Last week in Fairbanks, Alaska, the temperature dropped to 53 below. It was more than 100 degrees warmer in Boulder, where I was mashing pedals through four inches of thick slush on top of mud. My speed stayed firmly lodged in the 2.5 mph range, while I fretted about the state of the world, geopolitical nonsense, and strong desire to not face a certain crushing expedition, now just a month away. I'm not ready for the Iditarod, again ... but of course I've never been ready, and I never will be. But I was desperate for a modicum of confidence. If I could just test my current and mostly non-negotiable state of fitness in real Alaska conditions — a place where the air is rich and cold, where the boreal forest stretches out for hundreds of miles, and I could possibly even tune out the news ... at least for a few days.
Five hours was enough to remind me that I haven't pulled a sled more than a few miles here and there since 2014. My hips became sore, my hamstrings screamed and my calves burned. Still, I can't help but appreciate the strain of sled-dragging. It's the only activity I've found where my (meager) aerobic capacity exceeds my (surprisingly inadequate) leg strength. Breathing was easy. Walking was hard.
Even luckier is our plan for the weekend — a three-day cabin trip into the White Mountains, where there's no Internet and no way to hear whether the world ended while we were away. Yes, I may not gain confidence, but I've already found peace.