Friday, February 22, 2013

Let's pretend we're in Antarctica

Here I was yet again, T-minus a few days to another winter visit to Alaska, fending off hypothermia in coastal California. When I left the trailhead for a ninety-minute run, it was 42 degrees and raining. I didn't bring a coat because I didn't realize it going to be that cold, but I reasoned I could just run harder. Then I broke out of the emerald protection of the forest and ran straight into a wall of wind as it drove daggers of rain through my soaked shirt. At that elevation, raindrops had the kind of sharp definition they take on just before rain turns to sleet, and the windchill was brutal — I'd place it in the 20s, easily. And I was wet and had no wind protection or gloves.

Ah, California, you always manage to catch me with my guard down just when I need to re-learn a valuable lesson about underestimating the effects of cold — like how frustrating it is when fingers go numb or when my quads are so cold that every pounding downhill step feels like an electric shock. My muscles were too cold to engage the higher gears needed to increase my heat output, so I simply settled into a numb jog knowing I'd be fine but slightly miserable for a while. Dropping off of the exposed ridgeline and back into tree protection improved my mood substantially, even as the rain intensified. Slicked with precipitation, the leaves and grass were intensely green; the trail was covered in fun splashy puddles, and I had the whole normally crowded park all to myself (ask a local what they wear to go outside during a winter storm, and most will probably respond with a confused expression. Go outside?) But spring is in full effect now, and by the time I return from Alaska at the end of March, it will be nearly summer. I admit I will miss this green.

That partially paralyzing anxiety and pre-race jitters are really clamping down now; I'm not sure who's more nervous about Beat's expedition to Nome, him or me. It's impossible to form a concept of the 1,000-mile expedition as a whole, so he's taken to visualizing it in pieces, and thinking out loud about just how horrible each section is going to be. The other day we discussed the Yukon River — a couple hundred miles of a wide and flat river plain plunged into a 40-below freezer and buffeted by gale-force winds. "It will be awesome," I said. "Just pretend you're in Antarctica." Beat looked at me with a raised eyebrow that clearly said, "How is that supposed to be better?"

But deep down he knows he's going to relish the experience and I know I'm going to spend more moments of this month freaking out than I like to admit. I've actually compiled a fairly full calendar for myself, but I'm going to make my best effort to post regular updates about Beat and other news from the Iditarod Trail Invitational when I'm on the grid (and if I'm going to be off the grid, I'll post how long so the lack of updates doesn't worry anyone.) News will be posted at my endurance racing blog, Half Past Done, with more frequent quick updates on Twitter and Facebook. Here's a list of links to follow Beat's progress:

Half Past Done
HPD Twitter page
Jill's Facebook page
ITI Latest News
ITI Leaderboard

We leave for Alaska later this afternoon (Friday) and the race begins at 2 p.m. Alaska time Sunday. I'm headed out for one last quick run in the sunny green hills (60 degrees today) and then it's a month of snow and ice that I plan to live to the fullest. Yesterday one of Beat's friends sent him a video that seemed appropriate — Of Montreal's "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games." ...

"Let's have bizarre celebrations. 
Let's forget when, forget what, forget how. 
We'll have bizarre celebrations. 
We'll play Tristan and Iseult, but make sure I see white sails. 
Let's pretend we don't exist;
Let's pretend we're in Antarctica." 

 More soon.


  1. Your 'vacations' just don't sound like much fun to me...(I'm "tropical"). And Beats vacation...uhm, er...YIKES! Beyond my wildest imagination of hell...

    But good luck to you both! A MONTH in the winter! sheesh...


  2. Good Luck Beat!! And have fun Jill!! California will be patiently waiting for you both.


Feedback is always appreciated!