Saturday, January 06, 2007

Goal driven

Date: Jan. 6
Mileage: 25.1
January mileage: 149.6
Temperature upon departure: 31

I am slowly amassing my Susitna 100 gear collection. I had all the gear last year, but because Geoff signed up for this year's race, and all of that gear belongs to him, I pretty much had to start from scratch. Yesterday, I ordered a -20 degree-rated sleeping bag. I'm not going to admit what brand it is or how much I paid for it, because it's embarrassingly low (yes, I know this bag could save my life. It's not cheap because it's ineffective. It's cheap because it's heavy :-) 6.1 pounds, actually. But I figured since I barely made the 15-pound weight cutoff last year, an extra pound or two won't be too hard to shave off elsewhere. As for the rest of my gear, I still need a bivy sack, a small closed-cell sleeping pad and some kind of lightweight mid-sized drybag that I can strap to the top of a bike rack. If anyone out there has this kind of gear lying around and doesn't need it before early March, maybe we could work out a lending deal. I'll pay all the shipping costs and ... I'll send it back with a delicious batch of energy-packed pumpkin cookies. I'm actually serious. Let me know.

I've been thinking about setting some goals for this year's race. Last year, my goal was to survive, to keep all of my fingers and toes, and if all that happened, to finish ... maybe. I'd like to set the bar a little higher this year. Actually, a lot higher. I'd like to shave 8 hours off my time. For a 100-mile race, this probably seems pretty extreme. What's even more extreme is how little control I actually have over my finishing time. I figure that, of the variables that will determine my final time, my physical fitness counts for about 10 percent. Mental condition is another 10 percent. How well my gear and bike holds up matters to the tune of 20 percent, and the overall trail conditions make up the final 60 percent. I base this equation on last year's race, which took me 25 hours to finish. The first 50 miles were a very comfortable, very leisurely 8 hours. The last 50, in which I essentially returned on the exact same trail I came out on, were a 17-hour slog through the colder levels of Hell. What changed? The trail conditions. That's all. The trail is All.

Given that Great Unknown, I still think I can do the race in 16 hours, and I'd really like to try. I have six weeks to prepare. I'm going to try to put in more trail time during the coming weeks, more high-heart-rate intervals (probably indoors), longer distance days and more weight training (I will be strong. Carry loaded bicycle like ox.) It's probably going to be a huge time suck. But oh well. It's January. What else am I going to do? Go snowboarding? And Geoff is so busy training to be ultramarathon man, he won't even notice that I'm gone all the time. It might even be fun.

Alas, all this counts for is 10 percent. But it's the 10 percent I can control. Now where do I begin?