Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Frostbite

So, what happened? As with most misfortunes, a little bad luck and a little bad judgment in a place where there's absolutely no margin for error, and I now have an incapacitated right foot. I spent six hours in the emergency room at Mat-Su Valley Regional last night. Most of that was waiting, but some of the waiting was connected to the fact that have a fairly serious case of frostbite that the doctors felt needed some outside consulting. Blisters have spread across all five toes and I have some black tissue on my big toe that is supposedly concerning. I will most likely not require surgery (i.e. I get to keep all of my toes), but I am in for a long recovery, and, as with all cases of frostbite, my toes will for the rest of my life be more prone to cold injury.

So what happened? Well, as is usually the case with bad judgement, I was feeling awesome. The day started out beautiful. Trails were slow and soft but rideable. I had everything dialed in. I rode with a peloton of six other cyclists and felt like I wasn't even working. The wind picked up over the course of the afternoon and began to drift in the trails with the 6 inches of dry snow that fell the day before. By Flathorn Lake, at about mile 30, all of us were off and pushing, and the group started to spread out. Evening fell and the light became really flat. Because I was pushing, I was not paying much attention to the trail, instead looking out at the beautiful alpenglow on Mount Susitna and the ground blizzards tearing across the lake like sand in the desert. Suddenly, my front wheel dropped sharply into a trench just as I was stepping forward with my right foot. I fell backward onto my butt and my right leg plunged up to my upper thigh in frigid water. My leg dangled over unknown depths of the lake as I frantically clawed backward up the trench. The overturned bike had also punched through the thin ice with one handlebar, but I left it there until I was securely on solid ice. I laid on my stomach, reached down and pulled it up by the rear wheel. A right pogie and a mitten that was stuck inside were completely soaked and the outside of my bivy bag was superficially wet. I'm pretty sure I lost a half-eaten bag of MnMs to the frigid depths of Flathorn Lake. But, much more concerningly, I had taken on tons of water inside my gators, boots, and both socks.

Now, I don't need lectures. I know how serious this is. At this point, I had to make quick decisions. I was out in the middle of a frozen lake in a fierce headwind and ground blizzards with temperatures already dipping below zero. I decided at that point that my best option was to get out of the wind and get into my bag in an area where I could build a fire, and I knew of a nice sheltered area between Flathorn Lake and the Dismal Swamp, about a mile away. However, on foot, pushing a bike through soft snow, a mile is quite a distance. By the time I got to the sheltered spot, by boot was frozen on. I could not even unhook the Velcro on my gators, let alone undo the laces and zipper and pull my foot out of a completely waterproof boot. So I was faced with a boot stuck to my leg and water sloshing around inside. What I should have done at that point was build a fire, wrap my sleeping bag around my body and try to melt enough of the ice to free my foot. But that's hindsight. What I did do was get this idea inside my head that my foot was perfectly warm even with the water inside my boot. I thought with the vapor barrier sock and insulated boot, my body heat would warm the water and create an equilibrium that I could work with, at least until the next checkpoint. Especially since I was walking at that point, and with all of the drifting snow, there didn't seem to be any end in sight to walking. I managed to wet my boot last year and walk for several hours in similar temperatures with no problems. Thus, the bad judgment. I thought I was fine.

The next seven hours were great. The soft trails set up enough to ride again, and I was feeling so strong that I alternated riding and running every 10 minutes just to keep my foot warm. I continued to wiggle by toes and they continued to wiggle for me. The temperature dropped to 25 below zero on the Yentna River. The fierce headwind drove the windchill down to minus a lot, but I never felt the effects of the extreme temperature. To deal with my frozen pogie and mitten, I put my left mitten on my right hand and rode with only a fleece glove on my left hand. I procured a new bag of MnMs and ate, and rode, and ran, and felt great. I knew I had a long layover at Yentna waiting for me, but I still didn't believe my race was over.

I arrived at the checkpoint at about 2:30 a.m. I was in 13th place. I sat down in the doorway and went to work removing my boot. Even sitting next to a wood stove, it still took me 10 minutes just to work the gator free, then the laces, finally the zipper. When I tried to remove my foot, I realized that my sock was frozen inside my boot. And as I worked the sock down to simply try to remove my foot, I realized with no shortage of trepidation that my foot was frozen to my vapor barrier sock.

It took nearly a half hour to get my foot out of my boot. The tips of my toes were rigid and white, but I was not yet willing to admit to myself what I had done. I quickly slipped on my bootie, went in the next room to check in, ate a meal and settled down for a nap.

I felt no pain as I slept, for the first two hours. Geoff arrived at about 5 a.m. and I told him I was worried I had frostbite. We moved upstairs and it was about then that the thaw set in. For three hours, I laid on the floor on top of my sleeping bag in a hot room, writhing in agony. Hard to explain that pain. Like the "screaming barfies," drawn out for three solid hours. I drew blood from by palms by clenching my fists so tight. By the time I stood up again, I could hardly walk.

I hobbled down the stairs to let the checker know about my situation. I showed him my foot, which still didn't look that bad. The sun shown brightly outside. The thermometer had climbed to 12 below. It looked absolutely beautiful. I so, so wanted to go out there and ride. "It's up to you what you want to do," the checker told me. And I'm ashamed to admit that I, after going through what I had gone through with the thaw, and knowing perfectly well that I absolutely had frostbite, and still had a wet boot, socks, mitten and pogie, seriously considered continuing in the race. Tim Hewitt, a man who has walked to Nome three times and has set out this year to do it a fourth time, who has to be one of the toughest men on Earth, walked up to me and said, with sincere sadness in his eyes, "You can't go on."

And that was it. Geoff, who was upstairs wheezing and coughing and struggling with a cold that had turned into a more serious respiratory illness, mulled over continuing for several hours before deciding to scratch and fly out with me. It was a horrible morning. The lodge owners and other racers were very kind, but I was in a state of disbelief, mostly about my foot and how much the condition had deteriorated over the morning. But dropping out of the race weighed very heavily on my mind. And I had to question my own mental state, and just how tied up I'd become in this whole thing, when I was more disappointed about leaving the race than I was about the fact that I had just sustained a fairly serious injury.

Looking back, I know what I should have done. Taken my boot off immediately, crawled into my partially wet bivy on the lake ice, and awaited help which was very close behind, in the form of other racers. I've mulled over all my options and I realize there was, with the gear I had with me, no way I could have saved my race. Falling into the pressure crack, because I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking, was my fatal mistake. But I absolutely could have avoided frostbite, and now have to question whether the misguided hope that I could save my race led me to drive on when it was clearly not the smart move.

This race has no margin for error. I love it still but I'm extremely disappointed right now, with concern about my upcoming recovery, and a fair amount of self-loathing for the decisions I made. It will take some time, some time when I'm on crutches and unable to ride my bike, but I'll work through this. As always, it's another life experience. I can't say I haven't learned a lot.

I want to say thanks to Scott for tracking me during my short time on the trail, to Sean Grady for his offer to help, to everyone who helped gear me up for the race and everyone who supported me. I'm sorry I let you guys down.

130 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:19 AM

    Jill,
    I want you to know now what you will undoubtedly realize at some point in the future - you've let no one down.
    Like many, I was excited about your race and followed it on your blog and by spot. The one thing that I can say for all of us is that I am glad that you are wrong. Your mistake was not "fatal", just a setback to overcome. Don't get down on yourself - there are plenty of adventures ahead.
    Big Boned

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  2. I feel so bad for you. You did not let anyone down at all.

    The way you wrote this post it was almost like a I went through the ordeal with you.

    I know what it feels like to drop out of a race (Rez, SU) and think you could have done things different. Just know time heals the soul and the foot.

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  3. I think we got our money's worth sister- that's some big deal adventure living. What is really is though, and excuse my french, is very f*&king scary.

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  4. There are a lot of anonymous followers of your writings, Jill...and I have been one of them. I too hope to ride the Iditabike one day and so pull a lot of inspiration from your blog. Congrats on getting to the start (I know it's all ways the hardest for me) and glad to hear you get to keep all your toes!

    Cheers!

    Dave
    velocitramp.net

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  5. Oh Jill, you poor thing! I'm so sorry and I hope your toes heal up quickly. Please don't feel that you've let anyone down, that's just crazy, girl. The fact that you entered this race for a second time is so incredibly courageous! What happened to you could have happened to any racer out there. It's unfortunate, but you and Geoff are both alive and (more or less) well, so please don't be too hard on yourself.

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  6. There is no way you could let me down, ever. You are so courageous and I have a deep respect for the decision you made. It was the smartest one! When I heard you scratched and the reason you did, I knew that the decision was probably one of the most difficult to make.

    I hope you start feeling better soon and that you don't have any more pain! I love you so much and am so proud of you for making the smartest and best decision for your health and safety.

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  7. I don't think anyone will question your toughness or your courage. I knew when I read that you had scratched that something really bad had happened.

    Good luck on your recovery.

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  8. NO SELF LOATHING!!! It's not like you did something horribly and obviously stupid. Hindsight is 20/20. I'm so sad to see this as a lurker/reader of your blog, so I can't even imagine how you feel. But, as a neutral third party, I can assure you that I see no reason why you should be feeling self loathing.

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  9. It might sound strange but I sensed something happened before you posted this story.

    Your health is for important than a race, although, if there is emotional attachments, accepting the reality can be difficult.

    I think you should make a goal to bike some other countries, I just visited Crete, and during the time of February Crete could be challenging and beautiful to cycle.

    I met this guy from Finland back early in 2008 in Egypt, and was biking all of Africa from North to South, he had sponsors who paid for all his gear, before that he biked from Thailand to Finland through Iran.

    The universe can be strange upon dishing out direction, discernment is crucial.

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  10. You let no one down. Not even yourself.

    Mistakes happen and they often lead to learning.

    That is what happened and is still happening as you think through it all.

    Best wishes for a smooth recovery of both your toes and your mind. Don't beat yourself up over this because that will just be a waste of your time.

    Learn from it.
    Heal up from it.
    Continue on down the path.

    Cheers.

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  11. Hey Jill,
    Just doing what you did is more than most of have tried, getting beat down by nature happens to the best out there.
    I just started reading your book that Amblus lent me, great read so far.
    I hope you have a speedy recovery and keep us posted!

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  12. So few of us put ourselves in the position to touch death, an area where wrong decisions can actually be fatal. This race is one of those places and to even attempt it and survive it means you have won. Self loathing is natural, I have my fair share after something doesn't go as planned, but Jill, everything happens for a reason and things are as they were meant to be.]

    Congrats on the experience.

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  13. Linda S.12:05 PM

    Stepping into the crack may have been a mistake, but thank goodness it wasn't fatal. You took action, you got yourself to shelter and will live to ride again. We're all sad for you (and for ourselves because tracking your race was so much fun), but in the greater scheme of things, this was a successful end. You've let no one down, and you'll eventually realize that. You've inspired so many people with your training, your blog, and your book. I partially blame you for my husband being out on the trail this year, but because of your book I have a better understanding of the race and how and why he's there. Thanks!

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  14. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Next year: extra sox and down booties. Not much weight or space, but they will save your feet if they get wet in the back country. Remember, you could be more disappointed than you are now. Be glad you still have 10 toes. One more thing, you still rock.

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  15. Bless your heart, I wish I knew you well enough to give you a big hub! But I can tell you that it will be ok. Of course you are disappointed but you haven't lost a thing by trying, not even your toes. We all learn our life lessons with the hard stuff, not the stuff that's a piece of cake. So heal up and like everyone else has said, cut yourself some slack. You are alive and well and life will feel good again soon.

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  16. This post made me cry. You did not let anyone down! There is no way that you can plan for every possible situation. You really can't know what the right thing to do is, until you do the wrong thing.

    The important thing is that you got yourself out of there and with all of your toes. I think you did just fine. And I have no doubt you'll be out there again next year!

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  17. Wow.

    First off, you let nobody down. You learned more this year than last.

    Learning is a bitch though, no doubt about it.

    Thanks for being so open with your story. No room for error, dang that's a tough game up there. You sound to have been in prime shape for it.

    Heal up well and be patient!

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  18. Hope your foot heals up quickly! Learning is such a hard thing sometimes. It seems to me just toeing the line in this race is a pretty awesome accomplishment!!

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  19. You are amazing. So sorry. I hope your heart will heal as fast as your toes and I'm so happy you get to keep them.

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  20. I haven't commented here before, but read your blog every day. You are an amazing athlete and I read in awe of you every day, especially today!

    Sending out good thoughts for a fast recovery!

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  21. You will take what you have learned from this and go on to great things. What seems like an ending is really not at all.

    grannygear

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  22. Thanks for letting us blog readers follow along this time too. Hope your toes heal up fast. That sounded awful (the description of the pain), by the way. So sorry about that. Take care.

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  23. Jill, sorry about what seems a disaster. You'll heal and as always, the journey is what makes these things worth while. Heal up! These things are tough to get over.

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  24. Jill, Geoff

    You are still our adventure heroes!!
    Hopefully you both recover soon.

    Tommy,
    The Netherlands

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  25. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Jill, you are still my hero. I can hear your sorrow and guilt. You have nothing to be sorry for or guilty about. Shit happens.
    Please get well soon and keep blogging, I enjoy your voice and your pictures so much.
    Nan

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  26. You're still my female cycling hero. :)

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  27. Anonymous1:18 PM

    Jill, I am sorry to hear that you and Geoff both had to scratch, and I am very happy to hear that you are both ultimately alright. I look forward to seeing you in May, provided you are still going to be coming down this way. Bryan

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  28. Jill, I feel with you. To break a race could be harder than finish them. But, please keep blogging and give us further wunderful pictutres from Alaska.
    Good luck on your recovery, Urs

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  29. It is a pity you had to abandon, but you were wise to realize you had to take care of yourself first. You let no one down.

    I hope the recovery goes well, and you reconnect with your adventurous side when the time is right.

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  30. Jill,

    I hope you will recover soon and be back to riding your bike.

    Good luck with your next adventure.
    Wish you all the Best.

    Kathi

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  31. Julie in Alaska1:41 PM

    I am glad your foot will recover! I have no doubt this race injury will lead you to think about the race and yourself differently! Death waits for the voyager in Alaska. You bumped up against it again...and survived, again! Hooray for that! Thank God.

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  32. I am wincing for the pain you had to go through when your foot thawed.

    Jill, you are such an inspiration to me, on and off your bike!!

    If there is anything I can do for you guys let me know! I would still like to take ya'll out to dinner if there is time before I leave for Vegas Sunday night!

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  33. "Coulda shoulda woulda" is never a good mental game to go through Jill. The fact is you learned first hand how difficult Alaska weather can be and you paid a price for it. There is certainly no one to blame. So please don't feel like you let anyone down. You certainly didn't.

    Take care of yourself and if there's anything you need from someone in Anchorage, just yell. I would be more than happy to help out however I can.

    Take it slow and healing will come.

    My best to you and Geoff.

    Angie

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  34. So sorry to hear about the accident, but also glad to read that everything will be okay and you'll be back on the bike soon.

    Thanks for the great post.

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  35. Anonymous2:09 PM

    Well, you might have let someone down if you went and froze your foot off in the middle of nowhere then died! Glad the story is WAY happier than that.

    Get better - maybe we'll see you in Seattle this June with Team Fatty?

    Steve P.

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  36. You didn't let me down! I remember the feeling I'd get hiking sometimes, despite feeling a blister developing: "I need to see what's over that hill; I have to check out what's around the bend. Just a little bit more . . ." So I'm thinking if I multiplied that by about, oh, 10,000, I'd be somewhere approaching how you must feel, given the training and gear and emotional prep this race requires.

    I've enjoyed reading this blog, plan on buying your book, and following you on whatever journeys are coming up just around that bend. Rest up, be well, and please don't beat yourself up. Not conducive to healing. ;)

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  37. I'm just pissed about having to leave those m&ms at the lake!

    Seriously, you've let no one down. You are inspiring. You are a hero. Deal with those internal demons of disappointment as best as you can and get back on that bike as soon as you can.

    Take care,

    Jack

    http://adventuresinvoluntarysimplicity.blogspot.com/

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  38. You definitely didn't let anyone down! Having done what you have done is so amazing to think about, survive in a barren cold that is so easily fatal. Many of us live vicariously through your amazing stories, and even if this race was short, it was no less amazing. Take care of yourself and keep riding.

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  39. Jill - I'm so sorry to hear about your mishap. I know you will be back on the bike soon and shreddin' - since you're one of the stubborn ones :) Good luck with your recovery.

    Mary

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  40. We'd only be let down if your pride kept you on the course. We are glad you listened to wisdom instead.

    God is good
    jpu

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  41. You are one tough lady. Sucks for you. I feel bad. But I am beyond impressed.

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  42. You live large daily and we all admire you for it. Don't worry about this! Just get well and march on when you do. Getting to keep your toes = getting to keep riding.

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  43. Jill,

    Sorry to hear about your accident and dropping out the race. Your story told through your blog is an inspiration and a reality check. If it weren't for your honest prose describing the highs, lows and dangers of endurance racing, anyone might think they could do it. Hope you're soon better and pedalling again.

    Graham

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  44. it'll make you stronger. all of it. it'll make you stronger.

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  45. Anonymous4:34 PM

    Frost bite is viscous,
    shortcoming destinations sought,
    but your heart and ambition,
    lead others where they could not.

    Don't be too hard on yourself,
    you'll see that in the end,
    a little wisdom carries,
    more miles yet to spin.

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  46. I think Psychalist said it exactly right, and gave me an epiphany about why your writing is so awesome and draws in so many, even people (like me) who are almost nothing like you. You show what it's like to be a human striving to accomplish inhuman feats, and the fact that you're honest enough to share all of the parts of that striving (and that you don't win all the time) just kind of makes you that much more appealing as a writer (and probably as a person, but I haven't met you so I won't go that far). Good vibes your way for quick healing.

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  47. Anonymous4:42 PM

    Well woman, it looks like your luck ran out. All those close calls, falls, crashes, and mishaps that you've avoided getting injured in over the past year finally caught up with you, and at the worst possible time too(during The Big Race). Look on the bright side though, even though you might be gimpy for awhile it still beats the alternative if you fell in and drowned. ESPECIALLY for the poor divers who woulda been stuck fishing your sorry ass out the lake in the middle of winter.

    I can relate, because I broke my ankle and leg falling down a hill in the snow while hiking last March, and had to walk over a mile to get out of the woods. I'm still mad at myself for being so stupid, not because of the actual injury, but more for the money it cost me in medical bills and time lost from work. I've got screws permanently in my ankle holding it together, and there's alot of things I'll never be able to do again, but I can still hike and ride my bike, which is good enough for me. As a matter of fact I did a 7 mile hike on crutches, and a 40 mile bike ride, in between surgeries while my leg was still healing last year.

    Last year for me was just a temporary setback, and I feel like a stronger person having gone through it. I'm still out there alive and kicking, and you will be again too.

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  48. Jill,

    I have read your blog since the summer and really enjoyed following you training journey. I admire your tenacity to get out in any condition. I live in Wyoming and I know, sometimes it's hard to get out.

    I also wanted to share with you that you made the right decision and, while it's hard, you can't second guess yourself on anything you did. My boyfriend is currently spending his 10th day at University Hospital in SLC for severe frostbite on both feet and one hand. He got that way doing a trans-Teton ski trip where his feet got wet during the day and then it got really cold during the nite. He did everything right too, but this was the outcome and I am so glad it's not your outcome as well. He is hoping to keep everything and will have to have some skin grafts and PT in the future. He also said the pain of his feet thawing was one of the worst thing he has ever experienced.

    Heal well and heal fully. Keep wiggling those toes and then keep them warm.

    Best to you,
    Lori B.

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  49. dinglearm5:03 PM

    Jill, you didn't let anyone down. I admire what you did and what you tried to do.

    Just keep the faith and get better.

    We are all pulling for you.

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  50. You didn't let us down, stay strong. There is plenty of time for more adventures. You are amazing.

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  51. There is nothing like the pain of frostbit feet thawing out, it's unbarable. I'm so sorry that happened to you. I hope you heal quickly and Geoff feels better soon.

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  52. Jill...I regret that I couldn't get on sooner to comment. First of all...you have not let anyone down.
    Don't spend too much time second guessing yourself and the decisions that you made.

    You did what you thought was the right thing at that particular time.

    It's very easy for people to sit back and criticize for decisions made, but how many of them would have even put themselves at that risk.

    I know that you will recover just fine. You will have to work to keep your tootsies warmer in the future. Growing up in northern Minnesota and playing hockey outside along with winter camping, ice fishing, and other crazy youthful adventures, I nipped my toes more than once and yes I do struggle now to keep them warm.

    Jill...you will do marvelous no matter what. You will recover and you will be back again next year.

    Don't be hard on yourself. Don't second yourself...You did what you felt you needed to do and what anyone else thinks does not matter.

    You Rock!! I wish you a very speedy recovery Jill.

    Peace!
    Vito

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  53. I am so glad that you and your toes are OK... how f@*&ing scary.

    That is all that matters... that you are OK.

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  54. Anonymous5:36 PM

    You gave it you best shot, but a cruel twist of fate cut you race short. You don't need to apologize for that.

    Theodore Roosevelt said it best...

    It is not the critic who counts, not the man who point out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweet and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

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  55. Congrats on making the right decision to pull out when you did. It's difficult to admit it's time to quit. I think most people that found themselves in the same situation you found yourself would choose what you did....to keep moving down the trail. It's probably not the decision you'd make the second time, but it's what most people would do. At the time it must have felt right. Put it behind you and don't beat yourself up over it.

    It was sad to read that both you and Geoff had scratched!

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  56. mtbikedroid5:37 PM

    Jill.. best of luck in your recovery, I am a fan of your blog although I have never commented before, I think I'll order a copy of your book at last,

    mtbikedroid

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  57. Head up Jill, you're still a hero to all of your readers. Heck a lot of them probably wouldn't go out the front door if it was -10, nevermind hike-a-bike across Alaska in -who knows how cold. Get well and take care.

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  58. Anonymous6:37 PM

    Jill- An adventure is only that if there is a serious risk involved. You played the game the way it is suppose to be played, and you will gain from playing. And you will be back. So sorry it didn't work out better. BobM

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  59. WOW, as always you are a huge inspiration to us other riders out there all over the world. Thank you.

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  60. Get yourself well. maybe some Comfrey salve and any supplimentaion that will help restore and keep that capillary bed ready for nxt year. thx for all those great pics!!

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  61. Wow, that sucks. Like another poster said though, you probably learned more from this year's race than last year's. Get better and soldier on. Temporary setbacks suck, but at least they are just that - temporary.

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  62. Anonymous7:17 PM

    Dear Jill,

    I am so glad to hear that you are safe! Frostbite, even though its horrible, is nothing compared to the alternative. Thank you for writing, we all look up to you and are so relieved that you live to tell another day!

    Blake

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  63. Anonymous7:23 PM

    Mike in WI said...

    WHAT COUNTS

    And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

    Abraham Lincoln

    In this case I think Abraham Lincoln is full of shit. If you died early in years how could you continue to count...
    Mike Stahl, Reedsburg WI

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  64. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Jill.

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  65. Jill!

    You definitely did not let anyone down. You are amazing and you wrote a great account of your experience on that first day even while you are injured and disappointed. I hope you get better soon. I am sending warm and happy thoughts your way. I am very glad that you and Geoff are well and warm. All your fans in Wisconsin are rooting for you!

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  66. Jill, I have been in awe of you since I first discovered your blog. After reading what you have been through, I am in even more awe. You are tough.

    "A life without tragedy would not be worth living." Ed Abbey

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  67. I've said this before and I will say it again. You are my hero. I look forward to your quick recovery and future adventures.

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  68. What a story...I cannot even imagine what that was like. Like so many others said, you are a true hero, and everyone makes mistakes. Wishing you a quick recovery....you'll be back at it in no time!

    Namrita

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  69. looks like it's time for a pedicure, dear.

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  70. Anonymous8:21 PM

    jill! i'm so happy you're alive and well! (relatively speaking) i'm sorry that you guys had to bail, but as someone who loves you both, am so glad that you made the right decision - sounds like tim hewitt needs a thank you note :) i am also stoked it was only your leg that fell in and not all of you. i miss you guys, and hope to still see you in utah this spring! may = party in the desert xxoo jen

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  71. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  72. I am glad you are able to keep your toes; and more so that you are alive to write the tale. Your compassion, humility, and long dedication to extraordinary physical and mental challenges whilst traveling a long and unconventional path continues to inspire new and familiar readers.

    Thank you for writing with your heart. I wish you the best, and please keep writing.

    p.s. Keep us posted on the toes! :)

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  73. Oh Jill....I'm the 74th person to comment so I don't even know if you'll see this....I am filled with sadness for you as I can feel your disappointment when I read your words. And - you can't have POSSIBLY let ANYONE down. I, and I am so sure everyone else reading this, am just so glad that you are at least safe. Your toes look terribly sore. I have had (mild) frostbite before, but nothing like that.

    Your writing continues to amaze - this post was a gripper. I'm so sorry for you and Geoff that this didn't end the way you wanted it to. But as you said yourself - you had nothing to prove.

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  74. Wow Jill what a scary episode, so glad you are on the mend... amazing how the mind can get so focused on the goal that blocks out some of the wisdom we need to recall on. Well u learned and now you move forward, You and Geoff had a tough weekend but This too shall pass :-)

    God Bless you guys!, Speedy recovery!

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  75. Ouch! Ya, you definitely did the right thing. No question!

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  76. Kevin Williams10:30 PM

    1. I wish you a quick recovery, and hope the toes do well. Maybe we should all join in and get you a wii fit, so you can hula hoop and keep in shape :)

    2. When reading the story, I am SOOOOO glad you didn't turn into a fish under that ice! I had the occasion to pull a friend of mine out from under the ice years and years back. It was not a fun thing, and I was right there to do it. With no one there for you, well.......

    Get well quick Jill, and am sure glad things didn't turn out worse, and look somewhat promising.

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  77. Hi Jill, I am so glad you're ok. Be well.

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  78. One Wheel Tom11:23 PM

    Didn't let me down, Jill. Just taking the first step in that race is more of a challenge than most people get in a lifetime, and when your experience went south, you still turned it around to help others. From reading your post, I know what I will and won't do if I'm ever confronted with that kind of a cold-weather, wet-foot scenario.

    I'm sorry the race didn't run the way you envisioned it, but you should be proud of all you did to prepare, and the learnings you took out of it. Will keep fingers crossed your toes recover.

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  79. I´m deeply sorry. Hope you will recovery soon.

    Best regards to you and Geoff

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  80. Jill,
    You certainly know without all these comments that you've done about the best possible out there. But you have now done just the best possible thing having written in detail about this case. This may save somebody else from something much worse (although it is certainly true that only rare geniuses are able to learn from others' errors in cases like this...)

    Just a month back an icebiker from Russia scored much worse in a similar situation. Plunged a hand and a foot in water, then ran away on the adrenaline not feeling yet anything bad, then had 4 fingers less for the rest of his life. Report here (text in Russian, but the terrible pictures do not need translation). You have done much better - and you were alone. Keep up! And please keep up your blog.

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  81. Anonymous12:17 AM

    Jill, You let nobody down. A few weeks back when you had that guy commenting on your blog about drama I thought to myself: Jill doesn't realize the domino effect from her blog. When I read about your big miles in the foul weather I'm totally inspired. This motivates me to ride my bike to work in the snow in the middle of the night. Initially people thought I was out of my mind but one by one they've come around. Now out of 30 people I work with at least 10 have started riding recreationally. I'm sure they inspire their freinds and neighbors as well. Now multiply that by all your readers. It's like that old vidal sasoon add "and so on, and so on..." This goes on & on creating healthier, happier people who are probably a lot nicer all because you have the guts to put yourself out there.

    Steve in Vermont

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  82. Anonymous12:25 AM

    Jill, if my 3 month old daughter were to ever ask me someday who would be a good hero--you would be among the top picks. You have amazing pluck, write beautifully and honestly, and if you still have the itch to ride incredibly long distances to find out what's real there's always that nutty north to south race coming up in the lower 48. No pressure ridges and you can ride a lighter bike. Best wishes!

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  83. Jill
    Your story, your blog, all those comments, this community, thats's just amazing...

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  84. was gutted for you Jill.Of course as you know i was there myself a few years back,even the mat-su bit.

    it heals quick and you will be back riding soon.

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  85. It it is even possible, you are more of a hero to me now than before. Take care.

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  86. Jill, you are awesome. You didn't let anyone down - I think you inspire more than one here.

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  87. Jill I'm so sorry for you, I hope all will be fine as we say in Italy
    In bocca al lupo!!
    Ciao
    Stefania

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  88. Jill you haven't let anyone down and we all make mistakes. If we are not making mistakes we are not learning anything.

    Get well, there is next year.

    -B

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  89. I just want you to know that you entirely succeeded in your adventure.

    It's always so hard when you realize you cannot see things through to the desired conclusion, especially when so much time and energy has gone into preparation. But, going out there and giving it the best shot is all you can do.

    You may have made a simple mistake -- it may have been entirely out of your control. It doesn't matter.

    What matters is that you try it again next year.

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  90. I'm really glad that you and Geoff are OK.

    I understand what it's like to train so hard for something and not be able to finish. I crashed out of the 24 hour World Championships when they were in British Columbia and I remember how horrible it felt. I remember feeling like all of my hard work had been for nothing, and seeing all the other racers finish the next day made me feel really left out.

    But bad races just make the good races that much better.

    Take care of your toes and I can't wait to read about what you will be doing next!

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  91. I agree with several people on here that your rides (even this one that you're obviously disappointed with) are inspiring and important to people. Just as I think it's a great thing that you inspire so many people to follow their own adventures and get outside and do something wild, I find it wonderful that your reaction to this mess might inspire people to understand that it's OK to modify your expectations while out there.

    You went from "needing" to run the race to needing to fix a major problem (a wet leg) to eventually coming to understand that no race is as important as your own body and well-being. As we've all seen over the years (and have ample bookshelf-space taken up proving), many, many people get that decision wrong and we only hear about them in books about their mistakes.

    You're clearly disappointed that the race didn't go as planned. I hope that you can eventually come to understand that you have taught people that these adventures don't need to be life-or-death and that turning away to take care of yourself is very hard, but CAN be done. I hope, in the coming months, to read you posting not "I scratched early in the race, oh man..." and instead give us (and yourself), "I scratched early in the race because it was what I needed to do. And now I get to have the rest of my life, my foot, and many more adventures!"

    I say CONGRATULATIONS on a great, important, and wonderfully inspirational scratch.

    Get well soon. Keep inspiring us all. You can see from all these posts that you obviously didn't let anyone down. And we're all here to keep reading.

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  92. Anonymous6:24 AM

    Your toes look like little kernels of popcorn just before they're about to pop !.

    Just remember, as a writer there ARE no bad experiences. Even though you didn't finish the race you can now write about your recovery from frostbite, which might make for a better story. If you had finished an uneventfull race it would have probably made for a possibly boring Iditarod Part Deux story. Now, you can wow everybody with the story of surviving a dunking and frostbite.

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  93. Sorry about your DNF.

    The good news is you live to fight another day.

    Eric

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  94. At least you have a good story to tell. Seems like whenever I injure myself it's doing something mundane like stepping off a curb or popping my neck.

    Frostbite in Alaska in the winter while riding a 300 mile race is a way cooler story.

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  95. You had me in tears, reading this post. You are so brave!

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  96. You didn't let anyone down. Concentrate on getting better. You are an inspiration to me and I'm sure all your readers.

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  97. I'll echo the posts above and just say keep on the road to recovery. It's just a small setback instead of the end of your racing bikes. Get those toes better and when you can get back on that hourse.

    Something others have missed though and I just thought of is this.

    So if you go back to that lake after the thaw and use M&Ms as bait will you catch a really big Lake Trout?

    Keep on keeping on, your writing is an insparation to the world.

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  98. Bummer. I know you are so disappointed, but of course it's far better to have all of your toes for the rest of your life. You haven't let anyone down! Recover well, so we can all go on to the next vicarious adventure, through you. Best wishes - Mary

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  99. Just caught this post on Bedrock. I will have my kids read this for sure. Glad you are ok.

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  100. vw Dave8:09 AM

    Hi Jill, VW Dave here. I've not posted for awhile, but felt compelled to send something to help cheer you up : )

    First off, let me say again what's been said so beautifully and compassionately in the previous postings; Your attempt, and Geoff's too, was nothing short of miraculous. Miraculous to be at the start line after a grueling year of training and miraculous for showing us that the attempt to live your dreams is just as important as fulfilling the dream itself.

    Secondly, it was not your fault. Be mad at Mother Nature, if you will, but don't take it out on yourself. It could have happened to anyone. You will incorporate that experience in your writings, so it won't go to waste.

    And lastly, I found this Haiku that I never sent you. The inspiration came from a camping trip you took last year. I don't remember the specifics but it is obvious that you were having a difficulty getting a fire started...

    cold dormant wet wood
    release your heat for me now!
    please ... perhaps ... maybe?

    This poem brings up an important point, who's to say that you could have gotten a fire started even if you tried? I mean, where do you find wood? Dry wood? How do you start wet wood? You don't.

    Jill, I'll end with a gentle reminder ... Don't second guess yourself. You did what you thought best at the time, end of story. There will be another story to tell and we'll all enjoy reading about it. Life, with all its awful truths, is still a beautiful thing.

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  101. traildiva9:02 AM

    The only person you may have let down is you; with time, you'll hopefully come to realize you didn't really do that, either. Everyone who pushes themselves like you do will sooner or later fail spectacularly -- it happens to all of us. It's all part of the journey.

    You have such an admirable adventuring spirit and are generous to share that with the world. Don't beat yourself up too much. While you are superwoman in my book, no one can get everything right all the time.

    I wish you a full and speedy mental and physical recovery.

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  102. Ray from Ohio9:09 AM

    In 20 years the disappointment will turn into another story of the journey of life. Right now I'm sure it's hard to see any positive from this, but time has a funny way of turning disappointing situations into character building milestones.

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  103. Oh Jill, I am so very sorry. Fingers crossed that the toes heal beautifully. I'm very glad that you stopped.

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  104. Anonymous12:43 PM

    Your feet are cute ;-)

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  105. All the best for a speedy recovery.

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  106. John in Kansas1:28 PM

    Jill,

    I will never again complain about cold feet. Ever. :)
    I have been enjoying your stories and pictures for years now, and hope that you'll still write despite your injury.

    I have a feeling this is just another chapter for you...just don't beat yourself up too badly. I also suspect that this injury will bring you into contact with folks you may have not otherwise known.

    Ok...now I'll put down my $1.89 crystal ball.

    Kindest regards & take care,

    John in Kansas City

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  107. We all learn from our mistakes. You will be better for it in your next adventure. I hope you have a fast recovery.

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  108. Jill I hope you and Geoff get well real soon. As one of your readers has already put it. You are an inspiration to all of us who read your blog. Take care.

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  109. I'm the guy in the Salt Lake ICU that my girlfriend Lori B mentioned in an earlier comment -- you made all of the important right decisions. We all do things on the trail that we wish we hadn't. That's not a mistake, that's life.

    All in all, continuing to walk and ride may have been the smartest thing you did. As soon as those wet feet hit the air, you were going to be in trouble. If you couldn't get them rewarmed or if you couldn't get your frozen boot back on the situation would have significantly elevated in severity.

    Deciding to pull out of the race is also in the running for best decision you could make. You're not talking about a race with aid stations every 5k. The racing gods do not take kindly to racers who don't respect the challenge before them. Once you head out that door there's no turning back. As someone dealing with much more severe frostbite, I can assure you that it's not worth it. I've gotten lucky and will be keeping all of my toes. Before the special treatment they use here in Salt Lake, I was looking at a mid-foot amputation and the loss of all 10 toes.

    There's no shame in pulling out when you did, or in any of the decisions you made. I just wish you luck in finding a strategy to keep your toes warm in the future so that you can continue to participate in these races. The biggest challenge for both of us is likely in finding how far we can go in the cold without putting our feet at further risk. With frostbite, you only get lucky once. The second time the cold plays for keeps.

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  110. Jill,

    I've been lurking your blog (and Geoff's) for some time, and was following your progress with great interest. I'm saddened that your adventure was cut short, but more than grateful that you are both ok. Thanks for all the inspiration (and the truly wonderful writing). Quick recovery to you both. (Hope to see you here in UT for Wasatch ;).

    --Lloyd in Sandy

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  111. Anonymous4:18 PM

    John in Kansas said:

    " I also suspect that this injury will bring you into contact with folks you may have not otherwise known."


    Yeah, like ER doctors, nurses, frostbite specialists, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists. Falling into the drink is a helluva way to expand your circle of aquaintances !.

    While you're laying around waiting for your foot to heal you'll have plenty of time to think...like how do seals and polar bears keep from getting frostbite ?.

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  112. Anonymous4:38 PM

    Sorry to hear about your journeys early end but I'm glad nothing to life altering happened.

    I'm about half way through your book and have to say I have read many on ultras (cycling, running, adventure racing ) and can tell you yours is one of the best . I plan on buying a few more copies for friends as I'm sure they will enjoy your writing style and non-ego base view.

    Keep on living as you see fit and I look forward to your future books.



    Dallas " I see a pugsley in my near future." Sigurdur

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  113. Anonymous4:50 PM

    like bizyah said..."there's no shame in pulling out."

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  114. Although Geoff's and your participation in this event did not go as planned, both of you displayed a stout-hearted effort.

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  115. John S.6:36 PM

    Jill,

    I am so greatful you are OK and will be able to write of your adventures again one day. Best wishes to you and Geoff on a speedy recovery.

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  116. well, you let me down.

    my bookie is looking for me now..

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  117. Anonymous9:24 PM

    Hi Jill,

    You are an absolutely fantastic cyclist, ultra-tough rider and one very nice woman. I read your story with great interest, of course. I'm glad to hear you will keep your toes..and having been in a similar situation, I think I can advise that you will get over the feeling of disappointment. Remember, your friends feel disappointment FOR you but not IN you. We love and support you. My journey is also over again, this year on the ITI. I'll get over it and heal up, too. There are more adventures out there...heal up and go get 'em.
    Anne Ver Hoef

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  118. Hey Jill,
    Sick plot twist. Can't wait for the resolution. But don't rush it!

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  119. You're an inspiration to us all to live life to the fullest. I'm very thankful you're alive and get to keep all your body parts! Godspeed.

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  120. Anonymous7:09 AM

    Wow, Jill you have come so far from the young woman I met in college that was so timid and often run by fear! Congratulations on so fully conquering your fears and accomplishing so much in this crazy field of endurance snow biking. Best of luck in your recovery!

    Chris W

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  121. Anonymous9:18 AM

    Hi Jill,

    Just think what your TOES look like ....and visualize last year my FACE looked like that!! Things could have been worse. I kept all my facial parts and you will keep all your toes. Just take very good care of them and follow through with all the recommendations.
    Anne Ver Hoef

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  122. Ciao Jill,

    Hope you'll get well soon, so I'll keep on dreaming of Alaska reading your blog.

    Giacomo

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  123. How did I miss this post? Wow! Those look so bad! You are so persistent!

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  124. Anonymous7:29 PM

    JIll. loved reading your adventures. So very sorry that your toes and foot are in that condition-even more sorry you have to feel the pain of leaving the event. I was so happy that you met my good friend, Catherine. I know she;ll tell me how wonderful you are. Hang in there. I've have frost bite on my toes and feet and the pain is unimaginable. Take really good care of them. You need them. Keep on writing.

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  125. Anonymous7:29 PM

    JIll. loved reading your adventures. So very sorry that your toes and foot are in that condition-even more sorry you have to feel the pain of leaving the event. I was so happy that you met my good friend, Catherine. I know she;ll tell me how wonderful you are. Hang in there. I've have frost bite on my toes and feet and the pain is unimaginable. Take really good care of them. You need them. Keep on writing.

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  126. I've seen numerous cases of frostbite here in the Interior. A young healthy person, like yourself, will spring back from a cold weather injury.

    This is a good example of an experianced individual with good equipment can still be vulnerable.

    I love your writing and believe you could still spin a book out of your latest adventure.

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  127. Anonymous9:02 PM

    At your most heartbreaking moments, those of us in San Diego say to ourselves, "Damn - I have absolutely no excuse not to ride my ass off, because this woman could kick my ass completely off, one-legged, in a snowstorm".

    Norman
    aka
    fatfreediver@hotmail.com

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  128. Anonymous2:33 PM

    Jill,

    like many of your silent readers and admirers I wished you luck and success for your ride. So I can only share your worry and disappointment about this early end and the serious harm on your feet. I wish you a fast recovery both in health and mind. Who knows what´s this good for. For me it is still unbelievable to ride a bike below minus 10°.

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  129. Glad to hear you will be recovering from the frostbite without any lasting effect. One time while road cycling in winter at 25F I got minor frostbite of my lungs. Ouch! For the next three days every breath was high pain. But ceasing to breathe while it healed didn't seem like a viable alternative. Some of the things we learn from experience we would rather not know.

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