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.