The first Monday of 2016 is almost here.
Odds are you’ll rise before the sun and peek outside to see rain or iced-over windshields, a setting more likely to inspire you to head back to bed rather than get cracking on those New Year’s resolutions.
I’ve confessed before to being a goal geek. I set numerous resolutions each year and track them with spreadsheets and color-coded lists. Still, most years there are goals I fail to achieve.
Sometimes I underestimate the challenge and sometimes more important things (usually the kids) cause a shift in priorities.
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But as I talk to personal trainers and weekend warriors throughout the year, they tell me most goals just slowly slip away. People miss a day or a week of exercise and then they bail on their goals perhaps because they interpret their minor hiccup as failure.
This is the time of the year when the internet is infused with countless articles offering tips for making sure you achieve your New Year’s resolution. Be realistic. Start slow. Write down your goal. Announce it to the world via Facebook then annoy your friends by posting updates after every jog. Hire a trainer. Split big goals into smaller goals. Keep a journal. Pick something that’s meaningful to you. Don’t fret if you have a bad stretch.
It’s all good advice. But of all the tricks to reaching goals, there’s one that I’ve found is most important: Friends.
Or at least a good training partner.
At a minimum, it’s always nice to have somebody to spot for you in the weight room. Even better, if they can push you to crank out an extra rep. Better still if they can teach or help you maintain good form.
But, really, where I need a good friend/training partner is on those dark, cold and wet Monday mornings (Tuesdays through Sundays as well). The days when I’d rather do just about anything else but exercise. Especially outside.
I was reminded of this late last summer when I signed up for the High Pass Challenge bike ride. It goes from Packwood to Windy Ridge, covers 114 miles and climbs about 7,500 feet.
It had been on my to-do list for years and I had specifically listed it among my goals for 2015. I paid the entry fee a month in advance and there was no way I was going to miss the ride.
Then I saw the forecast. Rain. Cold. Fog.
I was ready to bail, and probably would have if it wasn’t for Scott Wagar, a friend with whom I’d planned to do the ride.
I shot him a note two days before the challenge trying to give him an opening to call it off. “Have you seen the forecast? Yikes.”
I knew he wouldn’t take the bait. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t let anything get in the way of a good ride. If I’d told him Armageddon was coming, he’d say, “Oh good, we’ll have the roads to ourselves.”
His response to my weather whine: “Yeah, weather not looking good. I rode today in crazy wind and rain.”
I tried again. This time somewhat desperate, if not pathetic. “So, I should probably let you know that I don’t have fenders.”
Perhaps, I thought, the idea of getting sprayed in the face for six hours would change his mind.
His response: “I don’t have fenders. Most people don’t so I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Out of excuses, we met in Buckley at 5 a.m. Aug. 31. When we arrived in Packwood, I suited up in warm clothes and crammed a rain jacket in my back pocket. Wagar didn’t even bother with leg warmers or a coat.
I looked toward the mountains covered by low clouds. It was going to be cold and wet. At the start line, the race announcer told the group that more than 100 registrants failed to show up.
The implication was that we were tougher than them. Or maybe it was that they were smarter than us.
About 90 minutes into the ride the rain started. It was so foggy when we reached Windy Ridge that I turned into a parking lot and couldn’t see the midway checkpoint about 100 feet away.
I was stunned at how few people were there. Was I really one of the first five to reach the top?
“No,” said one of the volunteers as she pointed to a small moving van organizers used to haul supplies to Windy Ridge. I lifted open the rear door and found the van packed with shivering spandex-clad cyclists.
They looked miserable but they were laughing and having fun. Volunteers handed us garbage bags with holes cut out for our arms and head. A little extra warmth for the long, wet descent to Packwood.
Long before we rolled over the finish line, collected our medals (for reaching Windy Ridge in less than 3 hours, 30 minutes) and enjoyed a celebratory hot dog, I was grateful that Wagar hadn’t let me wimp out.
As is usually the case when it comes to exercising in nasty weather, the hardest part is getting started. In the end, the rain and early stages of hypothermia only made an enjoyable experience that much more memorable.