Saturday, December 22, 2007

Toward the light

Well, the winter solstice has come and gone. The days are growing longer now. For the first time in months, we have physical evidence that summer will in fact return again, someday. Alaskans always seem a bit more reflective this time of year. It may have to do with the calendar turning over yet another notch, or the stress-fueled holiday season nearing its climax, but I think a lot of this reflection has to do with the irresistible pull of darkness that draws us inward. I even uploaded the music mix I made specifically for the 2007 Susitna 100 to my iPod, filled with several songs I haven't listened to since. Music never fails to evoke vivid images, and today I found myself so swept up in a mindscape of spindly spruce and snowy expanses that I actually startled myself when I snapped back to the image of my reflection clutching a 15-pound barbell in the gym's mirror. These "race" memories are so valuable to me. I feel like no matter how I perceive my accomplishments of the past, or what I hope to achieve in the future, nothing can rob me of the beauty I've seen. And in my own contrived sense of cause and effect, the promise of beauty is the reason I spend time counting biceps curls in a stuffy gym.

I spent the past two days off the bike. On Friday, I took the day completely off, and today I put in two hours at the gym. I hadn't planned on a full rest day Friday, but I managed to jackhammer myself into a porous mush during my ride on Thursday. I woke up the next morning zapped of energy, sore in all sorts of new places, with a throbbing left knee. The pain in my "good" knee was the major reason for taking the day off, but I can't deny that I felt almost entirely spent. The jump from single-day to multiday endurance events is a big one, and I haven't completely spanned it even now, two months before the Ultrasport. But I feel confident that my slow build will pay off, hopefully just in time to burn the dim lamp for as many days as it takes. The rest day paid off, too, with a full recovery that had me feeling great today, almost excited to slog off to the gym to read decade-old magazines and pump some iron.

I thought I'd show my parents what they gave me for Christmas: An pair of "All Degree" Raichle mountaineering boots. I excavated these from the bargain basement of Sierra Trading Post and levied a coupon I had in my inbox to snag them for dimes on the dollar. I realize they may be overkill, but it was hard to let them float by when I was in the market for a new pair of boots anyway, and these happened to be the perfect size I was looking for (about two sizes too large). Now not only do I have a new pair of winter boots for not a whole lot more money than I had budgeted, but I won't have to buy a new pair of overboots, because I think my old, noninsulated ones will hold up fine with these monsters beneath them. All Degree! Thanks Mom and Dad!

I think after I finish riding the Iditarod I should learn how to climb big mountains. I nearly have the right gear to try mountaineering. All I'd need are crampons, and an ice ax, and a four-season tent, and rope, and beeners, and a harness, and a helmet, and one of those lightning rods that keep a person from falling in crevasses and ... hmm ... come to think of it, maybe I'll just stick with cycling.