and relentless punishment.
PJ told me he wanted a bike, that would, “Take the edge off the big bumps.” (Don’t we all! Yet too often, we attempt to attack life’s obstacles with “old equipment.” We rationalize why the previous tools don’t need to be upgraded. We refuse to invest energy, time or money in things that would make our life easier. We forget the realization of a goal, is really just the accumulated acts; of a series of intelligent choices, attitudes and behaviors.)
When I asked PJ how he prepared mentally, he told me, he and his crew chief, earlier in the year, pre-rode the course, so on race day, “I wouldn’t freak out.”
They strategized about diet, times, locations, food, supplies, obstacles, what to wear, when to wear it, and even a special recovery drink. (Apparently, success requires a game plan. Attention to detail. And, an incredible commitment to preparation. For it’s far easier to combat an obstacle you’ve already whupped in reality; or simply within your mind.)
The “Race Across the Sky” began with 700 hopeful bikers. Yet for many, their plan to pedal, fell prey to pain. Only 67 percent finished. Plus, to be declared an official finisher, you had to complete this test of will and endurance, through rain, sleet and hail, in under 13 hours.
And to earn the much coveted Leadville belt-buckle, you had to finish in under 12 hours.
PJ was an official finisher. He was also a winner!
No, I didn’t say he won the race. Instead, he won his race! For his goal, was to finish in under 12 hours and he did. His official time, 11:58:37. Out of 422 finishers and 421 proud belt-buckle recipients, PJ was number 419. Wow! Well done! (Set a goal. See it. Live it. Breathe it. Do it!)
The belt-buckle was on display in PJ’s home. (Recognition is a good thing. Trophies, medals, plaques, ribbons and even belt-buckles are cool! For they tell the world not about your grandiose plans, but instead, about your results.)
When I asked PJ, what he learned about himself throughout this Leadville lesson, he told me:
- You can always dig deeper;
- You can always do more, than you think you can do;
- You must focus on your goal and pursue it as if you’ve already realized it;
- You must have a support system, like a supportive spouse or encouraging coach;
- You need positive self-talk, especially in turbulent times, for over the last 40 miles, PJ struggled with fatigue and an asthma attack, yet he refused to quit, constantly repeating a phrase from the “Bob the Builder” video series he watched with his kids, “Can we do it? Yes we can! Can we do it? Yes we can!”
So what mountains will you conquer?
Can you do it?
Yes you can!
Jeff Blackman is a speaker, author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer who lives part-time on Marco Island. His clients call him a “business-growth specialist.” Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to jeffblackman.com to subscribe to his free e-letter.