I’d just finished my first time trial and, standing near the finish, waiting to hear my time, I chatted with friends and compared notes on the handful of rolling hills, the terrible headwind on the way out, or just where we thought we’d caved under our own effort.
A clipboard appeared on the hood of the organizer’s car and we began scanning down for our names and times. Most of the way down the page I spied my name. I’d failed to break 25 minutes for the 10 mile distance. I turned to friends and lamented that I hadn’t gone harder. I should have hit those final hills with more.
“Nope. No way.” One friend stated.
He asked me, “How did you feel going up those hills?”
“I thought I might puke.”
“There you go. You couldn’t have gone any harder.”
That’s the crazy thing. When you aren’t going hard, it’s easy to imagine that you can still go harder. I decided as a way to avoid Monday Morning quarter-backing, I’d check in with myself more to register how I felt. The practice granted me a surprising benefit, though. Checking in with myself more meant that I was giving myself better feedback on my ability to go harder, or not.
I also learned about the urgency of today. I could only do that time trial right then, that day, that season. Within my effort was a larger lesson, that I needed to remain present—by checking in with myself, asking, “Can I go harder?”
If I asked the question and the answer was, “no,” then I have to accept the outcome. Whatever time I set is the best I could do. There was no going faster.
The great irony is how an effort that should bring me serenity often resulted in doubt. That’s a cross I’ve chosen to bear no longer. I’ve turned pedals long enough to know when if I go harder I won’t be able to keep turning the pedals. It’s a crazy balance: As hard as I can now, and as hard as I can until I finish.
No one can buy that kind of will. Walmart and Costco will never stock it.
Peace has no price. It can only be earned in ongoing effort. To learn what is within us is less a choice than a quest. Those efforts that empty us add up over time, and clarity comes with delivering our all. It is a measure of the depth of our hearts.