Saturday, March 01, 2008

Report from McGrath

I can't believe I'm actually here. It's going to take a few days to process the experience, but I spent some time reading up on all the race coverage. I followed the coverage religiously last year, and it's amazing to me how differently my race was interpreted from what was going on in my head. I set a solid pace in the beginning because the trail conditions were phenomenal and I was doing the sleep deprevation thing ... three hours the first night, four hours the next. But after Puntilla Lake, it became a very different race. Everyone had to do the slog over Rainy Pass ... the leaders broke trail; those of us behind had to negotiate the postholes. That's 45 miles at an average pace of 2 mph. My bike weighs more than half what I do and I struggled with the slog. I eventually bonked and had to bivy several miles below the pass in a kind of deep cold I have never before experienced for that long. I was well prepared for the possibility, but it's a different experience when you have run out of energy and you are nested in a snow bank, huddled in a sleeping bag and cuddling with your ice water. You know you're going to be OK, but it's hard to not be scared. Still I woke up several hours later fired up for more race. I just wanted to get to the Rohn checkpoint and pressed hard again. I came to an open stream crossing that was running knee deep, which at subzero temperatures is a big deal. But I was in a hurry so I wrapped my garbage bags around my legs and quickly duct taped the tops, then hoisted my bike and stepped right into the creek. But the bike's weight and rushing water were too much for me to handle, and I dropped the bike. In my panic to keep it from falling over I leaned into stream and water rushed down one of my legs. Luckily, I managed to only get the wheels wet. And he derailluer froze. But I had a soaked boot. Also luckily, I was only about 10 miles from the checkpoint and it was a hard walk the entire way, so I never had to deal with the potentially serious consequences of a wet foot. But that was a big mistake. A bad decision. I checked into Rohn and spent 17 hours drying my boots and thinking about the error of my ways. My decision to continue on was based in a resolve to set a more comfortable pace and make good decisions. And I did make good decisions. From there on out I was surrounded by the immensity and awe of Interior Alaska, apprehensive at times but never in danger. There will most definitely be a long and detailed trip report to come, with whatever pictures survived my camera's habit of cutting out in temps below 0. Thanks again to everyone who has followed along.

99 comments:

  1. Congratulations Jill. What a great accomplishment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous12:06 AM

    hey, congratulations. it's been fun following your adventure. nothing like crossing the alaska range carrying your bike in the middle of winter. you're crazy, but good at it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congratulations on finishing. It takes a hard focus to reach inside and find the strength to push far beyond your comfort zone.
    Bask in the knowledge that you have met your latest challenge. Having pushed your boundaries a bit further out, you will soon be looking for a new challenge, to push out even further.
    Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Félicitations ! What a feat! You've done it all on your own, and that's something! As Hunter says, your best reward is to have pushed your boundaries a 'lot' further out and to have been able to reach deep inside.
    Nothing compares with such an experience.
    And you sound so wise in this last message of yours...you've fully acknowledged making one bad decision, which has allowed you to finish and make headway on the path to inner knowledge....congratulations !
    Patricia

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fantastic Jill, well done!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Santini3:21 AM

    Amazing, Jill. You got very smart, very fast. Be proud!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just saw that you made it to McGrath!

    Good job Jill, you are a Champion!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am i total awe of your effort and staying power, well done!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous4:29 AM

    You are a great young lady, congrats! btu please, take care of yourself.

    El Animal

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous4:36 AM

    Jill,
    Was keeping an eye on your progress from Washington. Congrats on a great race and I'm sure a wonderful experience.
    Only downside is now you have to go care for Geoff, right?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Tommy4:40 AM

    Jill

    Congratulations!! You made it!!

    Tommy
    NL Europe

    ReplyDelete
  12. Congratulations! I've been following the race reports religiously, and am so pleased to hear you've completed the race and have done so well. You're amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Many congratulations on an amazing achievement!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous4:59 AM

    Way to go Jill! You are an inspiration. Because of you I am more willing to ride in "bad weather" I think if Jill can ride in sub-zero snow, I surely can ride when it is 32.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Congratualtions! Good on ya!

    ReplyDelete
  16. highlycaffeinated5:16 AM

    Congratulations Jill...way to go! What a great accomplishment. Looking forward to reading the story once you've had time to rest and soak it all in.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Amazing race Jill! You really impress the heck out of me. Very happy that you made it safely. The pics on the race site really show how tough some of the conditions were during what you termed "The Slog". I'm sure I would have had some other words in mind to describe that stretch of the route. I'm looking forward to reading more and seeing your photos. When will the book be coming out?
    Once again, Congrats on a great ride!

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

    ReplyDelete
  18. I know it may sound weird, but I always feel proud and happy to know there are people like you out there. I don't really have a desire or the drive to do things like this but I love knowing people do. All my friends and family are tired of hearing the updates of Jill and Geoff. As I watch this, there is a story on the news about the dog race starting... they missed the real story. Congrats Jill, can't wait for the next race and hopefully we'll see you back next year for this one.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Congratulations, Jill!! What an amazing accomplishment!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Congratulations Jill! What an achievement.

    -B

    ReplyDelete
  21. Congratulations! spectacular performance and perseverance Jill: Iron Woman of the North!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Jill, thank God you made it!!! You have thrilled me, worried me, and inspired me. Thank you glad your back......now what? hugz
    Terryh

    ReplyDelete
  23. Yeah...I knew you'd do it!!! Congratulations, this is something you can be proud of for the rest of life.

    Sooo, what's next on the list to get checked off?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Congratulations Jill! You inspire us all. Glad to see you pull through it and step back to do it smart. Great job.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Like many, I've followed avidly. So happy you made it through OK and looking forward to reading all the details.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Congratulations does not seem to convey how psyched I am for you. You've completed something I never want to do, brought your readers a long on your crazy adventure, and somehow, made us feel a part of it. Last night at around 8 EST I felt myself taking a large deep breath and I think I knew that you had finished. Cannot wait to hear more. (I want to know what "Bivy" means.) You rock!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Congratulations Jill, I am speachless!

    It has been quite an adventure just reading about this whole thing from the comfort of my home, you are one tough cookie.

    All the best from Norway.
    Jan

    ReplyDelete
  28. Way to go, Jill! Great effort! It will be fun to see your pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm very interestd in hearing how you were able to stay hydrated and fed. When I've done endurance events these (and the sleep deprivation) have been the biggest challenges. I can't imagine how I'd be able to get enough fuel and liquid in me to keep going at those temps.

    Your ability to balanace these practical considerations AND move yourself and a big ole bike hudreds of miles across Alaska in sub-zero temps ... really amazing.

    It will be great to hear your story. I'm confident the journalist will give us an excellent analytical report ... and the writer will produce a thrilling story.

    Yr Pal DrCodfish

    ReplyDelete
  30. Congrats! What an amazing thing to accomplish.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Congratulations Jill! :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Bravo.

    What else can be said. A truly inspirational adventure -- one I'm far too comfortable to attempt.

    Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Anonymous7:50 AM

    You are an inspiration and a little braver than I could ever hope to be. I can't wait to see photos and hear more about your adventures. Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Simple 'Congratulations' seem to be inadequate...but it's all I have.

    Perhaps it will sound more profound in Japanese...omedetou gozaimasu!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Great job, Jill! Outstanding achievement. :D

    ReplyDelete
  36. All the superlative words of congratulations I can think of are insufficient to describe your accomplishment.

    ReplyDelete
  37. You've inspired a few people in Toronto Canada. I hope this is not the end of your blogging days...

    ReplyDelete
  38. Congrats, Jill! Glad to hear you made it safely.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Sunny Florida9:26 AM

    Congratulations, Jill! Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  40. CONGRATULATIONS! Thank you so much for grabbing this race with your journalist skill and female perspective. I literally jumped off my seat when I read:

    "But the bike's weight and rushing water were too much for me to handle.."

    I am eager for the rest of the story. Are you already thinking of "next time"?

    ReplyDelete
  41. Way to go Jill, i have been following your epiq adventure since I first read about it on the "Fat Cyclist" blog. My Helmet goes off to you!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Awesome awesome accomplishment! Eat, drink, and reward yourself with what you just did.
    Ride on.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Anonymous10:43 AM

    Congratulations Jill! I followed your progress along with many others and I'm sure they will all agree that we are in awe of your accomplishment. Way to go! Looking forward to a detailed account once you thaw out.
    Canadian Roadie

    ReplyDelete
  44. Congratulations!! I've followed your blog for a long time, and I am amazed at what you have done! You are a great example and a role model for many people. Here is to hoping we get to follow along your next adventure!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Anonymous11:05 AM

    Incredible!

    I can honestly say that there is no way I could possibly push my bike for 45 miles at 2mph. Wow.

    Congratulations.

    BotchedExperiment

    ReplyDelete
  46. Congratulations! Well done! You kept us in suspense, but I am really, really glad to hear you made smart choices. From the spotty, delayed reports I could not be sure that is what you were doing or whether hypothermia was setting in.

    It sure doesn’t take long to freeze when you get wet. I remember strapping my wet/frozen clothes on my pack after I broke through the ice while crossing a stream. It looked like I was carrying someone who got run over by a steamroller.

    Sometimes you can't get out of the water or out of your wet clothes fast enough. Luckily I was able to hook ice axes with my buddy, and he pulled like Hercules. The snow on the steep stream bank was chest deep even with snowshoes. I don't know how he got me out. On my own I just kept sliding back in to the freezing water, because I could not get a solid purchase with my ice axe.

    When I saw the pictures of the lead group negotiating Dalzell Gorge it definitely brought back some vivid memories. Especially when I read reports of some ice bridges breaking. I was very worried for everyone. Nevertheless, the important thing is that you survived, and that Pugs served you well.

    Next year try spraying your whole drive chain and pedals with Pam or wiping them down with vegetable oil (prior to riding). It helps keep water from freezing on them. Even if briefly submerged, the ice flakes right off. Be careful to not get the oil on your rotors or pads. It works well there too, but it probably isn’t the effect you want. It works for some types of mud too. That's a little secret that some racer's use. So don't tell anyone about it - sure! (It works on snow shovels too.)

    Incidentally, were there any dentists out there to replace your teeth after you broke them off chewing on the frozen Cliff Bars? That part of the story has been conspicuously missing from your reports. I thought that might be another reason why you were staying at the rest stop a little longer.

    I will be looking forward to your race report. Then I will be checking out for a while as I prepare for my own adventure. Good luck and best wishes to both you and Geoff! Be good. Be safe. Keep your Fun Meter pegged on “Extreme.” Happy Trails!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Anonymous11:31 AM

    Fantastic Jill! Great job!

    Pat Rodden

    ReplyDelete
  48. You are just phenomenal, Jill. So very impressed and so very happy that you made it through safe and sounds, even with a couple bad spots. You rock, girl!

    ReplyDelete
  49. Well done Jill. I am very glad that Pugsley and yourself made it to the end of the race safely. It was a great result and a just reward for your months of training a preparation.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Jill! Congratulations on running a great race, keeping your head when faced with unexpected challenges and making good choices all the way along. Rest well and recover... can't wait to hear the full trip report. You rock!!!

    ReplyDelete
  51. Congratulations Jill! I checked in on you Friday and it did indeed look like you were with the leaders. What an amazing accomplishment. I rode my bike yesterday and had to push it through maybe 50 feet of snow and thought of you guys out there...that was tough and I wasn't even packing any weight...it is beyond my comprehension how you can push a bike for so long knowing that it is meant to be ridden and not pushed. Can't wait for the full report, but what I've read so far is just awe-inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
  52. Debamundo2:36 PM

    Congratulations Jill. I have been following the race closely. I was worried for you, but cheering you on from windy warm Kansas. You are such an inspiration to me. I can't wait for the full race report and photos.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Congratulations Jill!!
    Your training paid off and your mental toughness prevailed.
    Take your time but we can't wait for your recanting!

    ReplyDelete
  54. Well done! A fantastic achievment!

    ReplyDelete
  55. Nicely done Jill. Take the time you need to get the story down the way you want it. We're all chomping at the bit for details but we can wait. -- Kent

    ReplyDelete
  56. Jill - AWESOME!!! CONGRATULATIONS from Illinois! I've been eagerly following your progress - can't imagine how great you must feel to have accomplished this - you are such an inspiration - you've influenced people around the world!

    ReplyDelete
  57. Jill, congratulations!! Here's to some well deserved rest and as Kent said ... we can wait for the story but for sure we will be checking daily as we did during the race.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Oh how fantastic. You are a goddess.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I am awestruck. You must have a rare brand of chutzpah.

    Felicidades!

    ReplyDelete
  60. Anonymous6:25 PM

    I hope you are eating a bowl of goldfish crackers and washing them down with a 44 ounce Pepsi right now. You definitely deserve it. I love you sister.
    xoxo Sara Kay

    ReplyDelete
  61. Anonymous6:37 PM

    Hi Jill,
    Congrats on finishing. I was wondering though if you got any weird vibes from other races given that that you were a rookie in the race, but brought a lot of media attention with you (through your blog and NPR, and geeks like me). Did anyone look at you funny for it? It came through a bit that way through the race coverage on the race's web site.
    Congrats again, enjoy spring time in Juneau.
    -jared

    ReplyDelete
  62. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Man. Phenomenal job! I was checking the leaderboard everyday hoping to see you reach the next checkpoint and you always did!

    You rock!

    Sara

    ReplyDelete
  64. I went skiing the other day: When we got to the lodge I took a trip to the potty so I wouldn't have to stop once we'd started skiing. I tucked my gloves under one arm and went about my business. When I was zipping up I forgot about my gloves and one dropped into the pot. I quickly retrieved it but the damage was done. It was only damp, but I decided to wash it off thoroughly. For the rest of the day I wore a glove that was half frozen; so I can totally relate... Okay, maybe not.

    ReplyDelete
  65. BTW - At work the other day, I met a fellow from Juneau and as it turned out, we were both following your progress online. Small world.

    ReplyDelete
  66. sweet!

    peace out, yo!

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  67. Craig7:14 PM

    Well done Jill.
    You're an inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Anonymous7:18 PM

    Yay! I'm so happy for you.

    See you soon,
    Kim on the desk

    ReplyDelete
  69. Anonymous7:25 PM

    The "Afterglow" or afterdown, are you feeling it ? The let down after the event, the life altering event. Thinking of you both. Packed up the bike OK ? Eating and sleeping a bit before going back or rushed to pack the bike and go ??? Wish there were resources for this...maybe next yr we should stage a group to help yous guys... great job Jill and Geoff. Please heal fast, OK ?

    ReplyDelete
  70. Anonymous7:28 PM

    Jill,
    You are amazing! I can't believe the things that you do, and how well you do them. and know that if it were me, it would be more than a little overwhelmingly scary out there. You have moved a lot of people with your experience, for real, and its been so great to follow your race.
    rest up ok, i can't wait to hear more about your week.
    -n

    ReplyDelete
  71. An awesome accomplishment! I cannot wait to hear how it went. Rest and recover, and slowly appreciate it as you look back.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Excellent effort Jill. We were so pleased to read that you had reached McGrath - what a fabulous achievement - now rest up! Looking forward to the full story and photos.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Congratulations! I can't wait for the full report.

    ReplyDelete
  74. I don't think any of us had any doubt that you'd finish, and finsh strong. Congratulations on an outstanding adventure.

    Also, kudos on your excellent judgement at the Rohn checkpoint. It would have been very tempting for many to press on too soon, being too swept up in the "heat" of the race. However, you did the smart thing and took the time to let your boots dry out so you wouldn't endanger yourself later down the trail. That illustrates the rare perfect combination of character and restraint (overall excellent judgement, really) that most of us lack. That had to be hard to do.

    Congrats again, and I can't wait to read the trip report.

    -Fonk

    ReplyDelete
  75. Jill

    Congratulations!! You made it!!

    Best regards.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Anonymous12:02 AM

    Congratulations on such a tremendous achievement. You must feel very proud of yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  77. brokemba5:30 AM

    I am really impressed. Well Done! I hope you have an easy time getting home and enjoy the rest of the winter.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Anonymous5:48 AM

    Just unreal. What an accomlishment and a ton of fun for us to follow you. You are an inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  79. Anonymous6:21 AM

    Thanks for the ride. I wonder how much energy is spent worrying for all the racers participating by all of the readers of blogs, not to mention friends and relatives? Yikes! Very glad you're safe. I hope everyone comes through okay.

    VA Biker

    ReplyDelete
  80. Brandon6:31 AM

    WOW!!! Amazing job! I found out about what you were doing from The Fat Cyclist blog and have been following since. Just wanted to say congratulations. Truly epic!!

    ReplyDelete
  81. jill

    you are a bad ass!

    congrats on a job well done

    rest your legs
    warm your body

    then
    type up a report!

    -joel

    http://www.alaskaultrasport.com/results.html

    ReplyDelete
  82. charlie7:32 AM

    Amazing! Congratulations Jill. From the low of the lost Pug to this triumph - it's been quite a ride. Thanks for inviting us along, and well done once again!

    ReplyDelete
  83. traildiva8:11 AM

    Congratulations. You amaze and inspire.

    ReplyDelete
  84. I'm delurking to send congratulations. I am in awe of your tenacity and am inspired fully.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Anonymous8:20 AM

    Jill this is amazing. My mom sent me the deseret news link last week and I have been following since. I can't imagine what this was like for you. Thanks for the updates and can't wait to hear more.
    Angie (Perry) Bowler
    originally from Sandy
    now living in Reno Nevada

    ReplyDelete
  86. Really amazing, Jill. I can't wait to hear more detail!

    ReplyDelete
  87. JUst recently discovered your blog and was reading past posts during your race. Those frozen races are very intriguing, but scary at the same time. Congrats on the finish! Hope Geoffs injury heals fast.

    ReplyDelete
  88. I was thinking of you all week. I am so glad you are safe, and that you came through with such vibrant colors. Congrats and thank you for the inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  89. gmilner@wd40.com12:01 PM

    Hi Jill,

    From sunny and warm san diego ..congrats and thanks for motivation and inspiration.
    Your passion and fortitude humble and uplift at the same time!
    Graham

    ReplyDelete
  90. Anonymous12:10 PM

    Congratulations, Jill! I'll be telling your story to my little girls tonight, so they know how important it is to be smart and tough. They already like goldfish crackers.

    ReplyDelete
  91. Anonymous12:24 PM

    Great job, Jill! - followed the whole way.

    Clydesteve in Oregon, by way of Fatchclist.com

    ReplyDelete
  92. Very cool....you should be proud

    ReplyDelete
  93. Chris W.6:54 PM

    Jill you are amazing, I can't begin to imagine 350 miles in the conditions you faced out there (especially the second half). Every road trip I've been on since you began to train for this at some point I have the thought "Holy cow, that whole distance we just drove was like 200 miles and Jill and Geoff are going to go 350 miles! by their own power! in Alaska! in the winter!" I think you are the most determined person I have ever known. Way to step into and through all your fears and push yourself to your limit. Most of us will never know where our limit really is, you know that pretty clearly and its way past where you thought it was. Way to go, I'm so proud to be your friend.

    ReplyDelete
  94. oh my grrrl! You are such an inspiration. I wandered over here months ago from Staci's wild dogmushing blog, and you are some kinda mountain bike riding phenom! Love it! This is just plain crazy ..in a good way... I have bragged about the toughness of this race and its participants on my blog and I really appreciate your bravery and awesome story telling skills. Descriptions of the Iditarod as an ever changing "ghost trail" and the hairy-scary dip in the creek really took me there. The comfort of my Nor Cal cabin is all the more magical for having vicariously rode the Iditarod Invitational with you. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  95. Jill, I haven't been online for a few days, but you have been on my mind the whole time. I am so HAPPY and PROUD to hear that you made it!!!!!!!!! CONGRATS. What an accomplishment. YOU ROCK!!!!!!
    Hope you can et some good rest now:)

    ReplyDelete