The Why of Long and Hard

It’s been a few days since I had to drop out of Trans Iowa v10 at Checkpoint 1–and I’ve been thinking quite a bit (including some bourbon-laced mulling) about why I attempt things like Trans Iowa, why it’s so damned psychologically disturbing to have to drop out (even when there’s a good reason), and what keeps me (and others) going when others drop out.

I think about this–in particular–because it’s gotten harder and harder for me to accept this year’s result as the days have passed. The trajectory of my thinking has gone something like this:

  • Saturday: disappointed, but sanguine–especially when the weather played one trump card after another, pointing up the fact that even if I’d continued, finishing would have been a long-shot, at best.
  • Sunday: disgruntled and bloody-minded, made worse by pain, discomfort, lack of sleep, and car travel. And glad to be home, when I finally got there.
  • Monday: even more disgruntled and bloody-minded, spiced with a brooding emptiness (and lubricated with bourbon).
  • Tuesday: still disgruntled, but coming to grips with the entire thing, helped by taking the long way to work and a few beers and some wrenching in the shop on a different bike after work.
  • Wednesday: waxing philosophical and trending stoic–helped by a couple of decent nights of sleep, another long ride home after work, and talking the whole thing through with my wife.
  • Thursday: confused, with more questions than answers.

The Upshot

The result of all of this? Two things, really.

  1. The realization that I actually liked training for Trans Iowa this time around–even with the beer moratorium, the increased foam-rollering, and the recovery from the back injury. Despite some setbacks, I felt stronger and healthier going into v10 than I did for v9–and perhaps felt stronger than I have in a couple of years. Was my preparation and training as good as it could have been? By no means: December and January, in particular, were characterized by too much beer and food, not enough off-the-bike workouts, and generally not enough focus. February, March, and April were much better, and I’m better for it.
  2. I’m going to have to suspend my decision to not ride Trans Iowa next year until I have more data. That is, I need to see whether other events–brevets, the Gravel Metric, J.D. Drifter, Ten Thousand, the long summer tour and GTDRI, the Filthy 50, etc.–scratch the itch. If not–and I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they didn’t, because Trans Iowa is special in a number of ways–then I’ll have to reconsider this decision when it comes time to register for v11 (if there’s going to be one).

2014-04-26 05.41.56

Postscript

In the middle of writing this post, I came across a post written by Tim Ek, who knows a hell of a lot more than I do about riding and completing long, self-supported endurance cycling events: Why Do They Keep Going? I guess I’m not the only one thinking about these things.

 

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