Monday, April 21, 2008

April Gravel Hundy: Building the Church

I've had a lot of time to think and reflect on things riding the rural roads of Iowa the last four months. Much of this occurs during the periods of the ride when I am mentally "down". The typical themes are usually "What am I doing here?" and "Why am I doing this to my body?". This reminded me of a song on one of my favorite Steve Vai albums, Real Illusions: Reflections. The opening song is titled "Building the Church". Steve has detailed his thoughts and notes about the track . One paragraph in particular really sums up the last few months of riding for me.

"The name of the Church is “Under It All.” This is where the towns people are enticed to enter and be subjected to the enchanting and engaging music of Pomposh, which in turn seduces them to see and speak of their inner selves things that they were not aware of."

The building of muscle, the stretching of sinew, hours spent in the saddle, the constant mental struggles. This is the "church" I've been visiting once a month since the start of the year, accustoming myself to its music, made by my tires crunching against the gravel, chain and sprockets singing at my feet. I am certainly starting to see myself become capable of things I didn't think were possible a few short months ago. On January's ride, I was so excited to even be in the game, that I was able ignore the problems that occurred. On February's ride, I found both physical and mental weak spots that made me not want to continue. On Graid in March, I was doing well until poor planning and mental weakness caused me to drop out short of my goal. On yesterday's ride, I finally started to see what I am capable of if I get into the right frame of mind and focus on me and not on anyone else. Determination can overpower the body's exhaustion. Even the worst sections of road have a good line.

Tom Anderson and I have a really good ride on Sunday. For the day, we rode just short of 20 miles of pavement, 35 miles of actual gravel, and the remainder of the mileage came in the form of an often thin line of rideable gravel between the ditch and the highway; what Tom Anderson and I came to call "graveltrack" or "shoulder track". From a mental standpoint this was the most difficult part of the ride, as the comfort of the pavement was sitting no more than 6 inches from our tires for the better part of half of a day. It was much harder to ride on than a regular gravel road due to the narrowness of many portions. 45+ miles of dead straight single track gets really old after a while.

The next month's challenge is a big one. Dirty Kanza. A 200 mile self supported gravel road race taking place in the Flint Hills area of Kansas. I signed up for this event almost the minute it opened earlier this year. Even after all of the riding, I might have bitten off more than I can chew. I have no delusions of winning. At this point, crossing the finish line within the time limits will be a win. One month left to prepare for the pain.

Photos from the ride are here. Ride route is located here courtesy of Tom's GPS.


Iowagriz said...

Great summary of what I'm sure we all have been thinking and feeling the past four months on these grinders.

On re-occuring thought can to me on Sunday. Not as poetic and it was coming as a quote from Clint Eastwood's voice "adapt and overcome, that's what we do". I think it's from one of his late 80s movies.

Great riding with you.

Squirrel said...

thata boy Steve....I'll be with on the 200 miles of I just want to finish:)