Saturday, September 21, 2013

O Canada

Last year's Gravel Conspiracy was a bit of an epic race, to say the least.  After last year's romp in the woods just before dark, I was a bit nervous to go this year without Big E, but he had to work so I was left to fend for myself. One of the awesome things about this event is that the Head GC changes the route each year (at least so far) so at least I knew I probably wouldn't be wandering about lost in that same stretch of woods. The course was also a bit (ok, about 100 miles) shorter so I figured at least if I was lost in the woods without Big E to rescue me, at least I'd have a chance to get out before dark.

Thankfully, this year I managed to stay out of the deep woods although I'll admit, I was tempted to explore north and try to sneak into Canada for most of day one and two. Not that I would've succeeded because the Pigeon River was in my way, but that didn't stop me from getting as close as I could to snap a few photos.

Day three took us away from the border so instead of spending my time resisting the urge to swim to Canada, I entertained myself tracking wild animals and imagining my death by moose stomping or bear clawing. This began after I saw moose tracks the size of my head (or perhaps Sasquatch tracks), which were followed a couple miles later by more moose tracks and a perfect bear track in the road. Thankfully, by the time I saw the wolf tracks, I was riding with Aaron, who assured me I would probably not die by wolf attack. At least not right then.  Of course, in hindsight, I wished I'd taken a picture of my head next to those moose tracks, but at the time it seemed like an invitation to the moose to stomp my face so you'll have to wait until next year.

Of course by then I'm sure we'll be even farther north so maybe I really will get a picture of some Sasquatch tracks.....

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Too tired to ride, too amped to sleep.
According to Big E's phone, this photo was taken at around 6:30am during last weekend's 24 hours of Hellside. I'd ridden 7 laps straight, from 5pm until about 2am, made an unsuccessful attempt to sleep for two hours and then gotten back on the bike in the dark to ride another lap as the sun rose. Moments before the photo, I lay on the ground laughing hysterically while Big E removed my socks because I couldn't do it myself. I was, as Big E calls it, "shelled". 

I hadn't thought much about this term when he first used it, but later I realized the appropriateness of it. It's that place you get to when you have pushed yourself so hard your shell comes off. That tough outer coating that masks your vulnerability is gone and all that's left is the raw inside, the stuff people don't usually get to see.  The good part.

When I think back on my life and the people who've seen me this way, I realize they are the people I've felt closest too. They're not necessarily the ones I've spent the most time with, but are instead the ones who've see the raw me. They know first hand my yolk's not rotten, so to speak. (Or at least I hope so.) They're the ones who've ridden bikes with me in the middle of the night. They're the ones who've pulled my ass out of the river when I've flipped my kayak. They're then ones who have, quite literally, had my life in their hands at the other end of a climbing rope a thousand feet off the ground. They're not even always people who've been there in the thick of things. Some have been there at a finish line when I couldn't lift my leg over my bike or when I realized I'd ridden for so long I didn't know to do next. Others were there when I found out my mom died and melted into a screaming, hysterical mess on the floor. You get the picture. They're the ones who've seen the real, completely shelled and unhinged me and hung around anyway. 

I've spent an unusual amount of time shelled in the last year. I'm not sure why I keep choosing to do this. Maybe partly it's because I like the connections I make with people in this state. Some people need to be drunk to connect with people. I, apparently, just need to be completely shelled. Maybe it's also partly because every time I take the shell off, I realize it's not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. I'm sure it's also partly that I've grown accustomed to leaving a bit of the shell off every time so that the day to day me gets to be a little be closer to the shelled me every time.  

This has always been one of my favorite quotes:

Not that I want to spend my life actually crying, but I strive to live, as often as possible, right on the edge of being overcome with emotion. That, to me, is the where the good stuff happens, and you never get there if you leave your shell on.