This will be my last Iditarod retrospective post, for a while at least. I realized if I don't write a long-winded race report for my blog, I may not have a chance to share photos. (I will not join Instagram. I will not.) Although I'd like to make a post with a hundred photos (I love them all!), I decided to stick to one favorite for each day of my race, with a short description, approximate mileage, and time stamp. (I used my own GPS data to come up with the mileage. Most agree this is an under-estimate of actual mileage.)
Day one: Squall over Flathorn Lake, mile 29. 5:05 p.m. February 28.
Day two: Morning fog on the trail to Finger Lake, mile 110. 9:11 a.m. February 29
Day three: Rainy Pass, mile 171. 2:36 p.m. March 1
Day four: The Farewell Swamps, mile 209. 9:07 a.m. March 2
Day five: Only five miles to McGrath!, mile 301. 9:13 a.m. March 3
Day six: Leaving Takotna, mile 329. 2:49 p.m. March 4
Day seven: The long and bumpy Iron Dog trail, mile 401. 5:14 p.m. March 5
Day eight: Mike, me, Sam and Katie at Innoko shelter cabin, mile 416, (Sam and Katie were not part of the ITI but rode the entire Iditarod Trail independently. The couple from Durango, Colorado, finished the Tour Divide on a tandem in 2014. 9:47 a.m. March 6.
Day nine: Miner's shack with a view on Poorman Road, mile 481. 11:45 a.m. March 7
Day ten: "I hope this Yukon River ice holds," mile 496. 8:45 a.m. March 8
Day eleven: Golden willows near Kaltag, mile 628. 6:36 p.m. March 9
Day twelve: Chasing Mike to Unalakleet, mile 690. 6:36 p.m. March 10
Day thirteen: Facing the wind tunnel from the crest of the Blueberry Hills, mile 734. 4:26 p.m. March 11.
Day fourteen: Mike at Reindeer Cove, mile 755. 1:19 p.m. March 12
Day fifteen: Passed by Brent Sass on the sea ice, mile 780. (Sass was leading the Iditarod Sled Dog Race at the time.) 3:24 p.m. March 13.
Day sixteen: Greeting my superiors on the flats west of Koyuk, mile 801. (I have high respect for sled dogs ... and I'm not even a dog person.) 10:09 a.m. March 14.
Day seventeen: Little McKinley, mile 852. 8:59 a.m. March 15.
Day eighteen: The coldest morning, mile 898. 8:44 a.m. March 16.
Just over two weeks ago, I was having dinner with friends in Fairbanks a few hours before heading to the airport. We were at a Thai restaurant with harsh lighting, and I was describing my exercise woes to friends I hadn't seen in a while. The quick explanation is: "I can't breathe when I exert myself, really, at all. It doesn't take much before I start gasping and become dizzy, and sometimes I have to sit down. I used to be able to run entire 50Ks with an average heart rate in the 160s, and now I rarely hit that number before I'm breathless." Corrine, who is a family doctor, looked over at me and said, "You know, your thyroid looks enlarged."
That set off a series of medical visits, and the latest was to an endocrinologist today. I'm very lucky to have good health insurance (thanks Beat!) and medical providers who sympathize with my desire to participate in the ITI, so they fast-tracked me through several tests ahead of the race. This much now …
My physical self has become a stranger to me recently; I don't really "know" my body anymore. I've mentioned the energy rollercoaster, the good days and bad, not quite knowing how much of this is adjusting to thyroid medications, how much is fluctuations of hormones, how much is psychosomatic, how much is just "me."
On one hand, I've struggled with real fatigue — feeling more sluggish in my daily routine, blinking against sleepiness at 3 p.m., sneaking off to take actual naps, and setting an alarm so I don't pass out for hours. This happens despite full nights of sleep and better morning alertness. I've learned that if I want to accomplish something mentally taxing, I'm better off attempting it before lunch. Jill one year ago would give a side-eye to this zonked-out person I'm becoming.
There have been other symptoms that one might ascribe to an underactive thyroid — I'm often cold in the afternoon and have to wrap up in my down com…
Simplicity. To pare life down to its basic necessities. This is the very reason I love backpacking and bicycle touring so much. And, paradoxically, it's also my largest obstacle to embarking on overnight and multiday excursions. I don't particularly enjoy poring over gear options and I'm especially resistant to the planning part of any trip. In my perfect world, a backpack full of gear and food would materialize and I would just pick it up and wander off into the mountains with no clue where I was or where I was going. Of course, if you want to return in good condition or at least alive, a plan-free trip is simply not realistic. But on Monday morning, as I tapped away at my computer and contemplated a hiking binge week, I wondered about the real possibility of an overnight, nearly-plan-free backpacking trip.
Keep it simple. I wrapped up my work and went to my gear closet to pull out my summer sleeping bag (down, rated to 20 degrees), Thermarest and bivy sack. A down coat, h…