I am about a month away from my first-ever trip to Arizona. 24 Hours of Old Pueblo is the race that beckons me to the desert. Training is going well. Mornings on the indoor trainer for an hour or so and outdoor rides in the afternoon or evening. Throw in a fair bit of running, some (not enough) snowshoeing and some significant gym time and you get a good picture of my days.
Knowing I need more night riding, I decided that last night's clear, starry sky, would be the perfect opportunity to get a solid 4 hours in. The near-full moon even allowed me to turn my light off for a while and just enjoy the crisp air and stillness of the night. I hit up some singletrack that was fast and surprisingly still frozen--ie not muddy. The rest was road riding that provided a good mix of hills and fast flats. My legs felt strong and I could've ridden all night. I found that sweet spot that felt almost effortless, yet when I looked down, I was surprised at my pace. I was in the proverbial "zone."
I stayed here for literally three of the four hours. There was an eerie stillness to the night and time barely existed. There was no traffic in the canyon and each hill I climbed put me closer to the starry abyss that seemingly engulfed me. I turned off the road and began climbing up a snowy, frozen trail. Endless switchbacks put me on a wide, grassy bench about 20 minutes later. The trail flowed back and forth across the bench. It was fast, but narrow and tricky. Soon the trail began to wind down a hill and reconnected with the paved road. The slick, icy downhill demanded every ounce of my focus and my back tire was all over the place. I kept going, alert and aware, but never stopping or slowing. Speed was my friend here and allowing myself to think, even for a second about the ice and snow on the trail would be disaterous. Certain carnage....
A couple more hills and about 10 more miles....I was home. A truly surreal experience, to which I can only attempt a description. This was a ride I wished I wasn't solo. I would have loved for someone else to also experience the euphoric freedom of this still, starry night on a bike.
As I think back to about 24 hours ago, Edward Abbey's words ring in my ears:
"So get out there...mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards."
Hmmmmm, time to open the safe deposit box?