Thursday, March 01, 2007

I want to ride the Fireweed

No bike and no new race updates make Jill crazy.

Here I am, watching some amazing weather blow by - sideways snow, zero visibility, wind gusts to 65 mph, single-digit temperatures, wind chills down to -25 - and I'm thinking "What luck to be stuck indoors with a bum knee."

And I'm seriously thinking that in a sarcastic tone. Because it could otherwise be an oh-so-rare opportunity to really test my mettle.

Instead, I'm surfing the interweb for some sort of summertime dream ... something to burn for now that Susitna's a distant memory. And what I've found - that for some unknown reason has captured my imagination more than anything else - is the Fireweed 400.

Not the 200. The 400. Who knows why? Here is a race for people who own aerobars ... who don't have a tire philosophy based on "the fatter the better" ... for people who appreciate the virtues of pavement and not so much the virtues of peanut butter sandwiches and iodine and filter-top water bottles that you can dip right into a stream.

Maybe I'm just enthralled by the distance. It's a decent month when I break 400 miles (haven't this month, that's for sure.) And I'm enthralled by how much cycling I'd have to do to get ready for such an intense event. Last summer, I spent some time getting better acquainted with sustained mountain biking technique. This year, it would be fun to become more acquainted with rhythm and flow, with cadence, with speed ... to some degree. But I'm not going to drag my flat-barred Ibex touring bike out there with any speed demons on my shoulder. I just want to finish the *$#@ thing. Last year, only one woman completed the 400 solo. Her time was incredible, but if a similar number of entrants finish this year's race, I'll always be able to gun for second. No matter how distant ... second is second.

There's a big hurtle (as I see it) in the 400 with the requirement of a support vehicle. Now, I understand the need for safety above all, of the danger of riding at night on the highway, etc. But there are ways to always ride safely, even at night ... including riding lit up like a Christmas tree and pulling off the road if a car's approaching and there's no shoulder (We're talking rural Alaska. I bet three cars go by in the middle of the night, tops.) And - on top of the fact that I'll never be able to convince not one but two Anchorage-based friends to putter behind me at 13 mph in the soft twilight of the earliest hours of July 6th (and possibly 7th) - I'd just really like to ride it self-supported. The idea is so much more appealing than the one where grumpy friends hand me Clif Bars from a car window and I finish the race one hour faster. I've already e-mailed the race organizers with the self-support question, and expect to be summarily shot down soon enough.

Anyway, I was hoping someone out there could clue me in to some other endurance cycling events happening this summer in Alaska or the Yukon. I need to get Fireweed out of my head.

No bike and no new race updates make Jill crazy.


  1. Jill,

    If you're into the road thing, check out the Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay: 240km / 150 miles from Haines Junction to Haines in early June. Not quite 400 miles but always a tough ride due to hills, wind and weather.

    There are always a ton of Juneau riders so I am sure you could get a ride from Haines to the start. If you're in a pinch, I'll be driving a support vehicle for two teams (one solo and one two-person) and could help you out as well. Generally, anybody on the route will help you out with anything you might need.

    I'll have to say that thing about support vehicles annoys me. They're suppposed to be bike events and you end up with more cars than bikes. That's why off-road events are better, I guess. Ya gotta fend for yourself.


  2. Jill-
    Surely you've found the Arctic Bicycle Club website by now haven't you?

    Check the "Other Alaskan bicycling links tab for ultra stuff.

    Or you could always search out or for longer roadish stuff. There is an AK brevet series on the calender, though I'm not finding much other info. Might have to contact the organizer.


  3. Jill, you are delightfully demented. Perhaps there is a PBP in you.

  4. Jill,

    If you come on down to Seattle you could do either S2S or Cannonball. Both are races from Seattle to Spokane, both have an "usupported" class with no chase vehicles. S2S is the prettier route along Hwy 2, Cannonball is the faster route along I-90. Details at:

    If you want to do either of these, let me know. I can hook you up with a place to stay, local shops, whatever you need. If Geoff wants to run 275 miles alongside you, I'm sure we could help out with that as well!

  5. Another option:

    There are a few of us who might do a shared support vehicle type of thing. And this race is for those of you who 400 miles isn't quite far enough - this one is 412.

  6. This isn't Alaska, but...There's a ride called Quadzilla--no joke--that is 400 miles around all of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY. It's beautiful riding country, and a lot tougher than a mere 400 miles might indicate. The terrain is very hilly. None of the hills are very high, but they are steep, and they keep coming over and over and over. I have this crazy compulsion about it. The though of it haunts me.

  7. PBP?! Now you're talking!


    Check out the Randonneurs section of the arctic bicycle club in Anchorage. They do suitable training rides for the F400 - like, Anchorage to Seward and back in a day. I'm not sure there's enuf road around Juneau to train for the solo F400, is there? Have you considered doing the F400 as a team (2 or 4), or are you commited to soloing it the 1st time? If you want to consider doing it as a team let me know in e-mail (email link on web site). I'm probably going to be in AK this summer, and riding the F400 would be something fun to look forward to. I know enuf people in Anchorage who might be interested in sagging for us.

  8. I just hope they let you do the Fireweed. Good on you for trying either way.

  9. I think you might be surprised at how many of your friends and fellow bloggers might be totally willing to be non-grumpy supporters. And you're obviously wanting to do don't talk yourself out of doing it. Find a way to make it happen!


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