Monday, December 18, 2023

A Million Feet

I suppose I've always liked numbers. How many fly balls can I catch in my front yard? I kept count well into the thousands. I even kept a log of all the field goals I kicked, through an almost-full-sized goal post I built with my uncle out of PVC pipe when I was six or seven years old. What I'm trying to say is, I like numbers, and nice round ones at that.

The idea of riding a million feet in a year honestly wasn't something I really thought about at first. In fact, the first time I did ride a million feet in a year - back in 2020 - I didn't really think much of it beyond the fact that it was a neat milestone. But of course, those were my roadie days, when "Els" came quickly thanks to skinny tires, gears, and smooth pavement. Now that I primarily ride a singlespeed mountain bike (well, less so now with muddy trails, but still...) and do more racing, the million feet isn't quite as easy for me. This year, it took me until early December, the 6th, to be exact, to get the 1,000,000 feet. My brother got it a few weeks before me.

The Brevard, NC wolf approves of the million feet.

Part of the reason it took longer was more trail miles. Rothrock, in particular, isn't great for "Els" (short for elevation). My standard two-hour Rothrock route, Lonberger-Tussey-Leniency-Wert-Lonberger, only got me around 1,900 feet of climbing. On a gravel bike on roads, I can easily get 3,000 feet in two hours. Add in the various races I did with rest weeks and whatnot, and the million becomes a harder feat.

The other factor, and one I didn't really appreciate until now, is the responsibility of growing up. Back in 2020, thanks to COVID, I had practically zero responsibilities. Even though I still put the physical effort in to ride, the mental effort of riding 20 hours a weak is substantially less when your only priority is to ride 20 hours per week. Now that I'm in a one-year teaching program, I'm quite a bit busier. More so than I've ever been in college. That's not inherently a bad thing, after all, I'm looking forward to being a teacher, but it does mean that there's more on my plate. Going out to ride for two or more hours every day after being in class, writing papers, and doing observations at a high school is a lot more mentally taxing, at least for me.

Now, I know what you're saying. Or at least what you're thinking. Even a teaching program in college still isn't the real world. And you're right. In the spring when I'm student teaching - essentially equivalent workload to a teacher - and then next fall when I hopefully get an actual job, I'll have even more responsibility than I have now. 

Part of me, though, will be happy to no longer be a student. No longer having to write papers. No longer having to do homework. Sure, I'll now have to be grading homework and grading tests, but at least I'm the one in charge. I don't know, though, I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Maybe I'm a bit idealistic.

Wow, I guess that was a bit of a tangent, wasn't it?

As I was saying, the million feet is a fun milestone. 

Click here for Million Foot Hall of Fame

The first foot of climbing I got this year was with Zach down in Texas, on trails in Big Bend Bend State Park. The 1,000,000th foot I got was on Hunt Road, a gravel road only a couple miles from my house. In between, I got Els in, oh I don't know, maybe 10 different states? The only constant was a singlespeed. Of course, my gear ratio varied. I think the easiest gear I ran was 32x22, out in Colorado when I was climbing some steep high-altitude trails. The hardest gear I ran was 38x17, which I actually rode quite a bit for pavement around home.

I guess this post is going to end up being pretty short, and really, it's more of a companion-post for the Million Foot Hall of Fame I made on my website. You can find the link at the top of my website on the navigation bar. 

The one question that always gets asked to anyone who gets the million is are you going to try for the million next year?

For me, the answer right now is I don't know. It'll depend on a lot of things, like where I'm living, how much singletrack I ride versus gravel roads, and how my riding schedule adapts to (hopefully) getting a full-time job as a teacher. So we'll see. I had a lot of fun in 2023.

What's a million foot post without Dahn Pahrs walking his bike?

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