Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I made a lot of mistakes

"I was in love with the place,
in my mind, in my mind.
I made a lot of mistakes,
in my mind, in my mind ..."
- Sufjan Stevens, "Chicago"

I was going through some old picture folders when I found the original file of a photo I have had over in this blog's sidebar for a while now. It was taken just a few minutes before the start of the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational by Damion Kintz (or at least, that's who the little copyright symbol in the corner attributes it to.) For me, this picture is filled with the nervous energy and hope that surrounded the moment. But more than that, I see the one of those pivotal moments that life is full of - a moment of innocence lost.

The week following is still burned with startling clarity in my memory, and I think about it often. I think about the world of extremes, the beauty and the bleakness, the strength and the weakness, the highs and the lows. And I think about the what ifs. What if I had trained differently? What if I had different gear? What if I had gotten more sleep early on? What if I had eaten enough? What if I hadn't dropped my bike in Pass Creek? Would I have avoided the minor freakout and subsequent breakdowns that plagued me as I rode a wave of grace through the rest of that beautiful but brutal race?

What if? And if so, what then?

And then I got to thinking ... "Hmmm, it was about this time last year that I entered the 2008 race." Turns out, it was exactly one year ago. Time runs short.

The Iditarod Trail has been in the forefront of my thoughts recently as winter approaches, changes loom and memories linger. I have wrestled with the possibility of entering the race again in 2009, but was never able to make a strong commitment. Last year, I nearly killed my poor family with worry. I spent a lot of money and burned up a lot of time in training. I made a lot of mistakes.

And I wonder why I would subject myself to something so challenging and painful ever again. Even though I learned so much, and have so much more insight into the larger picture, and so much more insight into myself.

But then I come across these pictures, these moments of innocence lost and knowledge found, in a place so bright and brilliant that it's impossible to illustrate and impossible to describe. But I can still see it. And even with the months between, I still feel so close I can almost taste it, touch it ...

Yeah, that looks like my hat, thrown in the ring.

On to 2009.


  1. That answers one of my questions. I've been wondering if you were considering giving it another try?

  2. I'll be following your progress and hoping for the best.

    I didn't think that would pass on the desire to do it again.

    Go for it!

  3. For pity's sake PLEASE get one of those GPS transmitter things this year! I'm sure it would give your family some peace of mind--not to mention the rest of us poor souls that are tagging along for the ride... Looking forward to your journey--Good Luck!!!

  4. Awesome - concur on the SPOT or other tracking device.

    Enjoy the training and just think know you somewhat know what to expect!

  5. This brought tears to my eyes. Not only because of the drama unfolding; also because of your way of telling. You do face an unusual challenge: what are you going to do with *that* gift?

  6. OH YEAH!!! That is soooooo sweet. I'm definitely aware that it is so self-serving of me to be so into this, but you have to understand that I just recently found your blog so I didn't even know about your race last year.

    Take care Jill,


  7. Ok, this is a little gushy, but let me finish.

    You are quite inspiring - both as a writer and as an athlete. I literally had a bicycle commute that started with me telling myself "Come on, get out of bed - it's not that cold out. Jill would not even put on a sweater."

    Congratulations on your decision, and good luck - we will be hoping for the best, and hanging on your every word.


  8. Congratulations on your decision. You're an inspiration to us all. Happy Training.


  9. I can't wait to read about this year's adventure!

    As Rob Schneider (aka the Cajun) says in the movie "The Waterboy", "You can do it!"

    Good luck, Jill!!

  10. Well, I think you're amazing, whatever you decide to do.

  11. I have had the same issues with the Arrowhead 135. Ive decided that if I'm not 1000 percent ready to tackle it, I would not do it. It has to be in your heart and in your brain to have fun with the accomplishment, Otherwise its just another race that could possibly kill you. Are you 1000 percent sure you want to do it again. Or is it, been there, done that, might as well do it again?

  12. Good for you Jill.

    My guess is that the second time will be a different experience than the first, but just as magical.

    In the end, both will be important parts of YOU...that only YOU will truly ever understand.

    Rather than wish you good luck, I'll say Prepare Well.


  13. Do it! Some day you will be close to the end and you don't want to have been thinking about the stuff you didn't do!

  14. Alright, now the little demons inside can get back to training. your energy now has purpose. i always have to have an event to train for, or my demons tell me to slack, eat and relax.

    Go Jill, can not wait to see you put those mistakes behind you.


  15. Sounds great...I know while reading last years experience, I was on the edge of my seat. Particularly when you had to sleep in the snow and you felt like crap.

    Your experience will truly be benificial this year. Good luck.

    We are behind you all the way!

  16. Hey Jill, I am out traveling the world for a long time, although I have to admit—if and when I head back to the United States there is a chance I might consider an area of Alaska from your pictures.

    I have met many cyclists as their style of travel. Egypt is doable in the winter. Turkey is beautiful, too.


    Good luck with your training. We love you!!

  18. Very cool. I'll look forward to your coverage again!

  19. Right on! Come on up to Fairbanks for some cold weather preparation! We are already in the single digits and have about 6 inches of snow on the ground, more falling as I type this. Come and get familiar with that interior cold!

  20. Think of all you learned from the first completed race. You even know the trail now! I was hoping you'd be contemplating another ride...I will try to go to the start and see you off. (I was there last year and said a quick "Hi!") I wish everyone who reads your blog could have seen you pedal away from the start of that race. Very inspiring....

  21. Yeay Jill!
    Looking forward to 'following' you online.
    Get yourself some down for the interior cold and ditch the goretex. I've got some goodies you could borrow...let me know.

  22. Yay! I can't WAIT to follow your progress again this year! Best to you in coming months of training.

  23. Yay! But...

    Lesson 1: Find a better way to get Pugs to the starting line. Seriously, we thought he was a goner there for a while.

    We'll be pulling for you. Think of us as a team of virtual huskies.

    (Just returning the favor. I'm sure there are a lot of us who have caught ourselves in the middle of a cold, wet, windy commute thinking, "Eh, wonder what Jill's doing?" Makes our rides a LOT easier.)

  24. Count me in as a sponsor again. Even though I do think you are freakin NUTSO! :) I agree with the post above, this time make sure you take a locator with emergency beacon. If not for you, remember the gal who had frostbite on her eyes, ya might be able to help someone else.

  25. As the joke says: Not just here for the shootin' are ya, Jill?

    Even poor old Pugsley lying on his side in the snow looks happier.


  26. Woo! Good for you. What a brave soul you are and I'm glad for it because you make me a braver cyclist too. I was obsessed about following the online updates of the race this past year and I'll be rooting for you in 2009 too.

  27. Thanks all. The SPOT is a given this year. I don't think my parents would ever forgive me if I didn't take a GPS tracker, so I'm going to purchase one.

    Last year, I had a eTrex Vista GPS, so I always knew where I was. Guess it doesn't hurt to let others in on the painful slowness of my movement across the tundra, however.

    Pugs is definitely not going FedEx this year. I've made ammends with the company, but after nearly losing him once, I've become overprotective. Whatever Alaska Airlines wants to charge me, they can charge me.

    I am excited. Not just for the race, but for all of the fun training. Having that kind of focus through the winter is a big part of the reason why I want to do it again. I definitely don't have a "been there, done that" view about it. Anyone who's ever done the race more than once will attest that every year is a completely different experience. In truth, I have no better chance of finishing the race this year than I had of finishing the 2008 race at this time last year. (Well, maybe a little better chance. But you'd be amazed how much of it is left up to grace and luck.)

  28. Thought maybe you could use this for your Iditarod training…
    Good luck in ’09!


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