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The Bridge Between Impossible and Possible

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

Joe here – 435 miles into the 735 mile record attempt from Malin Head, the most Northerly point in Ireland, to Mizen head, the most Southerly point in Ireland and back again I lost belief in my ability to keep moving forward.

Maybe I lost it on the rough roads, in the headwind, fighting sleep deprivation or hailstones, it really doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, it slowly vanished.

I could feel my second record attempt circling the drain. The negative voice in my head gathered steam and the effort to maintain my belief simply became a burden too heavy to bear.

We’ve all been there in some form or another, haven’t we? It is a profoundly lonely, desolate place. No one can reach you. You can’t even reach you.

So at 435 miles I made an excuse to stop the bike. I planted my feet on the ground, looked up at the team and said, “it’s not possible, I can’t”.

They paused and then responded, “Joe, just keep the bike moving forward, we’ll work it out.”

We say that a lot at Team Joe Barr, after all it is the most fundamental thing we do.

Move. Forward.

Of course it’s the most fundamental thing we do in life as well.

False platitudes in desolate times like these are misplaced.

If they had yelled, ‘come on Joe you can do it’….I can argue with them…I’m waiting to argue with them... I’m desperate to argue with them…I would have yelled back…”I can’t’.

All that does is reinforce my position, which is one of disbelief.

A loss of belief is a mental game and my crew plays it well.

At 435 miles, after the team got me slowly moving again, the car became a hive of activity. They knew that to dismantle my state of disbelief they would first need solid data. It’s hard to argue with that.

They calmly came back with various calculations and ‘what if’ scenarios. It encouraged me to think about possibility versus total impossibility.

Ian finished that conversation from the car window with a firm, “it’s possible” before shutting the window on me.

It wasn’t a miraculous fix by any stretch of the imagination but it was enough to halt the ‘down the drain’ mental death spiral.

While I kept the bike moving forward I gave the ‘what if’ scenarios some space. It was a relief to let them hang in the air around me. I became lighter.

And as I noticed that feeling an interesting thought appeared.

What if I didn’t have to believe? What if I simply suspended my disbelief for a while? That might give me some respite from myself.

For the next couple of hours I rode freely in a suspended state not needing to believe or disbelieve. (of note: my speed came up by about 2mph).

The crew simply followed, they kept me nourished, talked calmly to me, all of which allowed me the space to transition into a state of ‘possible’. It also helped of course that the morning was coming. Never underestimate the promise of a new day.

At about 500miles it became possible again. Not certain. I knew it would be an almighty battle but I was up for it. The rest is history.

I now know that the bridge between impossible and possible is a suspension bridge.

Consciously suspending my disbelief was the defining choice of this race.

My advice, if you arrive in a situation where belief is a bridge too far, you might try suspending your disbelief. And while you do that just keep yourself in forward motion. Doesn’t have to be at any particular speed….simple forward motion will do.

Possibility can and likely will reappear but it needs to find you moving.

I’m looking forward to some slow steady miles in the coming weeks. This particular recovery will take some time so if you see me please come and share a mile or two.

Until next time happy riding and I’ll see you on the road…..


Interested in learning how to go further? Check out The Endurance Workshop

with Team Joe Barr.

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