BaseCamper Ken Carl shared his experience at the 2023 Moran 166 bike race in Michigan.
Go find your Bliss…and once you find it, remember to return and share what you found. (My understanding from Joseph Cambell's words)
…breathe through your nose, remember to look all around, beyond that patch of road a moment ahead...drink even if you are not thirsty…refresh your thoughts, your spirit...let the negative go like the dust in the wind…
I had been preparing for weeks. The weather report said clear, 74 degrees, and partly sunny. The lighting slashing through the dark hard rain was the reality. Thankfully the rain became a light sprinkle as we gathered for the start. 98 riders. Where is everyone else? The serious crew was packed in at the front like the bulls of Pamplona ready to run the streets. I was fit yet not sure where I fit in to this peloton. Nervous, truly nervous, more than RPI or Coast to Coast. Let go already. 4..3..2..1. How could I be so prepared and so nervous? Rolling out was fast, should have been further up. In a few miles it would not matter. The fast crew was taking no passengers.
Breathe, ease the bar grip, relax into the cadence. Okay, doing better. Found a good crew. My strength grew as my confidence calmed. The rain came and went. Glasses, no glasses, need the glasses or my ride could be over quick. A kaleidoscope of beautiful fall colors were a bit trippy through the rain mud splatter on my lens. In the zone, taking pulls and catching wheels. 50, 60, 70 miles gone. The sun teased as our small gang came to the 77-mile rest stop. My beautiful wife Cindy was there, and I was so glad. Must have been smiling a lot, as several of the wonderful volunteers mentioned it.
This is where I went a bit off the rails. My race feed plan forgotten, I began to just stuff my pockets with everything. In retrospect, no way could I eat all I was packing. I also forgot how small this race field was. I had 90 miles to go, and I had dinner for 4 on my bike. My small gang had left. Okay, there are more coming in soon, right…? Wait just a few moments…very foolish, costly moments. I rode the next 90 miles solo.
The rain returned, and ahead were the hardest parts of the course. There was a blessing in the rain, as it compacted the sand. In return, it created mud on the uphill double track. Along the way I made peace with the solo nature of the ride. The route was classic north woods. This was a stark comparison to the high altitude mountain landscape of RPI. My thoughts would flash between the contrast, colorful fall leaves against the brown and grays in Copper Canyon. Here in the Northwoods I was at sea level. Breathing was easier, power was better. I held close with those thoughts; they kept my pace consistent.
100 miles gone when the rain returned. This was the longest race I had ever entered. I rolled to a stop under a beautiful tree alive with fall colors. The sound of the raindrops seemed loud, yet not unpleasant. Taking off my helmet, a few head-to-toe stretches. A moment to let the center recenter. Not a sound of other bikes, of anything except me and the rain. At mile 117, the people at the aid station all cheered. Still solo, yet feeling okay. The rain had stopped, and the sun was bright behind the clouds. Holding above the horizon, that sun was my marker, the sand in my hourglass. We had a deal: the sun could set only after I finished.
125, 135, the miles were going. The sky became blue while the sun dipped ever lower. A surge of energy 20 miles from home. The sun was wanting to set. It was time to find what was left in the tank, so similar to RPI, wanting to fly at the end. The last miles were on rolling pavement. Burning every match I had left, racing the sun, racing my doubts, recover and desire, racing to the end of an amazing year….on this day I raced the sun and won.