March 2002. I was entering the spring with ambitions and expectations about the coming summer racing season. I was anxiously awaiting and anticipating the year’s first event, the Red Rock Rampage in St. George’s Green Valley–home to trails like Zen and Barrel Roll. But back then, I cared little for what else might occupy the finned mesa that the famous race course contoured and serpentined over. I was fixated on the tabled washes, the dirt roads and the smooth singletrack that comprised the course.
Race day arrived. After a restless night of nervous sleep, and a morning of fidgety unappetizing irritability, that moment of celebratory brilliance had at long last descended upon the world in a fantastic moment of clear blue sky and red desert dirt. Pale legged mountain bikers, squinting in the bright sun of Dixie were shocked out of winter’s hibernation by the stark contrast of earth and sky and heat. Insomuch as 65 degrees can be considered heat. That moment became an annual ritual and communion, a triumphant return to the desert, of leaving behind a vanquished winter of frigid training rides and mind numbing hours on the indoor trainer. It is, in a most literal fashion, that much awaited rebirth that fuels those visions of far off horizons, dotted with juniper and blackbrush and distant, faded mesa tops. An annual renaissance of the human mind and body as a glint of summer appears, however briefly, in the annals of subconscious anticipation.
I leapt off the start line, exploding in a rash of energy and speed and delusional excitement.
After 90 minutes of racing–quite well–I started to come to that sickening and dull realization that I was fading into the channels of morose oblivion. Rapidly. I remembered with shame and guilt and anger back to the unpleasant, nerve-racking morning in which I had refused to eat. And now, in real time, I was learning my first hard and fast (and not entirely grasped) lesson in strategy, pace, and most importantly, fueling. The power that had heretofore been transfered into pedals and wheels and forward progress started to fade into the background as my vision blurred and my wheels swerved. The world started to spin. And then, there I was, prostrate on the ground, blurred images of bikes and people and voices speeding by in an incalculable array of color and motion and confusion. The sky, so azure and radiant and clear, became grey and dull.
It was with muted indifference that all went black.
How long I laid in the dirt, unconscious and sprawled, my face heavenward, my bicycle next to me, unceremoniously cast aside–helpless and useless–before my eyes opened to reveal that face staring down at me, I have no idea. I rode in a white pick-up truck along a bumpy dirt road. I gazed out the window at the expanse of sage and rock and trail and wondered with bewilderment where I was, and what exactly I was doing in this foreign and unfamiliar landscape, shamed and humiliated and still rather unaware of time and space and things. I clutched an energy bar in my limp fingers, unsure what it was for, or how I should go about using it. Slowly, and bitterly, reality started to overpower the faded and swirling netherworld I had slipped into. And it was with no small amount of embarrassed realization that I faced my fellow racers whose looks of concerned amusement were all the confirmation that I would ever need of my monumental foolishness and misfortune.
And when my angry and worried wife publicly castigated me, I wondered if I were not better off still lying in the sand comatose and inanimate.
In the years since then, that ritualistic seasonal christening has played itself out again and again. And, not unlike that day, it has done so with moments of triumph and tragedy. Farce and sublimity. Today I find myself waiting for that spring tradition to manifest itself once again in the midst of sunny skies and red dirt and pale legs. And, like I have each and every year, I harbor prognostications and ambitions of pesky, unrealistic, delusions of grandeur. Which, with each passing day, grow into more uninhibited fantastical schematics of glory and joy and victory. The perfect day.
Only this year, I will eat breakfast.
You may have noticed that things looks a little different around here. It’s the product of forced inactivity and a lazy Saturday staring at CSS code. Let me know what you think of the new design.