Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Jay P's Fat Pursuit - "Live, Learn, Finish, Return" (Part 3)

(photo courtesy @DavidMarkman)

Since November 24th, Fairbanks, Alaska has been my home and will be until after the Iditarod Trail Invitational, February 25th.  Specifically, the Goldstream Valley. An endless snarl of perfectly intertwined snow trails, laid in for months by the dog-mushers that train here, have provided over a month of fat biking nirvana. Big climbs, far reaching valleys, single track, double track, views that mandate a foot down, deep breath, eyes closed moment of remembrance. 

Jay P. (Race Founder and Director) had tirelessly laid in the starting section of trail which was in solid shape, meaning we were all able to run tire pressures at, near or above double digits. A few miles into the race it was obvious we were in for a treat of a ride. Listening to the “old timers”, these conditions had never existed prior. Bluebird skies, trails that just kept getting better, views that kept getting bigger, this was one of those days. To find fault with anything would have taken a great deal of effort and a very Scrooge-ish outlook on life. No one on two wheels that day held any such views. Quite the opposite. These were souls that could find joy in the bleak. Sooner or later we all would be up to our neck in “it”. The race becomes our teacher. Where one person sees the curse, another the blessing. The ability to remain in the moment, find the positive, where it is not obvious, is a skill learned in these places and one that serves equally well long after the race is done. 

I seek out these adventures not only for the adventure and the opportunity to do so on a Fat-bike but also for the people.  Each who left the giant wooden arch entry into the Pond’s Lodge behind them that day were seekers. They are not content to sit idly by as spectators of life. A fire burns within them. A light glistens in their eye, the end of each journey marking the start of days till the next. 

In “White Men Can’t Jump”, with Jimi Hendrix blasting through the radio, Woody Harrelson exclaims “I love Jimi!!”, which draws an immediate rebuttal from Wesley Snipes...”You can’t even hear Jimi!!!” 

In the midst of all who come to these places and events, I listen with intent. They are the Fat Bike rock-stars and I’m doing my best to hear their music. Each event entered I gain a greater understanding of their “why”, their “how” and in doing so, clarify my own. 

I’d entered the event with a few simple goals. Eat more, drink more, smile more than all on the trail. These things I had a say in. It was a worthy challenge amongst these folks. Control what I could control. In this place, similar to Alaska, One realizes just how little, contrary to the belief of the ego, we are truly in charge of.

Dumping into Harriman State Park, mere miles into the event, the Idaho Wilderness enveloped us all. If one were to be dropped into this place there would be no sense of civilization nearby. Were you told it was hundreds of miles of wild in every direction, you’d believe it without hesitation. Claiming complete comfort would be misleading. Awe? Yes. Excitement? Yes? It was not lost on me however that this, unlike any winter event I’d entered yet offered almost no easy bail outs. 80 miles to Checkpoint one, 40 plus miles from there to West Yellowstone, from there up and over “Two Top”, a notoriously bad trail, multi mile push up to 8200’ with stories of “I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face” winter squalls, and maybe 15 miles more down the other side to the “Man Cave”. The final checkpoint. As beautiful as all things were at the moment, I could not deny the trepidation that was part and parcel of it all as well. Achieving comfort in the uncomfortable, finding peace in chaos, this was the classroom. Ruler slaps on the back of the wrist, hopefully, would be few.

This concludes part 3 of  Jay P's Fat Pursuit “Live, Learn, Finish, Return”

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