- By Eric Hill -
I have been what some might consider an elite athlete for the last 10 years, having run for one of the country's best Division III cross country and track programs in college and now riding for an Elite Domestic Cycling Team that receives invites to international events. Both of these sports, however, are extremely humbling. These sports are not football, baseball, or basketball where you have to beat a single opponent to win a game. In these sports, you first have to beat yourself and get out of your own head and then you have to beat the 100's of other athletes in the field in order to get the satisfaction of "The Big Win."
The nature of these sports has always been intriguing to me, work as a team, function as a unit, but don't let yourself beat yourself in the process. For most, including myself until recently, experiencing this over and over again causes you to have a self centric approach to the sport. Focus on ME, how strong can I get, how far can I push MYSELF for my own benefit, which in turn benefits the team.
Recently though, I have been pedaling, suffering in a different vain. I have shifted gears. My frame of mind and purpose has changed. Last week I was putting myself through a workout I consider to be the gauntlet and it often gets the best of me. Per usual, about 2 hours in to the ride and 45min into the 75min interval session, I found myself in a familiar place. My legs were screaming, breathing was heavy, and thoughts of easing up on the pedals continued to cross my mind. I have a .700 winning percentage (for you baseball fans out there) when I hit this point. Normally, I start trying to motivate myself with negative talk, demanding that I be better, cursing myself to push harder and not give in... I wanted more of myself, but I wanted it for my own benefit, my own glory.
Last week, I found myself in a different position. I was in the proverbial PAINCAVE and I was starting to get those thoughts in my head, but this time, completely unexpectedly, the thoughts and the motivation came from a different place. I found myself motivated by the stories Eric B. has shared with me and by the words of encouragement from the people I have shared Project Echelon with. I found myself tuning out my own physical pain and reminding myself that it was nothing compared to the real pain that so many of our veterans and their families suffer or have suffered. I found myself wanting to dig deeper so that I could get better, but not only for the benefit of my team or individual success, but so that I could shine a positive light on the work of Project Echelon and the veteran's it supports through my efforts.
Most surprisingly, I finished that workout with the best numbers I have ever posted. I dug deeper than I have in a long time and I wanted more.
I simply shifted gears. I ride to represent something greater than myself or my team. That is the Echelon... and there is some great power in that!