Friday, March 21, 2008

First day of spring

Date: March 20
Mileage: 100.1
March mileage: 322.6
Temperature: 40

At 9:48 last night, just as I was rolling out the last newspaper pages and preparing the leave work for the weekend, the vernal equinox happened. And just like that, the days became longer than the nights, winter was no more, and the calendar heralded its triumphant successor: The first day of spring.

I lazed about most of the morning, unwilling to commit to any activity, watching raindrops hit the window. But then, just after 1 p.m., the rain stopped. I could see hints of sunlight over Mount Roberts. I thought I should go for a little bike ride. A trip to Thane sounded nice - 19 miles round trip, rolling hills, wind protected. I packed a raincoat, my camera, a $10 bill and a half-empty bottle of four-day-old water. I was good to go.

But as I crossed the bridge, warm sunlight broke through the clouds for the first time in what seems like weeks. I looked out over the channel, so calm I could see all the way to the sea floor. I thought, "I should stay out a little longer than Thane." I turned my bike north for a nice trip to the Mendenhall Valley.

But when I reached the valley, a cool wind began to brush against my face. "That will be a tailwind going home," I thought. "I should stay out a bit longer." And I kept going.

Then at Eagle Beach, it occurred to me that I was beginning to feel hungry. I didn't have any food with me, because I was supposed to be out for a 19-mile ride. I dug around in my frame bag just to make sure. Nothing. The cool wind kicked up sweet, salty scents from the sea. "I'll be OK," I thought. And I kept going.

I rode to the end of the road, skimming my skinny tires tentatively around sheets of black ice. And when there was nowhere left to go, I turned around.

The bonk hit me hard at mile 55. I was 20 miles from the nearest convenience store. I started to feel a strange, involuntary calm, as though I had just taken a strong sedative. I could feel my sluggish legs spinning, probably slower and slower, but my mind rapidly disconnected. I began to think only of two Snickers Bars I had procured in Nikolai during the Iditarod Trail Invitational. At 20 below, one would think a Snickers Bar would freeze into an inedible brick, but just the opposite happens. The candy becomes as breakable as rotten glass. The candy would practically explode with every bite; my handlebar pogies were littered with the shrapnel of nougat and nuts. What I did manage to get in my mouth I would greedily swallow before the thaw, choking as frozen shards of candy scraped down my throat. So today, for 20 miles, I thought only of deep-frozen Snickers Bars and all of their shattery goodness.

Snickers: The bonk food of champions. That, and a Quaker chewy peanut butter and chocolate chip granola bar. Total cost of fuel: $1.41.

Finally fueled with decidedly not-shattery candy, I began to regain my senses. I was still about 20 miles from home, without bike lights, when the sun began to sink low on the horizon. It occurred to me that the camera display I had been using to keep track of time had never been reset for Daylight Savings Time. It was actually an hour later than I thought it was. I began to sprint. The effort felt amazingly good.

I managed to make it home just after dark without being killed by a car. And no, I totally didn't ride loops around my neighborhood in the dark for a half hour just to run up the odometer. OK, I did do that. First century of spring!

By far the best ride of the season. Yeah spring!


  1. Great photos! It was nice reading about your serendipitous ride.

  2. Jill

    Love the blog; if only an RSS feed, I can't wait to do a big race up there!


  3. "And no, I totally didn't ride loops around my neighborhood in the dark for a half hour just to run up the odometer. OK, I did do that."

    Awesome Jill...Awesome...

  4. Heh heh - "Oops, I did a century totally by accident."

    Now you're just making us feel like slackers.

    (Congrats on the Iditarod - and please don't stop telling us about your adventures.)

  5. You are awesome! A little sick also:) I have to admit that like "the woulfes" I too have done laps around the neighborhood or parking lot after group rides. It feels good to have a nice even number on the odometer. 49.5 or 98.9 just doesn't cut it.

    ps I have a song for you. I listened to it this morning on my snowy, sloppy ride. Child of the Wild Blue Yonder by John Hiatt. It definitely made me think of you. Have a marvelous spring:)

    Nigity-"Always keep a smile in your heart."

  6. Going out for a ride and ending up with an impromptu century is impressive.

    That's awesome.

  7. you did a century on a snickers and granola bar? sheesh!

  8. This sounded like the opening narrative to Forrest Gump's "I got to the end of Alabama and just decided to keep on runnin'...."

  9. Wonderful photographs. Got the heads up to your blog from a friend. Maybe if I keep reading your blog I might actually get back on the bike.

  10. I don't know too many people who head out for a planned short ride and end up doing a century. I like how you admitted to racking up the last few miles going around the block. :)

  11. It's post like this that make me wonder how you lived through the race...

  12. Unless you've lived in Juneau, it's hard to explain why a beautiful day is so energizing. But you did! Thanks....jgp

  13. Great post today. I always love reading your blog.

  14. Jill, I've just recently come across your writings here at "Up in Alaska," and I am simply in awe of the feats you perform, and the style with which you write about them. I am so looking forward to tracing back through your archived posts. Congrats on your first century of spring! ~ Jim

  15. So where's Roadie?


  16. "Shattery goodness" had me laughing out loud. I could have used some of that shattery goodness myself yesterday, when I was out hitting the wall on a long ride.

    Nice to see spring has sprung in Juneau. I'm sitting here this morning watching the snow fall, but temps are warming up nicely. Prime snowbiking season!


  17. Sorry, but riding around the block five, six, 11 times is perfectly acceptable and encouraged to hit a mile marker.

    I did that for two blocks on January 1 when the temp was 5 degree here in the SLC just so I could pass the 20 mile mark before I dragged my frozen butt back inside.

    But I got my New Year's Day ride in, hit a 'moderate' mileage mark and was happy.

    100 miles is great. Good for you.

    You've clearly got your mojo back if you can log a century.

    Now get back down here and do LOTOJA in September. Registeration opens on April 8 but will probably close 48 hours later after the 1,500 rider field is full.

  18. Jill -

    While I was surfing the web today, I had a great epiphany on what you should challenge yourself with next:

    La Ruta de los Conquistadores

    In good ole costa rica, a 200 mile 3 day endurance slog of mud, hypothermia and jungle covered mountains.

    Can't get much more different than your last one than this one!


  19. Look Who is Smiling.
    It looks Good on you
    You should wear it more often.

  20. Great blog! Thanks for sharing your impromptu century story... it is inspiration for me on a cold snowy Sunday...guess I should go out and is spring somewhere.


Feedback is always appreciated!