Friday, January 6, 2023

Looking Back and Looking Forward

In the words of a trucker I heard at a rural Arkansas restaurant back in May, "I woke up to a day I've never seen before, and I'm feeling peachy".

Every year, and every day, brings something new. I can safely say that 2022 was probably the most fun I've ever had in a year, and yet, I don't want to replicate it in 2023. Who knows, maybe I will end up doing similar things. Or maybe not. But I think you limit yourself if you try to place yourself into a framework of what you expect to do for an entire year. 

Like I said earlier, 2022 was probably the most I've ever packed into one year. I was fortunate enough to travel out west six different times, probably totaling up to over two months spent west of the Mississippi. That was pretty rad, if I don't say so myself.

It's tough to pick highlights, because even short trips or single-day rides can be incredible. But, I think I had a pretty healthy mix of bikepacking, ultra races, and general riding and exploring.

On the bikepacking front, clearly the highlight was the Great Divide, which you can read about here. Riding and camping from Canada to Mexico on dirt roads with my best friend for over six weeks was pretty spectacular. That was the one thing I had planned for the year, so in a way, I sort of planned my year around it. And man, was it worth it. It's one of those things that I'll be thinking about for the rest of my life, remembering back to the summer of 2022. Even if I eventually ride the Great Divide again or do another super long trip, this one will always be special since it was the first one. I joked with Will on the trip that we should do the route again together when we're both older, like in our 60's or something, to see how things changed. I think that would be pretty neat.

In addition the Great Divide, Will and I did over a week of bikepacking in Arizona back in January of 2022, and we did a long weekend trip in Virginia in the spring. I love all those kind of trips, and I have memories from all of them which I'll never forget. Those are the kind of things I definitely want to do more of in 2023, even if they're going to be more solo adventures because Will is a runner now.

Even though I don't really consider "bike racer" as the first descriptor of myself, I love to do big races and test my limits. I did 24 Hours of Old Pueblo back in February, where I rode over 280 miles of desert singletrack on my singlespeed in, you guessed it, 24 hours. That was a lot of fun, and there was plenty to be thankful for about that. You can read more about that here by clicking here. 

I also did a gravel race in Texas, the 155 mile Gravel Locos, back in May. That's not exactly my style of race, but it was still fun to do some high-intensity suffering in 100-plus degree heat. Plus, the experience of going to Texas, staying at an AirBNB with a bunch of friends, and riding new roads was really cool. You can read about that one by clicking here.

The next race I did was Gravel Worlds 300 in Nebraska in August. I was fortunate to get the singlespeed win in just over 20 hours, and let me tell you, it was a pretty intense experience. I was in a dark place as the sun rose after riding all night, but I pushed through, and really learned a lot about myself. You can click here to read about that one.

The last big race I did was Marji Gesick in Michigan. It was a 100 mile (well, actually 115 miles) singletrack-heavy route. It took me a little under 13 hours, which was good enough for 2nd place singlespeed. Since it was so much singletrack, it was maybe the most fun race I ever did. And plus, getting to hang out with a ton of friends up in Michigan before and after the race was the real highlight for me. Click here for that blog.

I also did a local race in State College in December, the Seasons of Rothrock race, which is organized by my good friend Tanya Campbell. It's a classic grassroots race on some rad trails, and a perfect way to finish the year.

Alright, enough about racing. I was also fortunate to do a lot of riding around the country that wasn't bikepacking or racing. I had a ton of fun in Lake Tahoe riding, rock climbing, and kayaking with my friend Bob back in May. The scenery around Lake Tahoe is spectacular, and I really can't say enough good things about it. It seems like wherever you look is something magical. 

After Tahoe, I rode in Park City with my good buddy Dahn Pahrs. It was my second time there, but we rode a lot more trails than I rode the previous year. Right after Park City, me, Dahn, and Jesu rode in Moab for three solid days. Moab certainly lives up the hype as a world-class MTB destination. There's a lot to say about all those places, but this is a re-cap, so I'm keeping it brief.

Right at the end of the year, my brother and I drove to Big Bend Texas to do some backcountry riding, which was a great way to finish off the year. There is (or will be) a separate post about that.

Besides all the traveling, some of my favorite memories are from right here in Pennsylvania or the neighboring states. I genuinely don't think there exists a better group of mountain bikers than my crew of friends in Pittsburgh and State College. I really mean that. I don't want to start listing names, because I'll inevitably forget some. But trust me, those people know who they are. It's probably my favorite part about biking. Literally every weekend there's always someone up for a big ride, and the rides themselves can't be beat. By far my favorite type of day-ride is an all-day backcountry adventure with a bunch of friends, maybe at Seven Springs, maybe in Rothrock, or maybe somewhere in West Virginia. It's all great.

Besides the local crew, I've made a lot of friends around the country who I ride with. When I first started riding, I didn't really know anyone else my age to ride with, but now, that's changed. I also don't want to list names, but I'm lucky to have a few good friends my age, including my brother, to ride with.

Alright, so that's enough about 2022. And boy, I wrote a lot. Probably too much. Oh well. On to 2023.

I don't really have a ton of set plans for 2023. In fact, maybe I'll look back at this post at the end of the year and be astonished that I did so many things I'm not thinking of right now. That said, there are a few things in particular I want to do.

I definitely want to try the Arizona Trail 300 in March, and then hopefully the Colorado Trail in July or August. The Massanutten Ring is also intriguing, but we'll see, there's only so much time (and mental energy) for massive rides. Honestly, I'm hesitant to even list those things, because it would make it seem like a failure if I didn't do them, which isn't true. I always do what I want to do, so if things change and I no longer want to do something, it's always because I found something else I'd rather do.

Besides specific things, my other goal is to just have fun on my bike. I still want to be fast, or at least fast enough, but I really don't have the desire to do as much structured training. I'll ride a lot, ride hard a lot, and ride my singlespeed even more than in 2022, which should mean I'll retain some level of speed. But really, I just want to explore, ride with friends, and have fun on two wheels. 

My one friend's Strava bio says "chillin and grillin", and if you ask me, that's a pretty good motto. I don't want to take anything too seriously. I'm sure I'll look back at this in a few months at laugh at what I thought 2023 was going to look like, but to me, that's all part of the fun.

A bunch of friends on a backcountry ride in West Virginia. Things like this are what I want more of in 2023.

1 comment:

  1. Great post!! So cool to read about all the good stuff you've done this year, and inspiring for me to get out more and explore! Best of luck in the New Year :)