I think it's fair to say that my fear of a bummer life is alive and well. What may be hidden from most however these days, is the fear of something more salient, something darker. It's a fear of failure; specifically, failure to complete The 300. It's ironic that I'm afraid of this, given that less than 30 individual people have ever finished this ride/race based on my last count. Apparently, all the cool kids are doing it....and yet I fear. I fear the weather I can not control. I fear the knee that may or may not cooperate with me. I fear the bike mechanical that may or may not come. I am a ball of worries these days, just a mere 21 days out from my start. As I write this post and project 3 weeks from now; I will be knee deep in cow shit, dust and sweat; pushing out of the Canelo Hills and into Patagonia for some much needed food before an uncertain late day into the Santa Rita's. Will it be snowing, or will it be 95 degrees?
I've learned to manage fear somewhat in my time in the mountains on bike and ski. Bin the fears into one of two boxes: One box contains the fears you can't control, and the other box holds the items you can control. Work like hell to understand and then eliminate or mitigate the ones you can control....and hope like hell the box with the items you can't control is light enough for you to carry along the way. Working like this when the shit hits the fan is also helpful.
When I sheered off my rear-derailleur last summer on a bikepack far from a road sending it and my chain into my wheel; the first thought that went through my head was, "I'm phucked". A minute later, I was elbow deep in death mud trying to remove my quick link to convert my bike into a single-speed for my egress. In this cuss-filled, cramp inducing time...I found my new challenge. The challenge I had set for myself prior to my mechanical was now over....my planned ride was done, dead. My new challenge was to ride myself out of this muddy pit of failure. So confident was I in my self-rescue, that I turned down a ride from two hunters on an ATV who showed up a few minutes later.
The fear that consumes me most days is of the unknown, but more importantly; it's the fear of not completing what I say I will complete. I'm certain I can finish, and yet I'm fairly uncertain if I will. There is a difference. As Yoda says....do or do not, there is no try.
I will do until I can do not....and then I will do something else. I'm not trying to ride the 300....I'm DOING the 300. How I do it is where the fear resides. I've seen far better riders wilt on the first day and DNF....for reasons they could not control. Will I?
The silence after this question....is what I fear. Because for all the comfort of a cold beer and a nice bar-stool....it still never competes with the feeling I get when I know I've pushed myself further into angst and pain than I did before and still found beauty within it. This is my letter of intent...I will do the 300.