Anticipation and Trepidation

The tub is in the middle of my floor and I have both light brackets mounted on my Camber. I'm slowly starting to gather everything I need for this weekend. Clothes for all possibilities. Food - at least some of it. Marking some baggies of Skratch for the aid stations. My clear glasses and lights. Dark glasses for the drop bag at Monarch Pass. Dry clothes, new helmet and gloves. My Shuffle with the play list for the roads. Each item I mark off the list builds the anticipation. Finally, the second weekend in September is here. Finally, it's time to stop talking about riding my bike and actually ride my bike. In only a few short days, I'll be joining 45 other riders on the F Street Bridge, ready to set off into the darkness for my fourth attempt at the Vapor Trail 125.

Outwardly, I'm calm. It's nothing. Just a ride. Inside, I'm terrified. How has September arrived already? It feels like only last week, I was pedaling inside on the trainer, pondering how the season would unfold and if I would even be able to race. Back in March, the entire year was questionable because of my eye. Now, thanks to some awesome drugs and new sunglasses, I'm riding strong. But will it be strong enough? For the last two years, I've printed out my chart with my goal times. For the past two years, the trail has worn me down and the times have slipped away. My memories are filled with the despair I faced hiking up Hancock Pass, the fatigue in my legs on Old Monarch Pass and then nearly quitting at the top of the pass. Then there is the memory of the mental struggle of one pedal stroke at a time, one foot in front of the other - with the reward of seeing the time gap closing quickly, but not quickly enough. I need the race to start, to finally be able to redeem myself from last year's performance I always go into races like this with huge goals and steep expectations of myself. Most people would be happy to finish. I always want more and I wasn't able to do that last year. And that only makes me put even more pressure on myself.

You'd think that after three years of gearing up for Vapor I wouldn't be so nervous going into year four. It's just a long ride through the mountains near Salida, right? That's what I keep telling myself. Just a long ride, like so many other long ride. Am I ready? I feel more confident going into the weekend then last year - I'm not trying to repair the unexpected mental and physical exhaustion from the 50 mile race this year. I finished the prep for Vapor with the crash course of training that the Breck Epic provided. 27 hours of hard riding over 6 days, followed by a smart recovery to make sure that the effects of the race turned into hard won fitness, not exhaustion. I think I did exactly what I needed over the past few weeks. But I won't actually know until I start pedaling. The knowledge that I need to  make sure I've fully recovered before digging any deeper doesn't help when I see the rides and adventures some of the other racers on the list have been doing over the last few weeks. Huge, big days. Bikepacking trips. Me? An easy putter around the neighborhood. How will I be able to compete against the adventures I've seen when all I've done over the past three weeks is be lazy?

Time will tell. As I learned last year, the ride across the roof of the world is filled with the lowest of lows and the highest of thrills. It's all about managing the emotional roller coaster while maintaining forward momentum. I can't give in to the lows nor expect emotional highs the entire night. I can't race anyone but myself and the demons of last year.

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