Thursday, March 01, 2007

I want to ride the Fireweed

No bike and no new race updates make Jill crazy.

Here I am, watching some amazing weather blow by - sideways snow, zero visibility, wind gusts to 65 mph, single-digit temperatures, wind chills down to -25 - and I'm thinking "What luck to be stuck indoors with a bum knee."

And I'm seriously thinking that in a sarcastic tone. Because it could otherwise be an oh-so-rare opportunity to really test my mettle.

Instead, I'm surfing the interweb for some sort of summertime dream ... something to burn for now that Susitna's a distant memory. And what I've found - that for some unknown reason has captured my imagination more than anything else - is the Fireweed 400.

Not the 200. The 400. Who knows why? Here is a race for people who own aerobars ... who don't have a tire philosophy based on "the fatter the better" ... for people who appreciate the virtues of pavement and not so much the virtues of peanut butter sandwiches and iodine and filter-top water bottles that you can dip right into a stream.

Maybe I'm just enthralled by the distance. It's a decent month when I break 400 miles (haven't this month, that's for sure.) And I'm enthralled by how much cycling I'd have to do to get ready for such an intense event. Last summer, I spent some time getting better acquainted with sustained mountain biking technique. This year, it would be fun to become more acquainted with rhythm and flow, with cadence, with speed ... to some degree. But I'm not going to drag my flat-barred Ibex touring bike out there with any speed demons on my shoulder. I just want to finish the *$#@ thing. Last year, only one woman completed the 400 solo. Her time was incredible, but if a similar number of entrants finish this year's race, I'll always be able to gun for second. No matter how distant ... second is second.

There's a big hurtle (as I see it) in the 400 with the requirement of a support vehicle. Now, I understand the need for safety above all, of the danger of riding at night on the highway, etc. But there are ways to always ride safely, even at night ... including riding lit up like a Christmas tree and pulling off the road if a car's approaching and there's no shoulder (We're talking rural Alaska. I bet three cars go by in the middle of the night, tops.) And - on top of the fact that I'll never be able to convince not one but two Anchorage-based friends to putter behind me at 13 mph in the soft twilight of the earliest hours of July 6th (and possibly 7th) - I'd just really like to ride it self-supported. The idea is so much more appealing than the one where grumpy friends hand me Clif Bars from a car window and I finish the race one hour faster. I've already e-mailed the race organizers with the self-support question, and expect to be summarily shot down soon enough.

Anyway, I was hoping someone out there could clue me in to some other endurance cycling events happening this summer in Alaska or the Yukon. I need to get Fireweed out of my head.

No bike and no new race updates make Jill crazy.

March 31, 2009 toe update

I have buried this post in the archives to protect the squeamish.

March 2: At the Mat-Su Valley hospital, about 18 hours after I first discovered I had frozen the tips of all five of the toes on my right foot. (Despite appearances, the left foot is normal.)

March 12: This is an "after" picture. My doctor has the "before" picture, taken before she removed black-purple blisters on three of my toes; and the tips, which aren't really shown here, were still gray.

March 26: This is the first day I could truly put all my weight on my toes and walk normally without pain. The general feeling now, four weeks after the injury, is still one of tingling numbness and intermittent streaks of a burning pain. I still have to bandage it daily and still don't wear a shoe on that foot, to keep the circulation moving. As far as the level of numbness now, however, I have definitely had more severe numbness in my hands after long bike rides in the past. To the touch, I can feel most everything, even on the still-calloused tips. And, much to my doctor's annoyance, I haven't yet lost a single toenail yet.

Feeling stronger, but more uncertain

Today is Day 10 off the bike, and I have to admit, it’s killing me ... slowly. Every day, I develop a little more range of motion in my knee. And every day, I take that range a little too far. In the morning, I’m on top of the world and bounding up hills. And in the evening, I’m sore, stiff and frustrated, and rifling through the yellow pages to find sports medicine doctors. But I never call them when the morning comes. This evening, however, I’m announcing my intentions on my blog. Hopefully, it will hold me accountable for at least giving a doctor a call.

Today, I stretched my knee and coaxed it just beyond a 90-degree angle. I started out 10 days ago with a rigid 180-degree leg. After a day, I could bend it to 170 degrees, 160 degrees, and so on. It’s a strange way to heal, and it always makes me feel a day away from invincible when I get up in the morning. Now that I’m about a day away from being physically able to turn pedals again, I figure I should at least seek out some professional advice that I can ignore.

Since my walking ability has been upgraded to almost “normal,” I decided today was the day to do an “up” walk. I laced up my Montrail Susitna running shoes - which I was elated to find on super clearance more than a month ago and still haven’t used - and started pounding up the Dan Moller trail. The trail basically starts just outside my front door by following a snowy path up two unplowed streets, then diverges on a steep singletrack that connects with the snowmobile trail. Since I’ve only ever ridden the Don Moller on my bike, I’ve only ever seen the snowmobile trail. And I realized that today, more than six months after moving in next door, I was hiking up a trail I had never used before, wearing winter running shoes that I had never even before bothered to wrestle out of the closet. And I thought ... wow ... I really do ride my bike too much.

It felt good to get out for a real hike. But it doesn’t help my physical health to be so excited about the Iditarod Invitational. Today’s developments were equally inspiring. The peloton of three cyclists pulled out of Nikolai just before 8 a.m., and rolled together across the finish line at 3:20 p.m. for a three-way second-place tie that trailed Pete by nearly 20 hours. Further back on the trail, the weather took a hideous turn for the worst. -30 degree temperatures coupled with 45 mph winds created wind chills on the pass that were off the charts. After starting the traverse to Rohn, most of the remaining cyclists at that point were turned around with varying stages of frostnip. Several scratched. Another guy I’m rooting for, Brij, opted to wait out the storm. He’s currently at the Puntilla checkpoint, and I’m crossing my fingers that he’ll finish the race.

Either way, I was feeling inspired to bound up the hill in my brand new sneakers, iPod thumping and sunlight blazing off the white snow. The temperature read 11 degrees when I left, and I thought about how beautiful and warm it was here; how enjoyable it would be to go home, ice my knee and eat a Boca burger for lunch; and how much I envied those still healthy and strong, and still turning their cranks out on the frozen Iditarod trail.