Showing posts from February, 2011


I've been quiet this week. Lots of changes since Susitna. More on that soon, but for now I thought I'd pop my head up lest my family think I've started sleeping 12 hours a day. For the record, that pretty much was my average my first two nights after I came home from Anchorage, where I doubt I slept 12 hours in five days. The cold I had before the trip of course reared its head with a vengeance, and the rest of my body decided it no longer needed to listen to me. It's interesting how one day you can feel lousy and still travel 100 miles on foot, and two days later struggle to find your way to the fridge for a glass of orange juice. I really can't say I felt that much worse than I did at times during the race, but I was firmly floored by fatigue and illness in the aftermath.

Then I popped out of it, and got on my bike. It was cold and windy in Missoula, with temperatures in the single digits and fierce windchill - not to mention heinous wind drifts across the trails …

Susitna 3, Chapter 3

I decided if I was going to make it through the last 20 miles of the race, I would need a routine. It would start with Advil, and continue with a couple of Happy Cola candies every four songs or so. Looking back, I ate astonishingly little during the Susitna 100. There were the checkpoint meals — a bowl of jambalaya, a plate of spaghetti, a small cup of soup, a grilled cheese sandwich. There was my race food, with which I was able to get through a half bag of Combos, one bag of Happy Colas, one bag of chocolate espresso beans, a handful of Goldfish crackers, a few pieces of turkey jerky, a couple of candy bars and a couple of Odwalla Bars. It was always enough to keep the furnace stoked, but later in the race I often felt lightheaded or sick, likely attributable to a borderline bonk. It was just too difficult to eat out on the trail, with the icy face mask, the cold wind, and the perceived effort, which minute for minute was noticeably higher than what I was accustomed to on a bike or…

Susitna 3, Chapter 2

Even though it felt like a single heartbeat, I was surprised to learn that only two hours had passed since the time we checked into Luce's Lodge. It could have been much longer. While Beat was choking down his spaghetti and trying to recover his energy, I spent most of an hour in the back room with all of my gear spread out in front of me. Finally, I decided to put most all of it on — microfleece tights, wind tights and wind shell pants, fresh polypro base layer, microfleece pullover, wind vest, Gore-tex shell, thin balaclava, face mask, windstopper hat and fleece balaclava, gators, liner mittens, shell gloves with handwarmers, vapor barrier socks with feet warmers and Drymax liner socks. The only items of clothing I packed back into my sled were things I had more than one of, such as liner gloves and socks, and my down coat — my lifeline. I started the race feeling over-packed and it only took me 40 miles to make use of nearly every non-required item I brought.

It was just after m…

Susitna 3, Chapter 1

Anxiety condensed into fear as frost accumulated on the windows inside the truck cab. "Now it's 12 below," Steve announced and snapped a picture of the temperature gauge on the rear-view mirror. The nearly full moon hugged the horizon, casting an ominous violet glow over a forest of birch and black spruce trees, all freshly coated in snow. We pulled into the Point MacKenzie General Store parking lot and emerged in the biting air. The frozen morning suddenly came alive, with the purple reflection of the moon retreating from the deep crimson light of the sun. I grinned in spite of myself. "Hello Alaska," I whispered.

We struggled to keep fingers and toes pliable as we packed our sleds, checked in, and ducked into the store for breakfast. Beat and Danni quietly picked at their pancakes and Steve looked sick with nervousness. I felt more in my element with the prospect of the snowy trails and cold, but I envied their running experience. Each one of them knew they co…

Susitna 3, the video

2011 Susitna 100 from Jill Homer on Vimeo.I'm still too knackered to write up my race report, but I did throw together a quick film of some of the video and images I shot during the race. The music is "July" by Amy Petty. The song was included on the "Ride the Divide" movie soundtrack, which I recently downloaded as part of my playlist for the Susitna 100 to help motivate me by inserting Tour Divide images in my head during some of the more monotonous parts of the race. This song just happened to pop up on my iPod shuffle during my real low point on the afternoon of day two, on the Yentna River. As my friend Danni says, "waterworks ensued," and afterward I started to feel quite a bit better. I think it's a fitting soundtrack for this video. Enjoy!


Beat and I finished the Susitna 100 on foot in 41 hours and 16 minutes. All I can say about it right now is — wow, that was really hard. The race was actually much harder than I anticipated, not only in physical effort, but also pain and cold management. As it turns out, traveling 100 miles really is a lot more difficult without a bike — who knew?
It was an interesting year for the Susitna 100. The weather was clear and cold, with colorful skies and incredible views during the day, and overnight temperatures dipping as low as 19 below with a 20 mph headwind. The trail was well packed, awesome for cycling, but the new snow made for tough footing. The fine powder was still very sandy where our little feet punched through. It was very taxing to maintain a 2.5 walk pace, much like trying to run 100 miles in crusty sand. The snow was also very cold, which makes it very sharp — meaning no glide for our sleds. There was a lot of resistance all around.

What else can I say about it? My feet hur…

Su, Su scared

Well, this week has been surprisingly busy and I never got around to writing the pre-race post I was hoping to write. We made it to Anchorage with smidgens of optimism about the Susitna 100, only to have our hubris dashed by nearly a foot of new snow on Friday (such are the reports from my friends in the Mat-Su Valley.) New snow is just a set-back, not a deterrent, but it does mean softer, more strenuous and possibly impassable conditions even for people on foot. No use worrying about it. Since this is my first 100-mile ultramarathon, I feel happy to just try my best and if that's not good enough, well — either way, it will be a memorable experience. I actually get a little excited, even giddy, when I think about the ways the trail conditions might be insanely hard, even for a 100-mile foot race, which already seemed insanely hard. I tell Beat this, and he just shakes his head and says, "You're in for a rude awakening."

Steve, Beat and I all arrived in Seattle from di…

Date with Pugsley

My friends Dave and Brenda from Banff stopped through Missoula during their ski blitz of the state of Montana. In a regrettable stroke of luck, their home mountain was being slammed with fresh powder while western Montana was basking in temperatures more appropriate for April than February. Dave and Brenda spent the day navigating the slush at Lookout Mountain, then opted to skip Missoula's Snowbowl and flee north to Whitefish. Before they left town, we agreed to meet up for $1 Monday sushi rolls. We arrived at Sushi Hana promptly at 5:15 p.m. and were informed the place was booked up all night. Booked up? I mean, $1 is a good deal for sushi, but really? "Valentines Day," the server informed us.

"Oh, right, that's today," we nodded, deflated. So instead of having dinner in Missoula, Dave and Brenda decided to continue driving in an effort to join our mutual friend Danni for an obligatory Canuck visit to Famous Dave's (a BBQ chain that in Kalispell is fam…