Approaches to Challenge and Self Imposed Limits

Approaches to Challenge and Self Imposed Limits

📅July 29th, 2015, 19:56

This week we share a special guest post from one of our members, Bob Kuehn. Characterized by Garmin as a “lifetime athlete”, Bob has a vast background in sports and exercise science from which to draw as he continues his journey as an sports enthusiast.  

“I don’t know that I really fit in with the jocks, but I’ve aways done sports” is how he remembers his formative years in high school where he was a competitive swimmer and a life guard. Following a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science, he spent a decade working for the state of Oregon in an Outward Bound styled program for adjudicated youth. He retuned to school in 1985 at Oregon State University and studied Athletic Training and Exercise Science gaining a post baccalaureate degree. Several years as an personal trainer in the Eugene, Oregon area followed. A desire to follow two passions, powder skiing and cycling, led to a career in both industries doing bike fits, turning wrenches, and working as a boot fitter in the winter. He now lives in Bend still pursuing those two passions.

His post will recap his latest adventure, which features a two-week bike tour of the European Alps with his partner in crime, Susan. He shares a unique perspective that all athletes of every background can relate to!  Thanks Bob! 

Preparation, Anticipation, and Expectation: Approaches to Challenge and Self Imposed Limits


As athletes we are on a constant journey. The voyage is at once mental and physical as we seek both improvement in performance and expanded life experience. Limits are as often self imposed as not; our mission in life to expand them.

In June and early July of this year, my girlfriend and partner Susan and I embarked on a venture to ride and climb in the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland. Not a light undertaking, we began preparation and training a year in advance. Indeed one could offer that we had been training for this throughout our lives. Our methods of preparation were similar and diverse; as were our feelings of readiness.


Winter training began indoors in December and by late January with mild weather embracing the Pacific Northwest we were riding on the roads. By May I felt we were close to ready while Susan was still unsure, but in less than a month we would be in Europe. Late winter and spring, we logged far more miles and climbed more vertical than in other seasons. We had both ridden in Europe, and my confidence level of our readiness was high. 


June found us in Alba, Italy, and we met the seven other cyclists that were on the trip.  As it turned out we were in with an amazingly strong, experienced, and motivated group.  My confidence and expectation remained high through the first day of riding. The second day
shook both our worlds on the hardest climb neither of us had ever heard of: The Colle Sampeyre.samp700 The following day my expectation shattered further on the Colle d’ Agnello; a remarkably beautiful, aesthetic, and difficult beyond category (HC) climb. On the cold and wind-swept fog-draped summit, I sat in the team van, quadriceps seizing in cramps, physically defeated, and mentally dejected. I chose to continue on and descended with Susan and began the climb of the second HC climb of the day, the Col d’ Izoard.  Susan was steady, solid, consistent.  I recovered both physically and mentally on the climb. Form continued to improve for both of us as we rode farther along into the Alps. The following days saw us climb three cols in a day, two beyond category the last being the Col d’ Iseran; the highest paved road in the Alps. We rode our bikes to incredibly beautiful places; pushing our bodies beyond what we may have imagined in pursuit of our goal.


Pre dinner meetings discussing the next day’s climb and route ignited inner excitement along with self doubt. We both were faced with the hardest physical challenge on the bike we had ever encountered as well as our inner fears and demons. We had come to ride our bikes; to climb classic and lesser known passes in the Alps, not to ride in the van. Susan expressed it best perhaps saying that each day she was unsure if she could ride the planned course but she would never know if she didn’t try. That statement is key to success; on the bike and off.


If sport is a metaphor for life, than perhaps endurance sports are the strongest parallel. In life, as in sport, we face limits and we can not know if we can stretch these boundaries if we do not try.  

In a shade over two weeks, we had ridden over 650 miles and climbed in excess of 85,000 vertical feet. While the distance traveled was somewhat reasonable, the climbing was far beyond anything we had done. Our form improved markedly by the second week, a result of our preparation and also knowing when to take a rest day; we took two.

Our mental view of what is possible is now forever changed; our self imposed limits very much expanded. What we learned about ourselves and each other through sport transfers to all aspects of our lives. We may not succeed, but if we do not try we will never know what is possible.

-Bob Kuehn