Reopening Project Pandora.
In 2018 when I started to think about Project Pandora the first time, it was to Everest on a road bike, on the road. Having the low key, secrete project ticking over and running up to the 8848 was pretty cool. Through the winter, I chipped away at idea, processes, training tweaks, thoughts on bike selection, segment options and various other parts behind going for an 8848. This was before the 8848 had gone mainstream and was a bit more Secrete Squirrel club with various others working out what it would take. But by the time I had completed it, I felt like the hurt locker of Pandora's box wasn't fully flung open. It was a good dig into it, but the autistic-esque process of riding played to some of my strengths. Covid days later, and I vEverested and +10k'd at home with 24hrs of Star Wars movies and a BBQ. For that, I confess I enjoyed it but I was underwhelmed in terms of hardness. I'm not sure if it was a mix of conditions (or lack of epic hard tough conditions) or mental blocking it out, but the first two Everesting events were well within reach. The first 8848 was on the perfect road, blissful conditions and the finali in the dark silent descent back to the car was just poetically nice. I found it an immensely positive experience. Everesting in the garage with people messaging and visiting the garage door, entertainment playing away, anything rider could need on hand and no risk at all from weather or conditions, felt a bit like cheating. A bit like Everesting on a sofa. There were no deer in the road at 2am; or trying to judge clothes for being to hot climbing and too cold descending; or fretting over wind conditions; or if you had the right puncture repair kit in the back pocket. There have been a couple of rides I've done in the last couple of years that have really taken me to the bottom of Pandora's box of pain and two rides (on the same route) which have defeated me. However, after seeing Contador and others smash time records on the 8848, I'm not tempted going to go for speed climbing, but something deep in my psyche is calling me again to explore how deep Pandora's box goes on an Everesting style ride. So the crazy notion of being a road biker on a mountain bike, crappy track somewhere remote, riding into the dark looking for 8848 and then onto 10,000 or even 12,000 meters ("Trenching") or a double Eversting on a remote track I'm finding................ extremely, really appealing. I have always revelled in rides where I'm solo out in the dark with winds, rain and grit keeping you going, with a warm cocoon of a coat around you fighting the way forward. It's the reason why I enjoy riding late into the evenings over ever doing a fair weather ride in the summer sun.
So with that in mind and the Covid world around us, I think it's time to start thinking about another Project Pandora. There's more in her hurt locker before the last grips of hope escape. Should LEL not be running in 2021 or if opportunity allows, this time in the locker I'll be searching for the Soil 8848 and more. There will be mud, roots, ruts and 16hrs of battery life on a LED light to guide up and down a yet to be decided segment on a yet to be decided bike. I've already sketched out a rough plan and included and discounted a handful of Strava segments to theoretically play with. Going through the process of this, the parts I'm looking forwards to is the learning, the music, the motivation, pain, experiences, sights, smells, sounds, the burning sensation in the thighs, the depths of how deep I can dig to the deepest pockets of grit, the air in the lungs and imagining to achieve and drive on when the enormity of the pain is making it excruciatingly close to collapse. I've missed that so much.
Should I get the Go on this, like the other challenges I don't think this will be planned to the final detail, as the best plans never run true. If it's 80% there, I will run with it. Clipping in that morning on Arran to do my first Everesting was a "well, here goes!!" kind of moment in a more so way than Eds-Lon or LEL where I'd put expectations on myself and everyone else knew it. That morning on Arran, 8848 was a step into the untested ride style, with hill reps on a road which I don't think I'd ridden in 20 years. But knowing that I was never more than a couple of miles from home and 24hrs from the end, made the ride a challenge but with a very secure safety net. If I punctured I could get back to the car or house in less than 20 mins for a replacement tube; whereas on TransWales the puncture I had at 2am just before a blizzard on a remote Welsh mountain road was a real threat to my survival. Clipping in that morning on Arran was just me in a layby in a very modest way and a single task in my mind. A Soil 8848 trashes that self testing fear to dust as I have little experience on flat bars, fat tyres, distances on mountain bikes or what it'll be like for at least 17 hours in on a rough road or single track with aches, pains, in the dark and materials caked in over 17hrs of trail dust, mud and potential rainy slop on a hillside. On a road, once you've become familiar with the tarmac, dropping back to the turn around point at the bottom becomes almost mindlessly automatic. On a trail or single track where rocks move, sticks and twigs fall and repeated tyre tracks can rut the path, concentration is going to be so much higher. That is what I find invigorating about seeing if I can do it.
So time to restart the Secret Squirrel talk, plot, plan and mastermind my next meeting with Pandora.