Never Let Fear Control You

Never Let Fear Control You
Photo by Alessio Soggetti / Unsplash

It took me 13 years to face my fears and take action on my massive goal:

Biking 203 miles from Seattle to Portland.

But I almost let one breakdown derail everything.

The Seattle-To-Portland (STP) is the largest multi-day bike event in the Northwest. Over 8k bikers sign up for the 203-mile ride.

In 2013, I chose to ride all 203 miles in one day.

This was farther than I had ever biked before, but I was determined to accomplish my massive goal.

To prep for the race, I started biking to work: 27 miles round-trip.

On the weekends, I added longer rides:
· 32 miles
· 43 miles
· 56 miles

On each ride, I pushed further to see how far I could go.

I built muscle.
I built endurance.
My confidence soared.

I was feeling ready for the big day.

6 weeks before the STP, a few buddies invited me for a 30-mile ride in the Columbia River Gorge. It's a beautiful place to ride.

Just one problem: 30 miles? So much shorter than the other rides I'd done.

My confidence was sky-high - I wanted to ride further.

Instead of driving to meet up with everyone, I decided to bike there. This made the ride 72 miles for me - a worthy challenge.

I set out from my house and felt great on this first leg. Met up with my buddies and we took off for the next leg.

Our destination was a scenic viewpoint in the Columbia River Gorge.

Determined to show everyone I was in great shape, I pulled out in front.

At first, we biked through neighborhoods. Eventually, that changed to biking along country roads, next to rivers, and up hills.

Still felt good once we reached the viewpoint. As always, the view there is breathtaking.

But, here is when the trouble started.

As we were getting ready to head back, someone suggested we ride a little further.

Not just further - down the other side of the mountain to Multnomah Falls. This would add another 20 miles of hills.

I got a little nervous. I had planned for the extra miles I added, but not for this.

Still, I wanted to show everyone how tough I was. What’s a few more miles when you’re in great shape like me?!

We set out again. On the way, I started feeling tired.

My confidence was wavering, but I pushed through. I told myself to be positive.

We made it to Multnomah Falls and took a short break.

But I felt drained.

The miles were adding up.

My legs: sore
My water: low
My energy: gone

And we still had to bike back up the mountain we just came down. I knew I’d struggle on the ride back.

Off we set, back up the mountain.

Sure seems steeper than I remember.
Little harder than I expected.
More turns than I recall.

I struggled to keep up. My confidence eroding.

As we biked, I was slowly falling behind the group. Thoroughly exhausted. No gas left in the tank. Barely turning the gears. I pushed on, trying to find that extra burst of energy.

It didn’t come.

I hit the wall.
My legs were done.
I couldn’t pedal anymore.

About 5 miles from where we started, I quit.

I couldn't turn my pedals.
I could barely lift my legs.
I was completely out of breath.

I pulled over to the side of the road while my buddies pushed on.

I thought I was going to crush this ride. This challenge was supposed to prove I was ready for the STP. Instead, it completely and utterly crushed me physically and mentally.

As I lay down in the grass to catch my breath, failure set in. Doubt owned me. Who did I think I was?

I’m not special.
I’m no better than the average rider.
How the hell was I going to bike 203 miles?

One of my buddies picked me up in his car and drove me home. I felt beyond discouraged.

I entertained the thought of quitting. I thought about giving up on my big goal.

Why did I think I could even do this? Who would even notice if I quit now?

Over the next few days, I struggled with what to do next.

I wallowed in depression. My inner critic was running rampant:
You should try a less ambitious goal
This challenge is too big for you
You should just quit

As I thought about all the reasons to quit, I started listing excuses to tell everyone who was rooting for me.

Then a new thought flickered: I chose this challenge.

This wasn't just a whim or something I thought of last week.

I'd been thinking, planning, and envisioning myself completing this goal for years. Why was I going to quit because of one failed ride?

A failed ride didn’t have to define me. It didn’t determine who I was.

I asked: Who do I want to be?

Someone who quits? Never.

I want to be the person who embraces challenges.
One who pushes forward even after a breakdown.
One who knows failure is an opportunity to learn.

I know I am not a world-class biker. I know this is going to be a struggle. I also know it's my choice to run from this challenge or embrace it.

I know I can either let this goal crush me or I can work hard to crush it.

I pushed forward. I re-committed to biking 203 miles in one day.

Even though I failed miserably on that one ride, I knew I could bike 203 miles. If I keep pushing, I know I can achieve my goal.

That’s what I did.

I doubled down on my training. I stopped listening to my inner critic.

I remembered one loss doesn’t outweigh multiple wins.

The week after my breakdown, I completed my longest ride yet: 113 miles.

5 weeks later, I was at the start line in Seattle.

Feeling primed and ready for this race. I knew it'd be hard, but I was ready to take on the challenge.

Just before midnight, I crossed the finish line in Portland.

203 miles in one day.

I crushed the ride.
I completed my massive goal.
I turned my failure into success.

Never let fear of failing prevent you from pursuing your goals.

There will always be times when you fail. Everyone fails at some point. Failing is simply a stepping stone on the road to success.

When you find yourself afraid of failing, remember it doesn’t define success.

How you respond to failing does.

Are you going to let fear of failure control your life?


“Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear” - George Addair