Date: Jan. 30 and 31
Mileage: 30.1 and 41.0
January mileage: 810.5
Temperature upon departure: 34 and 29
Like a straight shadow through my meandering thoughts about careers and choices and the future in general, the Iditarod Trail Invitational continues to rocket toward me. The race begins March 1, now just a month away. At the most random and sometimes inopportune moments, I'm hit with jolts of piercing anxiety that make my job pressure seam downright pleasant. It is one thing to be fearful about another hiccup in your career path, and quite another to be fearful about even staying alive beyond the next 38 days. Not that death is really all that likely in the race. I'm more likely to be killed on these sloppy Juneau streets while training for the race than I am in the actual race. It's just that death appears so much closer in environments as hyper-real and unsanitized as the Iditarod Trail ... like a straight shadow over a meandering life.
But, yeah, where was I? Oh yes, my month-to-go pre-race report. I'm in a strange mood right now due to a combination of poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and stress. It's my fault. I'm busy and preoccupied. And, like I said, hit with occasional anxiety episodes that can not be avoided. But beyond that, preparations are going well. I have been able to make time for decent training, and a fair amount of riding, even though conditions have been less than ideal. I nearly have all of my gear rounded up, and just have a few things left of my list to buy: Ultralight hip waders as a much-better-than-garbage bags solution for dealing with overflow; a front rack for my Pugsley; food (yes, lots of peanut butter cups included) to send in my two drop bags; hand and foot warmers; new tires, a new rear hub, chain, cassette and other random bike parts for the Pugsley. There are of course a few more little things, but I have nearly the bulk of it rounded up, and I feel pretty good about my gear this year. I'm not really confident that my bike's going to be much lighter than last year, but I will have less stuff on it and will be better prepared all around.
There's going to be a good crowd headed down the trail this year. There's 50 racers signed up. From my estimate, as many as five women plan to ride bicycles to McGrath, which is incredible! I'm not sure there's ever been more than two! There's at least one woman headed there on foot. I'm guessing Louise Kobin is the favorite to win the women's race to McGrath. She's the closest to a pro endurance cyclist. She finished the ITI in 2007 in about the same time it took me last year, only she finished under much tougher conditions, with the flu, and a bout of hypothermia. And me, well, my top goal is to survive. And work on turning my weaknesses into strengths. And finish. And if all three things happen, I'll compete hard with everything I have left. If you win, the prize is free entry into next year's race. Which, if you think about it, really isn't a prize, because then you'll be tempted to enter this stupid race yet again.
The defending champion, Jay Petervary, recently reported he has a torn ACL from a ski accident. That certainly doesn't sound good. It will be a bummer if he can't race this year. He's a pretty fun guy to watch tear up the trail, for all of five minutes before he leaves you in a cloud of snow.
The latest trail reports have been filled with gloom and doom. They usually are right before the race. This year's fear is not enough snow. The Irondog trailbreakers have been having a hard time getting over the Alaska Range because of all of the alder brush in the way. If snowmobiles can't get through, even around the long-way through Hell's Gate, then we certainly can't get through at anything much faster than a bushwhacking 0.5 mph. Forty-five or possibly even 70-odd miles of that would more hell than I'm willing to endure, that's for sure. I'd turn my bike right around at Puntilla and ride/push the 165 miles back to the start before I attempted that.
I wish I could send them some of our moisture. The West Juneau Weather Station reported 68 inches of snow in the month of January, with more than nine inches of solid precipitaiton (much of that straight rain.) I keep looking for excuses to avoid the sloppy mess, but I'm nearly out of punches on my gym pass.