Sunday, February 13, 2022

Looking ahead, but not too far ahead, I'm nearsighted

If I've learned anything in the past year or two (which I probably haven't), it's that I never know what the year is going to bring. Case in point: at the start of 2021 I never in a million years would've imagined having the most fun two-plus weeks ever on a road trip to Oregon for a 24 hour MTB race with Will. The only thing I know for certain this year is that singlespeed is ded, but mebbe it isn't, but yeth is probably is.

What's that you say? You think singlespeed is dumb? Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

Climbing up over Echo Lake in California last summer on the road trip. 

Take what I'm about to write with a mountain of salt. That being said, even though I haven't planned my exact schedule, I think I have a pretty good mindset with what I want to do this year. Maybe I don't know exactly where I'll be or what races I'll do, but I know the types of experiences I want to have.

First up is 24 Hours of Old Pueblo next week in Arizona. It's a mountain bike race, it's 24 hours long, and it's going to pretty hard. And there will be cacti. There's something pretty special about nighttime in the desert, so I'm really excited to be ripping singletrack all night long in the desert.

Before a race like that, I don't really know what to think. I mean, what can you really do? Before the last 24 hour race I did, I spent a lot of time thinking about the race, my strategy, and all sorts of other things. Now? I've sort of simplified things in my mind. 

I tell myself that I've done a lot of big rides, I feel prepared, and now the only thing left to do is just ride my bike as hard as I can for 24 hours and have a shit-load of fun while doing it. My hope is that I finish the race 100% exhausted and physically unable to pedal even a mile more. 

I think the allure of a race like this is that it's a very personal endeavor, and there's no hiding from your mind when you're mostly alone with your thoughts for 24 hours of suffering. It's a headspace that you can't get any other way, and that's part of the reason I love doing those races.

After Old Pueblo, I want to do things that I'm excited about. The way I see it, I never want to do a race just because someone else thinks I should do it. So this year, I'm focusing on quality over quantity. Rather than traveling around to do 15 races in the span of 3 months, I'm going to focus on a few big things that really get me excited. 

Like last year, I won Wilderness 101 on the singlespeed and then immediately felt the urge to do something else fun. So, within 4 days of thinking of the idea, I drove down to Virginia and rode the 250 mile Rockstar gravel route. It took just over 20 hours, and it was one of the most memorable, amazing, and hardest experiences of my life. Sometimes spontaneity and doing what excites you in the moment is totally worth it.

Finished Rockstar Gravel at the Texas Tavern. Photo by Quadsworth. That was a great time.

What are those things for me this year? Well, for one, there's the 285 mile Rockstar Trail race in Virginia. Similar to the gravel route in that it starts and finishes in the same places,  but different in that it is much harder and will take much longer.

That'll probably take 45 to 50 hours, and obviously I'll be trying to do it in one pull. If that means sleeping for an hour halfway through, so be it, but I want to find my limit, and you can't find the limit unless you reach it.

After that, or perhaps before it, I have a few FKT-type things I want to do, and then I'll be heading out west for a few weeks in May. Hoping to meet up with Dahn Pahrs in Utah, do some riding in Texas, maybe Arizona, maybe Idaho, we'll see what the trip brings. Pretty much the only requirement is that I stay near national forests so I have places to park and set up my tent to sleep every night. I want to be able to look at a map out west and find the absolute coolest places to ride and then just go there. And while I'm out there, I want to do some some insanely hard rides, because those are the things I remember.

On the way home from the west, I'll make a stop in Emporia, Kansas for the 357-mile Unbound XL gravel race. Still can't decide if I'll race gears or not, but that decision will be reached in time. It's not like Unbound XL is some little thing I'm just doing along the way. It's actually one of the things I'm most excited about, it just so happens to fit perfectly with the end of my western trip.

After Unbound XL is when it really get's exciting. I'll leave the details for later, but the plan is to ride (not race) the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (aka Tour Divide). It's a 2,700 mile off-road (or gravel road) route from Canada to Mexico, following the continental divide.

After that, my last big goal that I have planned so far is the Colorado Trail Race. I'm sure it's going to be hard. But it's so far away, I haven't really thought that much about it. Until then, I'm just going to keep doing rides that make me excited to get on my bike every day.

It's only worth it if you're having a good time. Good times were had at 2021 Wilderness 101

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