Tuesday, December 06, 2016

It doesn't have to hurt

"Are we really going to do this?" Beat asked as the truck rocked rather combatively. 

"Well, we already drove all the way here," I replied. "Here" was a pullout on Rollins Pass Road, a 45-minute drive from home. In the truck's bed were our fat bikes, recently refurbished after months of hibernation. My bike still had a Nome mileage sheet pinned to a pogie, and a once-cherished but soon-forgotten emergency collection of duct tape, zip ties, and parachute cord in the frame bag. We were here to enjoy the first day of fat bike season, but 45-mph wind gusts and an icy gravel road scraped clean of snow made it suddenly unpalatable. 

 There's one thing to be said about driving to an activity: You're more likely to make yourself go through with it. The west wind blew directly into our faces, and I was buffeted all over the road as I tried to mount my bike. If I could keep the front wheel pointed in a straight line, I was fine, but even a slight shimmy would send me veering toward an intimidating patchwork of ice on South Boulder Creek. Beat said the partially frozen stream reminded him of the many creeks one must cross in Alaska, and I agreed. I watched black water churn under fragile ice bridges and felt decidedly dizzy.

After 15 minutes, we had pedaled all of a mile up the road.

"This isn't very fun," Beat said.

I nodded in agreement. "But what a great workout. My quads are already sore. I'm going to start doing leg lifts at the gym, that's for sure."

 As we gained elevation, the road surface varied from wind-scoured, rocky dirt to deep, drifted snow. A few intrepid jeeps had ventured up the road, laying a narrow and erratic trail for us. Where trees offered wind protection, the surface resistance was just as taxing as riding into a 30-mph wind. I had to slow to something below a crawl just in order to process the necessary oxygen. The worst effects of my cold had dissipated significantly, but it left behind a heap of congestion, adding to the chronic congestion that I always battle. So I was breathing through a goopy straw at 10,000 feet, fretting that the things I want to do this winter are impossible — probably more impossible than ever.

 Really, though, I can only spend so much time fretting about breathing and not feeling strong. Snow flurries sparkled in the sunlight, and the wind bellowed through the trees. I gazed over the wind-swept valley and remembered that this is the sensation I love — churning through a heap of powder, fighting with every last whisper of strength to propel myself into a menacing wind. The wind and snow don't care about my dreams and goals, and I appreciate this. Endurance snow sports are entirely about strength and perseverance in the face of the absurd, the menacing, the unpredictable. It's this microcosm of life that I can't get enough of, even as I grow older and less capable for reasons I don't understand.

 This, like life, is as beautiful as it is hard, which is why it remains worthwhile. I'll just keep doing the best I can, relishing every breath of the monstrous wind.

Monday: Treadmill intervals, 0:30, 3 miles. Weightlifting, 0:40. Run, 1:00, 4 miles, 754 feet climbing. I drove home from Utah on this day and stopped by the gym on my way home. A half hour later, I jogged out to meet Beat during his evening run home from work on the West Ridge trail.

Tuesday: Rest. The man cold clamped down hard overnight. I woke up with a throat so sore it hurt to turn my neck, and I felt weak and feverish throughout the day. I was convinced I was coming down with bronchitis.

Wednesday: Elliptical machine "strength workout," 0:45. Weightlifting, 0:40. I had been quick to overestimate that cold, as it seemed quite bad for 24 hours. On Tuesday it was difficult to get up off the floor, but I felt significantly better on Wednesday morning. I went to the gym for low-impact exercise, using lots of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes, although I would think the contagiousness of my cold dissipated with my symptoms. I did still have a sore throat and the start of persistent congestion.

Thursday: Elliptical machine, 1:30. Weightlifting, 0:20. Still didn't feel strong enough to venture outside. I hear it got a bit cold during the week.

Friday: Mountain bike, 2:16, 13.2 miles, 2,233 feet climbing. A light storm dropped about an inch of snow. I still felt somewhat weak and was having some difficulties with breathing, and the added resistance of snow didn't help. But I really enjoyed this ride — a mixture of sun and flurries, and the trails were deserted.

Saturday: Run, 2:17, 9.1 miles, 1,631 feet climbing. I wore my Salomon Spikecross shoes for the first time since the 2015 White Mountains 100, and wasn't thrilled with the sudden impact of non-Hokas. Perhaps I've ruined myself forever with cushy shoes, but my shins and hips hurt almost immediately. I felt okay but hiked more than I usually would.

Sunday: Fat bike, 4:19, 23.4 miles, 1,705 feet climbing. I wish I could say I felt strong and that the Fat Pursuit is going to be great. No, it's probably going to be a disaster. What's new?


  1. That last picture is sublime, Jill. Nice work.

  2. Those Front Range winds are incredible. Experienced 155 mph winds one February many years ago. Saw a Dempsy Dumpster cruising eastbound on Baseline road at about 15 mph. Many of the homes in the foothills had their big, panoramic glass windows shattered.

  3. Looks like a challenging, but very rewarding adventure. Those views must be worth every ounce of pain it took to get up there.


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