I announced this goal to Beat and Corrine, who is recovering from knee surgery and graciously leant me her 9:Zero:7 Whiteout while casually mentioning that between holiday visits this year and last, I've probably put more miles on her fat bike than she has (more guilt. Please come visit us after we move to Boulder, and we'll abuse my bikes on Colorado singletrack.) Once the goal was public, I had to go for it.
On Dec. 28, I set out to follow a friend's GPS track as it meandered through a maze of neighborhood connector trails, mushing routes, and power lines. A massive Chinook (wind storm) was already moving across Alaska, nudging Interior temperatures to a pleasant 10 degrees in the valleys and slightly uncomfortable 25 on the ridges (ah, it does not take long to acclimate to the cold, even for us Californians.) I'd stripped down to a base layer and was still sweating up my own personal sauna. The route I followed proved extra challenging — plenty of steep (pusher) hills, little-used soft trails, and more climbing. I was aiming for 30 miles that day and they were happening the hard way, slowly.
"Why didn't I just ride some loops down in the Goldstream Valley?" I thought. "Ten miles per hour without evening trying."
But as I gazed down the ridge, flanked by the eerie skeletons of burnt black spruce and illuminated by the 2 p.m. sunset, I knew the answer. The miles don't matter. They never did. I ride bikes so I can visit places such as this, and I "train" so I can seek them out at every possible opportunity, and have the fitness to derive more energy from my efforts rather than become depleted. These days, I see life as a series of experiences rather than a checklist of accomplishments. Yet, I do appreciate statistics, which, like words, give shape to the more abstract aspects of experience. I've been dutifully recording the numbers from nearly every activity to Strava since late 2013, and the stats begin to write their own narrative. These are my totals for 2015:
Cycling:Distance: 5,015 miles
Time: 592 hours, 38 minutes
Elevation gain: 499,928 feet
Highest mileage week: June 15-21 — 812 miles (Tour Divide)
Most time spent pedaling in a week: June 15-21 — 95 hours, 50 minutes (Tour Divide)
Most climby cycling week: June 15-21 — 51,066 feet (Tour Divide)
Best non-race week: April 27 to May 3 — 30 hours 28 minutes, 293 miles, 32,933 feet climbing
Running:Distance: 1,701 miles
Time: 412 hours, 38 minutes
Elevation gain: 351,132 feet
Highest mileage week: March 23-29 — 96 miles (White Mountains 100)
Most time spent running in a week: March 23-29 — 26 hours, 38 minutes (WM100)
Most climby running week: August 24-30 — 25,531 feet (UTMB)
Best non-race week: August 3 to 9 — 23 hours, 36 minutes, 70.5 miles, 17,625 feet climbing
Cumulative distance: 6,716 miles
Cumulative elevation gain: 851,060 feet
Total moving time: 41.8 days
The final 39.5 miles of 2015 came in about the most difficult way possible (which I'll recount in a subsequent post.) But they made for a wonderful if arduous adventure that even I might have been more eager to back away from, had there not been an arbitrary milestone on the line. Numbers are fun. Records of numbers are motivating. I'd even encourage the freewheeling outdoor enthusiasts who claim they don't care to give it a try. A cheap GPS watch and free software can go a long way.
I don't have any goal numbers for 2016. I expect this to be a lower-mileage year with less focused training once I get through (if I get through) the ITI. But I'll continue to relish every moment I can spend in motion; in my book, those moments count the most.