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.