Catching Up: I have reached Leadville after 2000+ miles, six states and one province, numerous campgrounds, a couple hotel rooms and many times staying with hosts who were generous in their hospitality. I picked up my race kit Thursday, and for the last week I have been playing the waiting game. It’s hard to describe waiting for a race this big. People are conversing about it all over town and a small town of 2,700 people grows to almost 25,000 by the weekend with the amount of people in to do the race and the people to support them. My ride into town to even begin the race is five kilometers uphill. That is the advantage of having a car. I am going to ask around the campsite and see if there is any way I can bum a ride and save the legs the extra five k. It doesn’t sound like a lot but when the race climbs over 10,000 feet and tops out at 12,700’ elevation; it is a long day before you start adding miles. I don’t mind riding back down to the campsite, it is all downhill. I did it this afternoon and maybe pedaled a dozen times in the five k. Oh, and yesterday out of the blue, my angel in a pickup truck called me and wished me luck in the race. Gayle was going out dancing last night, I wished him luck as well. I like this guy!
In the interest of catching up on some many thoughts I had while riding I thought I would throw a couple out here before race day. By the time, I post this there will be less than 24 hours to the start. I think there will be athlete tracking via Athlinks on race day if anyone is interested, I’ll post the link for that on FaceBook.
Healing By Bicycle: Quite a few years ago now I was a golf addict. I golfed a lot and my knees got sore. Sore, as in hurt all the time and even simple family hikes became hard. I went to physio, did the whole gig and they told me they would never be better (never ever listen to that prognosis). I won a mountain bike at a long drive competition in a golf tournament, and as I rode that $149 Canadian Tire beast my knees started to feel better. That was about 12 years ago when I would ride two kilometers and come home feeling like I had done a major achievement. Twelve years later when I left on this journey I had plantar fasciitis issues and sore knees and sore shoulders and many other small nagging pains from CrossFit, and injuring myself in various ways. A funny thing happened in my 2000+ mile journey. Those things all got better. My knees are fine, shoulders feel good, my heel has stopped hurting and I have lost a few pounds. Maybe I need to ride my bike a lot more? Who knows, but going into the race my body feels good. My only major concern at this point is whether to race in CrossFit shoes and flat pedals that I have ridden for my entire ride. That brings me to point number two…
Feeling Out of Place: I have never felt comfortable in the cycling community. Possibly partly because of my physique, and partly because cycling clothes were just not made for people with my physique. So, for my journey across the country I decided I would buck the trend and wear what I love to wear. So, my daily attire was, a light shammy (to be worn under clothes, if I wore it without shorts people would call the police), Ex Officio or Showers Pass regular shorts and an Ex Officio short sleeve button down semi-dress shirt. I absolutely loved it. I looked like a normal human being when I stopped, and felt better on the bike than I have felt in years. I practiced my ride gear at a mountain bike race in the spring and got the following comments. From the race commentator as I finished and started a new lap; ‘Mark Graves, nice that you took a day off at the office to join us out mountain biking.’ From a lady passing by; ‘best mountain biking kit ever.’ From a man passing by (notice a trend of them all passing me?) ‘did you get lost on the way to the golf course this morning dude?’ You see they have a division for boys like me in the cycling community; they call us Clydesdales. Even the name is demeaning. All I know is as follows. I rode to Leadville yesterday with a fellow who has done 20 Leadville’s. He has also tried Dirty Kanza four times and only succeeded once. I tried Kanza once and finished it once. I finish what I start. I might not be fast; I might not be flashy; and this Saturday I won’t even be wearing cycling clothes. But, I keep going until I am finished. Stubbornness, tenacity, pigheadedness; call it what you will but in long, lonely, hard races I will not quit. So, when my race pictures hit FaceBook on Saturday and it looks like a guy who got lost on the way to the golf course wearing CrossFit shoes without the laces done up, um that is me; and honestly, I’ll feel better than I have in years, because I’ll fit me.
Contentedness: Odd, that I had to do a long cycling trip to start to understand a little bit more about what it is to be content. In the last few months a lot of ideas have been percolating their way through my heart and my life. I have been contemplating minimalism and what we really need to be content in our lives. I have thrown out an untold number of things, sold others and just given a lot of stuff away. This trip has become in many ways a logical extension of that journey. By forcing myself to exist on only the amount I could pull in my trailer and on the seat bag I have seen how much I really need to survive. I have lived six weeks on two changes of clothes. By buying quality wool undies and travel clothes I could wear items a couple days (sometimes without shower depending on the campsites) and I was fine. I mean, yes on days when it was 90 degrees by nine a.m. I was covered in sweat and not one piece of clothing was dry but I was fine. People didn’t walk away from me. I have eaten with one bowl and one spoon for six weeks, and it was more than adequate. I have used one small camping pot for all my cooking for six weeks. I wasn’t making egg foo young but I am happy, hearty and hale. When it was too hot I did use restaurants, and many days I would avail myself of a bottomless cup of unsweetened iced tea at some unsuspecting diner (they are surprised you can drink the full pitcher twice). This journey for me has been a discovery. A discovery that I have too much, and need a lot less than I have ever thought I did. Now to put that into action in my everyday life when I get home. Then the battle begins. Anyone want to do a three-month bike journey?
Slow Time: Closing thoughts here. I love the way the bicycle in my life has forced me to slow down and that has been accentuated on this journey. It was interesting spending a few days with another cycle tourist this past week Eric who has a personality like mine. Push hard until you get something done. Well, the reality is that I just did an incredibly hard tour. Most people who tour would never do it on a mountain bike. Even Ross my go to mechanic thought I was a tad off in the noggin to do it with mountain bike tires. You see the entire choice forced me to slow down. I ride gravel roads at home now and they force me to slow down. Life is lived at breakneck speed and we all need things in our life that remind us that there is another way. Yesterday as I rode the thirty kilometers over to Phil’s house for a ride to Leadville I would go very slow up the hills. It is a necessity, I am towing a heavy trailer riding a mountain bike. That necessity in the last few years has been good for me. I have discovered beauty and places I would never have known otherwise. Joy and I made the most heavenly black raspberry jam last year. I found the berries on a slow ride through the forest when I took the time to look around me. Slow time. Joy and I wandered the most beautiful trillium find this past spring down by a river with the hill behind us literally covered in trilliums. I found that place on a slow gravel road ride wandering the county. Slow time. This journey across the country has reinforced that. I have taken slow time to meet and chat with people I normally wouldn’t have time for. I have taken slow time to stop at every historical marker I found going across Nebraska. Wouldn’t have known I was on the Oregon Trail had I not done that. Slow time has reinforced to me that life in the corporate grind and in my life, was out of control. I feel that control seeping back, and I do not want to lose it. Jesus said, ‘Consider the Lilies of the field; they do not spin and they do not toil and yet even Solomon in all of his spleandour was not clothed like one of these.’ Those words radically broke my heart almost 40 years ago when I first read them; and in those last 40 years I have forgotten them time and again. I think for me those words echo time slowing down, and me worrying a lot less. I can’t wait to get home next week and sit on the deck and sip my morning coffee beside Joy. Slow time, beautiful time.