In the fall of 2016, during an educational conference in Abingdon, the keynote speaker addressing me and my fellow teachers discussed the power of goals. Specifically, he made mention that one could increase the likelihood of realizing one’s goals by writing them down and placing them strategically, so that they could be easily seen.

A sticky note on the mirror, or an alert on your daily calendar, some sort of constant reminder, so that the goal doesn’t slip from memory.

At the time, I poo-pooed his advice, particularly when it came to my cycling. Sure, I rode. But I rode when I wanted to or when my schedule allowed for it. Didn’t get to it today? Didn’t want to hit that 5 A.M. training session or soccer practice got in the way? No biggie. I’ll get to it tomorrow. Or the next day.

As you can imagine, this strategy didn’t lead to me becoming a stronger cyclist or increasing my fitness level.

So I began 2017 with a different perspective and some semblance of a goal. Initially, it was simply to ride more, but that was really just a smidge better than my 2016 aspirations. My first real step towards establishing a goal was investing in some technology that allowed me to up my trainer game and count my inside miles. I got the necessary doo-dads and downloaded Zwift to my laptop and established my first goal of the year: 80 miles a week.

And it worked. I had friends riding on Zwift and there was something about counting those miles – and the informal competition with my buddies – that pushed me to ride more.

Once spring came and I was able to ride outside more, I made it my goal to ride 100 miles a week. A couple outside rides of 25 or so miles, coupled with my trainer sessions, got me there each week. I enjoyed the miles piling up. 2017 was shaping up to be my biggest cycling year so far, as I passed 1,000 miles, than 1,500, and then 2,000. The end of the summer had me approaching 3,000 miles. For this 45 year old cyclist, that was heady territory.

Still, there was no end goal in sight. I had flirted, unofficially, of hitting 4,000 miles for the year. But that was never concrete. Until I joined Strava, that is. I had been using the app for free the last couple years, but ponying up the cash and joining as a member allowed me to set that 4,000 mile finish line as my end goal.

That’s when the game changed. What had existed in the abstract became real. Each day, I was reminded by Strava that I was either ahead of or behind my pace. This pushed me. This was my sticky note. My riding gained a purpose, and I was able to map out each week the rides that would allow me to reach that weekly goal and maintain pace for my yearly goal.

I was moving and on a mission, but I also learned there was a darker side to goals. My weekly and yearly goal weighed on me. Multiple days off the bike caused me some occasional stress, as I knew I was slipping behind, and having 1,000 miles to go at the end of September was daunting. I took the bike on family trips, trying to sneak in some miles when I could. I even considered taking the trainer on our Thanksgiving trip to Charlottesville, and recently – when laid low by the flu with just 72 miles to go until 4,000 – I hopped on the trainer to knock out a few miles once my fever broke.

There was also a sense of sadness each Monday morning, as those weekly Strava miles reset to zero and the quest for that weekly goal began again.

On December 30th, I hit my 4,000 mile goal. I began the day with 3,988 miles on the year, and I hit the trainer for exactly 12 miles. My kids came down to hold a finish line – my wife is pretty awesome – and they made it a pretty big deal. I must admit to being pretty proud. Those 4,000 miles and 241 hours spent on the bike accounted for more exercise over any given year of my life since I was a teenager.

Goal achieved.

Now, here I sit on January 1, 2018, perhaps the cruelest of Strava Mondays. Sure, my weekly goal has reset. But those 4,000 miles I have been counting up to the last year? Also gone. 0/4,000. That’s what I see. According to Strava, I am already 11 miles behind!

Time to get riding.

4,000 miles, here I come.