Friday, June 22, 2007

The longest day

"I'm an American on the Canadian Shield
And I'm putting down roots in your frozen fields
It gets cold but you feel so good to be a stranger in town
Where you're understood" - Sam Roberts

The sun rose today at 3:51 a.m. It set at 10:08 p.m. More than 18 hours of full daylight, six more of varying levels of twilight, but the day doesn’t really feel that long. It will this weekend.

I spent the morning prepping my bike, organizing my gear, debating whether or not I’m going to bring a frilly dress to wear during the late-night loops. I’m taking a minimalist mantra with the 24 Hours of Light - minimal effort, that is - so every second spent trying to pry rusted parts off my snow bike and not reading GDR updates felt like an indulgent waste of time. But I guess it is important that my mountain bike have some sort of headlight mounted on it, despite promises that there's no need (I know twilight can get dark 'neath the black spruce shadows.) Also better if I don't continue to ride on the worst seat I own. It wasn't much, but I was working slow enough that I had still wasn't done by the time I left for work.

Geoff has been pressing me about what I’m going to eat during the race in Whitehorse. I don’t really know and kind of like not knowing. I’m curious to see if I can make a go of the provided race foods, be it French fries with gravy or those ketchup-flavored potato chips (you know, Canadian food.) But just in case, I have a stash of 10 Power Bars, 10 “Finding Nemo” fruit snack baggies, and some turkey jerky. I’m totally prepared.

Geoff also has been pressing me to form a “best-case scenario” plan. This would be my set plan to stop myself at a certain point should I by some miracle make it through more than several laps and still feel as amped as a roller derby star on speed. Truthfully, I don’t have a plan because the best-case scenario has drifted far from my thoughts. I’m too busy limping on the wrong knee to be worried about the right one. I’m vaguely aware of forecasts for thunderstorms and rain and cold and honestly, I hope they come true. They’ll give Geoff and his Juneau training a real advantage, and I have some New Yorker magazines I’ve been meaning to catch up on. I’m totally prepared.

But I think the most important thing about keeping my preparations on the pseudo level is that I’m completely at ease right now. Last year - just about exactly a year ago - I was nauseated with anxiety for days before the 24 Hours of Kincaid. It was an unnerving state, because Kincaid was my “C” race and the one I thought would be the easiest (in some ways, it was.) Still, it was 24 hours on a bicycle, an idea I would have never been able to even wrap my head around if it wasn’t for a fairly arduous Susitna 100. I had a vague idea that I could ride the duration of the race, but not fast, and I was sick with the kind of performance anxiety that dictates that you must do something badly in order to succeed at all.

Then I lined up at the start. I took an early wrong turn, had to backtrack nearly a mile, and ended up chasing the back of the pack. Kincaid was a tightly-wound 10.5-mile loop, made mostly of steep gravel pitches and teeth-chattering drops over rocks and roots. My heart rate was through the roof and I was sick to my stomach by mile 6. It was about then that something clicked. I was trying too hard. I was taking the race too seriously. Did it really matter that there was no one behind me? I had 24 hours to get it right. So I calmed my breathing, slowed my stroke, and rode my way to fifth place. Overall. Top third. I had made peace with my inner turtle. All was sublime.

So now I head into the 24 Hours of Light a three-legged turtle (well, more like two; it’s too bad I don’t have one of those bikes you can pedal with your arms.) I definitely don’t have any expectations for myself because I didn’t train, didn’t plan, and haven't even healed completely from my injury(s).

So my best-case scenario? It’s that I’m even able to ride at all. I’d like to keep it that way. The rest is just detail.

Wish me luck. And some pictures for the weekend:

Another view of Nugget Falls. I think the falls themselves are more striking without the glacier in the photo.

I have to file this one under my "Sometimes I have way too much fun with the self timer" folder.