Friday, February 02, 2007

Serenity now

Date: Feb. 1
Mileage: 12.1
February mileage: 12.1
Temperature upon departure: 30

There's something fundamentally wrong about walking with a bike. I mean, sure, it's a machine created for the sole purpose of propelling a rider. And sure, it's pretty pointless otherwise. But still ... what is it about the simple motion of pushing a bicycle that can reduce an otherwise rational cyclist to a sputtering, jello-legged heap on the verge of going Frank Costanza on that useless piece of ...

I don't know. I do know that it's something I need to steel myself against, so today I deliberately headed to a seldom-used backcountry ski trail, which, on a warm day like today, I expected to only be marginally rideable - if at all. It was an intentional hike-a-bike, and all started according to plan. The first mile and a half of narrow singletrack was great fun as long as I kept the intense focus required to stay on the trail. Then it became softer and punchier, until only a single divided ski track separated the "trail" from an endless pile of soft, halfway rotten snow.

So I walked. And walked. And rode a couple yards. And walked some more. And walked. And hit my calves with my pedals. And walked. And dragged my bike on its side when the snow became to deep to roll it through. And walked. And hoisted the bike on my shoulders for a while. And trudged.

And I remembered why I don't like riding with an odometer. I always feel like it's judging me. At one point I post-holed up to my thigh and had to leverage the bike to dig myself out. As I took a few quick leaps out of the hole and hoisted the bike over the drift, all the while gasping for breath while sweat poured down my forehead, I watched the odometer register 1.2 mph. Why must you mock me? You have no idea what this is really like!

You laugh ... but pushing's a vital skill to any well-rounded snow biker. I neglect it for the same reason I neglect lifting weights. The very act makes me question everything from my sanity to my existence. After about two hours I had covered five miles. I crawled over to the river bank and sat defeated in the snow. Sunlight poured through the still-frosted trees and shimmered in the mist over the river. My all-encompassing thoughts about five miles being a dismal distance and I need to get up right now ... those thoughts dissolved almost instantly. I pushed in deeper to make a comfortable seat in the snow and pulled a peanut butter sandwich out of my pack. And suddenly, I wasn't out on a torturous hike-a-bike. I was having a nice, sunny-day picnic. I decided to stay for a while.

I think Brij Potnis, the cyclist who came in first during the unending horror-ride that was the 2005 Susitna 100, put it best when he said, "Why suffer now when you can suffer later?"

Thanks, Brij