The Heck

Dave Bucklin

Today we welcome a new writer on the Musette, Dave Bucklin. A gentleman rider if ever there was one. With his trusty Casseroll he’s ready to take on any gravel epic the Midwest throws at him. Be sure to say howdy and hey at your next sufferfest – he’ll be a great wheel to follow. – MM

When I took the start at the ’09 Heck of the North, I had no idea what was about to happen or how it would eventually change my life. I had been riding regularly for about a year. I loved to ride – commuting had lit the spark that led to longer bicycling endeavors. I’d ridden my first century just three months earlier, a point-to-point from Minneapolis to Finlayson. Despite this newfound fitness, after about 5 miles on gravel I felt woefully unprepared and it would only get harder. Plenty of mud and rocky trail was waiting for me.

I rolled across the finish line nine hours later. I had pushed my bike for a good portion of the final climb. I snapped my chain on one of the switchbacks, but was able to fix it. The driver of a bike-adorned car called out, “It’s a killer, man!” It was no consolation. At the finish, I was exhausted. I hurt everywhere. My friend Ryan and I celebrated with some beers and nachos before the long drive home. All was well, for a time.

Over the following weeks, something wasn’t right. A general feeling of dissatisfaction had begun to well up within me. A small voice began to nag at me. Almost imperceptible at first, it heralded a sea change in my thoughts, my priorities and my daily life.

Nine hours? Ridiculous!

I was angry and I wanted revenge! I studied training and nutrition. I developed an entirely new diet. I trained religiously. I tracked every metric. I tested myself against the Almanzo 100 and the Westside Dirty Benjamin. I was stronger – physically and mentally. I was ready to face The Heck, but I didn’t get the chance. Luck, in the form of the entry lottery, saw to that.

I remained unavenged.

After 2010, my focus shifted. I was burning out. I wasn’t getting paid to put in efforts and hours, so why was I treating it like a job? It was time for the pendulum to swing back. I had been obsessed with intervals, calories and beats per minute. I took some time off to recover and get back in touch with what I loved about riding. Without a strict training plan, I found myself meditating on the oneness with the world, movement through space and wordless being that riding revealed to me. I had made great strides since Fall ’09 and, in doing so, proven myself to the only person that mattered.

The Heck of the North is still there and, in this year of our Lord two thousand eleven, I’ve made the start list. This October, I’ll have my second round with The Heck, but I no longer seek revenge. My worthiness is not a consequence of accepting the challenge – quite the opposite. I’m a stronger and smarter rider than when we first met. Still, I don’t expect the result to come any easier. In a June 14 blog post, Heck organizer Jeremy Kershaw declared, “I want this thing to be tough.”

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