Saturday, September 08, 2007

Always learning

Date: Sept. 8
Mileage: 25.1
September mileage: 194.2
Temperature upon departure: 50
Rainfall: 1.01"

Heavy rain today. I am not complaining about it again. I even went out in it. Nearly every piece of rain gear I own was in the dryer after Sitka, so I wore several layers of cotton. I survived. Biking outside is easy. Living outside is hard.

My last post probably made it sound like I had an overall terrible time in Sitka. I did not. It's always more fun to write about the bad stuff, and I definitely had my fair share of mishaps. I didn't even write about the disproportionate number of traffic run-ins I had. I had heard somewhere that Sitka is trying to receive a "Bicycle Friendly Community" designation. Apparently, nobody has told the good citizens of Sitka that news, because in my short time there I heard more people lay on their horns, experienced more near-sideswipes, and had more things thrown at me in two days than I have in a year in Juneau. But, I concur. Sitka also has cold-water surfers, and big waves, and a cool cathedral, and harbor seals, and so many places where, after many minutes of pedaling with my head down and squinting against the rain, I could look up to tiny islands silhouetted against a sun spot and think, "wow, is that real?" Would I go back? I would most definitely go back. Maybe next time I will reserve a room at the Super 8.

My hardship this weekend was the fact that I was wet, and everything I had with me was wet, and with temperatures hovering around 50, my only options for staying warm was to stay on the move or stay huddled in my sleeping bag. I logged over 100 mountain bike miles in a 48-hour period. I also read an entire book. I really didn't do much else, although I would have liked to. But I felt a bit trapped by my situation ... always lingering on the edge of being too cold, sometimes I could only stop long enough to unwrap a Clif Bar before shivers set in. So I'd pedal harder, and fly past an overlook, and fly through town, and think "I'd like to stop there" ... but believed it wasn't an option.

I felt demoralized, but I broke through. In the end, it turned out to be a good experience. Although I didn't intend it to be a "training" weekend, those are the kind of situations I need to prepare for if I'm going to attempt to ride on the Iditarod Trail next February ... staying on the move when I don't want to, heading out into unpleasantness when I don't have to, improvising, and doing whatever it takes to stay hydrated and well-fed (I didn't do enough of either in Sitka, and definitely suffered psychologically for it.)

In the end, I think Sitka turned out even better for my early training than the 371-mile weekend was. I'm realizing more that when cycling reaches the level I'm hoping to take it to, the pedaling is the easiest part. Surviving ... that's the challenge.