Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dead end

Date: Sept. 5
Mileage: 127.4
September mileage: 213.2

Today I set out to ride what I called the "Dead End Tour" - pedaling to the end of every major road in Juneau and back: Douglas Highway, Thane, Mendenhall Glacier, Echo Cove. The weather was on the nice side of mostly cloudy, so it was not hard to get revved up about heading out for a long ride. I purposely set the start time at 10:30 so I would have a time crunch on top of the distance goal. I had eight hours before I needed to be home and in the shower in time to make it to my friends' house for dinner. That meant I was going to have to keep a solid pace of 16 mph and not take more than a couple short breaks.

The pace started out hard at first; I was not feeling fantastic for most of the Douglas Island leg. But by the time I hit the mainland, my energy level started to improve. After two hours, I ate my first Power Bar, even though I didn't feel like eating it, in keeping with my vowed fuel regimen of at least one Power Bar every two hours. By the time I returned from Thane and moved into the long leg at mile 43, I felt like my day was just getting started.

The next leg, all 80 miles of it, was about as ideal as a road bike ride can be for me. It was painless without being too slow, and fun without being too easy. I was lost in thought for much of the ride, looping through an onslaught of memories and considerations and daydreams, only to snap back to reality in a rush of endorphins and realize I was climbing a hill at full bore. Without even thinking too much about it, I was keeping my odometer consistent, using the solitude time to think about my life, quietly observing the first changing colors of autumn and the elaborate cloud formations, and devouring the glut of happy chemicals that stack up whenever I turn pedals for long spans of time. It was a perfect ride ... the kind of ride in which I feel both elated and relaxed ... the kind of ride that makes me wonder why anyone would use illicit drugs when it's possible to feel this way naturally. It really didn't feel like 127 miles and it certainly didn't feel like eight hours. I had to shoot the picture just to be sure.

I walked in the door thinking, "Wow, I'm not it too bad of shape right now. Eight hours consistent and not feeling wasted, not even really feeling all that off ... I could certainly go much longer." That happy realization and the good mood it created might have lasted all evening if I just neglected to check my e-mail before heading to dinner, but no, I had to check my e-mail. I got the final word from my boss. I can't take that first full week in October off. The answer was no.

Which means no Trans Utah for me.

Talk about an enormous buzz kill. Beyond the excitement about the event itself, it's the thing that's gotten me out there in the rain and wind and eight-hour road extravaganzas, much of which I've been reluctant to do and which I've struggled through parts, but most of which has been ultimately rewarding and a huge motivator to keep me happy through the long work days, especially now that I'm living alone with four cats again. It's easy to say that I could endurance train anyway, without Trans Utah on the horizon, but it's harder in practice without that carrot on a stick. Plus, this is just another one of those things that cause me to ask myself ... why am I living alone with four cats and working so hard just to have my only reward be to work harder? Not that I'm about to join Geoff in the alternate lifestyle of living out of my car and running ultras, but the question does linger.

Maybe something to think about on my next long ride.

By the way: Geoff is out running the Wasatch 100 as of 5 a.m. MDT Saturday! I think the race is posting live results here.


  1. That stinks! Sorry you were denied leave.

  2. Just started reading your blog and started getting back into biking seriously. Thank you for all your posts as it helps keep me inspired to push harder. I can come off the trail after 2 hours of riding and see you've done 8 hours and it is a nice kick in the pants for the next ride. Keep riding and keep posting. Thanks again.

  3. You need more food for fuel.

  4. That totally sucks you can't get the time off, I'm sorry. I hope you at least had a nice dinner with your friends!

  5. I am sorry! That is a major bummer! I am glad you had a great ride though!

  6. need to fire the boss.
    Love your blog

  7. Awesome, 127 miles in 8 hours. I can't go that fast on a good day. But reading this is especially funny because I had my worst day of biking last weekend. It was a one-way trip to my wife's brother's wife's parents' cabin west of Colorado Springs, about a 145 mile jaunt from where I live. No problem, right? I leave at 6:45 to give myself plenty of time (the mother cooks great meals, so I wanted to make sure I made the dinner hour). About 10:00, I'm part way through Denver (just moved to CO -- never ridden through Denver before) and I'm getting a bit worried about the time. Lots of lights and wrong turns. 1:06, I finally make it out the SE end and I'm ready to make up the lost 2+ hours. Except: 20+ mph straight-on headwind for the next 35-40 miles. Now, I really ought to improve my headwind riding (especially after reading about the winds you encounter in your snow rides). In any case, I crawled into Colorado Springs around 5:00 and later ended up about 20 miles short when the lights went fully out. All in all, 130 miles in 13 (13!) hours. Again, I'm pretty slow in general (except maybe on climbs) all things considered, but that was just ridiculous.

    Ok, anecdote aside (I've been wanting to tell it to some biking-sympathetic crowd for the past week, because I feel like the family didn't quite understand my failure), the end of your last main paragraph really caught my eye. I often experience the same frustration. It's nice to see that others do, too. Fortunately, I have a lovely/loving wife to keep me sane; otherwise, I think I might be living off my bike, which seems nice in theory, but probably sucks in practice.

    Regarding the loss of the carrot, you have my sympathies. Work is always so much worse when one is forced to realize (say, via ye olde boss) that one's time is really not one's own. Working in the modern world is basically an act of selling a percentage of one's life. Whenever I really grok that thought, I panic: am I selling my life too cheaply? But we gotta put food down the gullet, or the pedaling could get a bit tough.

    Ok, enough babbling.

  8. Oh, by way of introduction: I found your blog through Fat Cyclist (which I found randomly a few weeks ago). After reading your captivating accounts of your Iditarod tour, I've become a frequent reader. I do a bit of non-event touring, sometimes with my wife on our tandem, but always in liquid-H2O conditions. Having moved to CO from CA this past January, I'm just starting to experience the solid-H2O thing. I'll never forget my first single-digit (Fahrenheit) woefully inadequately-dressed descent last January -- and the resulting eye-popping headache. But I think I might have collected enough of a wardrobe for the coming winter. Maybe.

  9. Just checked the race results...go Geoff! :)

  10. Looks like Geoff won. Awesome.

  11. Aaron, thanks for sharing your story. The road rides I do around Juneau are fairly flat and nothing compared to Colorado. I can imagine 140 out there is the real deal. Have fun this winter.

  12. Jill - I'm so sad to hear you can't get the time off work. That stinks! Like everyone else on here, I've been reading along, knowing that was your goal for this fall. And I would have loved to see/read you blog from the sunny southwest. Next year?!

  13. Yeah, we all hate keeping our noses to the grindstone but being dependable and reliable is something most of your readers share, I would bet! Surely you must have mused how you could make a living with your bike? A worthy thought.......thanks for all the wonderful high country photos!!!! Beautiful shots. Hooray for Geoff!

  14. Glad you got in a good ride, sucks about the Trans-Utah. I've done one race a year for the past 3 and this year didn't try to get in and I totally agree with you about how hard it is to be motivated to ride hard without the carrot (painful carrots sometimes, but still tasty).

  15. Nooooo :(

    Sorry to hear you won't be here in Oct Jill. But, there are lots of carrots to be had, I'm sure you can redirect that enthusiasm and put it to good use closer to home.

    Trans Utah will be here next year...and the next. Give the MAN a year's notice today!


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