Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why ride the CTR--again?

The Colorado Trail Race is about to start, just days from now, on August 1. Looking through my old blog entries before last year’s successful race have been interesting, especially the one where I asked “Why ride the CTR?” While most of the reasons from last year still very much apply, one of the answers that I gave, “I wouldn’t be attempting this ride if I knew that I could do it,” is now obsolete. I know that I can do it, because I’ve done it—so why do it again?

The honest truth is that I don’t know that I can do it again. The CTR is incredibly difficult, and many things might stop me cold. A broken bike. A broken body. A broken spirit. But perhaps the biggest new variable is speed. Last year, I really didn’t care how quickly I finished, as long as I put in an honest effort and actually made it to Durango. This year, I want to go faster. No, I’m still not going to be fast compared to the leaders, but I’m hoping to knock a day off of my previous time. And by stretching the wire a little thinner, I’m increasing the odds that I won’t finish. I’m feeding the demons to keep things interesting.

There are some new challenges too.

Last year, ignorance was bliss. Starting up a climb, I didn't know how steep it would become or how thin the air would be at the top--so I didn't worry about it. Setting a goal for the day by drawing a dot on the map was abstract and easy, but I had no idea what riding 80 miles to get there would feel like--so I didn't worry about it. Having no idea if I could actually haul my carcass to Durango, I simply figured that I'd better just keep rolling--and I didn't worry about it.

This year, I'm stronger, more experienced, and better equipped. But I also know just how horribly steep the hills are, how thin the air will get, and how long the days will be. I may not fear the unknown so much this time around, but I now know what to fear. Thus, I still feel like a newbie in so many ways, struggling with my doubts and anxieties. But I'm happy with that, as it means that I still have much to learn and new boundaries to explore.

Learning is good, and is the one item that I left out of last year’s blog entry. Being open to looking at problems in new ways is liberating. Figuring out how my mind works—when faced with binding sleet, sleep deprivation and loneliness—is enlightening. Learning to face the existential fear of defeat is humbling. The primal joy of pressing hard into the unknown nourishes my soul.

I am ready for the CTR, and whatever it may bring. Last year, my mind warped cairns into monsters; visions of lions and rabid rabbits blocked my path—and I howled with laughter into the void. What will greet me this year?

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