Thursday, July 30, 2009
Channeling the Handcycler
About a month ago after I had the hardest riding day of my life and was about to quit mountain biking all together, I saw a man on a handcycle riding alone up a huge hill in the rain on the road to Hope. I wrote that night about how he snapped me back into reality. He had no use of his legs, but he kept pedaling.
What would my excuse for quitting be? It was too hard? I'm too slow? I didn't really have a good answer. And after talking with fellow cycling friends that night over a few beers, I decided that I wasn't going to quit training for the Soggy Bottom.
I continued my training over the past month and completed the 12 Hours of Matanuska solo which was a huge shock and a big confidence boost. It has been a challenge to get all of my rides in while we had visitors, but at last I have come to the end of my training for the summer and last night at the pre-ride meeting I signed my life away to the Alaska Endurance Association and signed up for the Soggy Bottom 100.
The training is over, my bike is in working condition, my nutrition plan is laid out. Now the only thing left to do is to get into the happy place that I was in for the 12 hour race and stay there until Saturday night. I was nervous about the race last week, but have dealt with that, figuring out it was only fear of failure.
I can deal with mechanicals, crashes, bears, loneliness, pain in my thighs, cow parsnip, endless creek beds, mud puddles, rain, that feeling of just not wanting to climb, darkness, bear breath, rainbows and unicorns.
What I won't be able to deal with is when my mind goes into that place that makes me want to quit. That place that rationalizes dropping out of a race and getting into a hot tub with a beer. That place that tells me that this is all for nothing and is not worth the pain. That place that I regret going to only a few hours after I get there. So my strategy is to channel the handcycler.
Last week was Sadler's Alaska Challenge, a seven day stage race that claims to be the longest wheelchair and handcycle race in the world. These men and women race throughout Alaska over eight stages, ending with a 30 mile 3,000 foot climb up to Hatcher's Pass. And they do it all by pedaling with their arms. These are some of the toughest athlete's around.
Every time I feel like quitting, I'm going to picture the guy on the handcycle pedaling up the Hope road, I'm going to be thankful that I have legs to power my bike, and I'm going to keep pedaling.