Well, I just finished packing for Dirty Kansa. I'm packing a lot lighter for this one than for TI. Everything except the sleeping bag fits inside my Camelbak Mule. Not having to worry so much about weather is a big contributor to the volume of gear I'm bringing. The only things I need to remember to bring now are a cell phone from work and some tape. I even remembered the cog cleaning brush I forgot on TI.
I finished up reading Salman Rushdie's Shame today. It'll be a few days before I have enough to say on it though. Other reviews I want to write up are for Stanislav Lem's One Human Minute and the film Network. Hopefully I'll feel up to it soon.
Another Zen biking essay (probably the same as all the others).
Cory noted on his blog today that in all the TI pictures I seem to be smiling. The pictures from the Arrowhead race show the same thing. Well, it's true and I'm not just posing. Why though? I think it's because I'm actually having a good time. A good time for me is a little different from a good time for other people. A good time is when my mind shuts down and my body takes over. It's not an easy thing for me to achieve. Long distance biking does it. Long distance kayaking does it. To a lesser extent kayak rolling and surfing and the martial art Hapkido (which I used to do) do the same things. All of these activities are primarily physical and focus on immediate trained reactions, muscle memory.
I remember that the first time I combat rolled a kayak I didn't even think about it. I just rolled up because I needed to and had trained for it. It was great because I did the right thing in the right circumstance because my reactions told me to. My mind was empty.
Similarly the exertion of endurance sports takes all of my thoughts and puts them aside. I'm not really thinking about anything while I'm riding. If I start to think about things I start to make mistakes, crash, run into things, and get tired. If I just ride the time passes and I don't even notice it. I feel great. I don't get tired. It's one of the reasons I like biking to and from work. Half an hour each day of meditative work.
The second day of the Arrowhead race was like that. I just said to myself, "you are doing what you wanted to do," and my body took over. Even though I biked for over 13 hours without a break in sub 0 weather I wasn't really all that tired. I was ready to finish sure, I had a headache, and some minor frostbite, but my mind was in the moment.
It's sort a Zen thing, as they say. There are no worries, no desires on the trail. There is only me, the bike, and the trail. Anything not related to that is thrown out. I don't even get songs stuck in my head. It's like in I (heart) Huckabee's where they hit each other in the face with the balloon. For a moment there is nothing. That's what it's like, only longer.
Sometimes it's a bit of a problem to describe to someone what happened during a ride, especially a solo ride. What is there to say? I was there and I rode. That's it.
Now this description doesn't apply to every ride. Group rides, especially talkative ones are very different. Sometimes even solo rides aren't like that. I'm probably exaggerating somewhat too. It's tough to tell. It seems like I had a lot to say on both the Arrowhead and TransIowa experiences. In my defense though, one of the criticisms of my write-ups has been that they are too technical and not human enough. I don't describe the beauty of the scenery or how I felt. I don't even say how tough the ride was. Largely that's because I don't seem to have those experiences in the same way that someone else might.
Perhaps this is all a bit pretentious. I don't know. I'll see what happens this weekend at Dirty Kansa and let you know. I'll just try not to think about it too much while I'm there.