The Cyclist Returns to Boot Camp
I spent most of 2007 waking up between 4:30 and 5:10am and heading off to Portland Adventure Bootcamp. I’d found the program by doing an internet search after hearing about the concept from a midwestern cyclocrosser.
When I went that January, I was at the end of my rope. I was working 70-80 hours a week on a product launch, sleeping like shit, and feeling something more than disillusioned by the future that presented itself to me as a “marketing manager” at a small software company.
I felt exhausted and out of control. Desperate. I could not stand to listen to myself complain about my situation for another single day.
In boot camp I sought structure, discipline, meaning, direction, and pain. And understanding. Of self.
I was looking for something. And it wasn’t rippin’ abs or screamin’ glutes.
I wanted answers. About me.
It was a last ditch effort. As a life-long athlete, I was dubious about joining a group fitness setting. I was skeptical about the warm indoor facility and the chipper man named Daniel in the track-suit standing at the front of the room.
Two things tipped the scale and finally convinced me to give it a shot:
- The camp began and ended with a physical test that consisted of a timed mile and push-up blowout. As a classic over-achiever personality, I love tests. And I love track-able progress. It also did not hurt that I absolutely love to run.
- The camp started every morning at 5:30am. Miraculously, it fit into my completely insane schedule. Sold. Period.
What happened after I pulled up the anchor and committed was miraculous. You might measure success by bodyfat percentage, mile times, or push-up records but the real beauty revealed itself in other parts of my life.
My gamble was paying off. My last-ditch effort was delivering.
Suspended there holding a plank in isometric agony, with sweat dripping rhythmically from the tip of my nose, I remembered things about myself. When I thought I couldn’t hold a plank for 90 seconds, I held it for 2 minutes. When I thought I couldn’t do 35 pushups, I did 50. When I thought I couldn’t handle one more hill sprint or one more bone-chilling morning on Tabor, I did. And more.
I woke up some mornings so sore that I was sure I couldn’t get out of bed, let alone report for duty to execute an endless stream of lunges and half-jacks and burpees. But I still went. And I surprised myself. Again and again and again.
I tapped on Daniel for guidance and got control of my nutrition and started eating whole food that would actually fuel my body, instead of sending me into a constant series of spikes and crashes. I learned and read and showed up.
Every small physical battle won made me a little braver, a little more bold, a little more willing to risk.
In March, I took the leap that had been too long delayed. I quit my job and started the marketing consulting business that I’d been thinking about for a year. I started writing- for real. I started making photographs – for real.
And things kind of exploded for me. In the good way.
Along the journey, I met some seriously inspiring women and we spent summer mornings kicking each other’s asses in the shiny dawn light. There were mornings when those particular women were the only reason I got out of bed.
I finally left boot camp in late fall of 2007, when my bike racing addiction began to take too much of a toll on my body. I committed to cycling for 2008 and spent this year figuring out how to get speed out of a bicycle (still working on that part).
I rode centuries and 200k randonneuring rides – setting distance records and destroying perceived limitations. I raced cyclocross every weekend for three solid months – spending 45 minutes of every Sunday with my heart threatening to blow into a billion bits while I rode over gravel, through hub-deep mud, and over kidney-rattling meadows.
It’s been a good year. But it’s time to go back.
The bike is all-consuming. It demands everything I can give. I write about it, talk about it, plan for it, spend money on it, and generally obsess about it more often than I’d like to admit.
Boot Camp presents new challenges, a different brand of structure, and a break from the frantic pedaling that has characterized the past 11 months.
I don’t expect it to change my life again, but I do expect pain, doubt, camaraderie, small victories, and renewed discipline. And I expect my body to reward me with soreness, and all the muscle-changing glory associated with that sweet aching agony.
So, from here until December 19th I have only one thing to say:
Bring the hurt, Daniel. Bring the hurt.