Thursday, December 01, 2016

Man colds and insecurity

Last year's Fat Pursuit, around mile 95. Crazy eyes because I thought I was dying,
while the rational side was doing everything to debunk this fear.

Earlier this week I came down with one of those "man colds" —  you know, colds that are so much worse than regular colds that they dramatically increase the urge to complain to everyone around you. I'm very cautious about respiratory infections these days. Productive coughing has limited my desire to venture out into cold, dry air for lung-searing efforts. So it will probably be a lost week of training. Oh well. Shrug.

The timing was great for Beat to sign both of us up for the Fat Pursuit 200-mile bike race in Idaho, which is just over a month away. Although I failed in this race last year and fear I'm in even worse shape this year, I had to concede that unforgiving training rides are in order. Rides where quitting feels like the third worst option, next to dying and permanent injury. The fact that I'm sitting out the better part of a week of training with a man cold proves I've gone soft on myself this year. That's all well and good, but won't cut it on the Iditarod Trail. Alaska does not care. 

Last night I had coffee with a woman who signed up for the Fat Pursuit 200K. It will be her first endurance race. Of course she's done many interesting and challenging adventures all over the world, and is taking this race so seriously that she's been sleeping on her back porch, "to get used to the cold." I'm looking forward to joining her for a long ride or two, but I'm worried she's going to bury me, and told her as much. 

"What about the thousand miles in Alaska?"

Earlier in the day, I had a phone interview with a magazine writer about my book "Into the North Wind." I've had some reservations about this project, because it hasn't sold as well as my other books, even the one that was just a reprint of old blog posts. What did I do wrong? What's so bad about it? Was it a mistake to release it one week before the election? Maybe I've finally tapped out the audience for "Jill doing snowy adventures" — which is fine. I'm lucky I've carried it this far. Still, what should I do now? The projects in which I've made the most progress with are really more of the same. Should I pursue more magazine and newspaper writing? Is it even appropriate to do adventure journalism in this post-truth world? Where everyone is so overloaded with content that it loses all meaning? But what else is there? Maybe when we get back from Alaska I can see if the Daily Camera needs a copy editor. I'll work cheap. 

Yeah, I'm having a bit of a crisis of confidence right now. It was an interesting interview, though — one that cut at the heart of "why," a question that always forces me to reconsider my reasoning for these types of experiences. She enjoyed the book, and was even more curious why I chose to publish it the way I did, basically letting it linger in relative obscurity. I was a bit taken aback by this question. I mean, you don't get much more obscure than bicycles on the Iditarod Trail. I'm lucky to have an audience at all. But it brought up another reality I've been considering — that the nicely profitable self-publishing bubble has burst, and publishing in general is shoring up for continuing, probably permanent downturns, and in 20 more years no one will read anything but social media and the Breitbart News Network. 

Also, Fat Cyclist ended his blog. Fat Cyclist was relatively new MSN Spaces site back when I discovered it, within a week of launching "Up in Alaska" eleven years ago. I think this means my blog is next on the chopping block. Sad face. 

I swear it's the man cold that's making me sound so defeatist. 

I am looking forward to going back to Idaho and taking on a course that so thoroughly whipped me last year. Whatever the cause of my breathing attacks, I've learned that I can't fight through them. It's a downward spiral of wheezing and gasping that eventually leads to extreme fatigue and dizziness. This will be my first endurance race of any kind since March, which is probably the longest I've gone without racing since I started racing. It will be useful to test my breathing and fitness in a high-pressure environment. And if this race is a huge fail, well, that hasn't stopped me before. 

Now to go hit the gym. I promise I am using tons of hand sanitizer and washing machines thoroughly. I wouldn't wish man colds on anyone. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving, again

I was particularly eager to travel home for Thanksgiving this year. Something about uncertain times spurs a strong desire to reconnect with family, visit familar places, and engage in comforting traditions. Beat wasn't able to join this time around, so I drove solo to Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Northern Utah was slammed with a snowstorm that reduced visibility to black-and-white mayhem. Near Park City, dozens of trucks and cars had careened into precarious positions on the interstate, and traffic snaked around them in a meandering single file. With the blizzard swirling chaotically, people walking zombie-like amid the wreckage, and hazard lights flashing into the darkness, the whole scene had a post-apocalyptic feel. Of course, I thought of the memes going around the Internet — "This is fine." 

Thanksgiving morning, my mother woke up at 6 a.m. to bake pies, and I ventured outdoors for a sputtering shuffle. I had my round of allergy shots on Wednesday morning, and while I'm not sure I can fully blame the shots, I always feel pretty downtrodden the day after. Still, it was a beautiful, clear morning, the trails were dusted with fresh snow, and I was thrilled to be out.

 I saw a half dozen hunters and a similar number of cyclists on fat bikes during my jaunt, but surprisingly no other runners.

My legs finally started to perk up after an hour, just as the sun warmed the frosty trails. Sadly, my time was just about up. For Thanksgiving dinner, my aunt and uncle host a large family gathering that includes my 86-year-old grandmother, aunts, uncles and several cousins with an increasing number of small children. We load up paper plates with all the traditional stuff, and I usually eat at least three pieces of my mothers' pie. This year I sat next to the cousin closest to my age, and his family. When I asked him how he was enjoying life in Wyoming, he informed me that he hadn't lived in Wyoming for more than a decade. Embarassing. Time really does slip away, doesn't it?

 Black Friday brings another favorite tradition: hiking Gobbler's Knob with my dad. Nothing like celebrating capitalism by slogging up a 10,000-foot-high mountain in the unpredictable conditions of late November. This year the trail was soft with new snow, but temperatures were in the 40s and the wind on the ridge was only moderately fierce.

We were joined by my dad's hiking buddy, Raj. The views from the peak never disappoint.

 On Saturday the three of us set out to bag another peak, Mount Olympus. This is a tough route at any time of year, gaining 4,200 feet in just over three miles. Temperatures were downright hot by late morning, but the trail was still icy. The summit ridge was a challenging scramble with a thin layer of snow draped across huge boulders and hidden gaps. Glare ice clung to many of the rocks. It was nervewracking, if I'm honest. But I always feel safer doing this kind of thing with my dad. It's always been that way. He even helped pull me up some of the larger boulders when I struggled to reach a foothold. Despite this help, my quads were still terribly sore the next day, thanks to frantic lunges when I suspected my spikes weren't going to hold.

 Raj on the peak, the Oquirrh Mountains in the distance, and the Salt Lake Valley 4,500 feet below.

 Me and my dad on Mount Olympus. We ate our traditional post-Thanksgiving feast, which is pita bread slathered in peanut butter and Nutella.

 They say you can't go home again. I'm thankful we still have each other, and mountains to climb.

Week 6:
Monday: Mountain bike, 5:05, 48 miles, 4,670 feet climbing.
Tuesday morning: Treadmill intervals, 0:30, 3 miles, 0:40 weightlifting
Tuesday evening: Run, 1:17, 5 miles, 1,211 feet climbing
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run, 1:37, 6.6 miles, 1,030 feet climbing
Friday: Snow hike, 4:30, 7.8 miles, 3,198 feet climbing
Saturday: Snow hike, 4:30, 6.3 miles, 4,158 feet climbing
Sunday: Snow hike, 1:44, 4.8 miles, 2,182 feet climbing

Total: 19:53, 48 miles ride, 46.5 miles run, 16,449 feet climbing

Also, Monday is the annual Cyber Monday sale. For November 28 only, all of my eBooks will be 99 cents on Amazon Kindle.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Week 5

Monday: Treadmill intervals, 3 miles, 0:30, weightlifting, 0:40. I was able to squeeze in a workout before allergy shots, which always leave me with that "I think I'm coming down with something" feeling. Allergy shots are like a weekly dose of the pre-flu. And now that I'm down to high-concentration single doses, it's every five days. Ugh.

Tuesday: Run, 1:12, 6.3 miles, 1,161 feet climbing. Languished in my "pre-flu" all morning, but feel surprisingly upbeat for this quick afternoon run.

Wednesday: Mountain bike, 6:58, 49.2 miles, 5,922 feet climbing. This ride thoroughly beat me up, in the form of several new bruises, cuts and deep gouge wounds from my pedals. (Technical rocky singletrack comprises about 5% of my riding on average, and yes, it's the only time I wish I had clipless pedals.) I also struggled with the "heat," and it was very windy — gusts that almost knock you off your bike windy. The ride took longer than I expected, and I had to ride 15 miles of Highway 93 in the dark amid rush hour traffic. All in all, it was a moderately brutal ride. In those seething moments after I crashed or got caught up in unconscionably steep rollers, I would comfort myself with the thought: "This is the kind of training that means something."

Thursday: Run, 1:45, 6 miles, 1,654 feet climbing. We finally received our second snowfall, more than five weeks after the first snowfall. Beat worked from home and we carved out a couple of hours for a jaunt to Bear Peak, "running" through about five inches of fresh snow. The west ridge was very slippery, and we had to creep down it amid frigid gusts of wind. This also falls under the "actually useful training" category.

Friday: Weightlifting, 0:40. More allergy shots. I had to get them in the morning, so no cardio on this day. Weightlifting continues to progress in encouraging increments.

Saturday: Run, 1:55, 8 miles, 1,803 feet climbing. Warm temps melted most of the snow, but there was still plenty of slush on the Walker Ranch loop. I started with Beat but didn't actually run with him. We used to be a little more compatible while running together in California, but he's much faster than me here in Colorado. Although my breathing has improved, my running speed is limited by general skittishness on rocky terrain. It's a consequence of proprioception, and I harbor doubts that I'll ever improve. I'm okay with that. The fact that I can cover ground while feeling strong, even if not fast, is amazing progress.

Sunday: Rest I became a bit ill on Saturday night and it persisted far enough into Sunday that I didn't get out.

Total: 13:40, 49.2 miles ride, 23.3 miles run, 10,540 feet climbing. This week was bookended by physical malaise and flagging motivation. The decrease in motivation comes from a question no doubt many folks are asking themselves right now — "What even matters?" This uncertainty extends to my writing, which is just, well, ugh. Of course the time and freedom to go outside and write freely are wonderful privileges. I hope I can do more of both next week.