"How far are you hoping to ride today?"
The 15 year old I caught around Mile 28 asked me this as we were grinding uphill. What a cool question. I didn't even know how to answer. The time cut off was at Mile 42 and we were aware of how much more we had to go. But I started to think of the beauty of that question. At Mile 16 I was hating life and if he had asked me then I would have said "I'm hoping to ride to the top of the hill and see if Life Flight is available." At the downhill section around Mile 24 I was having so much fun and riding so well that I would have said "Forever, Dude! Let's ride forever." Later when we made the cut off at Mile 42 together I would have said "I'm hoping to ride 8 miles more." And at Mile 46 after a grueling 2 mile uphill I would have said "I'm hoping to ride no more."
The beauty of the question spoke to me because that's how competition goes. It's not all fun, it's not all heinous, and it's changeable with our moods. It's our mental strength that keep us moving when we aren't having fun and energizes us to go harder when we are. I play games in my head during the good times and bad. The uphill game consists of counting to 15 really slowly and committing to pedaling till I get to 15. Then, it's pretending I don't know that I'm going to make myself do it again. And again, until the hill ends. The downhill game is different. I give myself kudos out loud when I fly over something I didn't think I could do, or when I leave my brakes alone and work on my leaning. Yes, I'm the embarrassing old lady saying "Way to go! Nice job! " to herself as you pass her. Every good race ends, as does every bad race. The key is appreciating both in the moment when they appear and remembering that both are temporary.