The bike is packed away in its travel box and all the gear has been researched, tested, checked, rechecked and stuffed in a duffel bag for tonight’s flight to Alaska and my date with the Iditarod. I am in no way minimizing the enormity of the task that I’m about to undertake, but events like this are almost inconsequential when compared to all the training time and preparation that goes into actually making it to the starting line. For me, the journey and not the destination is the main reason to undertake the task in the first place. Perhaps I’m being overly sentimental here, but a quick glance at the photos on my hard drive this morning revealed a snapshot of my path over the past few months.
Physically I feel great. The one thing I wish for is ten years off the clock so I could attempt this race for the first time with a younger body but I know that’s not going to happen. I recognize that in order to finish I need to stay well within myself and not force things like I have done in the past. Experience has taught me that I just don’t have the cardiovascular skillset required to push myself at that level for too long lest I find myself puking my brains out while standing in the middle of nowhere (just ask my wife who rescued me from the middle of the Kokopelli Trail this past fall, talk about reinforcing reality). I guess those extra ten years have given me the wisdom (and sometimes it seems, the pace) of the snail. I hope to have the patience to follow through.
Continuing the mental preparation theme, I could sit here and give you a gung-ho estimation of my perceived mental steel but in reality I’ll only know if I’m ready when the first bit of misfortune rears its ugly head. Something is bound to go wrong along the way be it getting lost, a mechanical malfunction or an equipment failure as 350 miles is a long way to pedal without having some sort of issue. I’d like to think that all of those times I’ve pointed my bikes into the teeth of the Sierra the past year have prepared me to climb those mountains when it’s required. There’s nothing quite like a nice mountain to climb or broken chain to fix and help pass the day, even if the combined weight of your bike and gear is 70 pounds or so and you’ve forgotten to bring along a spare link in your pack (yes, there are now several in my kit).
Most importantly, I’m ready to make that great leap off into the unknown. The past few months have reinforced in my psyche how beautiful vistas always lurk around every corner no matter where you may find yourself. Spending most of my life between outdoor excursions paying the bills while holed up in a 6 foot by 6 foot cubicle trying to ignore the realization that the only coordinate lacking from the ultimate spatial equation is another 6 feet of dirt has taught me a thing or two(yes, I wrote that with a smile). It has also given me perspective on how extremely fortunate I am to be undertaking this journey in the first place. The world is a beautiful place even when you’re sick to your stomach from overexertion and dehydration-induced tunnelvision is creeping in. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that oftentimes it’s at its most beautiful during those moments as the tunnelvision gives everything that “painterly” quality (smiling again). But regardless of how you perceive them visually those are the moments that make or break you, the truly beautiful moments in life when one is stripped to one’s core and true spirit emerges. Just remember to fall “up” whenever possible.
If you haven’t seen it coming, this is the point in the post where I lapse into weak(er) metaphor and begin to equate my quick trip down hard drive memory lane to “life flashing before my eyes”. Honestly, I don’t put much stock in that view but if it happens that way, so be it. I’ve always wondered that if I fill my brain up with tons of experiences maybe it might prolong the whole ordeal, but who knows? In some ways, I’m looking forward to seeing all these places again. It has truly been an incredible experience getting ready for this race and I can barely contain my enthusiasm at the prospect of what is about to transpire on my trip up the Iditarod trail.
With good fortune, sound decision making and a lot of hard work my journey continues through the finish town of McGrath. See you in a few weeks, no matter what.