Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Freezing fog

Date: Feb. 5
Mileage: 25.2
February mileage: 121.6
Temperature upon departure: 34

When I left my office tonight, the landscape was enveloped in vision-obscuring fog. Halfway-frozen droplets drifted sluggishly through the thick air. Where they collided with solid objects, shields of white frost were beginning to form. Fatally silent as fog tends to be, the scrape of my footsteps on the gravel was by contrast deafening. So I stopped to listen, for a moment, to nothing at all. The churn of a newspaper press echoed somewhere distant - by the sound of it, distance measured in miles, at least. The drifting droplets began to collide with my body. Their icy grip tightened around my skin, and I could feel frost shields forming around me.

I thought of Dave and Doug, of several dozen other cyclists out on the Arrowhead 135 trail, noses wrapped in a shield of neoprene and dangling closer, closer to the handlebars. The headlines today screamed "ARCTIC BLAST." Not in the Arctic, just beyond my home, but somewhere distant - somewhere in northern Minnesota. Where schools and highways shut down and the feds closed up shop. Everything moves real slow when it's 40 below. It would be 2 a.m. there. Were the cyclists, too, stopped in the midst of endless ice fog, struggling with the disconnect of intense physical effort and minds they had to shut down a long time ago. Were they, too, listening, for a moment, to nothing at all? Waiting, for a moment, for nothing at all? Wondering where the wilderness trail ends, or if it even began?

I thought of Geoff, still gripped by injury and the crushing disappointment of two months of effort for naught. We set these goals in our search for purpose until they become our purpose; we embark on these journeys in our search for identity until they become our identity. To take away my bike would be the first step on a slippery slope that in the end could strip me of who I am. I would be unmolded, undefined, drifting. If Geoff is stripped of his ability to run, who is he? Even in temporary setbacks, life has a way of moving on.

I could almost feel the ice crystals shattering as I began to walk again, with an unfocused gaze drifting toward a faint stream of orange light. I imagined it was just a street light or possibly a house. But as the light crept through the opaque night, it cast a blurry path of impossible warmth and comfortable direction. I felt like I could follow and it would take me where I wanted to go, if only I could remember where I wanted to go.

I drift, for a moment, but eventually the fog has to lift.


  1. Nice writing.
    Isn't there only one week to go before the race?
    At the eleventh hour the trixter spirits of doubt step in to tempt you from your path.
    Don't they seem to arrive when we're approaching the apex of our struggle and the completion of our mission is at hand. WOW heavy stuff! So many times I've changed direction just before the finish line.

    In the book 'A voyage for madmen' by Peter Nichols the leader in the Golden Globe (a race to sail solo, nonstop around the world) decided to veer off to Tahiti while on the homeward stretch. He was satisfied with his effort and had nothing more to prove so decided to continue sailing.

  2. Sorry for the mixed messages.
    I guess when I experience these moments I feel doubt. But what it could be is like a moment of clarity. Like when the practiced marshal artist has actually completes the action in the minds eye before a hand is raised.
    Like if the intensity of your training has given you the foresight to realize the eventuality of things and the actual physical completion is no longer important. The instinct to strive is not so great when the activity has become effortless (so to speak, it's all just theory I've never really been there).

    Think I'd better leave it at that I'm sleep deprived and wandering

  3. I think someday you should put all this in a nice book called up in alaska.

  4. thanks all for your kind and caring sentiments. if there's anyone reading who has had or knows much about metatarsal stress fractures i wanted to ask a few questions because my visit to a foot specialist today left more questions than answers.

    he seemed to think that it's not likely a stress fracture in my foot for two reasons: 1) negative x ray 2) the metatarsal pain and swelling has diminished almost completely after 4 days of not running (although i am still experiencing intermitent pain in my arch).

    i already know that the x ray is not conclusive in the early stages of stress fractures, but i was hoping to get some feedback on his second reason. is it in fact likely that i do not have a stress fracture because the pain and swelling has diminished greatly? I have read that the onset of stress fractures can be very slow, but once you hit the point that i did last friday (severe pain and swelling - pretty much unable to stand on it) would it be unusual for the pain to go away almost completely after 4 days off my feet? also, is there any harm in trying to run on it again if the pain is gone completely in a day or two? i was hoping to try 2 or 3 miles on friday and then 5 or 6 on saturday and then 12 or 15 on monday. if i were able to do this without any pain would i be absolutely crazy to attempt to still do the susitna 100 on the 17th?

    basically these are all of the questions i was hoping to have answered by my visit to the podiatrist today but he didn't really directly address any of these things. biggest waste of $300 i've had in awhile. thanks for any advice, geoff


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