Man colds and insecurity

Last year's Fat Pursuit, around mile 95. Crazy eyes because I thought I was dying,
while the rational side was doing everything to debunk this fear.

Earlier this week I came down with one of those "man colds" —  you know, colds that are so much worse than regular colds that they dramatically increase the urge to complain to everyone around you. I'm very cautious about respiratory infections these days. Productive coughing has limited my desire to venture out into cold, dry air for lung-searing efforts. So it will probably be a lost week of training. Oh well. Shrug.

The timing was great for Beat to sign both of us up for the Fat Pursuit 200-mile bike race in Idaho, which is just over a month away. Although I failed in this race last year and fear I'm in even worse shape this year, I had to concede that unforgiving training rides are in order. Rides where quitting feels like the third worst option, next to dying and permanent injury. The fact that I'm sitting out the better part of a week of training with a man cold proves I've gone soft on myself this year. That's all well and good, but won't cut it on the Iditarod Trail. Alaska does not care. 

Last night I had coffee with a woman who signed up for the Fat Pursuit 200K. It will be her first endurance race. Of course she's done many interesting and challenging adventures all over the world, and is taking this race so seriously that she's been sleeping on her back porch, "to get used to the cold." I'm looking forward to joining her for a long ride or two, but I'm worried she's going to bury me, and told her as much. 

"What about the thousand miles in Alaska?"

Earlier in the day, I had a phone interview with a magazine writer about my book "Into the North Wind." I've had some reservations about this project, because it hasn't sold as well as my other books, even the one that was just a reprint of old blog posts. What did I do wrong? What's so bad about it? Was it a mistake to release it one week before the election? Maybe I've finally tapped out the audience for "Jill doing snowy adventures" — which is fine. I'm lucky I've carried it this far. Still, what should I do now? The projects in which I've made the most progress with are really more of the same. Should I pursue more magazine and newspaper writing? Is it even appropriate to do adventure journalism in this post-truth world? Where everyone is so overloaded with content that it loses all meaning? But what else is there? Maybe when we get back from Alaska I can see if the Daily Camera needs a copy editor. I'll work cheap. 

Yeah, I'm having a bit of a crisis of confidence right now. It was an interesting interview, though — one that cut at the heart of "why," a question that always forces me to reconsider my reasoning for these types of experiences. She enjoyed the book, and was even more curious why I chose to publish it the way I did, basically letting it linger in relative obscurity. I was a bit taken aback by this question. I mean, you don't get much more obscure than bicycles on the Iditarod Trail. I'm lucky to have an audience at all. But it brought up another reality I've been considering — that the nicely profitable self-publishing bubble has burst, and publishing in general is shoring up for continuing, probably permanent downturns, and in 20 more years no one will read anything but social media and the Breitbart News Network. 

Also, Fat Cyclist ended his blog. Fat Cyclist was relatively new MSN Spaces site back when I discovered it, within a week of launching "Up in Alaska" eleven years ago. I think this means my blog is next on the chopping block. Sad face. 

I swear it's the man cold that's making me sound so defeatist. 

I am looking forward to going back to Idaho and taking on a course that so thoroughly whipped me last year. Whatever the cause of my breathing attacks, I've learned that I can't fight through them. It's a downward spiral of wheezing and gasping that eventually leads to extreme fatigue and dizziness. This will be my first endurance race of any kind since March, which is probably the longest I've gone without racing since I started racing. It will be useful to test my breathing and fitness in a high-pressure environment. And if this race is a huge fail, well, that hasn't stopped me before. 

Now to go hit the gym. I promise I am using tons of hand sanitizer and washing machines thoroughly. I wouldn't wish man colds on anyone. 


  1. I just got over a man cold. It took a month. I coughed so hard I strained the muscles between my ribs. Or something. It hurt, anyway,and still does. Please don't give up your blog.

  2. It takes endurance to race and push your body over days and months and years. It takes endurance to write and publish and hope people are reading and thinking and are affected.

    The last sentence of the second-last paragraph says a lot.

  3. I enjoyed "Into the North Wind" - I wish you luck with the rest of your writing endeavors! Good luck recovering from the cold.

  4. To answer the question: "Is it even appropriate to do adventure journalism in this post-truth world? " - I would say it is MORE important than ever! Please keep the faith. We need these stories to inspire us to get out there beyond our comfort zone, where real life begins...

  5. Have you thought about a podcast?

  6. Don't be too hard on yourself Jill. You enjoyed total success(finishing) in the early years of your endurance racing foray. In the last few years you may have had a few fails (and the ITI success) on some very tough courses, which perhaps just evens up the ledger a bit?
    The more you do, the more likely it is that you will have your fair share of success AND failure. That is simply life. Keep at it, you have nothing to prove to us. Just enjoy it for what it is.

    1. Oh, and watch that man flu. It can be deadly....... ;)

    2. It's interesting about the failures — they stand out as more enduring experiences as time passes. The 2013 Petite Trotte à Léon — I think about that one all the time. All of the intense emotions, the awe and terror. I will never subject myself to that again, but would I carve it out of my life if I could go back? Honestly, no.

      The 2015 Tour Divide, however ... maybe not enough time has passed to remove the negativity from those memories. What stands out most is how checked out I was a lot of the time. And I still blame that race for, well, pretty much everything. ;)

      Still, I like to think I embrace failure, and humbly appreciate any successes. As for the career thing, well, in a way that's really what this post is about. In a way I don't really want to be a professional creative. I want to have experiences and express myself freely. Which is probably why I won't kill this blog anytime soon (although I daydream about removing myself from social media entirely.)

    3. I guess in your line of work you need the social media interaction but from my perspective it would be so nice to just disconnect - keeping the blog alive of course - the long form (blog) has so much more to offer than the shallow rapidity of the other more recent media.
      A for failures? I have learn my best,if hardest lessons from my failures. It has taken me about 20 years to learn that if you aren't failing at things, you aren't really learning.
      Keep up the good fight.

  7. Please keep the faith. I struggled through a truly horrific migraine last week by turning the light on my kindle all the way down and reading your book. It's fabulous! I'll be sure to tell everyone I know that they should read it to try to help with your publicity.

    As for the downturn in blogging, I think that it's still worth doing if it brings the author pleasure. I know that's why I keep doing it. I'd be very sad if you ended your blog so please don't.

  8. I agree that adventure writing is more important in times like these,. When politics is sour and dangerous people need places they can rest and recuperate before returning to the fray. The values that you espouse (curiosity, openness, persistence, and bravery in the face of terror) are those that are needed now. Adventure writing proves to people that while winning is not always the result, the reward comes from taking the chance to do what you believe in.

  9. Anonymous4:45 AM

    On a bit different subject. Resting while you get through your cold is a good long term strategy, albeit hard to do for many endurance athletes. Keep the faith.

  10. Please don't ever stop writing your blog or your books. It may seem that many blogs have gone by the wayside, but yours has always seemed different to me in that it's extremely well-written, and you post a side of your adventures (your insecurities and fears) that most others don't touch on at all, or gloss over.

    I have read every single one of your books and constantly recommend them to others. The fact that you write so honestly about your fears and failures is what keeps me coming back for more. It's raw, and it's real, and it inspires me. I've never been particularly athletic, and as such used to talk myself out of all sorts of adventures before I even started, but reading about the things you have accomplished and how has really helped me understand that everyone who does these things doesn't necessarily excel from the get-go. Failure is part of it. Embracing the tough parts is part of it.

    And like the others above have said, I think it's more important that you write what moves you now more than ever. I'm an artist, and it seems a little bit selfish to hit my studio and paint pretty pictures in the midst of what is happening, but if all of the artists stopped working in times like these, what would the world then look like?

  11. I have to agree about your blog. I've been reading and enjoying it for over 10 years and your successes, failures and general adventures have been a constant source of inspiration. I also love your books, The North Wind is actually my favorite! Thank you for giving so much of yourself!

  12. Don't shut down your blog! I discovered only a few months ago and I enjoy reading it!

  13. Anonymous12:50 PM

    The more you work out when you're sick - any kind of sick - the longer you will be sick. Fun facts!

  14. Just burned through 3 of your books in a weekend! And have the odd "what do I do now?" feeling like When you finish a long race. The answer: buy another one (do another race ��) ! I connected with your books in a big way-don't stop writing! It gives me hope to write my own, I started it two days ago. You're books are brutally honest and personal, I love your style! I'm aiming for the ITI 350 in 2018 and then 1000 in 2019. Please write a book about this coming up one, it's part of my mental training program, which as you know is the most important part. Have a great weekend!

  15. I like to wait a month or so and then binge read your blog so I only just saw the book was out and got it right away. I'm not tired of snow... that's like thinking mystery fans are tired of Miss Marple or something! I also still love blogs I'm sad they are stopping I don't find Facebook posts the same X

  16. I like to wait a month or so and then binge read your blog so I only just saw the book was out and got it right away. I'm not tired of snow... that's like thinking mystery fans are tired of Miss Marple or something! I also still love blogs I'm sad they are stopping I don't find Facebook posts the same X

  17. Please keep writing your blog! I rarely comment, but love reading your honest words and dreaming of adventures. Your photos and accounts inspire me to try more outdoor adventures of my own.

  18. Everything everyone has already said. Please don't disappear!!

  19. As a kind of side issue, since you were talking about failure v. success, don't forget that you can't just look back at past races and classify them as either a failure or a success according to whether or not you finished. Getting as far as you did in the PTL is surely more of an achievement than finishing some "normal" 50k in California, for example. (I know you know that, but it looked like you might be glossing over it and so being overly hard on yourself.) Also, another vote for keeping the blog going.

  20. Anonymous8:16 PM

    I believe I've read all of your books and found "Into The North Wind" as good as any. A "can't put it down" read, even though I knew what the ending would be! I think you are really a gifted writer. You make your stories interesting, right from the start. Keep writing. Your blog too. I've been reading it since the earliest days. I haven't stayed with anyone else nearly so long.
    I think it is normal to dwell on failures, even if it's not where you would like to be. I only remember the hardest days, the ones that beat me down, when I remember my life's events. The nicest days go away and are soon lost, but the hardest or worst ones are right there to relive, like it or not, forever. I just try to avoid dwelling on them, and laugh at them in the retelling. I think you will be just fine if you don't expect to always be a record holder and just enjoy the ride.
    Good Luck

  21. Jesus H Christ Jill! Reading this I just wanted to come down there and get you out for an adventure. Your probably well over this by now but you always have an ear, just reach out. Or come out. Couple rides and we will have it all figured out. You know where I am ...o/o


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