Sunday, June 17, 2012

By the numbers

On Friday, Jan and I set out for an afternoon ride through the enchanted woods, also known as Forest of the Nisene Marks. Jan wanted a much-needed break from his job search and was looking for some solid hours on the bike. I'm always game for adventure but in order to agree to a five-hour ride, I needed to disclose my growing list of disclaimers: Hamstrings tight; Calves still cramping; Tired and prone to timidity; May walk the steeper hills. We logged 13 miles and 3,200 feet of climbing on the Aptos Creek Fire Road before launching into the technical singletrack of Soquel Demonstration Forest for an eight-mile loop with 2,000 feet of heart-pounding descents and climbs.

We decided to climb back to Aptos Creek on a trail rather than take the long road around, which nearly proved to be my undoing. Grades that were sphincter-clenching during descents proved to be nearly unclimbable for my weakling legs. I mashed the granny gear until my hammies bunched into tight knots, then used a kind of sidestep to drag my bike up walls of loose dirt. When I arrived at the top Jan was drenched in sweat but had a cool smile on his face, satisfied with the hard effort. "Is running ruining your biking legs?" he joked.

"Well, actually, yes. Yes it is." Recovery from the Laurel Highlands Ultra aside, I really do feel weaker on my bike even as I become progressively stronger on foot. Maybe it's because lately I've been using cycling mainly as a recovery and recreation activity, and haven't been pushing myself as hard. Either way, my legs felt more sore after Jan's and my little mountain bike ride than they did after nineteen hours of pounding in Pennsylvania. I went for short run today in 100-degree heat (okay, okay, I waited until 7:30 p.m. when the fierce sun had drifted behind enough haze to drop temps into the low 90s) in hopes of loosening them up. My hamstrings and calves actually feel better now that they've had a little run time. I'm not sure how I feel about this development of becoming a stronger runner at the expense of having enough power left over to hang with my cycling friends. Honestly, it's a little discouraging.

Yeah, we both went around the jump. Next time. Ha!
But the actual thing I wanted to post about today was the one-anniversary of my book release. "Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide" officially came out on June 15, 2011. This week I worked on tracking down as many numbers as I could in hopes of figuring out how many copies have sold. It's stretched out over a wide string of distribution channels and it's almost impossible for me to track down all of them. But what I found was encouraging. In its first year, this book sold at least 683 paperbacks and 2,840 eBooks for a total of 3,523 sales. Modest numbers for sure, but not bad for a self-published title in which nearly all of the profit goes to me. I wanted to say thanks to anyone who has purchased the book, for making this first year a good one. And if you have any opinion about it, I always appreciate the posting of reviews.

It's understandably a question I get all of the time: What are you working on now? Someday soon I plan to write a post delving into this more, but the quick answer is, "A lot of different things, but not making as much progress on any of them as I'd like." From this blog, it probably seems like I spend all of my time biking, running and traveling. But really there are still plenty of hours in the day to work, and I often don't make the best use of all of them. I'm still working on several book projects. My idea of a small independent publishing group has yet to spark, but interest has resulted in a few editing jobs (and I'm working on landing more of those.) I'm very close to releasing a blog compilation of essays from the past seven years, with added commentary to tie it all together. I still write the occasional short article here and there, and right now am pursuing more copy writing gigs to pass the time while I wallow in bouts of writer's block.

But things are clicking along. My main goal right now is creating more books; even if they're not as successful, ultimately I believe the work will pay off. I have to say, I do love having the salmon wheel that is out scooping up fish and keeping me in grocery funds while I indulge in five-hour bike rides. Life is good right now, even though my bike legs are weak and slow. Beat is in Zurich on business for a week and I'm hoping to head to the Sierras for a couple of days of solid UTMB practice. The main reason I signed up for a crazy race like UTMB is because the training gives me excuse to pursue one of my favorite things in the world ... climbing big mountains. And the best part is, right now, my legs are good at that. 


  1. Hi Jill,
    thanks for a nice ride summary! Since the Friday ride, I kept wondering if this is your idea of recovering after ultra endurance runs! I went for a 12 mile hike on Saturday morning with a group of rabid hikers, and spent the rest of the day sleeping on the sofa.
    Let's do Demo again on strong legs, it will be even more fun!

  2. Jill...I can't imagine how you do as much as you do (let-alone having time to tell US about it here!). I LOVED your book (both actually)...I pulled out Be Brave, Be Strong the other night trying to get my wife stoked about the current TD race (WHAT A RACE! MAN are they SMOKING this year! Your 09 record still stands, but Estzer is looking good to beat that (but she has LONG ways to go for sure!)

    But the pace Ollie and Craig are holding just blows my mind! I got to bed at night, they are STILL moving! Just unbelievable what the human body can do when properly motivated! I wish we had the phone in messages like the year you did...loved listening to a brief summary of your thoughts every evening.

    I don't know whether Craig and Ollie are working together, or if they are simply riding together waiting to see who cracks would be great to know how they are doing! Either way, WHAT A RACE!

  3. I loved the book, and have GHOST TRAILS by the desk waiting for me to finish another book about the TD. I read your book while on the trainer every morning at 5 a.m. It let me pretend I wasn't in my house before work, but outside crossing the country! Great read. I'll read any book you ever write.

  4. I am ordering your book today! Since i stumbled onto your blog,I have become addicted to the blue dots of the TD-12!! my workouts suffer, my work suffers and my wife is ready to have me locked away.

    Your a great writer who locks my attention down with every story on your blog.

  5. just finished WILD and it made me long for your book (my case ebook), just started rereading parts of "BE STRONG" book. Different styles but so enjoyable. Thank you for sharing your adventure. Congratulations on the "one year" Luis

  6. I just finished writing up a mini review of your book "Ghost Trails" for the new staff picks shelf at the Juneau Public Library.

    Since I have the computer in front of me I'll give you one more number: "Be Brave Be Strong" has been checked out from our library 12 times (and it's checked out right now) since we added it to the collection on 10/22/2011. It checks out for a maximum of 4 weeks at a time so it's been checked out more than we'd expect since it's only been here 8 months!

    Can't wait for your next book and always love the next blog post!

    -Alli in Juneau

  7. Thank you, Alli. That's a fun stat. I admit I was thrilled when I found out the book had landed in some libraries and even had its own call number. It warmed the heart of my inner 7-year-old bookworm.

  8. I think it's neat when self published books get picked up by libraries!

    I know a lot of our purchasing (for the Juneau library) is tied into the promotional power of large publishing houses. Although I admit I do not know a lot about how publishing works behind the scenes I'm convinced there is some interplay there.

    Out of curiosity I looked up your books on WorldCat* to see which other libraries have purchased them. There are 9 copies of Ghost Trails on there including one in the Vancouver Public Library and one in Australia!

    I'm just glad to know people are finding your books because that means they'll continue to be successful which will lead to more books for me to read!

    *If you still have your Juneau Library card barcode (It looks like you're still in the system) you can access WorldCat from the website and see which libraries around the world have your books if you're curious.


Feedback is always appreciated!