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