I like having goals.
Sometimes my goal setting is for serious stuff like saving enough money to retire early, saving for our daughter’s education and so on and so forth. But when it comes to keeping me motivated to stay healthy, I like to set goals, or benchmarks that’ll get me out the door when it’d be easy to say it’s too cold, too hot, too tired or whatever excuse de jour may be handy. Having been an ultrarunner for quite a few years, it was literally the only way I could maintain the motivation to keep going out the door every day to run…again, and again and again.
A few years ago I had three friends who came up with a wild idea they’d buy a sailboat, refurbish it and render it ocean worthy enough to sail around the globe. One knew a moderate amount about sailing, the others knew very little to nothing. Obviously a ballsy quest but despite the endeavour being fraught with obstacles, they went for it.
To make a long story short, they found and bought a boat in Mexico, moved it to Emeryville (CA) and spent about a year getting it ready. When the big day came and the boat left the San Francisco Bay, one guy (with the least sailing knowledge) had already abandoned (for a girl) so they were down to a crew of two. Fast forward a few months and the two crew members who originally left Emeryville were off the boat and the original defector was back on after the girl thing went sideways. The original defector eventually found himself living aboard the boat in Brisbane, Australia working with a yacht broker to sell it so everyone could hopefully salvage some of their investment and simply wash their hands of the whole of the deal. And no, the last I heard they were still not friends. Cordial I understand, but not close.
While the original goal of circumnavigating the globe may have fallen short, my takeaway was the fact they set an audacious goal, worked through the minefield of obstacles to prepare themselves then actually left the harbour in San Francisco. To me, that’s just as huge as the actual feat of circling the globe. The first step is always the hardest.
As I followed their progress, it made me think long and hard about my own personal goals. I was definitely dialed in to setting big goals, but I’d really never set a goal to build something mechanical from ground zero and take it on a long journey.
I know precisely zero about sailing or ocean adventuring other than if you fall off the thing at sea, there’s a chance you could be eaten by a shark or mauled by any number of other things with sharp teeth…and then the sharks eat you. Eliminating sailing was a pretty straight forward process.
I also thought about purchasing an older adventure motorcycle, building it up to be expedition ready then riding it to Alaska from my home here in Colorado. As cool as that seemed (and still does), it didn’t feel like the right time.
Eventually I decided since I love to mountain bike, I would build up a nice bike, bolt by bolt, component by component and pick some bigger number of miles to ride. The number of miles would have to test my skills as the builder as well as my mental capability of sticking to something that wouldn’t come easy, but was still attainable with some legitimately hard work. I decided 10,000 trail miles would be the goal. If I were to ride on the road, I could ring those miles up commuting to work or just bopping around town without a lot of difficulty, so trail miles it had to be.
I’ve had lots of mountain and road bikes in my life but that was the first one I’d ever built from scratch. I spent countless hours researching every component, nut, bolt, hydraulic system and every other aspect of the build from tip to tail. Can’t say it was all a glitter and unicorn picnic being new to the build up game, but it was more than rewarding to have to work to figure things out instead of just taking it to a shop and having it done. In the end, I knew that bike inside and out.
I wrote the goal of 10,000 trail miles down on a piece of paper and made a log book to track my progress. I was definitely excited about the goal of 10k, but to be honest, I was more excited about simply riding something I built. The best feeling ever was taking it off the rack on my truck for it’s maiden shake-down ride and it performing beautifully with only a couple of minor adjustments to the shifters. My sailboat had left the harbour!
This week…after four years and some change, 20+ tyres, five chains, three seats and two seat posts, about 900,000 vertical feet, countless brake pads and rotors, a couple of hub rebuilds and a total of 651 rides later…I crossed the 10,000 trail mile mark. I’m also happy to report I’m still married, still have a few friends and have no lingering thoughts of selling my bike.
Some of those 651 rides were more memorable than others, some warmer than others (it’s been known to get cold here in Colorado) and some definitely less painful than others, but there isn’t one day on that bike I’d trade for the anything. Crossing the 10k mark is just a click on the odometer, the miles and associated experiences to get there is what I’ll always think about.
By doing this I certainly haven’t done anything extraordinary, but I’m pretty happy that in this world of instant gratification, I’ve been able to hold on to the principle the best things in life can only be achieved by hard work, determination and the honest belief that EVERY aspect of the journey is truly the destination.
Climb high, ski hard, run far, live simply.