Wednesday, February 08, 2012

This and that

I try to avoid bullet-point blog updates, but right now life is tugging from several directions. I have been making progress on writing projects, just as my 2011 tax forms have started to trickle in from the publishing world at large. The numbers are more encouraging than discouraging, and I'm trying to leverage that into motivation to increase my production, send out more queries, and try not to derail my progress with thoughts such as, "I could really benefit from spending the whole day reading articles about eBook formatting" or, "I wrote this bullet point blog post today, and that was almost like being productive." No ... no it wasn't.

• Publishing. Both of my books have been enjoying decent sales for the past few weeks. It has been interesting following the trends in online book sales. It seems bike bloggers now regularly land spots in the list of Amazon's top twenty best sellers in cycling.  There are still many bike books I have yet to read (my Kindle is choked with unread books right now), but one I have been browsing with much amusement is Elden "Fatty" Nelson's "Comedian Mastermind." It helped that I received a paperback copy (does anyone else suffer from Kindle guilt? It's like looking at a stack of overdue library books every day.) Elden even personalized the book with the inscription, "For Jill, who routinely does what I never would even consider. Ride on!" I wasn't sure if this was a compliment or a veiled insult, but the "Ride On" sweetened the sting enough to continue reading.

I have been a regular reader of Fat Cyclist's blog since 2005. He lives about ten miles from the town where I grew up, and I rode with him several times during the spring of 2009, while I was staying in Utah and training for Tour Divide. So I feel like I know the guy; of course, many of the thousands of Fat Cyclist readers probably feel the same way I do. Fatty comes across as personable and friendly, the kind of guy you would like to ride with on a Saturday afternoon. He's also a prolific writer who can be poignant and funny at the same time. "Comedian Mastermind" covers the best of his blog from 2005-2007, printed with introductions and footnotes so you feel, as the back-cover-blurb describes, like Fatty is "standing behind you, reading over your shoulder, and telling you what he was thinking while he wrote and why he wrote it, all while eating a sizable sandwich." It actually does read like a personalized collection — as though Elden compiled this book specifically for me, the girl who regularly does things he never would, so I can laugh along with his self-inflicted misery, two-wheeled triumphs, and keen observations about cycling's often absurd culture.

Of course I'm going to like the book, as a long-time fan. I also tried to look at it as an objective reader, someone who's never heard of Fat Cyclist's blog. Although there's a peppering of inside jokes, thanks to Fatty's informal writing style, you don't have to be a regular reader to get it. For the non-fan, it's a compilation of humorous cycling essays and epic ride stories. For the Fat Cyclist fan, it's a nicely organized digest that's enjoyable to revisit. And if you're like me and enjoy uploading light and short reads on your Kindle for easy consumption at airports and other places of wait, this is a great book for that. Recommended read. (On sale here.)

• Readers. Thanks to the recent post-holiday increase in book sales, I have been hearing from more readers recently. I received an e-mail from a man who is headed to UTMB this August, who told me that he was enjoying the book to the extent that "as a non-bike-rider, the (Tour Divide) is now on my very long term bucket list." Other readers have told me the book inspired them to ride more or plan a bikepacking trip. Next week I will likely join some kind of live chat to answer questions for the Women's Adventure Magazine book club, which is currently discussing "Be Brave, Be Strong." I wanted to say thank you to those who reached out to me (although I suspect many of them are not readers of my blog.) It's definitely motivated me to keep writing.

• Training. I think my taper is going well. I am actually tapering, which means I have noticeably reduced the amount of time I spend exercising each day. This has also proved to be problematic, because if I'm "only" going to run for an hour, I want to make it count. Not because I believe "making it count" will help me next week, but because running hard feels so good and if I only do it for an hour, it won't even hurt. Issues arise because I never did any speed work in training, so running hard inevitably leads to much soreness the following day. This is hardly confidence-inspiring for my hundred-mile snow slog in just over a week. But I try not to think too hard about what six-mile aches implicate for something seventeen times as long.

UTMB. The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc sent out a news release full of interesting statistics. It appears 10,000 people put in for the lottery for the 2012 race. The 2,000 entrants represent 75 nationalities. It didn't specifically say what percentage of participants are from the United States, but it seems only 8 percent of entrants are women. This surprised me; I expected to see something closer to 20 or even 30 percent. This low number makes me want to finish this race even more, and I do plan to work for it this summer. I envision lots of long, steep hikes in the mountains. Yes, it's a tough life, but someone has to do it. We are the eight percent.

• Awesome women. I wanted to congratulate Eszter Horanyi for scorching the course in 2012 Arrowhead 135, setting a new women's bike record at 18 hours and 18 minutes. I've only met Eszter briefly, at last November's 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, but I do read her blog and regard her as a kindred spirit of sorts — possibly what I would be like, if I was fast.

• The Susitna 100. I can't wait for February 18, which has now officially reached the ten-day weather forecast. Right now, the weather looks good, but I am feeling optimistic regardless of what the weather does. Even if it's 35 degrees and raining, I will put on my Juneau Super Suit and snowshoes and slog this thing out. I am genuinely excited about it. My friend Danni and I have been discussing food and strategy. I will probably make a Su100 gear post in the next week.

• Bulleted blog posts. I'll try to avoid them in the future, I promise.