For me, biking is a sport of obsession. I’m obsessed with my weight. I’m obsessed with equipment. I obsess over favorite roads and trails. I obsess over important events and races. It’s a sickness.
I do not wish to be healed.
I love when some new aspect of cycling takes hold of me, makes me start thinking about it constantly. I love mulling over whatever has gripped me, turning it over and over in my mind, seeing every angle of it, trying to solve it. How could I ride a trail faster or better? How should I prepare for an event? How can I get down to 150 lbs?
I Am Rational And Pragmatic
Some obsessions take hold slowly. Last week, Brad sent an email out to a group of people saying that he’s interested in riding something I hadn’t even heard of until this point: The Kokopelli Trail Race. I looked at the description of the race — a completely self-supported ride of the 142-mile Kokopelli Trail in one day — and deleted the email message without replying.
I figured, after all, Brad was joking when he sent that message. I mean, a couple months ago, when I talked about bonking, Brad’s and Rocky’s experiences on the Kokopelli Trail were two of the three stories I used to describe what an ultimate, pull-out-all-the-stops bonk looked like. So for Brad to suggest doing this course at all — leave alone as an unsupported race — seemed a little wacky.
Other people did reply, though, saying this race looks like an interesting challenge. So I fired off a reality-check email to straighten them out:
Out of like a million attempts, we’ve completed this ride once. And that was with support meeting us in at the following places:
- Base of Beaver Mesa climb
- Fisher Valley
- Dewey Bridge
- Westwater Ranger Station Underpass
- Rabbit Valley
Remember: even with the support–carrying only the water we needed to get us to the next meet-up spot, we started at 4 am, and finished at 11pm.
Doing this ride totally unsupported means you’d have to carry your lights all day, along with clothes for both cold and hot riding. And of course, a full day’s worth of food and water. How much water is that? and how do you carry that much?
Man, that drop into and climb out of the canyon before Troybuilt in the dark, when you’re exhausted, was hard. Most of us were so tired we crashed once or twice on the downhill. And we were so wiped out we got lost in the climb out. We all agreed we never wanted to do that again.
And what about bonking, the way Brad did between Dewey Bridge and Rabbit Valley? What if you do that on this race, but there’s no sag wagon to pick you up, Brad? What do you do? Die?
I figured that would bring everyone to their senses.
Instead, it made me start thinking about what the solutions are to the problems I had identified.
And when I say “thinking about,” I of course mean “thinking, increasingly often, until it consumed all my waking thoughts.”
I was no longer thinking of it as an interesting problem. I was picturing my setup, my gear, my effort, and my strategy. And I was asking my wife about whether I could fly out to Utah in mid-May.
I Am Neither Rational Nor Pragmatic
I don’t have much in the way of endurance cycling boasting rights, but I do have one pretty impressive credential: I have never DNF’d (for you non-racing types, that’s short for “Did Not Finish,” and it’s what officials write by your race number when you quit a race. “DNF” can be used as both a noun and a verb). My attitude stays level even when I’m suffering, and I’m able to push through bonks and keep going.
So, yeah, I think I could do the Kokopelli Trail Race. Here are some of the thoughts now constantly swirling around in my head:
- What would be my goal? Finish before midnight.
- How could I save on gear? Find a friend who would make a pact with me to ride together. Then divvy up redundant gear. We could share a water filter. We could share a pump. We could share light. We could share a phone (for just in case.). I’ll need to check with the race organizer as to whether this violates the "self supported" mandate.
- How would I avoid mistakes? Everyone gets punchy after riding for long enough. I know that my brain stops working well after 18 hours or so on the trail. Having someone along to double-check decisions is probably a good idea, though I’m not sure that two addle-brained riders are better than one.
That’s just the start of it. If I’m going to do this ride, I’ll need to be in extraordinary shape by the beginning of May. Which means I need to start training seriously now. The side-benefit of this is it would leave me good and fit for the Cascade Creampuff (Kenny, Chucky and I are hoping to get in), and — of course — for the Leadville 100.
See, I’ve got it all figured out. What could go wrong?
I mean, besides everything?