Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The snow is piling up — Fat Pursuit 2020

They say getting to the starting line is the hardest part. That's never true for the Fat Pursuit — although this race can be so ridiculously difficult that it surprises me just a little when anyone gets themselves to the start more than once. I've had three prior starts here, and each once curled into its own disaster. One finish and two DNFs — the last in 2017, when it was 40 below and I stumbled along in a daze, convinced I was slowly asphyxiating. Trust me, believing you're about to pass out when it's 40 below is extremely unfun. At the time I still had no idea that my health was objectively quite poor, but 2017 cemented my exit from this pursuit of suffering. DNFs be damned.

Then, in late 2019, the race's evil genius ... er, director ... Jay Petervary, contacted us with an opportunity. He was interested in opening the event to skiers and runners, similar to other popular winter races (Fat Pursuit had been a fat bike-only race, thus the name "Fat" Pursuit.) It was a little late to get the official ball rolling for the longer distances, but he was looking for a few beta testers to run and ski the course and provide feedback for future years. The timing was right for one more big shakedown ahead of the Iditarod. Beat jumped on board immediately, and invited our friend Daniel to join. I was fairly certain I couldn't finish the 200K course in the loose time limit set by the event — 60 hours — so I proposed taking on a modified loop that would come in at 100 miles. "That will be a much more popular distance with runners," I reasoned to JayP.

Just a measly hundred miles through the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where volatile weather pummels the mountains with upwards of 400 inches of snow a year, temperatures frequently plummet below zero, and the course traverses two remote and wind-blasted ridges along the Continental Divide. All I needed to do was get myself to the start.

This proved surprisingly difficult. T-minus 42 hours, I was sitting at the Seattle airport listening to Alaska Airlines announce that the Denver airport was in "full stoppage" due to high winds, no one was being allowed to land, and the whole airport had been closed. Well, crap. I searched around for flights that would take me directly to Idaho Falls or Jackson, but there was nothing available within a reasonable time limit. I did some math, then texted a gear list to Beat. He'd already shopped for my requested snacks, but now I needed him to gather everything else I would need in the race. "If I make it home before tomorrow morning," I wrote, "maybe I can still go with you."

Ultimately my flight did take off and land in Denver, and I was home before midnight, but only just. T-minus 36 hours. I pawed through the pile Beat had compiled and deemed it good enough. I had no idea whether everything I needed was actually in there, but I trust Beat. I washed the clothing I wore in Anchorage and wanted to re-wear in Idaho, and collapsed for five hours of sleep.

T-minus 28 hours. We were on the road west, battling high winds and black ice across Wyoming. We met up with Daniel and then Beat switched cars, so I drove alone up the mountainous and snow-covered Highway 189 as snow started to fall. We waited ten minutes for a few elk among a massive herd to amble across a designated crossing. We turned toward Jackson and learned that Teton Pass was closed by not one, but two avalanches that buried the road. We detoured south with heavy traffic that slowly trickled elsewhere as we entered Idaho and the Swan Valley. Beat was now driving and Daniel followed closely as we picked our way west and north. The empty potato fields of Eastern Idaho were a blitzkrieg of violent winds and blowing snow. Drifts overtook the road, some as deep as the bumper of our Subaru Outback. Every time we punched into a drift I braced for impact, certain the car would stop and we'd be hopelessly stuck in this wind-blasted wasteland, where we would have to crawl into our race-required 0-degree sleeping bags to stave off death.

Hours of high stress muted my short-term memory, but we eventually made it to Island Park sometime after 10 p.m. T-minus 14 hours.

When we awoke on Friday morning, skies were clear and it was 18 below zero. We joked with our friends Eric and Corrine, who had been so excited to leave frigid Fairbanks for tropical Idaho, because the forecast predicted temperatures in the 20s. "Never trust the forecast for this region," we had warned them earlier, and now felt justified in our gloating. But only for a second. The rest of the forecast I fully believed, because it called for the one thing I really didn't want — a massive winter storm arriving Friday afternoon and continuing through Tuesday. "Expect up to FOUR FEET of snow at high altitudes," the National Weather Service warned, emphasis theirs.

Thankfully, Beat did a great job packing and I had most of the gear I'd hoped to bring. I tore through the load and extracted what I could. I wanted a reasonably light but realistic load, as I still expected to be out in a blizzard for most of 60 hours. Beat had been battling an upper respiratory infection and hinted that he might stick with me for the "short" loop, which he'd decide by the first checkpoint.

We started at noon with the 200-mile bikers, who turned south into the best part of that course (Herriman State Park singletrack) while we proceeded east on freshly groomed corduroy. The conditions were sublime — firm footing and plenty of glide for the sleds. We waltzed along effortlessly, chatting with Corrine and Eric on skies as well as several 200K bikers who were previewing the course (their race started the following morning.) Daniel and Beat quickly put some distance on me, but I was still keeping a 3.5-4 mph pace, according to my GPS.

Photo by Eric Troyer
Briefly running for the camera. Had I truly understood what was coming, I probably would have done a little more of this while I still could.

Beat was waiting for me at checkpoint one, which volunteers were only beginning to set up, so there wasn't yet any food or water available. According to my GPS we were nine miles into the course, and had taken only two and a half hours to get there. We were on fire! But Beat wasn't feeling great, and said he'd stick with me. I admit to being a little disappointed about this ... both because I was still strongly questioning whether he should be out here at all since he was sick and might be risking pneumonia, and also because I value the ability to make all of my own decisions in a race. However, it's considerably less daunting and more entertaining to have a partner, so ultimately I was glad to team up. After all, we weren't exactly "racing" anyone. Might as well enjoy it.

My gratitude for Beat ratcheted up a couple hours later when, quite suddenly, my sled detached from the harness. Both elastic attachments had broken — one probably fell apart a while ago, and the other finally snapped. This is the kind of thing I'd typically check before a race, but I hadn't even had enough time to pack my own supplies. And since it was "only" a hundred miles, I only had one spare rope in my repair bag. I don't handle mechanicals well in the best of scenarios, and went into panic mode. I quickly grabbed the metal pole with one hand and sprinted toward Beat, screaming at the top of my lungs so he'd hear me over his headphones. Had I been alone, I probably would have sat down and had a little cry before composing myself and figuring out what to do ... and I would have figured it out; I had several means to fix this problem. But it sure was nice to have Beat take charge of the repair, tie knots into two spare ropes, and guide me through motions I'd partly forgotten. I won't forget again.

Clouds moved in and snow started to fall. The trail pitched steeply upward as a wall of mountains loomed in front of us. By the time the sun set, snow was falling heavily and accumulating on a soft, churned surface of the trail. At mile 16, Beat and I reached the intersection where the 200K course continued straight for a bonus loop of 22 miles, and my modified course turned right. A headlamp approached us. It was Daniel, who continued about a half mile down the 200K route before deciding that he didn't want to break his own trail through rapidly accumulating snow for more than a hundred miles. He'd stick with us, so we could work together.

Through the night we mostly held a line, with Beat pushing a surprisingly hard pace out front, me trying to match him but fading in the middle, and Daniel staying behind me, probably out of courtesy to make sure I didn't fall off the back of the team. We crossed through a burn area where a fierce crosswind blew unobstructed, and for several miles the trail was buried in drifts. Daniel took the lead and punched through waist-deep piles of snow. I had flashbacks of our Subaru in the potato fields. A whiteout swirled around us, coming down so hard that if I faded more than a hundred yards back, by the time I reached Daniel's tracks through the drifts, they had mostly filled with snow.

Daniel soon ran out of gas. He started talking about bivying. It wasn't yet 11 p.m. I was incredulous, because I always believed Daniel to be impervious to the sleep monster — after all, he's Beat's PTL partner, and PTL is a race that requires staying awake while tackling monstrous mountains for five days straight. But the strobe light of a headlamp beam on swirling snow and the rapid motion of eyelids blinking against snowflakes has a hypnotic and sleep-inducing effect — I've been convinced of this ever since the 2018 ITI, which is why I made my own effort to pull up my hood and look down rather than directly into the storm. Just after midnight Daniel gave in, pulled off the trail, and started stomping out a spot to lay out his bivy.

Beat and I continued for another four or five miles before he ran out of water, so we had to take a longer stop as well. I admit that I dislike taking breaks on the trail. It just takes so much effort to set up and break down any kind of stop. It's easier for me to just keep moving, and then do all of my eating and water-making and sock-changing and occasional bivying when I'm about to collapse. So I started with enough drinking water to last until West Yellowstone, but reasoned that boiling water amid this heavy snowfall would be good practice for Alaska. We put on our big coats and down pants, sat on our sled bags and fired up the stove. Beat noted that it was 9 degrees — a fairly pleasant temperature for a stop — but the heavy snowfall complicated tasks and snow seemed to get into everything. I boiled enough water for a hot chocolate-coffee drink and shared with Beat, who was still melting snow.

Shortly before dawn, clouds briefly cleared and the moon came out. This was my favorite part of the night, when I could turn off my headlamp and walk beneath the snow-drenched spruce, rendered in silver and obsidian hues. All things considered, I was still feeling pretty good. However, when the snow started up again I neglected to follow my own rule, continued trying to look at the scenery, blinked too many times against snowflakes and succumbed to the sleep monster. Beat and I took turns leading — not because it was harder to break trail, but because it was easier to mimic the movements of a person in front. In the lead, with no frame of reference, I slumped and stumbled. Occasionally I thought, "I can close my eyes for a second. I'll wake up before I hit the ground." Then I'd let my neck go slack, drifting into a brief but blissful oblivion that even seemed to provide real rest — just enough to snap to alertness when Beat's voice barked out, "Are you falling asleep?"

We reached the edge of West Yellowstone, mile 45, just after 7 a.m. A blue dawn had taken over the snow-covered streets. We stopped in front of a large hotel to remove our snowshoes, which we had been wearing continuously since we connected with Daniel almost 30 miles earlier. It's hard enough to walk on a soft surface while pulling a heavy anchor, without adding bulky and awkward footwear that compresses each foot, reduces circulation and completely changes one's gait. Still, they're necessary to avoid ankle-rolling and tendon-straining, not to mention the exhaustion of postholing in deep snow. I appreciate the support snowshoes provide, but it sure is tedious to snowshoe for 30 miles. And, we both knew, we were likely facing 55 more miles of the same.

The West Yellowstone checkpoint was a welcome respite. A rental house on the edge of town, it was warm if small with limited space to hang up wet clothing. Since we were the first to arrive, we were doted on by the four volunteers, who included Jeffrey — years ago, he read my Tour Divide book and created a painting of a Nanoraptor tire track through the mud, then mailed it to me. The painting still hangs in my front room. I love it, and I had yet to meet him. We enjoyed coffee and raved about the delicious soup ("It's Campbell's," one volunteer admitted, pointing to a stack of cans.) We intended to get in and out, but we got sucked in as one does. Eventually we could see on the tracker that Daniel was getting close, and Beat wanted to wait. This burned up way more time that I wanted to spend not doing much of anything else — not even sleeping (The checkpoints are not set up for sleeping and checkpoint naps are highly discouraged in JayP's races — you're required to carry bivy gear, and you're expected to use it.) But I did look forward to reconnecting with Daniel.

He arrived around 10 a.m., having slept minimally in his bivy — it was windy, and the closure wasn't working properly so snow was blowing in his face. But he was perky again. He wolfed down some soup, raved about it, sorted through his drop bag, and tumble-dried his wet gear. We were all back on the trail by 10:30.

Daytime trail was the worst trail. It was Saturday morning in West Yellowstone, arguably the snowmobile capital of the West, and the route was inundated with machines. Many of them ran paddle tracks, which are designed to provide traction through deep powder but also do a great job of ripping up trails. And since there was already about a foot of new snow on top of the groomed surface, the trail had become a mess of chunks and gray chowder. Meanwhile, machines were buzzing past us every few minutes. I wanted to wade into the woods and just disappear, but figured there was only, oh, about six hours until dark. I could probably endure for that long.

The trail again pitched steeply upward. This was the beginning of the infamous "Two Top" climb, an ascent that is deceptive in its length, contains multiple false summits, and is often treeless and exposed to fierce winds and whiteouts as it traces the Continental Divide for more than five miles.

We had a brief respite from the snow for several afternoon hours, but it picked up in force to match the wind as we crested our first "top" at 7,600 feet. The mean thing about Two Top is that there are actually closer to seven summits before you begin the final descent. Along the first wind-blasted section we saw our last snowmobile for the day. Within an hour trails were so blown in that there was little evidence that any had passed through at all.

The sun set and night returned, again. We dragged ourselves up disconcertingly steep hills and then dragged ourselves down through piles of drifted snow. In open areas the trail had been obliterated. We navigated by GPS, and by tripods that were almost impossible to pick out in the chaotic darkness. I was a little underdressed for the windchill; I could tell because my knees and shoulders ached from the cold. But it seemed unwise to ask the whole team to stop so I could put on more layers. And anyway, we had to be nearing the descent, I thought.

The open plateau continued. This place felt like a winter night in Antarctica, or perhaps the sea ice crossing of the Iditarod Trail. A few times Beat became anxious when we veered away from what I thought was an inaccurate GPS track; I begged to stick with the tripods. We stomped through knee-deep snow until even I was sure we'd left the trail, but then another trail sign would appear.

I got the sense that even ever-calm-and-collected Daniel was on edge. I'd point out a ghost tree, encrusted in such thick ice that it looked like a white monster lurking in the turbulent shadows. He'd reply with a pinched and nervous-sounding, "Hey, look at that."

My core temperature began to drop. I could tell, because now my hands were cold. I had lots of layers in my sled. I knew they'd take effect quickly once I put them on, and it didn't seem urgent enough to stop the whole team just yet. But the cold and windchill put me on edge.

The final top seemed eternal, but eventually clusters of trees formed around us, and then we crossed into the shelter of thicker forest. The churned trail plummeted steeply down the slope, and it was difficult to stay in control. I jogged to try to push blood into my feet, but they were becoming increasingly painful. Beat again talked about taking a break.

"What, already?" My body was wracked with cold and stopping was the last thing I wanted to have to deal with in that moment. "I won't be able to keep my feet warm. I'll have to crawl into my sleeping bag," I protested. Quietly, I was ready to ditch the team. They'd eventually catch up to me; I was the weak link anyway. Beat berated me for my refusal to take breaks, arguing that this was the reason I was so broken by my Iditarod race in 2018. "Losing toes is not going to help me finish the ITI," I grumbled.

Finally we decided that Beat and Daniel would make a brief stop and I'd continue slowly. By then I'd determined that a large part of my inability to make heat was because I was terribly bonked. I pulled out a sleeve of Ritz crackers and munched on them miserably while I slogged through the chowder. I told myself I couldn't stop eating until the sleeve was half empty, and surprised myself by getting through it. I did feel quite a bit better afterward, and it wasn't long before the guys caught up to me. But Daniel was still talking about bivying for a few hours.

"There's a shelter cabin around here," I said. "I remember it, vaguely, from 2015. I don't know where it is and I can't even say for sure that it exists, but I remember there being a cabin."

This was not a convincing case to hold out for a cabin. The guys continued to look for bivy spots as the wind whipped and I whined, "let's find somewhere a little more sheltered." We encountered a young man driving a piston-bully groomer, who knew nothing of a shelter cabin nearby. But he did lay down a smooth track for us to follow — soft, so we still needed to wear our snowshoes, but at least we weren't mired in chowder or powder for a few miles. So we continued while the going was good. Then, about 13 miles from checkpoint three, we came upon a small cabin. Inside the 8-by-8 foot building were two benches and a propane heater. The heater was running! It was warm inside!

Excitedly, we pulled our sleds up to the entrance and rolled out our sleeping bags on the floor. Just before we settled in, we were finally passed by our first biker — Kurt Refsnider, leading the 200K race. I had expected to be passed before West Yellowstone, nearly 24 hours earlier, by the fastest 200-miler riders. But conditions were so difficult that almost no one was getting through.

Beat wanted to set an alarm for 90 minutes. "Who are you racing?" I quipped, and Daniel talked him into two hours. Those two hours between 10 p.m. and midnight were pure bliss. I usually don't sleep for the first two days of an endurance event, but I was so exhausted already. I slept like the dead.

Beat was the only one to hear his midnight alarm. He had already walked outside and returned when he woke me up with a "hey, look, some kind of animal or wolves got into our sleds." I sat up, blinking rapidly, and looked around. The dark interior of the building struck me as familiar, and I thought I was in a cabin in Alaska's White Mountains — Caribou Bluff — and we were on one of our Christmas trips. Of course there were wolves. I stepped outside and blinked some more, as the exterior did not look how I expected it to look. Where were we? What year is it? Both Beat's and my sleds were stretched across the wide trail, and there were bits of wrappers scattered around them. Wait a minute. This is not Alaska. This is Idaho. But where are the wolves?

I put on my shoes and went down to survey the damage. Beat had already picked up his harness and some of the debris. All around the sled were many dozens of small canine tracks — too small to be wolves, but still quite large. They had been dusted with fresh snow, masking the claws, and Beat kept insisting they were cat tracks. But the size would indicate lynx or bobcat, which don't travel in packs. I was fairly certain — and still am — that this was the work of a pack of coyotes. They'd grabbed our harnesses, ripped out the front buckle attachments and tore through the side pockets, rifling out the snacks we'd left inside — because in our fatigue we just didn't think about the possibility of food attracting wild animals. From me they'd stolen almost everything — as I walked around looking for trash, I couldn't even find most of the remnant wrappers or bags. Apparently coyotes don't like Mike and Ikes. The colorful candies were scattered all over the place, but everything else was gone.

"Those little bastards!" I cried out, because that was my food, almost all of it, and I was hungry and didn't want to bonk again. We still had 13 miles to travel to checkpoint three, which was likely to take six hours. They'd eaten a lot of Beat's food as well, and I knew Daniel wasn't carrying much because he hadn't expected this venture to take so long. So I decided to make due with what I had and only beg if I felt things were becoming dire, perhaps if my toes went numb again. Back in the cabin I put toe warmers in my shoes to try to prevent this, and took stock of what I had in my sled bag — two packs of beef jerky and one small package of hazelnut wafer cookies — 330 calories' worth. The jerky was something I brought because I thought it would be good but so far found it too repulsive to consider. But I could probably milk those cookies for a while.

We followed those bastards' tracks up the trail for nearly a mile — I'd guess there were four to six of them, trotting smugly with all of my snacks in their bellies. I felt briefly nervous that they were still lurking and would come back for more. In my addled mindset, I hoped this would happen. I was hungry, angry, and ready to open up a can of whoop-ass.

The miles to checkpoint three — known as "Man Cave" dragged on interminably. There were ups and downs, heavy falling snow, many inches of fresh powder over a track groomed only hours before, and I was deep in an energy deficit. I drifted far behind Beat in Daniel. We reached another open area where the wind raged, and I could no longer see any evidence of their tracks even though they were only a quarter mile in front of me. I took my last bite of cookie, which emitted a short burst of energy. I decided my only recourse now was to cue up something motivating on my iPod and help prolong it. I flipped through to find a song that I've made my anthem for several ultra races, from the 2018 ITI to the 2019 White Mountains 100 to the Bryce 100 — yes, even the Bryce 100, which is in Southern Utah in May, tormented me with falling snow. So now when I race ultras, I take refuge in "Lead, SD" by Manchester Orchestra. I sing along, literally screaming as loud as a voice ravaged by days of heavy breathing will allow:

The snow is piling up!
Our temporary grit!

There's nothing in the wind!
Just white up to the trees!

And you know what — I felt better and found the oomph to make it to Man Cave without toppling over. There we had drop bags — a special courtesy of JayP — which probably saved my race as I couldn't have gotten through 20 more miles on pancakes and bacon alone. But the breakfast was sublime and well-appreciated, the volunteers were cheerful, and the workshop setting of the Man Cave was downright cozy. I even stole a five-minute nap on a chair while Beat and Daniel packed up.

We left Man Cave just after dawn to a bleak and snowy new day. The snowmobile paddletrack chowder began anew. Beat was struggling a lot more with his congestion, and I noticed I had quite a bit myself — I was starting to cough up crud that left amusing globs of green and orange on the snow. But otherwise I did not feel that bad. I kept reminding myself of this. My feet were still in good condition despite all of the precipitation and snowshoeing. My quads were sore but still strong when I needed them to be. My back and shoulders weren't bothering me at all, a miracle. I'd come close to melting down about my broken harness, and arguably about my stolen food, but for the most part I'd held it together emotionally — and this is not an easy thing to do through 50-plus hours of strenuous and sometimes stressful effort. The Fat Pursuit had been slow — slower than I even anticipated — and again I can't help but remind myself that I can't finish the Iditarod spending this much energy on two miles an hour. But I took heart in the conviction that this was the absolute best I could do. This was everything I had to give. Come what may, this body can either do it, or it can't. As the Stoics say, "The willing are led by fate; the reluctant, dragged."

"If it's endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining." — Marcus Aurelius

We finished the 2020 Fat Pursuit in 54 hours and 28 minutes. It was, by a large margin, the most difficult 100-mile foot race I've attempted. In the aftermath, it's difficult not to feel a little bummed out about taking 54 and a half hours to cover 100 miles, but I know I executed a good effort for the long-term. I also watched Beat and Daniel over those long hours, and believe that even without me in tow, they probably wouldn't have finished that much sooner.

Out of about 15 starters of the 200-mile event, only one finished. Out of 45 starters there were 11 finishers in the 200K event — ten bikers and one skier. This wasn't even the lowest finisher rate this event has seen. "You need to start calling this Fat Disaster," Beat ribbed JayP at the finish. The local paper ran a story with the headline "Fat Pursuit wins again."

JayP presented us with whimsical handmade "guinea pig" awards, and we enjoyed dinner with several of the many friends who attended this event — it was fun to see so many come out, from all over the West and Alaska. It was an interesting view of just how much the winter endurance racing community has expanded in recent years, and how much my own circle of friends is intertwined with it. I think this sense of community, as much as anything else, is what keeps us coming back.

Alone in the parking lot, ours and Daniel's Subarus were buried in nearly three feet of snow. We'd parked in a clear lot on a sunny day, but a lot can change in 54 hours. The fact that we'd battled the ongoing accumulation of nearly three feet of snow also spoke to the difficulty of the conditions — although really, such absurdity is fairly typical for Fat Pursuit. Snow, slog and whiteout conditions. The Tetons are out there somewhere, but you're never going to see them. You're going to burn up all of your energy going almost nowhere, all for flashes of beauty and hiccups of clarity so fleeting that the wind will carry them away. It will never stop snowing. It will be this way for eternity. Just accept it. Embrace it. Learn to love it. Be it.

The impetus to pursue such a relentless, Sisyphean grind  — evil genius, really. JayP knows what matters. We'll probably be back. 


  1. I have read your blog for over a decade so imagine my delight when you mention a headline that I wrote!

    Congrats on pursuing. That event is truly Sisyphean.

    1. Haha. Thanks! I enjoyed your newspaper article. Thanks for covering the event.

  2. I enjoy following you along the trails. A couple questions: 1. Can you show pictures of how you sleep outside? 2. How come you don't use a ruff on your outer wear?
    Happy Trails.

    1. I don't think I have any recent photos. I'm hoping to get out for one more overnighter and maybe I'll put finally put together a gear post.

      I'm not against using a fur ruff. I suppose I'm just already fairly happy with my current system. I don't enjoy having my vision obstructed, and a ruff usually blocks peripheral vision to varying degrees. I've watched others who have had to cinch theirs tightly because it's windy or very cold, and they're basically blind ... although my balaclava and buff system can be similarly obstructing once everything ices up.

      And yes, ice buildup is the drawback of the system ... but an icy balaclava is still effective as long as you're wearing it, and it's not hard to carry a spare of these things to swap until you can dry everything out. I'm picky about what I'm willing to put on my face — I need to breathe warm recirculated air in order to protect my lungs, but I don't like the Cold Avenger face mask because it makes me feel like I'm suffocating. So I'm dealing with a moisture-laden system either way. The ruff seems like it's just another thing to get in the way. But perhaps someday I'll make the switch.

  3. Between the White Mountains and the Fat Pursuit, what a test of moving thru extreme conditions, it seems you found that level of output where you "Die Empty" but not "Broken". 100 miles in roughly 2 days is 10% of  ITI  "math" and Strava had you moving time near 3mph average....Reminds me of Kenny Roberts comment "go fast 'when' you can go fast, go slow when you 'have' to go slow" he was very measured and found places where he could gain ground and would wick it up but yet dial it down when he had too. Mechanicals and weather was what took him out of a race, rarely from pushing too far.

    "You're going to burn up all of your energy going almost nowhere, all for flashes of beauty and hiccups of clarity so fleeting that the wind will carry them away."

    Watched a Lael Wilcox video of her 2019 CDR  with a amazing shot taken at sundown with her silloette on a backdrop of a sky on fire....I think your quote captures the ephemeral  moments we see moving thru life only if we put ourselves where it can happen, a electronic image can't capture the shear wonder and existential aloneness or the immersion of the senses that being there brings....

    Jeff C

    1. Yes, going while the going is good is the main strategy. In the 2018 ITI I experienced three days of Fat Pursuit-like conditions — less snow accumulation, but warmer and wetter, so in many ways worse. At this and many other times you just have to keep going because there's no other choice, and the battle takes so much out of me. It's not sustainable. My personal margins are just so thin ... it's going to take a lot of luck with weather and trail conditions to manage the thousand miles successfully. All of my experiences since Dec. 21 have made that abundantly clear to me. You're never going to get sunshine and unicorns for 30 days straight, but I am going to need at least a few such days.

      All that said, I do feel mostly good about what I'm working with in terms of fitness, both physical and mental. At least, I felt good about it 10 days ago. Ever since Fat Pursuit I've been battling a terrible crud and have hardly gotten out of bed. If you follow me on Strava you're probably puzzling over all of the big zeros. In a way it's not a bad time to take a rest, but it's also not great, either. Being taken down so hard by a virus after a "measly" 100 miles is not super confidence-inspiring either. Ah well. If I can boost myself outside today, I will consider it a win. One day at a time, from this point on.

    2. Unicorns and sunshine...funny, I could use some on my current project right now! It's "always" one day at a time...my plans get reshaped on the anvil of fate of the new day, beaten into some form of forward motion. Speedy recovery from the crud, it feels so good to feel good....I try to remember that when I think I'm having a bad day.

      Jeff C


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