Failure is cool

The internet is a weird place. We can choose what we share and what we don’t share; we filter the information that goes public, as is our right. We share the photo of our healthy lunch, but not the massive bar of milk chocolate we ate afterwards. We don’t publish that ride to Strava where we gave up half way and got the train home. People see the nice new bike, but not the credit card bill that we can’t afford to pay. We only get half the story. The good bits, usually.

Anyway, to the point – because there is one (for once.)

This week I went on a bike ride after work. I rode a route I ride lots – out to Steyning – but this time I decided to take a little detour, involving a bostal climb. I’m not entirely sure why. That’s kind of the point of bostals I think – the futility of climbing them just to come back down again.

As soon as I turned into Bostal Road I wish I hadn’t bothered. My legs could take it, but my head was telling me to give up. Bad day – bad mind set. I keep going anyway, spurred on by hearing another cyclist behind me – and not wanting to be seen giving up. I turn the bend and the gradient increases significantly. The road is bumpy and horrible. Another minute of pounding the pedals and I look behind me – the cyclist I heard was imagined – there is nobody there. Both legs and head want me to give in at this point, and I do. Feet on the floor. Fucksake. Head on handlebars. Idiot. No Lois, you are not giving up – clip back in and get on with it.

So I do. Another minute or so of climbing. You’ve climbed worse hills than this – just keep pedalling – it’s easy. There’s a twist in the road and I can see it’s getting steeper. My head wins over my legs. Screw this. I crunch to a stop in some gravel, regain control of my lungs, turn back around and fly down the hill.

The air turns blue with muttered obscenities as I descend. I know I’m going to be in foul mood for the rest of the ride because I didn’t get to the top. I feel stupid for getting two thirds of the way and then bailing. Especially because I know I’m capable. And then I have the wisest idea I’ve ever had… 

“I’m going to go back up the bostal, and this time I’m going to do the whole thing in one go! With renewed vigour! I will use my self-loathing to pull me up the hill! That will make a great blog post, won’t it? It can be all inspiring and about not giving up and stuff! ”

So, around I turn. Superwoman on a bike: ready to defeat the bostal. Just look at me go…

I get 50 metres and cramp takes control of my right leg. I stop, unclip, turn around… and go home. The easy way.


The easy way home

I can’t remember the last time I read a blog post about someone going on a really horrible bike ride. Or coming last in a race. Or feeling anxious about a big sportive. Maybe that’s because people want to read nice things – which would be fair enough. Or maybe it’s because nobody else ever screws up – but I doubt that.

It’s easy just to share the successes and the wins. And we should share those things – and be proud of them. But the not so good bits deserve some air-time too.

I’m not advocating doom and gloom – just suggesting we revel in our failures a bit more. They’re what make us human, and they make the good bits even better.