Ever since I entered the Wilderness 101 there has been a feeling of trepidation: of entering territory unknown. I had never ridden (and still have not) 100 miles entirely off road in one sitting. Truth be told I have never ridden 60 miles over terrain as challenging as that found in Pennsylvania.
So, I started 'putting effort in'. I knew over the course of last year that I was aiming to do some of the longer self supported races that are run currently; the Vapor trail 125, various 100 mile races and even the Kokopelli trail race or Grand Loop to name a few.
In order to do this, I felt I needed a 5 year plan. First phase: race and survive a season of Merida 100km races without injury, at a good clip, and try to slip in a solo 24 hour with no support, no sleep and no stopping for more than 1/2 an hour. 2005 ticked these off.
Next was to try and *race* a solo 24 hour. Definition: prepare and do as well as I can, under maximum effort. This is scheduled for Sleepless in the Saddle this year, in July. Concomitantly I aimed to continue doing Merida's but also knock off some century rides. Initially, on the road, then mixed, then off-road (laps if necessary). Again, so far this year, despite minimal riding it would seem, I am at the stage of relatively comfortably riding 100 miles on road (not fast tho'!) and a mixed route roughly 40:60% ish? Was fairly straightforward.
Next is the 100 mile off road effort, which will be the Wilderness 101, if I can't do a lapped off-road route in Scotland soon. This allows some form of 'qualification', along with another event, for the Vaportrail (which has been cancelled for this year btw, but may be ridden as a 'bootleg' event).
As a side line to this physical effort, there has been increased interest in equipment. Lightening, minimalising and collecting kit which will allow me to ride safely over very long distances at extremely low payback in terms of weight carried and lack of functionality.
Research is continuing and once I have a good water filter, I feel I will be ready to tackle multi-day wilderness riding as a learning experience before doing so in an event such as Kokopelli or Grand Loop.
What have I garnered recently? Well, the Merida this last weekend suggested that in 33 degrees I need more water than can be held in 2 large water bottles. i.e a hydration pack. This is a little disappointing as I have worked pretty hard to *not* use a hydration pack, and thus avoided some back pain issues. I suspect I have to use the minimal amount of kit, 2 water bottles and a partially full pack-bladder for success.
Pacing is also important. Over the last 12 months I have been trying to haul the effort in when I start to 'red line'. This has worked well. I now have much better staying power.
I have also worked hard to get a pre-race regime sorted. Anyone who knows me well will be aware I sometimes have a wee dram prior to a ride, especially with friends around. I do not apologise for this!, as it is probably the main reason I enjoy this pastime so much. However, I do tend to drink minimally, sleep muchly, eat well and prepare kit prior to racing much more thoroughly now. Diet both prior and during exercise has been an interesting area of study.
I also know my body a bit better. I ride less in general (especially tis year, what with one thing and another) but I make the most of it when I do.
So why the fear?
Because I am still *totally* unsure that I am able to finish the Wilderness 101. If I can't this year maybe no worries for the 5 year plan. BUT if I can't, and can't envisage *ever* completing it, the dream may well finish here.
You know what, tho'?
This is most likely the ultimate reason for attempting it...
Then try to live that dream...
oh, 33rd at Builth Wells.
S'pose I'm happy enough with that. Would have liked 10 places higher...