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Friday, January 22, 2010

Too many trip reports

A photo of a biker during the 2009 Arrowheadultra taken by Mike Curiak
click on the photo for a link to a video about the 2008 event.

The arrowhead is quickly approaching and i'm starting to get nervous.  i tend to get nervous as things like this approach - so thats not unusual. The problem is i'm heightening my own anxiety by reading trip reports.  I've been much better this semester at using my time at work efficiently, but have fallen into the habit of, right before i leave from school to head to the gym for my workout, reading some past participants experience of the event.  I rationalize this by thinking that it'll help clear from my head the muddle of physics concepts that are trying to gain some sort of coherence and replace it with a bit of motivation for my impending stint on the treadmill or stationary bike.  At least it does the first job pretty well.

Instead of quickly motivating me however, the trip reports tend to 1) suck me in for longer than 5 minutes making me have to 'squeeze' my workout in and 2) give me lots to worry about.  The first issue isn't too much of a problem - once i get on the treadmill or bike i have a good ability to focus quickly and become absorbed in the task of trying to get the most out of my body and mind for the duration of the workout.  But as soon as i'm done, riding home, i start worrying again.

One of the reasons i think i'm prone to all this worrying is that i don't do things like this as often as i used to.  When i was adventuring all the time, an event or adventure carried less psychological weight than it does now - occurring as it does with less frequency.  The prolonged periods of 'inaction' also create an environment where self-doubt more easily flourishes.  When i read about people barely making it, nearly losing all their toes, it makes me wonder if i've got the right gear.  When i read about all the veteran racers - hard men that win huge ultra-distance national races - bonking less than half way in, dropping out, getting lost, and barely making it i question my own hardness - not to mention fitness.  When i read the forum and realize the tremendous amount of thought, planning, and experience that goes in to most peoples gear selection (testing each piece, etc), i can't help feel woefully unprepared - after all, i wasn't planning on testing out my sleep system, stove, headlamp, etc. at all!

For me, writing about something allows me to move past it - to let it go.  Acknowledge and release.  That's really the purpose of this entry.  Logistics, at least for me, are the biggest hurdle.  They create a situation where an infinite degree of second guessing is possible - and i'm prone to second guessing, particularly when i've got time to think about things.  While it's possible that a race finish will hinge on logistics (race strategy, gear choice, etc) - it's unlikely, at least within the range of choices that i'm actually considering, that this will happen.  Logistics will certainly have something to do with the speed at which i'm able to complete (knock on wood) the thing - but the variables involved and my profound lack of experience in long distance winter bike riding will prevent me from knowing ahead of time what the optimum choices are.  So be it.  I want to finish.  I want to do well too (though i'm not sure what this means exactly - the calibur of the 'average' rider seems to be quite high - go figure). I'm excited and nervous and also pretty damn scared.  It's been a long time since i've felt this way, and i'm trying to remind myself that i used to think it was a good thing..... and to convince myself that it still is.

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