Just telling it like it is…. That is…trying to get my head right by attempting to deal with some “hard truths” or some “harsh truths” apparent in getting myself to the starting-line of yet another Trans-Iowa (TI) Gravel Road Classic, which is only three weekends away. I am a pretty care-free guy and so nothing much gets to me… but the TI forces even a causal guy to give pause and to seriously contemplate the meaning of ones life….Gettin’ ready for the Trans-Iowa is like trying to pump yourself up for a lengthy (thirty-hours+) visit from the Grand Inquisitor and that infamous “rack” they use to use to stretch the “impious ones” on until they “broke” and admitted to their transgressions. It definitely takes some serious meta-cognition…and perhaps even a little self-deception…Taking a long ride with a motivated guy can help…in a weird kind of way.
Yesterday in a rather impromptu training session arranged the night before at a chance meeting at a local pub. My training partner, Sir Eki, and I rode 140+ miles through some of the best hills Northern Minnesota has to offer. Eki was constantly pushing the pace…basically slowly killing me (think Grand Inquisitor)…Around the 80 or 90 mile mark, that involves a long series of unrelenting climbs, I started to falter and as YOU GUYZ know when a man weakens he begins to languish in his own myopic world of self-pity. Eki slowly-but-surely rode away from me as I desperately did everything to try and hold his wheel, you know the routine; standing on the pedals, frantic dancing on the handlebars, erratic surges, swearing, unsteady line, praying for redemption, head down, then swearing again…but alas I was dropped…left alone to ruminate on my many deficiencies.
As I began the self-loathing that alwayz comes with being dropped… I remembered one of the many great quotes from Shawshenk Redemption—of course in my head it played out as follows: Red sez, “There's a harsh truth to face. No way I'm gonna make the Trans-Iowa. All I do anymore is think of ways to stay away from Iowa…Think of excuses so maybe they'd send me back to Duluth so I don’t have to go to Iowa. Terrible thing, to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well. All I want is to be back where things make sense. Where I won't have to be afraid all the time. Only one thing stops me. A promise I made to Eki” Then I thinks to myself as I peer up and see him widening the gap…
“…. Now Eki ain’t even going to Iowa! Hez goin’ to some dumb wedding instead…thatz an even harder or harsher truth for me to deal with. I can’t even find my way from the bathroom to my bedroom, so how in the hell am I ever going make that 320-mile loop? Who is gonna get me back to Grinnell?” Itz a hard truth to bear…but soon the elevation relents and all was good again. Eki sez to me, "What ya thinking about...Ya got real quiet there for sometime when we were climbing and I was puttin' the hurt to ya." I sez, "Oh I didn't notice...Nothing really, thinking 'bout nothin'...just enjoying the day!"
Truth be known: I find solace in reading Lindsay Gauld’s account of this March’s Alaskan Iditarod Invitational in which fifty competitors were dealt some of the worst conditions in the Race’s history (only a small fraction finished the race, I think fifteen or sixteen). Lindsay had to quit the race after walking his bike for over 200 miles, due to severe frost bike…in that event the participants followed a moral code that was expressed in a very simple, but beautifully humanitarian mantra (I paraphrase): “When conditions are good, we race each other; When conditions are bad we help each other.”
I can only hope….and according to Andy Dufense, “…hope is a good thing…maybe the best of things, and a good thing never dies.”