Saturday, June 07, 2008

Competitive drive in neutral

Date: June 6
Mileage: 76.2
June mileage: 235.4
Temperature: 53

I had planned to "peak" for my 24 Hours of Light training this weekend, so it seemed prudent to do a longish ride today. I actually got some good riding in yesterday, so it didn't have to be epic. I just needed to chug out at least 10 hours for the weekend. Herbert Glacier and back sounded grand. Done and done. But what I really wanted to do was a car shuttle out to the Montana Creek side of the Windfall Lakes trail so I could bike out to Herbert Glacier and then walk to connect the two. I hear the hike is on questionable trail and about 11 miles one way - really need a weekend day to do something like that. Since my parents come to town next weekend I'll likely not get another chance this month, and then after that the mountains will be free and clear of snow and hiking the flats won't be as appealing. Oh well. Five hours on the bike won out.

I've had a good month of bike training, but in all likelihood, I'm done now. Don't get me wrong. I'll still ride my bike, excessively, but my other interests are starting to creep in now. My friends are starting to talk about sea kayaking. There are still so many trails in the area I've never seen because they're unbikeable, and I've been feeling an urge to spend more time on my feet. And beyond exercise, there just needs to be more time for barbecuing, for wandering the beach at sunset, for fishing and reading and going to plays. It's summer. The off season.

It's funny, more and more I'm realizing that I really am backward like that. I love to focus, focus, focus in the winter, and work hard with a set schedule and difficult goals in mind. Maybe it's to stave off the darkness and cold. Maybe it's to feel driven and strong when the rest of the world slips into lethargy. I don't know. I do know that summer comes and whatever shreds of competitive drive I even have start to unravel, and I begin to slack. When I started the summer I wanted the 24 Hours of Light to an "A" event, to be important. I really did. But my heart's just not in it. I guess I can't expect to be on all the time.

It's too bad, because I really believe that 24-hour racing could be my format if I ever devoted the kind of focus I put into winter cycling - which I'm not all that good at but love just the same. But 24-hour racing rewards all of my strengths - sleep deprivation, mental determination and keeping my butt in a saddle for a long period of time. And 24-hour racing is kind to many of my weaknesses - route finding, speed and technical savvy (anyone can ride a root-choked minefield given a dozen tries). Put me in an average field and I'll slowly chip away at it with my sheer turtle staying power. People who are good at sleep deprivation and sitting in a saddle all day and fast will destroy me, of course. That's why I'll never be a pro. But put me in a 24-hour race that I've really prepared for and I won't sleep, I won't crash hard and I likely will shine. Not that I know this for a fact. I've only ever ridden in one 24-hour race that I took seriously at all. That was two years ago, long before I had a clue what I was doing, when I was still a rank beginner on a mountain bike, and was sick half the time from really poor eating choices. But I stayed awake, and mostly stayed on the move, and ended up placing fifth overall, in a field of about 20 men and one other woman who was way behind me.

I had big hopes for the 24 Hours of Light, but they've been fading with the increasing sunlight and melting snow. I'm still going to go to the race and go hard, but I don't see the next three weeks advancing me much further toward that goal than I've already come. That's OK. It's summer and there's so much life to experience. The super-focused, intense biking can wait, and likely will wait, for first raindrops of autumn to fall again.

But, speaking of competition, I registered for my first race of the season. A couple of months ago, I crossed the Gastineau Channel with my bicycle and thought I was all adventurous for doing so. Turns out there are people who venture out that way every year, in a race, and they don't even use bicycles! So tomorrow I am headed out there to join the Southeast Road Runners for the Spring Tide Scramble, more popularly known as the "Mud Run." I have been warned to bring shoes I never plan to wear again. The race goes through knee-deep water and the forecast is calling for wind and rain with a high temperature of 48. I'm pretty sure I haven't run any significant distance since Nov. 11, 2006. So the plan is to go out and undo a month of hard cycling training in one reckless run across the Channel. Great fun! Here's a Google map of the course:

Wish me luck!


  1. Hope you can somehow get some pics. Good luck!

  2. That race sounds awesome! I might have to make a trip down to Juneau next year. Good luck!

  3. Sounds like a fun slog through the mud. Be mindful of your knee, eh?

    If a serious racing cyclist starts to ease off the training before a race, they call it 'tapering'. I like your description better. Go enjoy the loooong Alaskan summer. Heck, if it falls on a weekend make sure you have a barbecue :)

  4. The Montana Creek to Windfall Lake cabin trail is navigable by bike. But be prepared for some bike pushing. From a walking perpective it is an easy 11-12 miles no major elevation gain. A really nice trail.


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