Teachings from the Trail Part 1 of 4: Adaptation
A glimpse into my pre-covid experience at the Iditarod Trail Invitational 2020.
This past weekend’s mountain bike adventure with Andy Zolton was all about adaptation: including route planning with masks on our faces, social distancing while we rode, changing our course mid ride based on safety and taking all the new COVID-19 necessary precautions. My last big expedition ride/race was just four months ago, when the pandemic was starting to really present itself. I was in Alaska riding the #ITI2020 on the famous Iditarod trail in the most extreme and committing conditions I’ve ever experienced. I had no idea that the struggles along the trail in the Alaskan wilderness were preparing me to return to a world that would be forever changed.
At the Iditarod Trail Invitational this year, I stood on the starting line confident and excited for the long journey ahead. I knew I was strong. I believed I could win. 5 miles into a 350 mile expedition, I made a critical navigational error. I stood at the intersection calculating my decision and then chose the wrong way. Both paths would eventually go to the same place, but the route I picked was hours slower and involved a full night pushing my bike through heavy snow alone. One decision immediately changed the outcome of the entire event for me. As darkness settled in and heavy snow began to fall, my environment had pivoted from a race to survival. I had to adapt in order to persevere.
Change is hard. Letting go of a desired goal is painful. Adaptation requires physical strength, knowledge and experience. The tools required for adaptation are the things we can control and prepare for. Skill and strength allow us to adapt and be emotionally strong when our environment changes unexpectedly.
I emerged from this intensely physical and emotional expedition to a world I did not recognize. For decades as an athlete, I’ve mastered my craft, honed my skills and spent hours specifically preparing for races and expeditions. I believed wholeheartedly I was training for these events. Now I know I was wrong. I wasn’t training for the events, all along, the events and expeditions were training me.