Failing

I failed. I failed to do the Kokopelli in a day.

The endurance mountain bike community is small. And the female faction of that even smaller. The women who have accomplished the 143 mile Kokopelli Trail from Moab to Fruita in one day are world class athletes and competitors. And I wanted to stand with them.

The final outcome was difficult to process.   It was hard to accept that the months of preparation and hard work could be summarized with just two words.

Time is fickle.  Sometimes it’s agonizingly slow, other times it flies at the speed of light.  And then there’s limbo — like a blocked hourglass where you’re stuck in the same moment.

My limbo lasted after that ride and through the summer. I felt stuck.  Long rides that had filled my time and imagination before Kokopelli I could barely complete, and they left me anxious and full of dread. Even short rides on the mountain bike felt like wrestling an alligator, not riding a bike.

I’m looking back at it now.  It’s been seven months since I attempted to do the Kokopelli Trail in a day. Time has passed in all its changeable ways. Some days it feels like yesterday, and others like it never happened at all.  But the limbo lasted — I think because it just never occurred to me that I would fail.  I had felt so certain of success.

I could spin the positive of course, the lessons that I learned, the real take-aways. The, yada yada… but ultimately I had set a goal.  I had publicly declared my intention.  I had talked about the preparation and every little detail.  And, I came up short.

I hadn’t prepared for failure.  Are you supposed to?  

The thing that I had thought would be the hardest turned out to be not that difficult.  Being alone – being self sufficient, with only yourself to talk to.    Although in truth, I was never far away from rescue, and maybe that was part of the failure.

I remember it was a day of extremes.  Emotional and physical extremes, terrain ranging from desert to high alpine and temperatures that ranged from 37 F to just over 100.  The high temperature and a subsequent missed water stop were probably the biggest contributors to the ride’s end.  Running out of water for 90 minutes in the desert can have dire consequences.  In this case it opened the door to monster emotions 

In the last two hours time slowed down. Emotions randomly bubbled to the surface — even now it’s hard to describe.  I’d be moving along and then without warning I’d curse at the sand, the sun, everything, then I’d be fine. And then suddenly I’d be sobbing, and just as suddenly I was calm again.  An eerie calm.   My instincts were to always move forward — however slow that might be — to keep pushing — keep walking.

Then, briefly, time stood still.  And I knew it was the end.

When I pulled the plug I’d been on the bike for 15 hours, but was no longer moving forward.   I hadn’t prepared to fail, and maybe I should have. But I also never thought I would fail, and that was a huge step forward for me. The former being forward thinking and practical about all possibilities, the latter makes you fearful and inhibits growth.  Do I wish that I’d kept going? Absolutely. But it was the right decision to stop for that time.  And it’s laid the foundation and made me hungrier for the next time.

Epilogue: I did go back the next day and finish the last 40 miles.  It took me 7 more hours — some of that taking photos  — but mostly pedaling.  I posed with Kokopelli at the end. But for the rest of the summer every time I rode the mountain bike I felt like I was fighting, and that hasn’t been resolved.  But just a week or so ago I wondered if I would try for Kokopelli again.  It was such a beautiful journey.