Thursday, November 15, 2007

Into the morning

Date: Nov. 15
Mileage: 25.1
Hours: 1:45
November mileage: 329.7
Temperature upon departure: 30

I rolled out of bed at 10:17 a.m. Alaska time, after having that reoccurring dream in which I am driving a huge car full of friends into the remote desert at night, and everyone is sleeping, and I want to sleep so badly, too, but I feel this sense of urgency and I just can't stop. I wrapped up my short NPR interview just shy of 4 a.m. and crawled into bed without taking a shower, still coated in sweat and reeling with irrational nervousness about the outcome. I remember next to nothing about the 4 a.m. conversation and am still too nervous to listen to it. (It's funny how afraid I am of the sound of my own voice. When I write I can self-edit, but when I speak, whatever spews out is what is recorded for humanity. I don't like to feel responsible for it.) But ... uh ... I think it went pretty well. I thought it was just going to be a quirky little snippet on the Bryant Park Project, but they put my story and bio on! Holy cow! The big time! If you happened to click over to this blog through the NPR page, welcome, esteemed public radio listeners. This blog is both a training and personal journal with the results of an amateur photography hobby mixed in. To get a sense of who I am and why I am so "into" winter cycling, a couple of my favorite posts are this one and this one.

I took advantage of the scheduled early-morning call to squeeze in a midnight ride, my first of the year. Midnight rides are likely going to be the most valuable miles of my training this winter. All of the necessary Iditarod components are there: darkness, loneliness, cold, sleep deprivation. I was coming off a long day when I set out for a 25-mile late-night (early-morning?) ride. On Wednesday morning, I completed my full-body weight-lifting routine, which takes about 60 minutes, plus a 75-minute run on the elliptical trainer, then a 10-hour-long day at work. By the time I ate a snack, suited up, and kissed Geoff good night, it was 12:45 a.m.

It's hard to describe how different cycling at night is compared to the day. With all the cars off the road, and all the house lights turned off, even familiar terrain takes on a wilderness feel. Visibility fluctuates from the whole universe of stars to a foot-wide circle of pavement illuminated by a headlight. Shadows become bears and bogeymen. Time rushes forward as though carried by a dream, or it stops altogether. Miles disappear, or they drag mercilessly. There is no uniformity or familiarity. There is only a subdued sort of awe ... amazement at having the world to yourself, and yet remaining lost in a very small, very personal space.

Temperatures dropped into the 20s and the weather quickly turned to freezing fog. Thick particles of blue ice streamed through my headlight like the light-speed scene in Star Wars. It was all I could see for miles. I had brought my iPod with me but left it off for the first 15 miles. All I could hear was the crackle of my tires on the frost-coated road. For much of the ride I was lulled into near-meditation, thinking nothing and feeling nothing, only to be snapped back occasionally in frantic moments of mild panic and confusion.

Past the Douglas boat launch, long past the end of the North Douglas neighborhoods, far away from the city lights and beyond where a car would ever venture at 2 a.m., I broke out of the fog. The clear sky opened up into a startling menagerie of stars, stars upon stars upon stars, like a bulging sky ready to burst at its seams. It was one of those gasp moments, and because I knew I was alone, completely alone, I turned off both my headlights, and pointed my bike into the direction of quiet darkness, and just rode.


  1. Cool Blog -- Good Luck -- Keep up the training! Checkout the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan too. That's my favorite.
    --Chris -- Michigan

  2. Woo! Congrats on the great press!

  3. I had one of those star filled moonless nights recently, I ended up turning off my lights as well and just rode in the deep dark for awhile...nice!

  4. That's wild. Congrats and good luck!

  5. I wish there were more gals like this ...
    Maybe I wouldn't be so lonely .

    Ride on Jill !

  6. Nice Interview. Good luck, I follow your blog and photography daily. I enjoyed your comments on night riding, I don't do it nearly enough, but it is truly a different experience.

    Layton, UT

  7. I came across your blog through your NPR interview.
    Your story is so inspiring, I hope your training goes well.
    Big Pranas to you!

  8. that's cool that you're famous now. maybe you can still come home and have dinner with me tonight. or if you have more important plans for dinner that's cool too. just kidding. the interview sounded great. amazingly i didn't even wake up at 4am when you were doing it.

  9. Jill, you are so cool! Paul e-mailed pretty much everybody we know to tell them about your interview. I just listened to it and it was great! I always had a feeling you'll be famous one day...


  10. Jill, Interviewed on cool is that?! I just listened to it. You sounded good, great job!

  11. Wow, I can say I read the blog pre-NPR so technically I was "ahead of the curve" on your celebrity!
    BTW, love the shot of the horses, living in KY, this is not all that uncommon a sight! Congrats on your interview.

  12. I have been following your blog for a month or so and now you have hit the big time, nice interview. I live in San Diego, so during my bike ride tomorrow I will be dealing with in temps. in the seventies, and no snow within hundreds of miles. I can’t believe your dedication and wonder how you motivate yourself day in and day out. Keep up the great writing.

  13. Are you saying you just rode in the darkness, in this damned cold? Jill, excuseme me, but you are mad! :) (I suppose, every one have his own follies...) I enjoy a lot your blog, and the phots.
    (from Catalunya)

  14. SWEET!

    I can say I've ridden with someone famous!


    Nice Work! You deserve it!

  15. I listened to your interview, very cool.

    It's really neat to have been reading your blog for the last couple years and watched as you've become more and more well known:-)

    Outstanding and best of luck!!!

  16. Congratulations Jill!

    Enjoy this situation. Regards

  17. great interview! good luck with your adventures!

  18. Your voice sounds like you look.

    Next time I praise myself for cycling to the U in blowing snow (like this morning) I'm going to pause and recall Jill in Alaska talking on NPR about her 350 mile AK challenge - in winter!

    (Eat your heart out McCandless).

  19. Jill,
    That's awesome- I emailed the link to my family and friends that I always talk about you to.
    Great writing on your late night ride- isnt it cool how being out in the wee hours can bring such different emotions?
    Its cool that you got to ride with horses too.

  20. Good job! Great press for biking, alaska and you! I loved the part where she asked how you were going to do it? On a bike, by foot or like a triathalon?! Hilarious!

  21. This is the best!
    Good luck--what a great ride.
    Everything you'll see is gonna be so cool! Thanks for the photos and the great writing.

    Allure Libre!

  22. You sounded great. Very cool!


  23. You are an inspiration. I used to love late night winter rides in the mountains of Northern Japan. but I've moved on and let the trappings of modern life tie me down.
    There is no snow and no single climb greater than about 1200 feet around here, but tonight I dust off the light and I ride. (I'll keep a sharp lookout for the mountain lions...)

    Monterey, CA

  24. Jill - that is awesome. Truly! Much-deserved credit for lots of hard work.

  25. Congratulations Jill!

    You sounded great.

    Your neighbor,

  26. Great interview, Jill! By the way, you do sound like exactly what my minds ear heard you :D

  27. Awesome, Jill, in so many ways!


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