As long as people have pedaled bicycles, a few have pushed limits to ride long distances, often in difficult conditions. More than other forms of human-powered locomotion, the bicycle seems particularly well suited for this sort of undertaking. I know walkers/runners and people who paddle canoes push boundaries, too, but most runners can't realistically venture more than a few miles from home, and boat people are generally limited to navigable water routes. Every kid and former kid who ever left home on his/her bike knows how tempting it is to pedal just a little farther, over the next ridge, into the next neighborhood, or to venture down some hitherto unexplored trail.
A couple years ago, on an early season ride, the weather was thoroughly unpleasant, cold and rainy and windy. Around the 90-mile mark, at a much needed pitstop for fast-food and warmth, I was very close to calling some potentially sympathetic person who might be willing to give me a ride home. The thought of continuing for another 30 or more miles nearly made me cry. But after ingesting a little food and warming our cold, wet selves a little, my loyal companion and I resigned ourselves to pressing forward. The remainder of the ride was easy and even fun. On that day, I pushed through a personal breaking point, brought on by cold, low blood sugar, fatigue, whatever, and it was glorious. I have had many rides in comfortable weather, with amazing scenery/company/food, and less effort fighting cold headwinds, but none have imprinted such vivid sensations of living on my memory. The really brutal rides are sort of a compressed version of life, with lots of ups and downs, and triumphs and disappointments. Control of the situation is an illusion; I can control only my response to the situation (sometimes).
The thing that fascinates me so much about Trans-Iowa, which is on my mind constantly now, is that it is intended to be difficult. Suffering is not accidental. Three-hundred miles on rough, muddy roads, with no support and very little in the way of services on the route, is a recipe for testing my mental toughness, not to mention the toughness of my ass, legs, and digestive system.
Today, the Pugstigator was reborn. I am planning on putting together an "adventure bike" specifically for TI, and that will be unveiled pretty soon. But the Pugstigator is going to get the nod for winter training. I'm planning to keep up with my preparations on this blog, but we'll see how that goes.