Project242 (P242) is my journey to bike 242 miles in 24 hours, across the state of Minnesota on gravel roads, in August, 2021 (the Day Across MN, or the DAMN). I’ve found many lessons experienced riding a bike can be applied to our careers. In these posts, I will share the correlations.
Ever heard someone say “This is a marathon, not a sprint!!” Basically, they’re telling you be ready to play the long game and pace yourself accordingly.
However, if you think about your career, it’s much bigger than a marathon. There are probably multiple marathons contained within one’s career. Instead, I think of a career as an ultra endurance event.
First, let’s define what an “Ultra Endurance” sport is:
- Exceeds 6 hours in duration (in some cases, it goes multiple days)
- In running, more than 26.2 miles
- In cycling, more than 100 miles
- In swimming, it’s somewhere in the 19.7 km range (someone correct me if I’m off)
- In Ironman, starts at double and goes up to deca
Having done an endurance running event and now training for an ultra endurance bike race, there are some correlations that can be made between these and your career:
Have a Plan, But Remember It’s a Guide: “What are you going to be when you grow up?” A question that starts young, builds in high school, and peaks in college. I remember creating a plan to have a fruitful HR career. Along the way, I realized HR wasn’t for me and switched to business communications, then into Project Management. The plan was never set in stone, but a guide to help with direction. Same with an ultra training plan. Though it’s proven to help you train and get across the finish line, everyone is different and should adjust accordingly.
It Starts With Day 1: There’s always a day 1. Maybe it’s your first day of college; a job; starting a new business; starting on the bike, or lacing up running shoes for the first time. Day 1 gets you off the ground, but not necessarily in the air. It’s a starting point, one we all take.
Build Up Over Time: You won’t decide to run one day and do a marathon the next. It takes time to build up. Same with your career. It takes experience, training and knowledge to build to be a better professional, as well as an athlete. Play the long game!
With Time, Comes Lumps: Remember the first time you got yelled at in the office? I’ve had my fare share of stern conversations. Some warranted, others not so much. But each taught me something even if it was uncomfortable at the time. Training can give you literal lumps; like a broken bone (more on that coming up), falling on your face because you tripped on a tree root, or ending up in an ice-cold stream because you missed a corner mountain biking. Most lessons come with physical and mental lumps!
When Starting, Don’t Start Too Fast and Stay Strong Throughout: My first ever bike race, I came across the starting line going hell-bent! After mile 10, I was dragging. The rest of the race was a slog. The people I passed right away passed me looking good. Same goes for our careers; we can go like hell right away and gain spots, but could wear ourselves down and burnout after awhile. Sure, there are superhumans that start fast and don’t slow down for anything, but they’re a rare breed!
Accept There Will Be Setbacks: I trained for an ultra bike race of 110 miles a number of years ago and two weeks before the event, crashed and broke my elbow. I’ve also been working at a great job, then marched into HR and informed my position was being eliminated. Setbacks WILL HAPPEN! Accept it. You may not control the situation, but you do control your reaction. It’s OK to be upset and disappointed for a little bit, then get back after it.
Be Prepared Mentally: Somewhere during training and on race day, my mind will say “Just quit; it’s OK!” It’s natural and happens to everyone when doing something hard. You have be ready mentally in endurance events. Same goes for those really tough projects with tight deadlines and long days. Mentally you’ll want to stop. But don’t. Find a way to push through.
Trust me, marathons are tough. But ultra endurance events are a whole new level of suck! And though some days are tougher than others, if you understand that if you have a guide, get going, stay strong both physically and mentally, know setbacks happen, and brush off the lumps, you’ll find success in the long term. Stay strong and good luck!!