Sunday, January 20, 2008

I don't really have to quit yet, do I?

Date: Jan. 20
Mileage: 63.8
January mileage: 509.2
Hours: 5:15
Temperature upon departure: 23
Precipitation: 0"

I veered onto Mendenhall Lake and looked at my watch again. 12:47 p.m. In a perfect world, I would be sitting at my office desk in 13 minutes. In my own skewed world, I didn't really need to be at work before 2, and that was more than an hour away. In the real world, I still had more than 15 miles to ride even if I turned around right there and went straight home, a shower to take, some lunch to eat ...

The studded tires clacked loudly on the ice; in the still air the sound echoed like a symphony of snare drums. I skidded to a scraping stop and looked back with pride at the deep gouges I had scratched into the surface - like skid marks off a muscle car. The traction definitely seemed satisfactory, and I was much more interested in circumnavigating the lake than racing the clock home. But still my watch ticked and still I stood there, undecided even as I acknowledged my first fatal scheduling decision had already been made hours ago, when I refused to stop pedaling north.

But what else can I do with an indefatigable bike day, day 4 of a big push no less, when it came time to go to work? I blame this cruel economy that forces me to sit at a desk to pay for my bikes, and ride my bikes to tolerate sitting at a desk. And I blame this cruel world where a flickering computer screen trumps even the most perfect techie winter singletrack: snow pumped full of rain and frozen to a petrified sheen. It looks so slippery that even the walkers stay away, but a full-suspension mountain bike with studded tires can hop and swerve and motor up hills with quiet determination. The real secret to perfection are thin flakes of hoarfrost sprinkled over the surface, offering unyeilding gritty traction that conjures the do-no-wrong sensation of slickrock in Moab ... if Moab slickrock was white, and cold, and in Alaska.

I broke away from the singletrack after only one run, because secretly my goal today was mileage. Hard to explain true motivations. But the open road was calling me out, taunting me with a blaze of sunlight and the promise of flight - as much as flight can be achieved on a full-suspension mountain bike with studded tires, in the cold, in Alaska.

And even as the ice called me back, my sense of duty called louder. I cut a wide U-turn on the ice and pedaled toward the road, legs still pumping fire and demanding something more ... a century, or singletrack loops, or the crunchy smooth surface of the lake. Anything but cramped beneath a desk, slowly going stiff as they brace for the down side of the week.

Last day of the five-hour push and 63 miles on a work day. I was going to cut back tomorrow, but do I have to?