Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gear check

Date: Feb. 9
Mileage: 26.4
February mileage: 199.0
Temperature upon departure: 24

I did a fairly short ride today, and then spent the better part of the afternoon putting together most of my gear for the Susitna 100. The above picture is what I'm going to wear ... or carry with me, in case I need to wear it. I'll probably adjust it quite a bit based on the weather forecast, but you never know when you're going to get wet, so I'm going the carry the extra gloves, socks and a base layer no matter what. Everything else is clockwise, from the upper left: water resistant shell pants, Northface winter hiking boots, N.E.O.S. overboots, neoprene gloves (my spares), middle fleece layer, base layer (a basic cycling jersey. I can use the little back pocket to hold chemical warmers if I want to), top fleece layer, bike pogies, fleece balaclava (spare, and it probably won't go unless it supposed to be below 0), lightweight neoprene socks (spare), heavyweight neoprene socks, polypro tights, fleece long johns, and my winter shell. In the middle are the helmet, goggles, liner socks, liner gloves, mittens and wool socks. Again, I might not need all of this. But unless the weather forecast calls for nothing below 10 and nothing above 33 (the kind of temps in which you're likely to get wet from rain or melting snow), I'll likely wear or carry all of it. Phew! I can be really high maintenance.

I also gathered most of the required gear. With any luck, I'll never have to use it. I know that sleeping bag looks like it weighs a ton. It does. I believe its just over six pounds, and it doesn't stuff very small either. But it's really toasty, and I didn't have to give up food for a week to pay for it. So I'll schlep it over the tundra. Next to it is your basic thermarest sleeping pad (I traded my pad with Geoff, Dave, because I have space issues and he has weight issues. So he gets the super light nice one that you sent me.) The rest is headlight, bike tool, fuel (I'm going to buy new fuel in Anchorage), lighter, pot, bike pump, stove (that's its box. It's currently en route to Palmer via USPS. I didn't trust that the airport baggage security people weren't going to take it away from me), chemical handwarmer packs, Camelbak (I'm sticking with the big one because it has great insulation, but I'm not carrying much more than water inside of it), and a bivy sack, generously on loan from Eero, an artist in Fairbanks.

That's my stuff. Good grief, it does take a lot to do a bike ride in the winter.

I don't know how much it all weighs. Comfortably over 15 pounds, I'm sure. I've never put much effort into lightening the load because I'm not really a front-of-the-pack person. I'm in this thing to feel confident and have fun, and best of all, survive. Last year I carried about the same amount of gear. I struggled to stay afloat on my bike much of the time and never even cracked into my bags, despite getting caught in heavy rain and getting soaked through and through (I kept all of my dry gear in reserve in case my core temperature dropped, and that never happened.) But would I carry it again, even if it wasn't a race requirement? In a heartbeat. If there's one thing the Alaska wilderness is, it's unpredictable. Self-sufficiency is worth 10 times its weight in comfort and confidence.

And the best part is ... I have it all ready, a week early! Tomorrow I'm going to load it all up on Snaux bike to test how it handles. Sorry for the boring, long list post today. But typing out all of this is actually helpful to me. You know what's another completely self-absorbed thing I can do, because this is my blog? Post silly pictures of my pets. This is Geoff's cat, Midnight, eating thread. She was doing this when I arrived home from biking today, so I have no idea how much she actually injested before I literally cut her off with a pair of scissors.

Wow. One more week. I'm terrified.


  1. Jill,
    If I were you I'd bring a few tablets of ibuprofen. Hardly takes up any room and the anti-inflammatory effect can really make a difference. And a light maybe?

  2. Our cat ate a large rubber band.

    How do I know?

    The cat horked it up in pieces over 2 days..........

  3. Don't be terrified! If it helps at all, you have a pretty good sized cheering section here in relatively balmy Connecticut. Go, Jill!

  4. Its always trilling when i'm packing for a long race or event!

    Good luck, though you seem super prepared!!

    Hope the foot keeps feeling better G!

  5. Jill, my wife works for a vet. When she saw that picture, she said, "Oh that's not good." She recommends keeping a close eye on the cat and to get it checked out if it's showing ANY signs of not feeling well.

    (Like you needed something else to worry about!)

  6. That is a lot of gear. Good luck.

  7. We had a cat that ate some thread. The only issue was my sister had to check that her cat didn't drag anything out of the litterbox for a few days. Anytime Lucifer headed to the box, wherever possible, my sister had to go with scissors!

    You're going to do great at Susitna, Jill, have a great ride!

  8. You be safe Jill! You have the greatest cat.

  9. Jill, I have two small & lightweight suggestions. You might add a small bottle of denatured alcohol to your kit to de-ice derailleurs or other metal parts if you have to. Also add a metal tire lever, wrapped in tape, in case you have to change a tire at -20F. Plastic tire levers break easily when they get that cold.

  10. Plastic tyre levers break anywhere! I see there is a cat in the middle of your gear. Are you going to take the cat for when it's cold or are you going to unravel the thread in the cat so you can find your way home?

  11. Good luck on the trail. We wish you the best. You forgot to mention a piece of gear in the pic, it's orange by your socks. I've never worn one of those.

    Once we found our dog with some rug fibers stuck in between his teeth. As we got it unstuck and started pulling, we realized that the dog was eating the freyed rug. We pulled about a 2 foot length of string when he chocked the last of it, a nice golf ball size mass of twine. Yuck.


  12. I'd just like to know what kind of goggles and what brand of pogies you use, please. I'm a bike commuter in Chicago and I admire your distance rides up there in the tundra. Here -- my digits freeze within 20 minutes! (poor circulation according to my doctor)

    Keep trekkin'!


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