The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.– Virginia Woolf
Our actions lie on the horizon of the present, in that swirling cloud where fantasy turns into reality. To plan is to cast a shadow into the future, to attempt to lay shape to the unknown. As the present merges with the future, reality will try our plans on for size, indifferently gauging its fit before casting it aside like an unwanted garment.
We can never know if our actions are futile or not, we can never know what events they set in motion. They may set off a future we could never have predicted, shaping the approaching present in ways we could never have imagined. The true extent of our actions may never be known during our lifetime; in this sense failure and success are measured within an ever-changing and unpredictable chain-reaction of events.
The failure to act is a behavior driven by the fear of the unknown. In the face of a future we can never foresee, we question our abilities, our determination, ourselves. We keep our potential on a short leash for fear that we might fail. In all walks of life, failure forces an unpleasant introspection. In Cycling, failure forces that same introspection, along with suffering, and – apparently – some panic and possibly a few tears. Also some screaming and the chucking of bidons and gel packets. (If there were no cameras, it never happened. And it wasn’t me, I was the target. If it happened at all. Theoretically.)
But failure is only failure when cast in the light of the present; if we choose to fold that failure into our future actions and use it to inform the oncoming present, then those failures can become the foundation for success.
Our minds are our worst enemies, at least when it comes to accomplishing things. Actually, I suppose that’s not really fair; let me rephrase that: the part of your mind that does all the inner-monologuing is our worst enemy. It’s useless. All it does is tell us what might be, what we might not accomplish, the consequences that might arise from our actions should we strive to achieve more.
Brain: If we keep from trying, no one will ever know we failed.
Reality: Let’s get this one out of the way first: this is the Big Lie that our minds always tell us – this is what truly short-changes us from achieving our potential. I would rather fail and know I tried than preempt the virtual guarantee of failure by not giving everything I have to the chance of success.
Brain: We don’t know how long this climb is, we better store spare coals in the back room in case of emergency. It might get steep later or there might be a second climb.
Reality: There is no second climb; only the climb you are on. Besides, you are already in the lowest gear, even if you have a few cogs in reserve; the only gear that exists is V. There is no “spare coal”. It is a myth. The only thing you should be hoarding coals for is the energy it takes lift a Recovery Ale to your neck-hole when you finally finish the ride.
Brain: It’s raining and cold out there. The TV has some good programs on. For instance, there’s a great show about people who date naked but whose nakedness no one ever sees (except, presumably, the dating parties.) And we have beer in here. And chips.
Reality: Sean Kelly once said that you can’t tell how cold and wet it is outside by looking out the window; you have to kit up, go training and when you come back, you’ll know how cold and wet it is out there. So get out and ride, you wee imp. Rule #9. You don’t get better by only riding in good weather. Plus, a little hypothermia is a great way to lose weight; all that shaking really burns the calories.
Brain: We can’t believe how much we’re suffering to hold the wheel in front. Everyone else must be in great shape. We don’t stand a chance.
Reality: Those other riders are on the rivet if you are. Rule #10 was ever thus. This would be a good time to attack. Hinault always attacked whenever he felt weak; better to be off the front and suffering alone than to let others witness your suffering first-hand.
Brain: Your legs are burning already. And do you feel that in your lungs? Even your arms are starting to hurt, so do your jaw muscles. Do you realize what that means? This sport doesn’t use those muscles and still they hurt. A lot. You are not making friends with your body here. We all hate you. Every one of us. We’re talking Union. Against you.
Reality: We all have a tiny little Scotty inside our engine room telling us how the motor is “Givin’ er all she’s got, Cap’n!” Bullshit. There’s another 20% in there, easy. Your mind just doesn’t want you to figure out the big scam.
To take a chance, to challenge to the unknown and play our hand at shaping the future is to take ultimate control of the unknown, to play an active role in our own fate. The future is dark, full of possibility. We Velominati are driven to succeed and embrace failure as a cobblestone beneath our wheel along our path to La Vie Velominatus.