Sunday, March 04, 2007

Better days

I spent less time wallowing in self pity and more time snowshoeing today. It worked out a lot better for me. The trail hadn't been broken since the big snowfall yesterday (about a foot at the trail head ... and seemingly exponentially more as it went higher.) I was buried to my shins in soft powder, swinging my hips dramatically to take the strain off my knees. The fluid motion felt vaguely familiar. I couldn't quite place it. It was like walking in quicksand, or running in a slow-motion dream. My arms skimmed snow drifts that topped out at shoulder level, sending clouds of ice crystals air-born. That's when I realized where I had felt this before. I was swimming.


I received a reply from the Fireweed 400 folks. They told me what I was expecting to hear ... No, you can't ride our race unsupported. But the assistant director, George Stransky, did take the time to write a thoughtful suggestion:

"Last year, a friend of mine entered the 200-miler (which we support with Aid Stations every 25 miles and discourage support vehicles and crew), then turned around and rode back to Sheep Mountain. He was not an official finisher of the 400 and did not qualify for RAAM or John Marino points, but he did ride the "400 miles" unsupported. He was just not part of the race. He did, however, get the T-shirt, recognition in the movie (see the interview with number 500), and the satisfaction of completing the distance. And, we were NOT responsible for him on his return journey from Valdez."

Sounds like a win-win situation. The thought of entering the shorter event crossed my mind. After 200 miles one way, I'd have to find some way back to the beginning. Why not just ride it? But as I considered it more, I thought ... why enter the race at all? If I'm not an official racer, why not just ride it at a more convenient time? Better yet, why not ride several hundred miles in a more convenient place? I've always wanted to ride the broken loop from Haines to Skagway. At 350 miles, it would be a good week-long tour. Or a crazy 36-hour sufferfest. I can't decide which would be more fun.

But deep down, I know the reason I enter races is to cement motivation for the long preparation. It would be too easy to drop out of a self-styled quadruple century. I have little doubt that I'd never do it, even if I set a date and bought a couple of ferry tickets. There's something about an actual race that brings heavy shame on the heads of the do-not-shows. Better to finish dead last than to not show up at all. Maybe it's those T-shirts they send you. ("Oh, you like this Fireweed 400 shirt? Isn't it cool? Well, no, I didn't race it, exactly. No, I was sitting on my couch, eating Oreos and watching the Food Network. But I entered it. And look, I got this RAAM mug, too! Can you believe they were five for $16.95 at Big Lots?") Who would dare wear a shirt from an event you paid for but never attended? You might as well just slap on a scarlet "L" for "Lazy."

Either way, I'm surprised I'm still considering it so seriously. I need my knee to heal up fast, and get back on my bike soon, before I enter anything crazy. The last thing I need is another T-shirt.


  1. I say the director has a great idea. That is what I would do...hope the knee feels better soon. Hurrah from Utah-soon to be Fairbanks.

  2. Motivation? Don't want a T-shirt? How about 1200miles and a cup of dirt?

    Motivation, and you get to pick your own routes at your leisure.


  3. If Utah is like another home check out the Hoo Doo 500 (

    If you like Death Valley check out The 508 ( Geoff can always run the Badwater too ( There are a few select that after finishing the Badwater, turn around and run it the other direction.

  4. Jill,
    If you are still going to consider participating in the Fireweed400 let me know. I have access to a great listserv (of mostly friends) that I can forward your request to. The Fireweed website will list your request and you could approach the Arctic Bicycle Club in Anchorage too.
    I would be happy to volunteer if I wasn't considering the F200 myself. There is a possibility that I might pick between the 24 hr of Kincaid and the F200, instead of doing both. So don't rule me out completely yet.
    Send me an email when/if you decide and I'll forward it to friends in Anchorage.
    Hoping your knees heal fast.

  5. Hi there. I came upon your website googling "HooDoo 500".

    Too late for this year, but if you wanna do an ultra cycling event without any support whatsoever, consider doing the HooDoo 500 in the "voyager" division. Cache your food and supplies, hop on the bike and go.

    I did it with a team of four this year, and it was fab. Here's a link to what it looked like.

    Next year, the 508 or the HooDoo 500 solo.

    Great pix, BTW.

    Sorry 'bout the anonymous comment ... too lazy to create a blidentity.


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