Monday, July 23, 2007

Is there enough?

Date: July 22
Mileage: 43.3
July mileage: 643.0
Temperature upon departure: 61
Inches of rain today: .87"

I had a good session at the gym today - some heavy lifting and hard maximum-heart-rate intervals on the elliptical machine. Just 90 minutes and I feel sore. Always a good sign.

I am trying to weigh some knee fears against a desire to "peak" this week. What am a trying to peak for? Nothing, really. A long weekend. A vacation. A road ride in August. It will probably be the hardest single ride I've attempted to date.

I want to be in good shape for this thing because I don't think I'll be able to fake it. I want to ride the broken loop between Haines and Skagway in a 48-hour "overnight" ride. It's about 360 miles of rough pavement and stretches of gravel, mostly in northern Canada. I believe that the sketchy road conditions, remoteness of the area and climbing will make it more akin to a smooth mountain bike ride - sorta like parts of the Great Divide route.

Bicycle tourists usually take the better part of seven days to ride this route. What makes me think I can ride it in 48 hours, including an overnight bivy? I have no idea. I don't even have a convincing explaination. But I do know that my entry in multiday endurance riding is going to require a quick and painful baptism by fire. And I can't think of a better place to dive in. The route is close enough that I can travel there fairly inexpensively, remote enough that I can get a small taste of that extreme, helpless solitude, but traveled enough that I will be able to find help should I have a catastrophic mechanical issue or injury.

Meanwhile, the nature of the broken loop means I have no choice but to pedal myself to point B. There won't be any easy bailouts, and it's always good to beat temptation before it strikes. I will have a chance to test out some of my overnight gear - although I'm not planning on carrying anything too wintry - and I'll also experience finding my own water often in an effort to go as light as possible. I'll experience sleeping in a bivy sack. I'll experience trying to live on Power Bars and gas station food. I think it's going to be fun in that relentless boot camp sense of fun. As Geoff calls it, "teaching yourself things through suffering."

Which doesn't make any sense, when you think about it. What do I possibly have to gain from a recreational hobby that is more difficult and stressful than my "real" life? It's a good question. And I could go into a long spiel about the modern state of humans living in the industrialized world, how the layers of comfort we have added to our life have slowly shielded us from natural joy ... but that's not the real reason. The real reason is that I am always on the lookout for reasons to believe in myself. And after a while, lounging away a weekend in a hot tub stopped doing it for me.

So I scheme and train for this ride that is little more than a "dry run" for the real stuff. Pscychological training. For what? I'm almost frightened to find out.

The fireweed blooms are really starting to come out in full force now. I love fireweed and can't help but stop at nearly every large patch I see to take pictures. Longtime Alaskans say that when the last bloom opens up at the very top of the stock, the end of summer has arrived. I can't help but wonder if that's one of the reasons I'm so enamoured with the flower.