Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pugsley's Sunday best

So, happiness, home, taking big leaps into the unknown ... Now, let's move on to more important things, like bicycles!

This coming Sunday is the White Mountains 100. I've been so focused on life in general that this reality just slammed into me, hard. When I first started talking to friends and family about the Anchorage move, I assured them (and myself) that I was going to drop out of the White Mountains 100. It was too much to deal with, at exactly the wrong time. But as I really started to work out the logistics, I realized that I could pull off this race for fairly low expense, and because of that, I'd probably always regret it if I didn't at least try.

The White Mountains 100 is a 100-mile snow trail race in the Interior, near Fairbanks. The fact that it begins the day after the spring equinox doesn't really mean a whole lot in that part of the world. It's still stark winter and temperatures can drop to 40 below. So far, weather reports call for temperatures in the region to be fairly mild, with highs in the 20s and lows in the single digits. With my winter of "Juneau lite" training, I'm really hoping that report sticks.

Still, I plan to come prepared. Prepared with a lightweight tint, that is. Because this is a 100-mile race with sheltered checkpoints that are roughly 20 miles apart, I don't anticipate sleeping out unless there's an emergency. Because of this, I'm going to only carry emergency sleeping gear: A foam sleeping pad, a water-resistant bivy sack, and a down sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees (above zero.) This system combined with my spare clothing should allow at least a couple hours of down time if I break an ankle or do something else that prevents me from walking to the next checkpoint. The bivy system, spare clothing, and a pair of down booties are in the handlebar bag.

In the frame bag I plan to carry my nylon waders, two liters of water in an insulated water bladder, spare batteries, bike repair gear, medical gear, a few chemical warmers, goggles and food. Another liter water bottle will be in an insulated pouch on the handlebars. Those giant pogies also have a way of accumulating things as well.

The seat post bag will simply hold my big down coat, as well as any clothing that I may shed over the course of the race. As for clothing, I'll probably start out the cold morning with a base layer, softshell pants, a vapor barrier vest, a thin polyester pullover, a thick pile polyester pullover, and a softshell coat. I'll have liner gloves and shell mittens, as well as a thin balaclava, a hat, and a thick balaclava.

As for my feet — I am nervous about my feet. I had fairly serious frostbite on my right foot last March, and now, a year later, the foot is still much more sensitive to cold and pressure than my left foot. My right foot gave me a ton of trouble before the Tour Divide, but during the winter it has gradually normalized, although I have yet to really test it in extreme cold (Yeah, thanks a lot, mild Juneau winter.) I'd say the best gauge I have is the five-hour Christmas Eve ride I did in Whitehorse, when temperatures were near zero and the windchill pushed 30 below. I was fine then, so I'm hoping by using the system I'm comfortable with — my studded, waterproof expedition boots, liner socks, vapor barrier socks, thick wool socks, chemical warmers and gators — that I can ward off further damage, and maybe even avoid discomfort.

As far as feet go, the trail reports are a little ominous: "The 40-mile stretch between Cache Mtn cabin (Checkpont #2) and Borealis LeFevre cabin (Checkpoint #4) has quite a bit of overflow, glare ice, and bumps. Racers should be prepared to deal with very icy surfaces and/or patches of open water." Overflow (and bad ice) is what froze my toes last March, so I am going to place the biggest emphasis on keeping my feet dry. My mobile system is waterproof to my shins, very water resistant to my knees, and if I put on the nylon waders, it's waterproof to my hips. The studded boots also work great on wet ice — this has been tested extensively in Juneau conditions. Studded tires would be a nice bonus, but I'd really rather walk the glare ice than give up the float of the Endomorphs.

Walking will also slow me down enough to really gauge the condition of the ice. Believe me, frostbite sucks. If by some horrible mistake I do end up getting my feet wet, I'll take off everything that got wet and try the system I ignored in the 2009 ITI and have subsequently been thinking about for a year — dry wool socks, chemical warmers, plastic baggies and down booties wrapped in duct tape. That should get me through to a place where I can dry my boots.

As far as the race goes, I'm not in perfect physical condition right now, so my main objective is to have fun and enjoy the starkly beautiful environment of Interior Alaska. On the roster there seems to be more skiers than cyclists, but there will be a few women on bikes, including Julie Malingowski from Fairbanks and Janice Tower, a longtime (and extremely fast) winter cyclist.

Right now, I'm really glad I decided to do this. It's sort of like having a bachelorette party the night before a wedding. I'm ready to take this next big step and I think my life will be better for it, but it's nice to have one last day of freedom — my "last" race.

I'm looking forward to it.


  1. There is quite a bit of open water. Ed did a fly-over and actually landed on the overflow, verifying that it will be mushy by the time Sunday rolls around.

    No worries. I'll carry some extra socks, just for you, in the med-sled. :)

    See you Saturday...

  2. You sound so confident, determined and at peace at your decision.. I am glad for you...I've got that feeling u will be in the top 10 that come in first.

  3. Titanium ... I live in Juneau. I'm used to swimming while pedaling (sometimes literally), but not when it's 0 degrees out.

    I considered bringing a pair of NEOS but the stupid things already have holes in them. (I just started using them last March.) Plus the soles are terribly slippery on any kind of ice.

    Still, I have a fair amount of confidence in my Wiggy's waders. Good traction on the bottom. I'll just strap 'em on and leave 'em there.

  4. You're a truly inspiring person, you know that? You make me want to go out there right now and do the things I've been putting off for a while now. I hope one day I can be as confident and brave as you are. :)

  5. Have fun Jill. Wish I could have joined you guys up there but it was a bit too long a time to stay up in AK.

    Hope the overflow proves to be not as bad as predicted.

  6. Have a great time Jill! Good luck and be safe. I look forward to hearing all about it.

  7. Dropping a foot or two into a few feet of nearly frozen water in freezing temperatures does not sound like a recipe for a good time. That said the rest sounds like adventure so I'm excited to hear how it goes! :)

  8. Sounds like quite an adventure you're planning. Have fun!

  9. This is my first time getting involved with reading someone's blog. All that comes to mind when I read your articles is "wow." Like many of your fans that have said on here, you are inspiring and an amazing individual. The photos are breathtaking, serene, and just make me realize that there is life beyond the boarders of my hometown of TX. I look forward to reading more of your adventure. Safe return home. Thanks for your time.

  10. Pugsley has been waiting months for this funventure !!
    With all your past experience it would be a shame if you pass on this race. It's your kind of fun.
    The only regret in life should be what one doesn't do, not what one does.
    Go for it- go for yourself, go for Pugsley,... go for us, we, your loving audience are rooting for ya!

  11. Great! HAve you ever considered Bunny Boots? Everyone swears by them as they don't freeze wet feet! Ugly as sin...and big as clown shoes, but the only way to save your feet, friends say. It's musher wear for sure.

  12. Julie ... just about nobody in human-powered endurance winter sports uses Bunny Boots, and the reason for this (I've heard) is because they're terribly awkward and uncomfortable to walk in. Plus, because they don't breathe at all, they hold in every ounce of sweat and wet feet start to chafe and blister. Of course, mushers do their fair share of running as well, so it's probably a good question why cyclists don't use them. (Maybe they're also quite heavy?) I myself have never tried them.

    Chris ... I just looked at a bunch of race course photos and I was blown away. This area looks so much more incredible that the Susitna Valley. I will hopefully have more to report about it later, but so far this definitely seems like the Alaska 100-miler to do should you ever consider coming back for a "shorty." :-) Awesome job in the ITI, by the way!

  13. Jill - this is Julie M! haha - I accidentally came across this googling my name for something else.. you are talking about Julie Perilla, the Julie from Anchorage! I am the one from Fairbanks.. funny thing is both of us Julies are from PA and ice climb/run too! How's that for confusing?! You did ride by me a few years ago in the 24 hours of kincaid, though! Looking forward to meeting you Saturday and safe travels!

  14. Doh! I hate it when I get names wrong. Thanks! Look forward to seeing you again!

  15. I just got back from skiing the last 30 miles of the course - the overflow is not all that bad (no wet sections of any note).. however we did not do any of the "bad" sections - the section labelled "the ice lakes" in course description can be quite wet, as can a couple of the sections leading up to the cache mt divide..

    The course is quite beautiful - most scenic spots start at around mile 45 or so, and go for the next 30 miles - if your zippy you can make these sections with enough daylight to enjoy the views!

    Good luck!

  16. No problem! Thanks for the shout-out :) Your writing really is what inspired me to get into this and this is my first 100-miler. You'll love the course, it's gorgeous and the weather forecast looks great. (hopefully not too warm for us!)

  17. my endurance racing days are over due to serious injury, but i hope you dont mind me living my dreams by-proxy lol.

    those were the days, saving space by using a summer softie, only to freeze the brass monkeys on a night time lol

  18. Jill - Good luck with the race!

    I've been doing a bit of winter biking this season but have yet to find a good solution for my feet. Can you point me to a link for warm socks? You mention vapor barrier and liner socks...

  19. I think it's a great idea to have a big hurrah race to celebrate your move! Have a great time! I'm sure you're totally prepared to have a fun, safe, dry ride.

    I can't wait to read about it!

  20. ThanX for the photo of puggsly and the discription of gear and how its the giant tires.
    GO GET EM!

  21. While I love your blog I think of myself as doing the kayaking version of the sort of cycling your prefer. I like it cold, and wet, and messy. That said some friends have roped me into a cycling/camping trip. It will be the first time I ride a bike loaded with gear! send me good vibes, I will be thinking of you and pugsley!


  22. Good luck Jill - you will have a super race, I am sure. It should be a lot of fun - keep those feet dry - you don't want any more frostbite. We will follow your race.

  23. Amazingly well planed. And it seems with winter bicycling you learn everytime you venture out. Good luck, have fun.

  24. Ever since Anonymous made their comment a while ago you stopped doing the pictures with you in them. I miss that.


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