The button was labeled, "Click Here For Lifespan Calculator". I had just spent several minutes answering a series of questions about my lifestyle, health and ancestry. Now the results were about to appear on my laptop screen - "Expected Lifespan 98 years". 98 years? 98? I was so disappointed. I had planned to live to be 100 years old, and the lifespan calculator said I may live to be only 98. Immediately I began thinking - what could I do to get those other two years back. (I thought about retaking the survey, and lying on it.) It would be so dissatisfying to die two years before my goal. There had to be a way to get those two years back! Close - no cigar is unacceptable.
By now you're beginning to see a part of my personality which exasperates my wife and my friends. I always set the bar too high. Then I'm disappointed with the subsequent but predictable failure. Finally, I tack the adverb "only" onto the achievement as if it now no longer represents anything but a less than an acceptable effort.
For example, every time I leave the house for a training ride, I have an idea of where I plan to ride and although I haven't mapped out the route using a computer mapping tool, I have an expectation of how many miles it is likely to be. After all, I've ridden these roads many times, and can predict with some success (or so I often think) how far it is from here to there. During the ride, I never look at the odometer. I always wait until I roll into my drive - then I check. And each time, I'm disappointed. It seems to always be slightly fewer miles than I had hoped for. If I plan a 60 mile ride, I may wind up with only 57 miles. When I plan for 80, it's usually 71.
You might think that a 57 mile training ride would satisfy me. It would, if I'd planned on riding 55 miles. But when I plan to ride 60, 57 feels like failure. It feels like a big waste of time. All I can do to wait until tomorrow and try again. Even if the ride has met or surpassed every other training expectation and has filled my little brain with endorphins, when I roll fewer miles than I had planned I fall into a mild depression upon discovering it. I hate falling short, especially falling only a little short of my goals.
I rode the century ride in Mt. Vernon last August. I had decided to ride solo - no drafting - and planned to average 18 miles per hour for the entire 110 miles. (The century in Mt. Vernon has bonus miles on it.) I figured that a good strategy would be to start strong and put some mph in the bank that I could draw off of if I hit a head wind or some other energy sapping, ride slowing phenomena. I ignored the first rest stop as the other riders stopped to refill and chat. Checking my mph avg, I saw that it was 21. I felt strong, so I figured that I must have a tailwind, and kept going. A group came alongside and invited me to join. I waved them on. I had a goal that didn't include drafting with a group. I ignored the next stop; I still had enough supplies on the bike and on my back. I checked the speedometer. 19.5 mph avg. "OK. A little off, but manageable. I was 40 miles into the ride and still felt good, so this might be doable after all," I reasoned.
Somewhere around mile 60 I started to feel nauseous. The day was hot, and there wasn't a patch of shade in sight. I had been consuming Perpetuem as a paste for several hours now, and I didn't feel as if I could force down another swallow. I concentrated on drinking water until the next rest stop. Mph? 18.4. Still OK. I did stop at this rest stop. I refilled my bottles and ate a small bag of pretzels. I was hoping the salt and carbohydrates would help. I poured cold water over my head until I began to feel less like Johnny Flame and more like my old happy self. Rolling back onto the road which was shimmering in the noon heat, I kept a close eye on my average mph. Soon it was down to 18.1. Damn. In the heat, and with a building nausea, I knew it might be impossible to keep it above 18. All I could do now was ride hard and hope harder. But as the miles added up on the odometer, the mph avg declined.
By the time I finished that afternoon, I had ridden over 100 miles without drafting but had managed an average speed of only 17.3 miles per hour. I was completely depressed. You'd think that I might be happy. That's not bad for an ordinary cyclist who was approaching 50 years old. But I had aimed at 18 mph avg. and hit only 17.3 mph avg. Close - no cigar was not acceptable.
Now you can understand why I will die unhappily at only 98. I want to be 100. When I sat down last night at the computer and logged onto the lifespan calculator, I expected that I would be a centenarian upon my demise. But some smart people (and an even smarter electronic machine) were now telling me that I'll finish just short of the goal. Never mind that lots of people would be happy to turn 98. I would be only 98. I would not have made it to 100.
Even now, I'm making plans to lose a little more weight, floss more regularly, use sunscreen when I ride and change my ancestry to a family who has never had heart disease, cancer or diabetes. You might not mind being only 98 when you die, but I want to be 100. Close - no cigar is unacceptable.