I stand at a crossroads. Reality is sinking in. I have less than three weeks to Leadville and I don't feel prepared. I'm going to do it. It may be hand-to-hand combat through hell, but I'm going to go and finish.
Here's my realization: I'm not built like a competitive cyclist. And speed is not normally my thing. I like to go fast, but I do better maintaining a steady speed during long efforts. Not fast...steady.
My "fast" is slow in the whole scheme of things.
But I needed something like Leadville to give me more focus. To exercise, to eat better (my wife is rolling her eyes, but "better" is the key word), to have a goal to aspire to...I didn't think I was a competitive person, and I guess on the traditional sense I'm not, but I need some personal benchmark to throw myself at, or I have no other target to hold my attention.
I was less than a mediocre rock climber with the goal of "being a better climber," but when I decided I wanted to be a guide and started researching the American Mountain Guides Association's courses and their pre-requisites I made a goal to achieve the pre-reqs for the rock guide exam. I never got to that point for various reasons--though I did complete the Top Rope Instructor course at Seneca Rocks, WV in 1999--but having that goal and working to make myself better within that context actually made me a better climber in the ways I wanted and in other ways I hadn't imagined.
Leadville has done the same thing for me as a cyclist, and I am loathe to fail in the ultimate goal.
If I fail, what then? That's a hard question. If I succeed...I'm not sure my struggle is over. After the Triple Bypass in '09 I just stopped riding regularly. The five months after I rode 65, 43, 110, 65, and 29 miles respectively.
I felt like quitting on Saturday. It was the heat baking my brain, but the thoughts were there. I love the mountains, but I don't have to enjoy them on the bike. I love cycling, but I don't have to do it all the time.
How much will I feel like quitting on August 12th? Enough to browse the car lots? I'm too committed to just walk away.
Do I become more committed? Eat like a roadie? Drop the baby-fat? Ride so hard my knees are rendered useless? Ride so hard I loose blood to my brain and crash more often? Do I sign up for another race next year to keep me focused?
There are a lot of things I want to do. Few inspire me to stay healthy like shooting for a fast off-road century. Aspiring to ride cross country is a less tangible goal. Doing the Colorado Trail Race or the Tour Divide seem overwhelming to me after Saturday, but I think it's a skewed perspective. But then again, maybe I'm just too slow. I'd have to treble my efforts to seriously approach those rides. Don't get me wrong, at a touring pace I think I'd do fine, but trying to keep up a hard line pace may not be within the realm of possibility for me as I enter my 39th year.
Kingston Peak from home was an awesome ride, an awesome adventure, and it was tainted by the pressure to perform. If I'd not been trying to go so hard I would have actually made it to the summit and back. It probably would have taken me 11-12 hours, but what an amazing accomplishment. But I felt failure.
I was telling a non-cyclist friend about my plan to ride to Rollins Pass and back and they asked if I was going to ride over to Winter Park. In my heart of hearts what I want is to tour over Rollins Pass, camp in Winter Park, and then ride back the next day. That would be the true adventure I crave. Leadville isn't allowing me that freedom. Without realizing it, that friend identified the obvious dream...
So now, even before the dust of Leadville is stirred up, much less settled, I ponder these things and put myself to the test. Why? For what purpose? To what end?