Wednesday, June 27, 2007

T-shirt not included

I am feeling much better about my knee today. I put in an hour of interval "running" on the elliptical trainer and didn't even notice the kickback. The soreness seems to be fading almost as quickly as the after-ride fatigue. I think I just had to vent a little yesterday. It just wouldn't be my blog if I didn't complain about my knee.

I also spent a decent part of the morning pouring over the logistics of the Yukon Gold Ultra. It's a 100-mile mountain bike or trail run held in Whitehorse at the end of July. I had looked over elevation profiles and maps and rules and was nearly definite on wanting to do it until I came across the price.

$400 CDN. Ouch.

Triple-digit entry fees seem to be the norm for most ultra-biking events. I can't say I blame organizers. There's a huge amount of work involved in putting these races together - marking out dozens of miles of trail, positioning volunteers, enticing participants with T-shirts and decorative mugs. The price is likely justified, but it definitely puts events like the Yukon Gold Ultra out of my reach.

If I really wanted to ride a summertime hundie, I feel like I could map out my own course, support my own self, and be happier with the experience in the long run. I can see this becoming my longterm trend. I think as I become more immersed into the world of endurance cycling, I will find myself wading further from organized "races." This seems to be a habit for a lot of people - evident in the recent explosion of popularity in grassroots endurance rides: Kokopelli Trail, Arizona Trail, Kaibab Monstercross, Grand Loop, Great Divide. All self-supported. All only loosely organized. All free.

These events had their fair share of growing pains this year, with government regulation filtering in, fines, and participants haggling about the "rules" of the ride. I think the result of this is that some of the events are going to blow up into "real" races, with thousand-dollar entry fees. And some will slip further underground. I'm beginning to think I'd like to follow the underground crowd.

As for planning (and training for) the rest of my summer, I'd still like to ride the loop between Haines and Skagway (especially now that I have driven the Skagway-to-Whitehorse leg and am more terrified of it than ever.) I may try to head out to Anchorage in September for the Soggy Bottom 100 if I can swing the travel costs (though as I recall, with a $60 entry fee, this event is more reasonable than most.)

But beyond that, I like knowing that the sky's the limit. I'd love to plan a long mountain bike ride in the Whitehorse area. But I don't have to hold myself to the confines of the Yukon Gold Ultra if I'm willing to do my own legwork. And for $400, I could definitely afford to do a little legwork. It's hard to be self-motivated. But at the same time, I believe it also makes accomplishments more rewarding. I can see myself perched on a ridgeline in a frigid downpour, gasping for breath and trying to choke down a Clif Bar, all the while knowing that if I just turned around right there, nobody would care. There would be no DNF attached to my name if I quit; no win if I continued. To move forward in those conditions - cold, tired and absolutely anonymous - would, I think, be a great test of mental strength. It builds the kind of confidence you can keep in the vault for years.

And there are so many options out there for that kind of adversity. After all, $400 will buy a decent plane ticket. (Or a ferry ride to Prince of Wales Island. Hundreds of miles of abandoned logging roads in Southeast Alaska. Anyone else game? I could name the event the "Rain and Tears Trail Race.")

I still think it's going to be a great summer.