Kokopelli Trail R.

Posted by on May 19, 2008 in Moab | 13 Comments

Kokopelli Moonrise. 5/16/08

“I’m not a big believer in all the techniques of “positive self talk” or affirmations and so forth. Just train hard, train with good technique, use visualization (which works with the subconscious), and the quality of performance will reflect the preparation. I recommend to athletes, and to anyone else, that they “simply” accept their thoughts and emotions (whether positive or negative) as natural to them in the moment — then focus on a goal, and do what needs to be done towards reaching that goal.”

~Dan Millman, author of The Peaceful Warrior

The Kokopelli Trail has a special place in my heart and mind. I cannot exactly say why. But there is something about the very idea of that trail that moves me, inspires me, challenges me. I have experienced the entire gamut of human emotion out on those miles. From elation to depression to fear and quiet failure, and quiet victory. When I need to remember that this endurance experiment works or when I need to remember what I am capable of, the Kokopelli is often where I put myself. I must have ridden that trail a thousand times over in the archives of my mind.

But there is more about the trail that draws me in than just riding it as a time trial. I feel that the land itself is magic, ancient, alive. Riding it solo amplifies that mystique, and I feel connected to whatever ancient presence still lingers out there.

But the Kokopelli is a just friend. And a just foe. It doesn’t care how familiar you are with it. It doesn’t care about past rides or mojo or energy or water filters. If you are not ready, the trail will chew you up, and spit you out in the sand.

I rode for 90 minutes Friday night. And then coasted off the mountain in defeat.

Later, as I waited anxiously for other riders to finish, I had all kinds of time to sit and figure out what had just happened. Leading up to the race was an episode of some absurd tragic comedy, with one mishap after the other plaguing my thoughts and monopolizing my focus. When finally I was in Moab, suited up and ready to ride, I realized that this moment had snuck up on me. I felt an overwhelming sense of dread start to creep over me.

I had hoped that once I saw the friendly faces I knew were going to be at the trailhead that I would be fine. But then something totally baffling, and somewhat depressing happened. I arrived at the trailhead, and I felt like an outsider. That somehow I did not belong.

I felt completely isolated.

It was not the result of any attitude or action from the others. On the contrary. The usual suspects were their usual friendly and excited selves. And for a moment or two I was able to feed off some of that energy, but something was seriously awry. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized why I felt so isolated. It was in fact, because at that moment I was quite literally an outsider. I was not locked in. I was not in that mental place where one needs to be to even attempt a ride like the KTR. Let alone successfully complete it. When someone says, “you did what? you must be crazy!” I think they are right. I think we do have to be crazy. At least temporarily. A sane person would not attempt, or ever succeed in putting himself through so much pain and misery.

I tried to ride it out. But the further up the mountain I climbed, the more clear it became that I was heading toward a bad day. Later in Fruita, I watched Kenny and Chris come across the line. They were exhausted, dehydrated, and elated. I envied them. But I also knew that for whatever reason, I was not meant to be on the trail that day.

And I was alright with that.

I had never realized the importance of being in the state of mind necessary to do an event like the KTR. I never realized it, because I never fully recognized that I was getting into a different mindset as I prepared to push myself. It was a cold, dark and lonely feeling to be on the outside of that. It felt as if I was physically in a different place than everyone else. I never thought something so intangible could manifest itself so concretely.

In the end I feel no disappointment. Indeed, it was a good weekend. I got to do a little joy riding in Fruita, watch the race play out, and sit and wait for people who are so often sitting and waiting for me. Instead of having people offer me cold drinks, I got to hand a few out. It was a different perspective. And one that was appreciated and enjoyed on my part.

When running up a hill, it’s okay to give up as many times as you want — as long as your feet keep moving.”

~Shoma Morita

At this point there is really nothing more to do, except to keep my feet moving. And so that is what I will do.


  1. UtRider
    May 19, 2008

    I appreciate you confirming what I have long thought to be true: That you guys are a crazy, crazy bunch of riders! Seriously though, I admire the fact you showed up and started the ride. However, what impressed me more was the fact that you were able to interpret the situation and had the courage to stop. Maybe this is a post you could submit to the Dirt Rag contest?

  2. Jill
    May 19, 2008

    Wow. Great post. Your words really resonate with me and my own obsession with the Iditarod Trail. I don’t understand and I don’t belong, and still I follow its contours in my head, all the time.

    These are events that go way beyond the simple concept of a race, and I’m glad to see your emerged with a positive experience.

  3. JenyJo
    May 19, 2008

    well said, adam. thank you for putting that particular experience into words. it’s clarifying for me to read the way you experience your external and INTERNAL worlds. i’m always so relieved to read what you write because you do it so deeply and so eloquently — someone has to do it right … and you always do.

    well done … on all accounts. i admire you.


  4. Matt McFee
    May 19, 2008

    Hi Adam, I always enjoy reading your blog and this is a great example why. It takes some integrity to write this latest entry. I think it’s very difficult to come to grips with things like this, but you dealt with it head on.

  5. Matt
    May 19, 2008

    That quote from Morita is awesome. Man, I have quit every race I’ve been at at least a dozen times. Sometimes the feet keep moving when the mind shuts down, and sometimes the feet shut down when the mind keeps moving.

    Good seeing ya Adam and I wish we could have talked more, but shoot Jeff and I were chasing a long afternoon that we wanted to shorten.

    We’re planning a Tabeguache excursion sometime this year…interested?

  6. Marshal
    May 19, 2008


    You seemed so sure of what you were doing when we talked as you passed me coming back down Sandflats………knowing your own mind is so important on this type of ride….I was impressed with your demeanor on the trail….and your way of putting into words

  7. bradkeyes
    May 19, 2008

    My first impression when I talked to Kenny on Saturday when he told me what happened was, Oh, that sucks to pull out after the pain and misery of being gone from the family and all the prep time and all the rides leading up to KTR. After reading the post it still not only sucks but to listen to yourself and pull out like that was pretty epic, probably harder than actually doing the ride. Good post. I’m still sticking with the bicycle post for my vote though.

  8. LyndaW
    May 20, 2008

    Adam, It was amazing to share some of the KTR magic with you in 2006 and see you so strong on that day (and wonder at times if I was gonna catch you before the end!!). It was interesting for me to read this post from you today cause I didn’t have the KTR magic in my veins this year and it seemed wrong to come and force it. You put into words part of what I felt and now I know why I stayed home this time around. Thanks.

  9. Epic Adam
    May 20, 2008

    I think the most difficult part of the whole ordeal was knowing that I knew what the right choice was. I hated knowing that I shouldn’t be out there.

    Matt T. , let me know the details. I’d love to see that country. But the leash is getting shorter as the summer moves on. The babies are coming…

    Lynda, you are right. That 2006 event was a high point for me. It’s been tough to recapture that in the subsequent KTR’s.

  10. Ed
    May 20, 2008

    A tough call Adam but you made the right decision.

    It takes tremendous energy to get INTO the required state of mind and then almost equal amounts, maybe more, to back OUT of it. Coming down, leaving the desert trail and reentering the real world is tough.

    All that and the intense focus on the endeavor at hand prevented me from snipe hunting with you guys, other things sometimes take priority.

    I’m there with you, burdened a little bit with not having done it but ready for next time.


  11. Brad Mullen
    May 20, 2008

    Hang in there my friend – good times will return. It’s your destiny.

  12. JenyJo
    May 21, 2008

    you know what… i had another thought/reflection….

    when i decided last year to STOP my koko attempt — quite early in the ride … because i KNEW it wasn’t right IN me at that moment…. i was steadfast in my decision in that moment, and unfortunately only for a few hours after that moment. the ensuing days and hours found me wracked with conflicting feelings and thoughts (and bronchitis)…. but i came to peace with my decision … and moved on.

    ONE thing lingered, tho … i’ve had long, involved, deep dreams of the koko (and the race) ALL YEAR since that moment. many, many dreams in fact. and NOT having done it this year is a bit of a surprise. i wonder if i’ll keep dreaming about it, or if it will fade … or be replaced.

    just a thought to share.


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