Quitting Intentionally vs Giving Up
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
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The cyclist dipped the back wheel of his bicycle into Lake Huron and then lined up for the 6AM start of the event. Cyclists at this event, which is held in late June, aspired to ride from the east to the west coast of Michigan traversing mainly gravel roads, totaling 210+ miles in one day.
This rider had left nothing to chance. He planned and exhaustively prepared for every contingency of this race. He had subjected himself to countless progressively longer training rides in every condition over the past year, especially the heat. As the service manager in a popular local bike shop in Virginia, this rider was knowledgeable about all the latest and best strategies for setting out on an adventure like this. His impressive array of gear on this “self-supported” ride included items like pickle juice, electrolyte capsules, multiple flashing headlights for his helmet and bike, numerous water bottles filled with water and electrolytes, a special high-visibility Wave Cell helmet & arm warmers, packs with extra tubes on his bike, a hydration pack, all manner of energy foods, cue sheets, a Garmin, and much more.
At this event the previous year he had been stopped after 108 miles by a tornado warning; however, he had every reason to believe that he would redeem himself by finishing the event this year. Besides, he was a well-established endurance athlete, having completed long-distance events like the Ironman triathlon, marathons, and multi-day charity bike rides. Perhaps he could even shoot for the “sunset award” for those who completed this grueling event by sunset, which was around 9:30PM.
Riders had to go through several checkpoints to confirm their progress and whereabouts. Support people were allowed to be at the checkpoints for their rider, but accepting help on the route itself would result in a DNF, essentially disqualifying the rider.
Fast forward to the third checkpoint, which occurred at mile 178 in a beautiful state park. This very fit and prepared man pulled into the parking lot at approximately 10:30PM where his family including his dog awaited him. Having ridden through extreme heat, gravel, & sand behind farm equipment that kicked up dust, followed by riding downhill in chilly rain for 16½ hours, enduring 3 crashes, and logging 9 extra miles after taking a wrong turn, he expressed the will to keep going. Would his family please mix 2 more bottles of electrolyte drink?
He suddenly needed to sit down, thinking that he would have to throw up. He then lay down on his side. Maybe if he just rested a little, he would be good to go. But the desire to sleep was so great!
His family asked him some questions to truly determine whether he would be able to continue. This event had been so important to him that the decision could not be made lightly.
Yet it was clear he was not in great condition. Pale and mildly disoriented, he recognized that his body had become unable to accept nutrition despite being in such a depleted state.
My husband wisely agreed to stop.
We later learned about some of the casualties of the race. One cyclist Rob passed had crashed his bike, breaking his collarbone, and was headed to the hospital. An older couple had come across that rider by chance and called for an ambulance. Riders had ridden into the third checkpoint, completely demoralized, crying, delirious, and throwing up loudly. When we reached our hotel, one panicked support person asked if we knew how to backtrack the course as her rider was in an emergency situation. Only a mere 57% of the field finished the course.
Rob won that night by playing it smart. He averted what could have been a disaster. He was a good role model for our 16-year-old son. He considered the potential effect that continuing late into the night would have on his worried family. He made a reasonable decision in an unreasonable situation. I am prouder of him for making this decision than if he had pressed on. This decision was heroic.
It can be very tough to decide to “quit” something we have committed ourselves to and worked hard for. Maybe we have put a lot of time, money, or energy into some goal. We equate quitting with failure. There is the necessary grief for the associated loss.
Nevertheless, maybe sometimes it is the wise and reasonable decision to intentionally stop doing something that is proving to be out of alignment with our values and/or incompatible with good health. By doing so, we can interrupt self-sabotaging patterns. In this instance, Rob interrupted a pattern of exhausting himself in the name of completing something regardless of the consequences.
The difference between intentionally quitting something and giving up is the spirit in which it is done. Intentionally quitting something is an empowered choice and can be followed by learning & growth. Giving up reflects victimhood, resignation, and disempowerment.
What might you need to “quit” in order to live your best life?