Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Darlin don't you go and cut your hair

I told the 19-year-old stylist at Supercuts to lop off at least a foot. She talked me down to 9 inches. "You'll still be able to pull it back," she said. "I just want something light for summer," I said. What I meant to say is, "I just want something that's not going to snarl into one massive dreadlock that I'll never be able to untangle after it's coated in several days' worth of sweat, dirt and sunscreen."

It's a small thing, but it matters - a physical act, something tangible to remind me that I'm on track to do that which I came down here to do, which is ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. I've been somewhat pulled back from that goal for most of my trip south. That's probably been obvious ... the lack of direction in my "training," the radio silence about a looming big ride at the end of all of this frivolous vacationing. I've continued to prepare for the possibility, but in the back of my mind I've been searching for ways to back out of the whole thing without inciting the rage of my coworkers, who have suffered through my long furlough and at this point expect tangible results.

I've just had a hard time getting my head in the game. It would be easy to blame my recent breakup for my plunging stock in bike passion, but to be perfectly honest there were hints before April 20. The Iditarod, disaster that it was, never had time to approach that mental "race space" wherein I experience the pure joy of unhindered moment-to-moment living. The only race I participated before that was the 24 Hours of Light - as the only solo woman and, after about eight hours, with a nearly uncontested second-place standing and no prayer reaching first place. Continuing to ride through the night was fun but ultimately a practice in insanity - doing the same hard thing over and over and hoping for different results. My Kokopelli trip was scenic and fun, but still somewhat disappointing because I couldn't have completed it without the considerable support I ended up receiving from Geoff. In fact, the only endurance biking I've done since the 2008 Iditarod that had any sense of accomplishment wasn't a race at all. It wasn't even a difficult goal. It was a vacation ... bike touring the Golden Circle in late September. And the reason it was so rewarding? Because it was hard, and I suffered, and I continued to push through it, and it only got better as I went. And I did it completely on my own.

Therein lies my doubt ... and also the reason why I still need to head out there and give it a shot. I know to even attempt something as hard as this, a person has to have their head completely locked in the task, and, like I said, I'm just not sure it's there. But there's also the fact that I'm drifting right now more than I have in a long time, and a chance to immerse myself in a single-minded task, a chance to do something completely on my own, may be exactly what I need.

Then there's the simple fact that all I'm really doing is going out and riding my bike - something that, through it all, I still really enjoy. The GDMBR in 25 days or less may be impossible but it's certainly worth a shot. And if I don't finish, who cares? I've come close enough to not even starting that any mileage on that route is probably going to feel like an accomplishment.

I bought a plane ticket to Denver that leaves on Saturday. From there, I'm heading with friends up to Banff. I'm starting to get more excited and nervous about the endeavour - both good things. I'm not ready. But who really is? It's just a bike tour, I keep telling myself. Just another bike tour. I've done it before - two months' worth, back when I was in much worse shape and barely knew how to ride a bike. So what if the daily grind on the GDMBR is at least three times as hard? I'm just going to follow the Mountain Turtle, Kent Peterson style, peanut M&Ms and all, and see where it takes me.