Monday, January 07, 2008

Anxiety

Date: Jan. 8
Mileage: 12.1
January mileage: 142.0
Temperature upon departure: 30
Precipitation: 0"

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.

21 comments:

  1. Great pics as always. It is good that you have a little fear. I think it keeps you wary.

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  2. Remember that every journey begins with the first step, hard as it may be, you can do it. One of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziggler "If you aim for nothing, you'll hit it everytime." So aim high. Much luck to you. Steve

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  3. Fear is good. Mark Twain once said "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."
    It's fear that keeps you prepared.

    Besides - your fear is also being generated from just not feeling well. When you are healthy and strong the fear subsides - good to get the bugs out now.

    Good luck - this is not a hill for a climber like you!

    Eric from UT

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  4. What an adventure! I agree that a little fear is healthy and can keep you from making silly mistakes that overconfidence brings. You're getting yourself well prepared and I wish you much luck and fun.

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  5. Lindsey B.9:39 AM

    Jill, don't forget: You won't be the only one out there. It's not like you are entering the wilderness on your own. One great survival tactic is to buddy up. Prepare, but remember no man is an island.

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  6. The first step is the hardest for any big race / adventure.

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  7. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Don´t worry. Always happen this when you start a new challenge. Try to maintain your mind clear and remember that, in extrem sports, if you have a problem in your mind, you have a problem with your life.

    Regards
    Angel

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  8. Jill, you are an inspiration to me with your winter cycling. Even if you didn't enter this race you're still a leader. You'll do well in anything you try.

    Joe from Eastern Canada

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  9. Anonymous4:28 PM

    I've been enjoying your blog, especially since I used to live (briefly) in Juneau and because I am in awe of what you are accomplishing. But Angel's post struck a chord: "In extreme sports, if you have a problem in your mind, you have a problem with your life." But don't we always have problems??? Whether we've conquered our thinking or not... Accepting our limitations but still striving to be our best seems to be the name of the game of life. Be careful out there. It's no walk in the park. Death is just over the next hill or around the next corner. You are smart to respect that and fear it. We'll be pulling for you....JGP

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  10. Jill, I have to agree with Eric from Utah. Fear not only keeps you prepared, it keeps you alive. I really have a great respect for both you and Geoff. I wish both of you all the best. Fantastic blog and I will be sure to keep track.
    Nigity - "Always keep a smile in your heart."

    Bill - MN

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  11. You're so cool! ;-)

    Happy New Year 2008!

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  12. Jill, I think Ultrasport is like RAAM with carrying your own stuff and the chance of freezing thrown in. I think I have a pretty good idea of how you're feeling. Once I rolled of the start line at RAAM I was so relieved. Sure I still had a few thousand miles to ride but that's what I had trained for. It's the planning, wondering what will happen, and waiting that causes the anxiety.

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  13. Reading this reminded me what I went through getting to the start line of the Arrowhead 135. Even though I didn't finish, I've always considered it a victory just reaching the starting line. With temps nearing -30 it took a lot of emotional energy to get myself to the start line. But once I got rolling many of the fears disappeared. I kept thinking to myself, "I know how to do this, this is what I've been training for. All I have to do is do what I've been doing in training and just keep the pedals turning". It worked out fine, I made good decisions and had the experience to get me through. You'll do great once you are on your way. It's this time leading up to it that will drive you crazy.

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  14. Jill and Geoff, you worked and trained for years in Alaska. Pushing the finish-lines always a little further back and I have no doubt in my mind that both of you fully understand what you are signed up for. Fear is healthy, positive stress! It will go away once the race starts....
    And you guys will fight through !!!!

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  15. Hi Jill:

    I've been following your blog for a little while now. Almost always a good read. I cannot stand riding (I enjoy other sports in the snow) in the cold....so I simply read and look with amazement. :)

    For what it's worth, I had a lot of these same feelings before entering the GDR last year. When the undertaking is so great it's hard not to. What did I find out? I was capable of more than I thought. I spent a lot of time in a year's worth of training conducting more mental exercise than physical most days. In the end, the race (my share of it anyhow) came down to that mental training.

    Given how eloquent you are able to express youself on your blog, I have no doubt you are training yourself mentally much the same. You're a good thinker. And my bet...you're capable of more than you think. :)

    Looking forward to following your continued progress...

    Matt

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  16. Thank you everyone for the encouragement. It really means a lot.

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  17. Anonymous6:16 AM

    Hey Ultrarob, I have a friend that will be in the next RAAM. His name is Julian Sanz. He won the last "Le Tour Ultime" and his page is: www.juliansanz.com.es

    Jill: we all will be with Geoff and you in our hearts there.

    Regards
    Angel Pasos

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  18. I have checked your blog every day as my family counts down the days to make the move to return as Juneauites. We can hardly wait, and although I know that days like today are few and far between; it is those days that make you appreciate all that rain for that magnificent display of evergreen and white! Good luck on your training:)

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  19. Nice blog. I will keep reading. Please take the time to visit my blog about Free Guitar Lesson

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  20. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Wow...amazing photos!!!!

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  21. The top picture in this post looks like one heck of a fun trail to be riding!!

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