Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 goals

Recently, Beat posted his adventure goals for 2012. It got me thinking about what I want to do in 2012. Below is a list of the events I'm thinking about for the coming year. Most of these are tentative, and I'm sure others that I haven't even thought of yet will become reality. But for now, these are the dreams that get me out the door most every day. My adventure dreams. This post is merely "part one." I'll post about other goals for 2012 soon.

Susitna 100
Foot race, February 18-20
This year will be my fourth showing at the illustrious Susitna 100. I finished the 100-mile "Race Across Frozen Alaska" twice on bikes (a full-suspension Gary Fisher Sugar in 2006 and an old Raleigh with Snowcat rims in 2007. It is possible to ride snow trails without a fat bike. Not well.) Even though I had much better bikes by 2011, I still decided to leave them at home and try my chances on foot. I surprised everybody and myself by finishing, and now I want to go back and try it again. Why do I want to drag a heavy sled 100 miles across the Susitna Valley, yet again? For me, these long winter slogs are very much a mental landscape sort of challenge; one might even call it intense meditation for lack of a better term. Almost regardless of the outcome, I always emerge from my Alaska sabbaticals with a renewed sense of clarity. But I do want to improve on my 2011 finish of 41 hours and 16 minutes, and my main strategy is to avoid the two-hour breaks at Luce's and Flathorn lodges.

White Mountains 100
Snow bike race, March 25
The White Mountains 100 is easily my favorite race, ever. This 100-mile race in the mountains north of Fairbanks, Alaska, takes all of my favorite things about snowbiking: Rolling terrain, winter "singletrack," sweeping vistas, a huge climb up a mountain pass, a white-knuckle descent, cozy checkpoints, tasty hot food, awesome volunteers, potential aurora gazing ... and just enough extreme cold, terrifying overflow, and of course the 800-foot-climb-in-less-than-a-mile-Wickersham-%*$!-Wall to keep it real. I finished in 22:23 in 2010 and 17:55 in 2011. Since I won't be particularly well-trained for snow biking, and since snow conditions always dictate how these things go down anyway, my main strategy for 2012 is to minimize the weight I'm carrying in extra gear, and probably also try to cut down my checkpoint times. However, the overwhelming goal in this race is to have fun.

Stagecoach 400
Self-supported bikepacking race, April 27
I haven't taken on a multi-day mountain biking challenge since I finished the Tour Divide in 2009. Although I've enjoyed my foray into ultrarunning, I admit I miss the independence, freedom and flow that I feel on my bike. So I was excited to learn that Mary Collier, who also previously finished the Tour Divide (in 2008; she is one of the stars of the movie "Ride the Divide") and her husband, Brendan, put together a 400-mile dirt route across Southern California. The loop incorporates historic routes such as the Juan Bautista DeAnza trail and the Great Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849. Since I am now a resident of California, and since the Stagecoach 400 Web site features stunning photographs, I felt compelled to enter. My main concern for participating in this event is the likelihood of extreme heat, given that it swings around the Salton Sea, which is often hotter than Phoenix. But I figure after returning from Fairbanks, some dedicated sauna training will hopefully get me in shape for what will likely be a grand and difficult tour of the state I now call home.

The Zion 50
Foot race, May 11
This race fits in the "maybe" category, and hinges on actually feeling ready for such a thing so soon after the Stagecoach 400, and also on whether Beat decides he wants to run the Zion 100. But the course looks fantastic, through one of my favorite regions, just outside Zion National Park. This would be my first attempt at the 50-mile distance, and I'm guessing a pretty tough one for me. The elevation gain in the 50-mile course is only 3,500 feet, which puts it solidly into the "runnable" category, and the cutoff times reflect that. But it would be a beautiful challenge, and it would give me an excuse to visit my family in Utah.

The Colorado Trail
Bikepacking, July
This one also falls squarely into the "maybe" pile, and actually just popped into my head as a possibility the other day. Beat is planning to spend some time in Colorado in mid-July to acclimate for the Hardrock 100, which begins on July 13. I thought if I went to Colorado with him, and acclimated, I could potentially give the Colorado Trail a shot starting the following week (mid-July.) My plan would be a self-supported fast-tour of the bike route set in place by the Colorado Trail Race, which covers 470 miles and 65,000 feet of climbing. This wouldn't necessarily be an ITT, as I don't really believe I have a shot at Eszter Horanyi's incredible time. But my plan would be to abide by all the self-support rules, carry a Spot, and basically just give myself good excuses to keep the pace cranking when things are going well, and take a breather when they're not. I like the challenge of a determined pace, even if I'm ultimately just out for a scenic bike tour. I've long promised myself I wouldn't try to ride the Colorado Trail, which is known as much for its rugged singletrack as I am known for being a poor technical rider. But I figure if I ever want to see the Colorado Trail, I'll either have to walk all of it or some of it. I might as well ride my bike where I can, and try to enjoy the hike-a-biking as though I were simply hiking. I do enjoy occasionally taking my bikes for long walks. Since this ride would be in conjunction with Hardrock, I imagine I'd start in Durango, which is opposite of the race this year. The Colorado Trail Race begins in Denver on July 30.

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
Foot race, August 31
This is a HUGE maybe, given — among the many reasons why I should not attempt this even if I do get in — that there's a lottery with a little worse than two-to-one odds (to be held later this month.) But the truth is, I threw my name in the hat for what is widely considered one of the most competitive and most difficult ~100-mile foot races in the world. The 166-kilometer run around Mont Blanc crosses into three countries (France, Italy and Switzerland) on steep Alps trails with nearly 31,000 feet of climbing. Entering this thing when I have never even successfully completed a much easier trail 100-miler probably comes across as an extreme case of hubris, and it is. I blame curiosity. I was only even on the Web site to check out the much crazier race that Beat signed up for, the La Petite Trotte à Léon (290 kilometers with 22,000 meters of "positive height gain.") The adjacent site for the UTMB offered registration for qualified participants, and I thought, "there's no way I qualify." To qualify, a participant needs five points in two races. I discovered that my finishes in the Susitna 100 (4 points), Racing the Planet Nepal (3 points) and Ohlone Wilderness 50K (1 point) were more than enough to get me through the first cut. Out of sheer bemusement about the idea that a snow slog, a stage race with a heavy pack, and a 50K could qualify me for one of the toughest mountain races in the world, I signed up.

Let me just continue that I do think, with a little luck, I could finish. I would approach it from a speed-hiking standpoint and would aim to move consistently at a conservative but determined pace to stay ahead of the 46-hour cutoff. And believe me, I've done enough hiking in the Alps to understand how incredibly hard this will be. Hopefully all the hike-a-biking I do in Colorado will whip me into shape for the task, but if not, no biggie. Honestly, if I don't get into UTMB, I won't cry about it. I'll just hike the Mont Blanc loop over a much more luxurious four or five days while Beat is racing the PTL.

The Bear 100
Foot race, September 28-29
If I don't get into the UTMB, I'd still like to aim for a 100-mile trail race in 2012. The Bear 100 is ideal for me. It's tough and "climby" enough to be a good fit for a hiker like me, covers a scenic point-to-point route in my home state of Utah, and has the awesome nostalgia factor of being the race where Beat and I had our first "date." I've already run the last fifty miles of the course, so I think the hundred-miler is doable for me, although I would have to practice my running plenty over the summer in order to finish under the cut-off. Plus, my friend Danni is planning on running this race. It should be a lot of fun.

25 Hours of Frog Hollow
Mountain bike race, November 3-4
This is just a fun mountain bike party in the desert near Hurricane, Utah. It's too far in the future to really know whether I could fit it into my schedule, but I like to tentatively plan on being there all the same. I'd love to return as a solo racer and avenge my early-morning meltdown of 2011. However, I'd be thrilled if I could place as high as second, because this race becomes more popular every year. I wouldn't be surprised if a pro or two showed up in 2012. It's still a fantastic way to spend a day with some great people. 


  1. I really like the mostly balanced nature of biking and running for events you would like to do this year. Should be a lot of fun!

  2. That's quite a list of goals. Good luck!

    As a Colorado person who visits the mountains a lot, I just wanted to alert you that snow could be a big issue in the San Juans in Mid-July. It all depends on what kind of winter they end up having but I'd keep an eye on that, and at least consider going in the opposite direction so you get to them later.

    Keep having fun!

  3. CTR-Do It! I live on the Colorado Trail and would do this ride with you if you came out.

  4. Wow Jill (and Beat)! The first thought through my mind was what an amazing and challenging list of events! The second thought through my mind was HOLY SCHMOLEY! Do you two own stock in airlines? Your travel budget must be pretty staggering! I only have ONE lowly event planned this year, and it's a drive-to. My 'event' budget is rather low I'm afraid. I guess that's the downside of being married to an accountant (who doesn't see me flitting around the world doing sporting events as more important than retiring someday). Good luck in ALL these events, I'll be reading with baited breath as always!

  5. Great schedule, indeed! Although like Matt, that family budget thing keeps me in check as well. I need to win a million, but for that I need to at buy a lottery ticket, which is not on the budget:) Anyhow, wishing you well with UTMB lottery, and will be following you at Sustina! (as much as they update).

  6. I hope you change The Colorado Trail from "maybe" to "definite" cause I'd like to see your write up on that one.

  7. Women in the CTR=AWESOME!!! Go get it Jill!

  8. I actually used to travel quite a bit by air even before I met Beat, when I was living on a journalist's salary in Juneau and had to get on a plane (or ferry) just to go to the next town over. This year might actually turn out to be fairly light on air travel as my usual habits go. There are the two trips to Alaska (already planned, using air mileage and other Alaska Airline perks.) A possible trip to the Yukon during that time (drive.) And notice how I arranged my plans to piggyback on Beat's own travel plans. All the Western U.S. trips would most likely be by car, and then later in the year there's the inevitable trip to Europe, which we would take even without races in mind because Beat likes to visit his family once a year.

    It does involve taking lots of time "off." But I am hoping to work hard this year to generate more content that can create income for me while I am away. My two already-existing books are actually doing okay for me in this regard, and I'm planning to put more out there in the world. Andrew Skurkra recently wrote a great post on how he makes his living as an adventurer. I'm not nearly the adventurer he is, but he sheds light on just how much work it really can be.

    The snowpack will be a major factor in my Colorado Trail plans. I'd actually love to start in Denver with the group, but scheduling may prevent that, especially if I get into UTMB. It's all up in the air, but it's funny how dreams have a way of making themselves reality.

  9. It seems you and I are alike in spending habits. Hubby and I pour nearly all our extra money into travel. No cable TV, no cell phones, no second car. Just going places and seeing things.

    I want to backpack the UTMB trail. It looks absolutely stunning!

    I return from my Alaska sabbaticals wanting to move back. Returning enough times and it might end with me sending for my stuff in Cali. :)

  10. The 100k that happens at the same time as UTMB is appealling to me, but I'm not sure when I'd have time.

  11. I love Andrew's site, and hope you continue making your life as an adventurer.

  12. A suggestion for 2012 - you obviously have a great diesel engine. There are approximately 100thousand serious road cyclists in your area. Get in on some group road rides. Learn how to draft in a fast pack, how to hang in a pack, how to conserve energy at 28 mph. It'll improve your leg speed and every other aspect of your cycling, and make you into a turbo-diesel.

  13. Hi Jill,

    I just read your first book "Ghost Trails" and echo all the positive comments you'll find online. I'm ordering your second book after I post this. :)

    I'm local bay area rider in downtown San Jose intrigued with long distance bikepacking, and it wasn't until recently I met a few riders that felt the same at my local dive Naglee Park Garage.

    The restaurant owner Louis was fantasizing about riding across the US. This is when I chimed in and we started preparing for our first bike camping trip from San Jose to Tahoe last April.

    Video Blog:

    The bug is embedded and we are now planning a yearly trip to Tahoe and fantasizing about going longer and more frequently.

    We need a coach to get us to the next level and it would be awesome if you could ride with us one day, just one day, even though we are not as hard as you, but at least you would appreciate the umbel company of others riders who live for riding bikes; we ride for religion and at times ceremonial.

    You and Beat have a free dinner and beers on me if you ever make it down to the Naglee Park Garage. I'm usually there on Friday nights to plan the weekend rides.

    Thank you.


  14. That Stagecoach race looks pretty awesome; I might have to consider that one for next year, assuming they repeat it. I can verify for you - Salton Sea area (Anza Borrego desert) is HOT. Of course, I was going through it June (crewing for a RAAM rider), so maybe it won't be so bad when you go through in late April.

    That'd be cool if you do CTR! Colorado is where it's at... :)

  15. Jill,
    This is a fantastic, awe-inspiring list. I love it! It's been a pleasure to follow your progression. I often direct people who ask about ultras to your site because of your excellent articulation of truly epic adventures.
    We've some definite overlap in the maybe category so possibly I'll see you out there, some where, in 2012.

  16. Awesome exciting list! I must echo the above comments on travel-envy though! I know you understand when I say I live in Juneau. So far I've planned/budgeted for 3-4 trips out of Juneau this year but only one of those will be for an event. Sometimes I really wish I could drive a few more places!

  17. Do these events charge a fee? If so you could buy a sweet bike for all of that right?

  18. Lennie, I'd love to hear more about your SJ-Tahoe ride. Sounds like a route I'd like to try sometime. I'm always open to meeting local cyclists and discovering new places to ride. E-mail me at about your weekend ride plans and maybe I can join you.

    Durango Joe, you are right about the benefits of riding with a group. My problem is I'm not sure I would ever feel comfortable riding in groups, even mellow groups. Just today, I was riding down Page Mill Road (long, winding descent) when a pair of cyclists pulled up behind my wheel and stayed there. This ended up stressing me out out to no end because I often slow down quite a bit on curves, and I didn't want them to have to react to my braking to avoid rear-ending me. I wanted them to pass me but they never did. I even tried to lose them by really cranking the uphill portions, to no avail. I think any group situation, especially a more aggressive group, would stress me out and take all the fun out of riding. I feel it's just the way I'm wired — more for long-distance utility than agility and speed. Like putting an Ice Road Trucker on a speedway.

    Juancho ... some charge a fee. It's all good, though, because I have too many bikes as it is.

  19. CTR - Do it. :)

    That Stagecoach is on my radar too.

  20. Jill,
    There is a definite learning curve, there are definite do's and don'ts as far as pack riding goes, and you only want to ride with cyclists who know how to ride a paceline. But there is nothing more rewarding than riding in a fast paceline with equally matched riders, it's amazingly engaging and exhilirating. Everyone feels a little nervous when first learning to "ride a wheel", but I'm sure there is no shortage of experienced cyclists willing to show you the ropes. You say it's just the way you're wired, I say you are talking yourself out of one of the greatest joys in road cycling. And IMHO, despite all your accomplishments, you cannot really call yourself a cyclist until you know how to ride a smooth paceline.

  21. Hi Jill! I'd love to see a post on how to budget for this kind of lifestyle. I've been reading your blog for a long time and, especially lately, have been wondering if you two have sponsors for your travels...? I read your posts and think, "That's so awesome, but I could never afford to do all of that or live the way they are living..." But maybe I could? Do you have any advice for people who would love to do more adventure/endurance race travel, but don't know how to start to afford it?

  22. Fair enough. In my early days of cycling I used to insist to people I was a "bicycle tourist," because travel by bicycle was my overwhelming interest and I didn't want to be lumped in with racers. I used to explain to non-cyclists why my bicycle was a "touring bike" because I didn't want them to think I was a "roadie" (even though I actually called it "Roadie" for all of the six years I had it.) It is interesting how we all define ourselves as "cyclists" and what that individually and collectively means. Exploring that would make for a good blog post sometime.

  23. Amy Marie,

    Good question. Right now both Beat and I are sponsored by Google, Beat's employer — meaning they pay him well and I reap the benefits of that myself, as my current income as a self-employed writer could never pay for these types of travels (and honestly would only barely cover basic living expenses to eek out basement-level living in the Bay area. Meaning I'm quite poor as an individual, but I'm also fine with this as I feel confident that I could live just fine on my own income.)

    But, while you were reading my blog back in Juneau, I was making a minimal salary and self-funding all of my bike purchases and travel. My main strategy, and the way Beat and I still live, is to live a simple and relatively cheap lifestyle in order to free up as many funds as possible for travel, which I consider an "investment" in my own life. Having no children also gives us a lot of options, but it's not a prerequisite by any means. Erin and Hig ( show how one can be a dedicated adventurer with a small income and children in tow.

    Also a good blog post idea, though.

  24. I also vote yes on the Colorado Trail, I'd love a chance for a quick chat if you were out this way! I also like the idea of the budgeting post. My biggest downfall to fun travel was buying my house, but I inspect apartments for a living and can't bear the idea of living in one again. We all make tradeoffs, I suppose. Good luck in your goals this year Jill!

  25. My take on Durango Joe's answer (and hey, I don't read Jill's mind at all!): what if Jill is introvert/soul biker/whatever the conned name who prefers to ride alone? Does she NEED to learn to ride in a group?

  26. Oh, and hey Jill! I forgot to add this yesterday...seems the month of June is rather empty. How about considering joining Team Fatty and coming over to Davis (the weekend of June 22nd-24th) for LIVESTRONG Davis? I know it's not been your thing to do any fundraising and such, but you only need to raise $250 to do the ride (it's all road). We had an absolute BLAST last year (the first year for Davis, prior to that it had been in San Jose).

    Friday eve the 22nd we will once again have the Cycling Hall of Fame reserved just for Team Fatty (thanks to my Sist'a Angie!), and we will have food/drinks/schmoozing, and then a private tour thru the facility! Sat we hang out in the LIVESTRONG Village (or whatever you want to do) and just schmooze around in the wicked-fun of the UC Davis area. Then Sun is the ride (100 miles if you choose, or less if you want). THEN after the ride we gather at our tent and have PIE! Lots and Lots of PIE! (Thanks to David!)

    We'd sure love to have you and'd both be celebrities like Fatty! (He puts out a plea to join the team in today's post btw). We have an AWESOME group of people that show up every year!

    Just think about it (please!)

  27. Oh, and now that I"ve read ALL the comments, to address DurangoJoe's and even your own, our Team Fatty group is ALL levels! Last year at Davis we had a blistering double-pace line for the first 23 miles I believe (right until the first hill). Be us Fatties band together on the road and if one is lagging (me after that paceline) there's always other Fatties coming along and we help each other. I've done a fair bit of road riding and the LIVESTRONG rides are by far the most fun I've ever done!

    And did I mention we have PIE at the end?

  28. Matt, fundraising not my thing? I raised over $4,000 for LIVESTRONG on Team Fatty in 2008-2009. I was registered for the 100-miler in Seattle that year, but couldn't attend due to my (as yet unanticipated in late 2008) participation in the Tour Divide. I did dedicate my 85 incredible difficult miles through the mud of Centennial Valley, Montana, to the Team Fatty fundraising efforts on the day LIVESTRONG Seattle was held.

    Anyway, the ride in Davis is a great idea. I'll give it some thought.

  29. Also, admittedly, I *can* ride in a friendly paceline. I used to do so quite a bit when I was a beginning rider. I joined several club rides along the I-80 frontage road the runs along the Great Salt Lake, a very popular spot for SLC roadies. I did okay for myself then, but I admit the idea of a racing paceline with cyclists on all sides terrifies me, not the least of which because I'm just a little bit claustrophobic.

  30. Hubris? WTF?

    Not sure where you get that from. I doubt you know what that word means. Look it up.

  31. “The risk of failure, social or physical, is paramount because failure and dissatisfaction are the parents of thought. Success and fulfillment do not inspire or require introspection.” Mark Twight

  32. How exactly does this apply? Apart from the fact that the quote in itself is altogether debatable (It seems either trivial or incorrect, depending on how you interpret it. This seems to me more of a statement about his own personality ...).

    Bit of a troll, ey?

  33. Seems that every time I manage to check in you've moved somewhere new and are having exponentially crazier and more exciting adventures - and now getting paid to do them! Always a fan: keep inspiring us!!

  34. Paceline shmaceline. There are many variations of what you love, ride hard and let the rest debate on the Internet. Anybody who has completed Iditabike and the Great Divide Race has plenty of street cred to call themselves a "real" cyclist.

  35. Did a 100 mile road race on a cheap wallmart mountain bike,knobby tires and all,no shocks,and i was in a large group of road bikers in one of those pacelines,heard a lot of grumbling going on,but i figured,hey,if i can hang with them and enjoy myself,who cares what their hangups are.Had to stand up on the pedals the last 25 miles,my rump was so sore,i'm not a biker,lol,agree with Dan,follow your own path.


Feedback is always appreciated!