Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"The point of snow sports is hot chocolate"

Date: Dec. 25
Mileage: 30.4
Hours: 2:30
December mileage: 583.4
Temperature upon departure: 36
Precipitation: .31"

Geoff was on NPR today!

It has been really interesting to listen to the feedback Geoff and I have received since we decided to enter the Iditarod Trail Invitational. We've heard a fair amount of commentary, not only from friends and family, but also from strangers - radio personalities, marathon runners, people who blog in Ajax, Ontario. The general reaction is “They’re crazy. They’re going to hurt themselves out there.” And yet no one has stepped in and tried to stop us. Instead, we receive an abundance of encouragement and advice. I think nearly everyone who stumbles across our story has some understanding of how it feels to aspire to something so extreme, it all but promises both the depths of suffering and the apex of joy. If they had no comprehension of that feeling, they simply wouldn’t care.

One aspect of this race that is incomprehensible to nearly everyone is how Geoff and I fit in it together. I ride a bicycle and he runs. In the real world, these are very different activities that have very different techniques and ends. A cyclist, even a poor cyclist, is nearly always faster than a person on foot. But on the Iditarod Trail, our playing field is much more level. I have a hard time explaining this to people. Geoff, who is a much better athlete than I am, can hold a steady run/walk average of 4-6 mph almost indefinitely, and can do so even on poor trail conditions. I can swing wildly, from riding 10-15 mph on hardpacked snow to walking and pushing my bike at 2 mph through a number of much more common snow conditions, such as fresh powder, wind-blown drifts and sandy “flash-frozen” snow. In the end, if I hold a 4-6 mph moving average over the course of the race, I’ll be more than happy with it. Truth be told, I will be happy just to finish the race. And as long as I am relatively healthy and my bicycle is still basically in one piece, I’m willing to give myself as much time as it takes. Of course I know it’s a race and of course I want to be fast. But to put it in perspective, beyond just Geoff and myself: The women’s cycling course record for the 350-mile race is 5 days, 7 hours. By contrast, the course record for a man on foot is 4 days, 15 hours. If history has been any indicator, in all likelihood Geoff, on foot, will beat me, on a bicycle, to McGrath.

Still, my physical fitness is one of the few things I can control about this race, and I want to be as prepared as possible in this regard. I can’t believe it’s already nearly Thursday again, and with it, another plan for an endurance-building long ride. Tomorrow I plan to shoot for several continuous hours in the saddle rather than the stop-and-go conditions of trail riding. Pushing a few big gears will help me pinpoint some nagging pains that have been cropping up, and it will be fun to shoot for some bigger miles ... I mean, as big as they go when it is 25 degrees and snowing, and you are hunkered over a full-suspension mountain bike with studded tires. I am just hoping the temperature drops below freezing and the roads are not as sloppy as they've been, or I’ll never be able to ride it out.