Saturday, February 09, 2008

Onion of Hardship

This multiday winter endurance racing thing is completely crazy. On the surface, it looks hard. Then you peel back its rigid veneer only to find an inner layer of hard. And even as you chip away at its core, you continue to find layer upon layer upon layer of hard. Every part is hard. And I love it." -Jill Homer

This quote pretty well sums it up. Snowbiking. Nutty. And addictive.

So you want to ride your bike 100, 135, 350, 1100miles across some crazy windblown, frighteningly cold, breathtakingly beautiful expanse of snow and ice, eh? Well, lets see. Your gonna be riding on or in deep snow, preferably on. It may or may not be packed by snowmobiles, this may or may not be a good thing. You will likely end up riding across a lake or down a river, there might be ice. There might be open water too, it may or may not be obvious. There might be fresh snow, maybe a whole lot of it. It will likely be drifting. There is always a headwind, maybe headwinds so strong they actually slide you backwards in your tracks. The trail may or may not be marked. It may not really exist, really. You may push your bike more than you ride it, did I mention your bike will weigh at least 50lbs? You are riding a fully loaded expedition bike after all. You will ride or push your bike in all weather conditions in the dark. It might take you five hours to go ten miles. 14mph is scary fast. You may not see another soul for days. You might have to bivy on the trail, but not for long, this is a race ya know. It might be really, really cold, this may or may not be a good thing. You will have to worry about sweating, sweating could kill you, try not to sweat. But keep moving, you have to keep moving to stay warm, stopping could kill you too. You will pray that you have no mechanical issues. Your hydration system may freeze, you may have to stop and melt snow and/or thaw your water bottle out for hydration. There will be checkpoints and dropbags, they may or may not be there when you get there. If you get there. As with all ultra events, there is no payout. Pretty neat, huh? No, it's not dumb, thats a matter of perspective. We're all crazy, some people just embrace life more. Hardships build clarity in life if you accept them as learning experiences.

Anyway, if you haven't confirmed it yet I'm one of those "nuts". If you'd been paying attention you would have known that years ago. As of the moment I'm planning to at least try my hand at the Arrowhead 135 and hopefully a couple other snowbike races of similar ilk next year. The preparation for this started three weeks ago and will likely continue all year long. Who knows maybe I can work an HPV into the snowbike race scene. But first I need to spend a season racing before I get all hairbrained and unleash the mad scientist on it.

There are elements of snowbiking that bring completely new problems into view. What happens when you expose mechanical components to a -20degF or -40degF ambient temp, and then add a -35degf windchill on top of it? How do you keep a lighting system going for 12hours, and multiple days in those temps? How the hell do you keep your hydration system from freezing up? What gear do you pack, and how do you pack it so that doesn't weight a ton, keep the weight bias evenly balanced between the wheels with you onboard, and out of your way when you have to push? This is just a few of the many, many, many questions to be answered. I've learned alot already, but there is so much more to know, and so much of it simply has to be experienced to really find the answers.

That's what draws me in. The challenge. Continuously learning to how to push the limits of gear, overcome conditions physically and mentally, adapting to overcome any challenge no matter how daunting. In the end overcoming challenges like this is empowering, enlightening, and occasionally lends itself to clarifying life as a whole.

More to come,

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

RIP Sheldon Brown

A sad day for bike nerds everywhere. BSNYC sums it up best.