I tend to get obsessed with things. I also get overwhelmed with the enormity of the very things I am obsessed with. Once that was the Tour Divide. I dreamed of those endless roads for 7 years before I gathered enough courage to actually take on the challenge of riding it. I dallied for all that time with the reasons/excuses that; I didn’t have any money, I was hesitant to take that much time off in the spring/summer, and I didn’t want to leave my sweet dog for that long. So I waited, and while I was stuck in stasis over the TD, I raced everything else I could that was easier to pull off. 24’s, 12’s, 100 milers, the Grand Loop, the CTR, AZT300, etc. I wanted the biggie, but I honed my skills doing what I could.
Now I am obsessed with the the ITI, the Iditarod Trail Invitational. The big bad frozen monster way up north. Racing the TD seemed huge and scary, but the ITI seems almost impossible. I know damn well it can be done and by mere mortals, but the costs and preparation make the TD seem like a local fun race in comparison. I’ve done one qualifier, the JP’s 200K, a few years ago. I loved it, hard, beautiful, and full of challenges to learn from. Yet if you think bike racing is expensive, take a look at winter ultra costs! The entry fees are high, the gear is amazingly pricey, and the required travel is kind of huge.
I make my living as a bike mechanic and a cook in a small mountain town. In case you don’t know, that doesn’t bring home much money. In fact the entry fee alone for the ITI is a considerable portion of my yearly income. Every once in a while I say “fuck it, lets do it!”, then I look at the website, see that crazy entry fee and I try like hell to put it out of my mind. I want it, but its just crazy for me to fork out that much of my hard earned wages!
Now life has gotten even crazier, with Rachel and I bringing a child into this world. For this I am so freaking excited that I have not enough bright and happy words to begin to describe! Yet money is a huge stressor for us going forward and the idea of an ITI attempt is simply unreasonable. Yet the dream in still there and over the past few weeks I’ve had a bit too much down time that has allowed me to obsess, unhealthily, about winter racing and the ITI. With all winter races happening and all the social media blasts of friends headed out there with number plates on their loaded up fatties, I almost lost my cool.
Well last night after work, I loaded up my fattie and headed out to Hartman’s Rocks. I rode around, pushed a bit, found a sweet little nook and set up camp. I watched the sky, listened to the light breeze, stared into the fire, and enjoyed my thoughts. I made dinner with melted snow, wrote notes in a journal, and let my mind wander. The peace that came to me was profound and beautiful. Instead of feeling left out and ignored, I felt loved and so privileged to be alive and able to ride from my door to such a quiet and wonderful spot. I let go of all that tension that envy can build up inside of us.
I awoke early in the morning to the tiny ticking of micro snowflakes landing on my sleeping bag. The world around me was a wash of white sky, white snow and dark grey rocks and sage. Then the sunrise miraculously poked through a gap in the clouds on the horizon and set the eastern sky a glow. I melted snow into tea and breakfast, as the colors intensified and set my heart a glow as well. The opaque white of the sky then swallowed the sun as the snowfall increased in volume and intensity. Soon big fat flakes swirled gently through the air as I packed up my gear and cleaned my tiny little camp.
I rode, pushed, struggled, and crashed my way along the trails and roads back towards the frontside. Amazing how different a familiar place can be within the set of winter. I saw no humans for hours, only the tracks of many animals and a few prancing deer. The air was so quiet except for the swirl of snowflakes falling. I bumped into a few friends as I got closer to the parking lot, all of us seemed happy to be free and moving in the winter landscape, even if just for a few hours. I descended to the road and pedaled home on soft tires still reveling in the simple joy of being alive in such a great place.