Last weekend, Heidi and I went with a bunch of friends down to Logan, Utah to ride in the Cache GranFondo bicycle race. This race is a charity fundraiser wherein all proceeds are used to help women without insurance get mammograms each year. It’s been a terrific success – they’ve raised some ~$80,000 over the last couple years – and we were happy to help with the cause.
It was an absolutely beautiful morning for a ride. Cache Valley is stunning this time of year (see the video footage below). Riders could choose from the 54-mile course or the 102-mile course. We were sissies and chose the 54-mile course. That was long enough.
Riding 54 miles on a hard bike seat gives you plenty of time to think about things. And although I could draw out all the usual parallels between a successful investing experience and riding a bike for that long – like how saving and investing is a marathon, not a sprint, and that you need to keep the long view – I also concluded a couple others:
Distractions help. In a good way. The thought of going 54 miles on a bike is hard to get excited about. But with check stations every 15-20 miles, I convinced myself I was not doing a 54 mile ride, but rather a series of 16-17 mile rides with a short water break in between.
Somewhere around mile 5 (only 49 more to go), I realized I drank waaaayy too much water and Gatorade before the race started and all I could think about was how far away that first check station – and accompanying porta-potty – at mile 19 was. From mile 19 to the next check station at mile 30 (only 24 more to go…), my knee started hurting, forcing me to concentrate on correcting my body mechanics. Somewhere between mile 30 and mile 40, I enjoyed a long conversation with an old friend that somehow chewed up another 8 miles. When the trip odometer on my computer clicked past the 45-mile mark, all I could think about was that we were within 10 miles of a really good celebratory lunch at the finish line and our pace quickened a little.
Likewise, if all we focus on while investing is what happened in the markets this month, it will be a really long 54 miles. But if I can instead focus on worthwhile ‘distractions’ – raising a family, advancing my career, volunteering in the community – the 54 miles will click by before you know it. Rather than focusing on 4 decades of saving and investing and instead look forward to some of life’s ‘checkpoints’ – oldest child getting her driver’s license, youngest child graduating high school, first grandchild being born, etc., the 54-mile ride becomes a series of shorter, more palatable adventures.
It’s not the bike, it’s the rider. In the grand scope of bicycle gear, Heidi and I have pretty modest setups. Certainly not top of the line, but not junk either. Some of the folks at the starting line were intimidating with their $5,000 setups – I knew I didn’t stand a chance competing against those studs. But I giggled every time we caught up to and passed someone huffing-and-puffing on a $4,000 carbon fiber bike. What initially looked so intimidating turned out to not be much of a threat at all as the rider was so out of shape. They were hoping their lack of preparation could be made up by using the latest and greatest (and most expensive) technology. Sure, the lightweight carbon fiber probably made a slight difference, but it was the amount of training and preparation of the rider that had the biggest impact on the outcome.
Like the rider who waited until just a couple days before the race to start training, if we wait until late in our life to ‘get serious’ about retirement, no amount of fancy lightweight technology will get us there. The long-distance race will go to those that started early, trained smart, and stayed disciplined when the winds were blowing.
The only way to get to that 54th mile is to first cover the 53 miles in front of it. Saving a million dollars is easy. You just need to put away 1 dollar, and then another, and then another, and repeat that 1 million times. But most of America will never even make it to $500,000, because they never made it to $400,000, because they never made it to $300,000, because they never made it to $200,000. Saving the first $100,000 is the hardest part.
You can’t go 54 miles without first going 5 miles. And then 10 miles. And then 15 miles. Mile after mile, pedal-stroke after pedal-stroke, you just have to stay committed to the finish line. It’s hard work. I burned close to 3,000 calories that morning, pushing one leg in front of the other until we crossed the finish line. It’s the same with saving and investing.
My videographer buddy Tyler shot this video the day of the race as a family tribute for my other buddy Derek (wearing the blue shirt in the video) who runs a clothing company and was riding for a special reason this year. It has a pretty touching message for anyone who’s ever been affected by cancer. Enjoy: