Five weeks ago today I was cycling along La Via Venezia (the Venice Road) at the end of a 900-mile ride from Paris, via six countries and four mountain ranges in fourteen days.
The last day was easy – only fifty-odd miles and almost completely flat – but the three of us had climbed some monster hills as we crossed the Vosges (France), the Black Forest (Germany) and then into the Alps as we passed through Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and finally into Italy.
At times our progress was painfully slow, and at others it was scarily fast!
We had hot sunshine, strong headwinds, warm and very cold rain, thunderstorms and hail, and we reached the snow line as we crossed our highest pass, the Timmelsjoch, between Austria and Italy.
That was the highest point on the trip, and the longest climb – it took me three hours to cycle the last 20km or so to the summit.
We had done a series of smaller climbs of between one and two hours in the preceding days before we reached the big one, and our fitness improved as we went, but it was still a long way up!
We all made it to the top, though.
There were four reasons we were able to do it:
We wanted to do it
We prepared for it
We built up to it
We kept going
Note that I don’t mention ‘talent’ or ‘gifts’ or even any kind of help. I’m not a talented cyclist. I’m healthy and quite fit but I’m not especially strong. My knees hurt sometimes.
On the trip we encouraged each other, believed in each other (but most importantly, believed in ourselves) and then at the bottom of each climb we said “See you at the top”.
And we did. The hills got bigger, our legs got stronger and our self belief grew with each climb.
We were lucky to have the opportunity to make the trip, but there was no luck involved in actually being able to do it.
In the end that came down to point number 4 – We kept going.