Date: Jan. 8
January mileage: 142.0
Temperature upon departure: 30
I was worried this feeling would begin to set in, after the New Year came and went and February crept ever closer - a fluttering anxiety punctuated by increasingly more frequent shots of dread. My once-abstract fears are developing a voice. And that voice says, “Dang ... you’re really going through with this, aren’t you?”
As Geoff and I work out more of the little details associated with the Iditarod Trail Invitational, our focus is beginning to zoom out on the big picture. And the big picture is, well, very, very big. I miss the days when I could just think solely about the physical prospect of riding 350 miles on snow. Or the psychological prospect of pushing a bike through fresh powder, in the darkness, in a blizzard. Or the physiological prospect of staying warm over a whole lot of subzero hours. Or the educational prospect of route-finding in a wilderness I’ve never before set foot in. Or the intellectual prospect of planning the exact food I’ll need to eat and the exact clothing I’ll need to wear without missing a beat. Now I’m beginning to think about all these things, all the time. I believe Geoff is beginning to feel overwhelmed as well. After we came home from camping on Saturday, he plopped down on the couch and said, “You know, when you really think about it, the Ultrasport is really scary, and basically impossible.”
I get the feeling that during the next six weeks, my mind is going to be all over the place - I mean more so than usual - as I meander through the remaining details while trying not to drown in the big picture. This anxiety seems to be both a good and bad thing. Yesterday, while I was down with a cold, I became consumed with fears about getting lost. So I spent my free time learning what I could about my GPS, looking at maps, mulling electronic maps, and finally ordering one. It became a productive "rest" day. Today I felt better, so I set out for a Dan Moller Trail hike-a-bike. The point of this workout is to build up my “pushing” muscles on the 2,000-foot climb and improve my “handling” skills on the screaming descent. The downhill is usually a reward after what is essentially a tedious hike. But I somehow failed to leech much enjoyment in today’s bumpy ride, lost as I was in the landscape of my mind. Even now, I try to remember this morning and only see images of Rainy Pass the way I envision it: ice-hardened, windswept and devoid of any discernable trail.
I keep telling myself that I’d probably be crazy if I wasn’t afraid, and that I’m going to conquer this race by doing the same thing I’ve been doing all along: Taking it mile by mile by mile, one baby step at a time. But I'm beginning to realize that the first step may be the hardest.