Who the Hell is maadjurguer?

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I like to ski, mountain bike, drink beer, cook and listen to any jam band I can get my hands on; all while making a complete ass of myself. Hopefully this catharsis is as interesting to others as it is to me.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Irrational Circumstance of Unwarranted Fear

I’ve been itching to get back out on a bikepack for a while. I've been consumed by a work/training/social schedule and have been neglecting the most crucial part of any training program for a multi-day ride….the mental mind-melt composed of frustration, demoralization, empty fuel stores, exhaustion and the inability to turn that frown up-side down. Given all of this, I carved two days out of my schedule to break myself…and there is no better place to start out on that deconstruction process, than the AZT of the Canelos. 

A friend dropped me off on Friday morning at Parker Canyon Lake…a beautiful calm day with blue bird skies met me there with a gentle breeze out of the south and no hint of weather to harass me. The harassment would come at the hands of the first 30 miles. Rolling off onto that crumbly downhill from the trailhead, I heard the vehicle pull away as my thoughts turned to riding the 100 some odd miles and 10,000 plus vertical feet of climbing back to Tucson.

In the first 10 minutes, a tear in the fabric of confidence developed. A pull of the thread and an unraveling of the woven form of perfection found itself into my brain as I kicked off a lose boulder as I rode around a right-handed climbing switchback; leaving me on my ass and dazed, seat rotated 80 degrees to the right and my bag torn partially loose from my handlebar. "Damn", I thought, "not a good way to start".

As I continued on into the world of the Canelo’s, where dreams of flow are abandoned and lay in ruin, the hills did their thing and ate me alive from the inside out. It starts with that little tug, like a scab you just can’t resist picking….and pick you do, until your mind lies open and raw…vulnerable to the doubt.

Doubt that eats at you with every turn, climb and HAB. "Surely I should be making more progress than this"! The stresses of my life come spilling from the dam; busted and crumbling like the trail beneath my feet and tires…..I can’t hold the thoughts back any longer. This is an awful place to attempt to find peace; the crumbling topography that steals from you your energy, providing little. It takes from you, returning only pain if you let it. To find peace here is to let yourself be beat and accept it like the Light Brigade, "Theirs not to reason why....". Yet I purposely wonder this time, stubbornly holding onto the myth I constructed for myself that transformation can happen in the Canelo’s, knowing full well the transformation happens only after you finish the Canelo’s.

The flood from the dam overwhelms me as the sweat drips from my forehead. My cursing form searches higher, slower and begrudgingly onward. Unsatisfactory light, a dry landscape and lack of motivation create a scenario where the only purpose my 35mm camera serves is to weigh me down…..yet my thoughts are far heavier.

I must continue, because I have no retreat…..I was dropped here and to get home means I work my way across this fractured landscape. Up and over the initial ridge, descending into the first valley and being sucked down into the basement, only to heave back up onto the next ridge…a ridge I call Barbacoa. Named after the immigrants who leave their cans of shredded meat next to this shredded ridge of death on their journey north for better lives. I leave only sweat and effort…and a shredded psyche.

Still, I find much to be appreciative of in these hills; though fleeting in their joy for the few moments I study their rocky form, I find relaxation and peace before the toil begins anew. Flowing out of this maze of negativity, I am thankful for the opportunity to have traversed through here yet another time with nothing more than a broken pedal which I fix on the side of the trail.

As I make my way north to the Santa Rita’s, I stop at the Sonoita gas station and buy some burritos for the next day’s breakfast and lunch….tastes I know well from my previous AZT300 attempt. I know I will go farther this time without the death mud and sideways sleet that met me last time….but much work must be done to turn that thought into reality.

The singletrack of the AZT in the Santa Rita’s is much tamer than the Canelo’s and while it can be herky-jerky on its own, my perspective for having endured the Canelo’s earlier in the day is now altered. Every climb is fundamentally rollable, every descent is aesthetically beautiful and the flow in the grasslands of the Sonoran highlands is positively Elysian; me flying above it all like a raptor in flight. 

Moving beyond Kentucky Camp, I push into more HAB out of Helvitia Road, stopping to photograph the fading light of day…shadows which grow long in a light which warms by the minute. 

The filtered sun beams through ridges of juniper, casting an incandescent glow onto the tops of grasses which pulse like waves on the ocean I ride…each top glowing with the fire of a lantern element, golden and dream-like.

A dream which is interrupted by yet another primal instinct which starts creeping in….hunger in my stomach, a dropping temperature and a quickening of dusk. Bivy sites are studied on the topo chart, passed over when I reach them…and the process continues 3 times more….until the topographic expression on paper fits my perceived expectations. I find a bivy with clear line of sight of a valley below, on a pass which will capture the first warming light of day to warm my bones after a cold nights sleep.

A sense of calm now comes over me like a warm blanket….your toil is over for today. Now you dine on the falling day and coming stars….

Several times through the night, I wake as I often do….taking stock in the movement of Orion tracking through the sky….aiming at me always….

The dawn comes with a tangerine glow spread like a layer of marmalade over the craggy eastern skyline. 2 sparrows buzz my prone position on this hilltop, flying east and fast, issuing a whistling sound from the tips of their wings….I laugh in wonder, watching them fly onward into the coming dawn. Wisps of cirrus capture the movable veil of rose and amethyst that tell me it’s time to pack up and ride. As I stand facing east, moving my feet in motions to warm myself, the first ray pierces the limestone ridge to my east and shines onto my face….my chest begins to warm, and I smile.

The shadows of my hilltop project onto the hillside to my west….growing. This is my hilltop, I am the only human I can see…..all around me, birds, coyotes, bobcat and snakes share the view…but I control it all with my eyes in silence, contentment, and love……I control nothing beyond this, and in this realization, my sought after transformation is complete.

The rest of the day could be described as one continuous thread of flow and euphoria….the HAB comes and goes with not a single thought. Not positive, not negative…it just is. The joy I feel is confined to the day, the beauty and the love….the pollution of stress, the insignificance of worries and the fear of things I cannot control is now gone.

The irrational circumstance of unwarranted fear has left its mark.; a dichotomy in days, a ride of contrasts and a changed mind tell the story….a story I will forget someday, only to repeat the lesson anew…..I long to hold onto this lesson a little bit longer this time.


chollaball said...

awesome man, one of your best. that pic heading into the canelos is...humbling. thank you!

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