“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” - Dale Carnegie
I’ve ridden my bicycle through harsh conditions, sometimes for what some may consider very long distances. I guess you could say that I tackled those rides in pursuit of answers. I hoped that those answers would provide me some truth about who I was, how much I could take physically, how far I could push before I broke. In those efforts I could not control the rain that fell, nor could I control the wind that pushed hard against me, but I still felt in control of most things. I was prepared for all that I knew could happen. The first pedal stroke of those rides always felt like stepping off a cliff, hoping the bridge would be there, and it always was.
Fear is one of the greatest motivators and it always has been. However, in these modern times fear is easily avoided and for most becomes an unknown emotion. For others it is sought out and wrapped up in a beautiful word, “adventure”. To me all true adventures come with fear. It’s the amount of fear that becomes the ultimate game changer.
Although I live and train in a northern climate notorious for extremely cold temperatures, I have a great respect for the cold. I grew up in Minnesota and winter here is something I don’t necessarily like, it’s just something I know, and I’m sure it’s something I’d miss terribly if I didn’t have it. Despite all the cold weather gear and experience riding in the cold I still have the nagging feeling of “what if?” What if I get a flat and it’s too cold to get the tire’s bead to stretch back on the rim? What if my chain breaks and I’m forced to fix it while I’m soaking wet with sweat? What if I have to walk 20 miles for help? What if it’s 30 below zero when those bad things happen? There’s something about the winter that looms demonic and powerfully glorious at the same time.
Tomorrow (Monday) I'm facing one of the biggest cycling fears of my life, one that I have successfully avoided for several years now, the Arrowhead Ultra 135. The Arrowhead traverses across the northern reaches of Minnesota via snowmobile trails from the border town of International Falls or “The Ice Box of the Nation” to Tower, Minnesota. Temperatures in this region of the state commonly reach 20 to 30 below zero Fahrenheit.
I will be carrying up to 30 pounds of survival gear on my bike and crawling through the woods at an excruciatingly slow pace. I have no plans to keep up with the leaders, nor a sophisticated strategy in mind. In fact, I’ve wondered what it will be like to watch the front end of the race ride away from me. A big part of me will want to go with them, but if I want success I’m afraid I’m going to have to let them go. I’m going to have to worry about two things and two things only; my Mukluk and myself. Throughout my recent racing career I’ve made a habit out of identifying the most “dangerous” riders or the “ones to watch” and made it my mission to keep them in my sights. This will not be the case in the Arrowhead.
My vision of this experience is more of a soul-searching journey than a race. If I close my eyes now I can see myself, the trail, the stars, and from time to time an animal friend. There will be plenty of time to think as I turn those cranks over and over again. I plan to keep my head up, take it all in, and stay within the moment.
Stepping off that cliff I know that bridge will be there. I'll look fear straight in the eye and get busy.