CDT on the way to Tank Seven. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

Early on in the year it occurred to me that I was unlikely to meet my Outside 365 goal in 2018. Here’s one reason why: so often when we set goals like this one, goals where we seek to change our lives on an ongoing basis, we begin from ground zero. From a standing start, we intend to launch full-speed into our life change projects. 

In reality, that never works out quite the way I wish it would. Exploding off the starting blocks is a tactic for a sprint race, not for a marathon.

If there’s one skill you must learn to become a better-than-average mountain biker, it’s this: how to conserve momentum. Momentum is the key to riding a bike well. Carrying your momentum will take you up and over obstacles without requiring you to put in a lot—or any—work. Instead of looking at the steep upslope off in the distance as requiring a bunch of pedaling to climb up, if you can instead conserve your momentum from the previous downhill, you’ll sail straight up the next climb.

So before I started logging my Outside 365 days again—instead of sprinting off the starting blocks for a marathon race—I waited until I had a little momentum built up. At some point, I realized that I had inadvertently been active almost every day for a full month without even trying and in that moment, I realized I finally had the momentum required to launch back into this project. 




Some years ago, I set a goal for myself to go outside and be active every day, for 365 days straight. I embarked on the mission (again) in late 2017, and at the beginning of 2018 I wrote a manifesto about this idea

The beginning of the Outside 365 project in late 2017 wasn’t the first time I’ve begun this project. And it wasn’t to be the last. As I wrote in mid-January, if I fail, I have a very simply plan: start again.

And as it turned out… I did fail, or at least, I had to stop and take a break. I’m not quite sure how many false starts the Outside 365 project has been through over the years… but it’s been several.

Despite those numerous false starts, my commitment hasn’t wavered, and the goal has stayed (mostly) the same. Then sometime last week, I checked my logs and realized that I had been active for over 100 days in a row. In fact, today is Day 108.

Achievement—It Feels GOOD

I still have a long ways to go to reach 365 days of activity in a row, but reaching the 100-day mark feels monumental because, through perhaps half a dozen false starts, not once have I passed 100 days in a row. 

75+? Yes. 100? No… at least, not until last week.

Also within the past week, I have ticked over another milestone: moving from 29 years old to 30. By most standards, turning 30 (or any decade birthday) is a pretty big deal, and if my Instagram feed is any indication, it tends to be the cause for much celebration and pseudo-insightful musings.

As I reflected on both of these milestones, I realized something interesting: I’m much prouder of and I feel much more accomplished by reaching 100 days in my Outside 365 journey than I do reaching 30 years of age.

Here’s the thing: in order to reach 30 years of age, all I have to do is not die and I’ll have succeeded. Sadly, numerous people still don’t reach this milestone—but billions others do. 

But in order to reach 100 days of outside activity, I had to actually put in some effort. I had to try and apply myself in order to achieve that goal. I had to pull on my clothes and head outside to move my body, even if that meant walking in the pouring rain down a dark, unknown road after sunset in Norway after 30+ hours straight of traveling. 

So this week, if I’m going to truly celebrate any achievement, it won’t be turning 30 (despite the excellent party last night—thanks friends!). It will be reaching 100 days in my Outside 365 journey. 


Over the next couple of days, I’ll share a few insights and changes that I made to my approach that have allowed me to reach this milestone for the first time. 


Hogback Trail, Canon City, CO. Photo: Philip Sterling

Possibly the most important Over a Beer column that I wrote for Singletracks was titled, “How do you define success?” In it, I was earnestly seeking to understand how Singletracks readers define success in their own lives, but the piece fell pretty flat with the audience.

It has struck me more than once that earnestness doesn’t necessarily go over well with most mountain bikers, and this particular column only drove that point home. Ok, there were a handful of great responses—some from friends that I respect and admire—and for those, I am immensely grateful.

This idea of success has been stuck in my craw ever since then (almost a year now), because it strikes me as an interesting and critically important question. It is a question that each and every one of us must answer for ourselves. We must choose how we define success.

Of course, you could choose to abdicate your decision and let someone else define success for you. Perhaps you listen to a news pundit that defines success along their political or ideological lines, and you buy in wholeheartedly. Perhaps you listen to a politician and buy their definition of success. Or perhaps you’re convinced by a rich businessman or famous author. Or maybe you read a religious text that espouses a definition of success and because everyone in your circle of influence subscribes to it, you buy into that definition instead.

If we adopt someone else’s definition of success, I’m afraid that it will never hold the same kind of core foundational power, motivation, or become the driving force in our lives that it could be if we instead chose to do the work to define success for ourselves. In order to form some sort of core belief on this topic, I personally believe that we should all sit down and think about success and say, “Ok, all of these people define success in these various ways. What do I believe, and most importantly, why?” 

At the end of the day, whether or not we become “successful,” whether or not we are happy with our lives and the progress we’re making—these evaluations come down to the metrics that we’re using, the goalposts and mile markers that we’re measuring against. If we’ve chosen the wrong goalposts, the wrong definition of success, we’ll never be successful.


Or perhaps worse: we’ll be “successful” at completely wrong and ultimately, utterly meaningless things. 
Trail: Tank Seven. Rider: Yours Truly. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

I had the opportunity recently to sit down and chat with Ben Welnak of Mountain Bike Radio. We spoke a bit about my history, but ended up doing a bit of a deep dive into what could--for lack of a better term--be called the philosophy of mountain bike media. I may have gotten a touch overly philosophical, but hey--that's par for the course. If you're interested, check out the recording here:

Sunshine Trail, Telluride, CO. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

When I think about planning for the future, the math makes sense. 

Work hard now, save and invest, and then in the future you’ll have more money and more time. Take a few days off of riding now to prevent overtraining, so you can ride longer and harder next weekend. Get surgery now so you don’t need a full knee replacement in 15 years.

The math and the logic always make sense. Put in the time now, get the reward later. We’re even taught that the ability to delay gratification is a form of maturity, and the desire for instant gratification is a childish longing that we ought to grow out of with age.

The irony is that while the math of delayed gratification adds up on paper, in real life it rarely seems to work that way. Yes, we can skip a few bike rides in order to let our legs recover… only to get to the planned weekend ride and have the skies open up and pour rain, or what was a set of sniffles transform into a full-blown knock-you-onto-the-couch head cold.

We try to delay gratification for the hope of an even better life in the future, and while I want to think that the spreadsheet knows best, the spreadsheet can never account for all of the actual happenings and random chance events in the real world.

Those random chance events? Collectively we refer to them as “life." 

This year, more than any other year, has forced me to redefine what it means for me to be outside in nature, living fully immersed in the moment, connected to the rawness of my own existence. Or perhaps, this year hasn't forced me to redefine this type of visceral experience, but rather rediscover something that perhaps I had lost. 

For years when I faced injury, I would focus on recovering. Returning to what I had been doing before. All of my energy would be channeled into not only rehabilitation, but longing for something I had lost—if but temporarily.

While I think I personally need that drive in order to return to the things I am most passionate about, this year I have found myself dissatisfied with the idea of simply waiting around to get better. Part of this, granted, was likely forced upon me by an unexpectedly protracted recovery period… from my perspective. 

The point here is that I am no longer willing to simply wait around for my situation to improve. I’m not even willing to be satisfied with just working slowly toward improvement in my own situation. Instead, I have been asking myself, “what can I do with the amount of wellness that I have, right here and right now, in order to go outside and live?”


While planning for the future and working toward what will hopefully be an even better future is a part of life, at the same time, the only moment we are guaranteed is the moment that we are presently in. How can we make the most of it? 

On my most recent Monarch Crest ride, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. While many riders on this busy Saturday morning stopped to take in the view, some riders, on the other hand, powered straight by, offering up sarcastic remarks—bordering on condescending—for those who were stopping to enjoy the surreal beauty afforded by the mountaintop views.

While I’m not one to sling comments at other riders unnecessarily as I ride by, I do think that for years I was one of those riders, in the sense that I would charge as hard as possible, all the time.

But one thing I’ve realized recently?

Even as a Salida local, if I get 6-8 Monarch Crest rides in per year, every single one of those rides is a rare moment to be treasured, even though I'll log many, many more hours on the Crest than the average tourist.

Personally, if I could get above treeline and hang out on the mountaintops every single day, I would. But that’s not the present reality of my life or my physical health. So when I DO get to journey to the mountaintop—those are moments to be savored, not blasted through with my heart rate through the roof.

Sure, we all ride for different reasons, and maybe those people were way more hardcore than me and were heading out on an epic. (But then why did they ride up in the shuttle?)

Regardless of their unique motivations, I have personally resolved to take it a little bit slower every time I head up above the trees. Especially when riding the Crest and I know I can get down and out of danger quickly if storms build, I've now resolved to take more time to savor the experience of the crisp alpine air, the expansive views in all directions, the changing perspective of the mountains as the sun moves and the clouds float over, and the crunch of gravel beneath my tires.

Sure, my Strava times may suffer. But I’d rather hang out on top of a 12,000-foot mountain than in a parking lot gas station in Poncha Springs any day.
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