Saturday, February 09, 2008

Trying to soak it all in

Date: Feb. 8
Mileage: 36.2
February mileage: 137.2
Temperature: 5

It's been tough to go out in this wind.

Even as I tell myself how valuable it all is, to forge into the big gusts and learn how well my boots hold up, and my gloves, and my Camelbak hose, I still hesitate. This drains me, every hour of experimenting drains me, the constant fighting against the crosswind blasts, the needles of frigid air that always find their way to tender patches of skin, the cold I can still feel even as I tell myself it's fine; I'm fine; that when I have my layers on, it's the same thing as riding when its 60 degrees. It's not. I'm not. Fine, that is. My eyes are bloodshot. My legs are too tired for legs that have averaged 9 mph on a snow-packed road for four hours. I have a two-inch snotcicle hanging off my goggles. I stop to take a picture of it, but it breaks as I'm fumbling with my camera.

It's tough to get out of the shower after a ride like that. I stand under the hot water and think about the prospect of 12 unbroken hours of that, or 18. Or 24. The layers I believe would hold strong, but my mental resolve is more fragile. There's the breakdown of perseverance, and then there's the dissolution of nerve. Give wind long enough, and it will tear away at your soul. But it's easier to fight when retreat is not an option. I take comfort in the fact that I am great at doing the things I have no choice but to do.

I step over my half-packed camping gear to check the weather for tonight:

Increasing clouds. Breezy. Lows 5 below to 3 above zero...except around 9 below in wind sheltered areas. Near downtown Juneau and Douglas...north wind 35 mph increasing to 50 mph late with wind gusts up to 65 mph. Wind chill to 35 below zero.

It's perfect. Nearly perfect. How can I pass up a chance to test such extremes? I put on a fleece pullover and step out onto the porch. The wind flash-freezes my wet hair as I huddle in the raging ground blizzard. I slip back inside, crack open a Diet Pepsi and settle on the couch. Sometimes, in times like these, I think of the mantra of my fellow Iditarod racer, Brig. There will be plenty of time to suffer ... later.

Late Edit: I wanted to say thank you again to everyone who has donated to my Iditarod effort. I know I owe several people photo CDs, and I am going to try to get those all sent out this week. If you are still interested in helping out - or even if you're not, but are in the market for good outdoor gear - my Internet friend and fellow blogger Rob Lucas aka "UltraRob" has offered to hold a fundraiser for my Iditarod race this Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 11 and 12. All you have to do is go to his cycling and outdoor gear search site and look for the product you've been thinking about buying. His search engine will find you a great deal from a number of online retailers, and if you buy something, Rob will donate the commissions to my fund. It's so simple! Rob has been frequenting my blog since I was a complete noob on the endurance scene. He has an extensive background in endurance racing - one of his latest endeavours was the 2006 Race Across America - and he could probably see right through my embarrassing revelations and lack of experience. But he always offered me a lot of encouragement, and although we have never met, I can imagine him being an incredibly fun guy to ride with. This fundraiser is his latest act of generosity, even as he continues to raise money for a future RAAM attempt, he is carving out a couple of days to help me. So, thanks Rob. Be sure to check out his site. But wait for Monday to buy something! ;-)


  1. Jill, I don't know if you're ever planning on having kids.....but if you do, they sure will have fun reading about your adventures when they are older.

    My wife and I *really* enjoy reading your blog.


  2. Well I think you've hit the nail. I rode PBP this year. There were around 5,000 riders and over a 30% DNF rate, worst since the 80's. The weather was a little nasty but not life threatening.

    I think most who bailed did so because they didn't have the mental fortitude. When it is windy and rainy, your soaked through, it's 2:00 AM, and you are looking at another 300, or 400 miles of the same, the mind has an incredible ability to help you get off the bike. Stopping makes sense, going on is counterintuitive.

    I think some of the riders who finished (me included) were in no better condition than many of those who bailed, we just had the mind set to keep plodding along.
    Of course, we were never at risk of freezing to death, that takes the gample up a notch.

    I'm confident your mind will get you through, just hope the equipment does not trip you up.

    Luck to you.

    Yr pal DrCofish

  3. Best method I have found when dealing with bad weather (and in the UK that's normally dull and wet!) is not to battle it...mother nature is bigger and tougher than all of us and will win! Instead look at the beauty of wind blown ice, the concentric rings the rain on a puddle, the artistic splatter of mud on your bike etc...

    Accept and experience it, never fight it.

    Good luck.


  4. Looks like I've found the perfect time, excuse and place to buy that Garmin Edge 305.

    How much commission does that give you?

  5. Holy wind and sub-zero temps! yikes!
    Dang, you're definately tough enough to make it.

    Oh, just what I need, another excuse to shop for gear. Yeay.

  6. I am guessing you'll be happy to hear that when we decided to bail on our second car (a great '92 Honda Civic) when it needed a new clutch, I knew that I could commute to work via bike--even in the winter in Maine, after reading your bog for the last few months... Yup, my four mile commute seems pretty tiny, even when it is below freezing, compared to what you're doing. It is so easy to just take the car. Thanks for inspiring me to combat that way of thinking. You rock!

  7. Jill,

    Just wanted to stop by and wish you and Geoff luck in the Itidarod. I was skiing last week in the Austrian alps. One day it was around -20C snowing with a 50kph wind but I still only vaguely comprehend the challenges you face. Hope it goes well.



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