Try Googling ‘quotes about quitting’ and you get a torrent of crap telling you stuff like:
Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit. – Vince Lombardi
It’s always too early to quit. – Norman Vincent Peale
and there’s a bunch more here. Go on – gorge yourself, you’re a winner right?
I used to believe all this winners never quit, quitters never win rubbish too. Then one morning in May 2009 I found myself sat on the highway at about 6am somewhere near Horsham in bits (mentally) with my time trial bike beside me. And I finally had the good sense to quit. How did I come to be there…?
I started time trialling in 2006, and boy did I suck at it. Imagine turning up for a competitive sporting event and knowing you weren’t gonna be last cos Mr Hopeless is in the house. Yeah – that was me. And I kept going. And I found a coach. And I got better. In 2008 I set personal bests at all regular distances up to and including 100 miles. I won the Southern Counties 10 mile handicap and came fifth in the Southern Counties 100 mile handicap, and achieved a placing in the Southern Counties Best All Rounder. I was a winner, yay me!
Then in 2009 on an early season ride I lost control of my bike on a steep descent. I wobbled into the path of oncoming traffic at about 40mph and somehow, managed to avoid a disaster. I arrived at the bottom of the hill dazed and confused. I continued and finished the ride, taking all the downhills veeeery gently. I didn’t realise at the time, but something broke inside me that day. I’d lost my bottle – [noun] British informal the courage or confidence needed to do something difficult or dangerous.
I started to DNF (did not finish) in races. I’d never DNF’d previously, winners don’t DNF (apart from when their bike falls apart), right? I found myself no longer able to ride at speed. As I accelerated the road in front of me, which I knew to be a level strip of tarmac, would appear to change so that I saw myself riding along a razor sharp ridge with a huge drop either side. The faster I went, the steeper and crazier I saw the angle. I kept entering for races, and with one exception, I kept DNF ing.
What followed next was a stupid crash. A school boy error. One evening as I rode my bike through a local tram station at around 20mph, my front wheel snagged in the tram tracks. I was catapulted over the bike and used my arse as a brake. Ouch! This crash compounded the problem. I had hypnotherapy to try and help. Winners never quit right?
I decided to take a short break and targeted the 2009 Southern Counties 10 mile time trial as my come back event. I know, the course, no big hills, I’d won the handicap the year before. What could possibly go wrong? I could go wrong. About a half mile into the race I broke down and that’s how I came to be sitting on the highway near Horsham.
The next time you need inspiration and you Google stuff about winners never quit, go waaaay down to the bottom of the pile. Down there you will find a handful of stuff like:
Of all the stratagems, to know when to quit is the best. – Chinese Proverb
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it. – W.C. Fields
Yes it’s a fine line. Yes most people quit too soon. And yes, WC Fields was right.
Nowadays I prefer to ride offroad where in all honesty I probably take much bigger risks bombing down muddy trails than I ever took while racing. But hey – I’m riding my bike and I’m enjoying it. And in case you are interested, I always used to stick my tongue out when I raced.