I am Both Jealous and Not Jealous

02.24.2008 | 9:09 pm

At 2pm local time today, the Iditarod began. 350 miles on snow. In Alaska. In the winter. Self supported.

Every couple hours, I find myself thinking, "So, I wonder how Jill from Up in Alaska is doing? For example, I had this thought while:

  • I played "Rock Band" with my family. It turns out the video game can’t tell that I’m in fact a miserable singer. I can routinely hit 97% at Medium level, even on songs I don’t know. I haven’t tried the Hard or Expert settings yet. (I also do OK on the bass guitar at Medium, though I have to stay at Easy on lead guitar, and even Easy eludes me on drums).
  • I played Uno with my family. My family’s hit an important milestone: all four of the kids are now old enough to understand and enjoy playing Uno. Which means Susan and I don’t have to split up and do different activities, one of us doing something with the boys, one of us doing something with the girls. It’s a big deal.
  • I stood in awe at the sheer number of people in my house. Through a strange coincidence, my father, mother, three of my sisters and their families, two of my nieces, and all the kids from my son’s birthday party all wound up at my house during the weekend. At one point, there were 28 people in my house.
  • I looked out the window at the strange weather: In the course of an hour today, heavy clouds turned to wind, then rain, which turned to hail, which turned to snow, which turned back to rain, and then back to wind and then just drizzle for the rest of the day.

I keep going to the Iditarod website, looking to see if there are any updates. And I’ve been reading Mike Curiak’s website (Mike is doing an even more extreme version of the event — basically doing it totally self-supported), fantasizing about the ambition, intensity, and just general fortitude that this kind of event requires.

And a big part of me is fantasizing about doing this kind of a race. I think about how I’ve never quit a race, even when things have gone badly wrong. I think about how when most people get despondent and exhausted from lack of sleep, I become cheerful.

I think about how I used to ride my bike through the arctic — yes, literally — winter in Rovaniemi, Finland. Without a hat. Cold bothered me less than it does most people.

Certainly, I’ve got what it takes to do the Iditarod, then, don’t I?

No, I don’t.

Because if I did have what it takes, I’d be doing the race. But I’m not. And I know that I never will.

Why not?

It’s not the distance. I’d be willing to ride that far. I’d relish it, in fact. I’m great at turning the cranks for an indefinite period of time.

It’s not the training. I’m at my best when I have something to look forward to.

It’s not the preparation. I love experimenting with and refining my gear.

What is it, then?

  • It’s the danger. I’ve got four young kids and a sick wife. Now’s not a convenient time for me to die.
  • It’s the wilderness. I know people who love looking at maps. I know people who are able to use a GPS to get themselves where they want to go. I know people who know how compasses work. I am not any of those people. No question about it: I’d be the next guy Jon Krakauer wrote a book about.
  • It’s the cold. I’ve ridden twice in the snow this year. I had fun both times, but I didn’t find myself wishing I could spend a week outside.

In short, I have to admit: I lack the spirit for this kind of adventure.

I am the J. Alfred Prufrock of mountain biking.


  1. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.24.2008 | 9:27 pm

    Everyone draws the line at a different place. If it makes you feel any better, your line is up higher than mine.

  2. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.25.2008 | 3:58 am

    The only time I’ve had that many people in my house in pre-hurricane evacuation……not fun. Still, better than freezing your butt off with the dogs for a week………measuring out your time in coffee spoons……

  3. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 02.25.2008 | 4:17 am

    It seemed like there was that many people in my house according to my darling wife. I have to take her word for it because I was chaperoning our club juniors at the state championships (5 medals and 1 state team selection, thanks for asking).

    I say it seemed like a lot because she was stuck at home (we’re down to 1 car) with our 3 kids (who seem like a dozen) when the first truly hot day of summer (104F) hit tripping a switch in the power grid that took from 1pm until nearly 7pm to fix. No electricity means no airconditioning or fans and no electronic babysitters plus no car means no escape.

    I’m applying to change my name to Big MUD in Oz.

  4. Comment by Lowrydr | 02.25.2008 | 5:05 am

    So you’re living in a big weather vortex there hun? You didn’t happen to see a little girl with red shoes or a gang running around singing some silly song about a lollipop did you?

    And I agree with KayonKris, you have a line way above mine for sure. You mentioning having the kids all involved in the same game gave me flashbacks to when the three of mine would gang up on me in Uno too. If that wasn’t enough they would add a few cousins into the mix also.

    Best to Susan as she is always in our thoughts here in the Midwest.

  5. Comment by Al Maviva | 02.25.2008 | 5:14 am

    Elden, if Krakauer wrote a book about you dying in the Alaskan wilderness on a bike, it would be titled, “Into the Fridge.” The title would be fraught with meaning.

    As for J. Alfred Prufrock… why get your fix of hollow men from Fatty, when you can get it from the source here:


  6. Comment by cheapie | 02.25.2008 | 5:29 am

    i get you man. while i’m still willing to partake in adventure that requires training and endurance far above why my fellow cube-dwellers would ever think about doing, i’m not willing to do something that has even a decent chance of leaving my 3 kids and wife w/o a father/husband.

  7. Comment by Boz | 02.25.2008 | 5:39 am

    I’m used to the house full of people – new house, finished basement, daughters and wife who like to entertain. And I do most of work. But, at least I got out for a long ride yesterday.
    I don’t really think the I-Killed-A-Dog Trail(sic)race would be for me. Boring on the parts when my life wasn’t in danger. Go Jill!!

  8. Comment by mocougfan | 02.25.2008 | 5:57 am

    I’m with you Fatty. I’d love to do the Iditarod. But, unlike you, I’m too big a wuss. I hate riding in the cold. Do they offer in in June?

    What year were you in Finland?

  9. Comment by mocougfan | 02.25.2008 | 6:02 am

    Just read this about Jill….


    “We have a race! Out of Yentna Station 17 bikers have arrived so far and the top 12 are seperated by under an hour. JILL HOMER is the first Woman into Yentna at 9:10 if she has a good race it is possible to beat the womans record to Mcgrath. The first racers should be coming into Skwentna very soon. in 2007 Peter Basinger made an incredible first days run all the way to Puntilla. Another fast race for the leaders is expected so far.”

    Go JILL!!!!!

  10. Comment by axel | 02.25.2008 | 7:19 am

    I do endurance events because they are adventure without serious danger. Dangerous stuff has to wait until the kids are grown up. It is probably easier to win the 60+ agegroup anyway…

  11. Comment by chtrich | 02.25.2008 | 8:13 am

    Go Jill Go……..I’d also need to be single to contemplate an event such as this. But that sure would be fun….err maybe that’s the wrong choice of words.

  12. Comment by Don (http://cyclingphun.blogspot.com) | 02.25.2008 | 8:40 am

    Yeah, I have to admit this: My only fears are that I have family that would make it inconvenient for me to pass on as well.

  13. Comment by Dobovedo | 02.25.2008 | 8:44 am

    My wife would let me do such a thing, and lets me do my riding adventures on two conditions. First, I’m only allowed minor injuries or death. No vegetative states or other high maintenance. Second, I maintain a large life insurance policy. She wants to be able to sell off her business, start dating immediately, and be free to travel. :-)

  14. Comment by Lifesgreat | 02.25.2008 | 9:14 am

    I think the true adventure is trying to teach kids how to play games. Congratulations!

    Your next challenge is to teach the twins how to play Rook. Good luck!

  15. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.25.2008 | 9:37 am

    fatty said: not sure how my line could be higher than yours when you’re at least a foot taller.

    That extra foot is good for reaching the top shelves, playing basketball (I don’t play anymore) and volleyball (I play seldom), but it doesn’t make me a better cyclist.

    An article noted that pro cyclist heights were all over the height scale. Watts/kg matter more than body proportions. I like that.

  16. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.25.2008 | 10:42 am

    Dear Fatty,

    re: the T.S Elliot allusion,

    Is this really your question?:

    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

    Surely with the entire family able to play UNO, you are being a bit melancholy to fuss about your hair. To heck with the peaches – the fuzz makes the mess not worth it.

  17. Comment by UltraRob | 02.25.2008 | 11:29 am

    I also think about doing the Iditarod Trail. I have spent up to a week by myself in the backcountry and can find my way with a map and GPS. I’ve slept in a tent at -20 F. I know how fast things can go really wrong at those temperatures from a small mistake. I think I might make one of those mistakes while sleep deprived. I’d need to spend enough time in those conditions to feel confident I would make the right decisions.

  18. Comment by mocougfan | 02.25.2008 | 11:44 am

    Sorry to comment again. I don’t want to be a geek, but Fatty got me hooked on Jill up in Alaska. She is rollin. I feel like a proud parent. Or a proud internet lurker I guess!!!

  19. Comment by chtrich | 02.25.2008 | 12:24 pm

    mocougfan, you are geek. There’s no hope for you.

  20. Comment by mocougfan | 02.25.2008 | 12:51 pm

    True, but at least I’m not as lazy as you.

  21. Comment by Duane | 02.25.2008 | 3:09 pm

    Mike Roadie: I grew up in Florida – 3 years ago I always had a house full during the three Hurricanes that came through the Tampa Bay area.

    Fatty: I’m with you on the family aspect. I have a 2 year old. I’ve skipped some road rides due to danger and hit the brakes coming up to a drop off because I have a family. It is a sobering reality moment when it hits you.

    When my son goes to college – I’m diving with Great Whites on the Great Barrier Reef.

  22. Comment by randomhigh | 02.25.2008 | 3:41 pm

    28 people in one house is impressive… squeezing them all into one car would be more impressive. give it a try next time and let us know how that turns out. (just tell anybody who balks that if the clowns at the circus can do it, then so can you and to quit being a wuss)

    as for the family UNO time, me and my sister also had fun playing cards with our parents growing up… with the occassional moolah thrown in to keep everybody on their toes :)

  23. Comment by Rocky | 02.25.2008 | 7:45 pm

    Curiak breathes a brand of madness that would choke out most. And oddly enough, he thinks he is having fun. Nutcase.

    As for you, you would do it and love it, though you would become hopelessly lost and end up somehow in Russia, or downtown Milwaukee.

  24. Comment by jdubmcc | 02.25.2008 | 8:29 pm

    I am confused, are you talking about the Iditarod, or the Iditabike?
    Channelling your inner John Stamstad?
    There is a personal hero. He once said “…I have a beard because razors are expensive, and I eat doughnuts because they have a favorable cost to calorie ratio.” He also once got second degree burns from loading boiling water into his camelbak for the Iditabike. Yes, I believe he was single without kids.

  25. Comment by the greg | 02.25.2008 | 11:30 pm

    stamstad. now that guy likes punishment. i could only dream of being so hardcore. i get winded after 3 blocks. and those ain’t city blocks fellas and femmes. tiny, small-town blocks. oh well. maybe i’ll get motivated. Uno rocks.

  26. Comment by Andrea | 02.26.2008 | 2:51 am

    As I understand it, there is no Iditabike anymore. The Iditabike and Iditaski have been rolled into the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which can be done on foot, skis or bike.

    I have been watching the progress of the race intently, hitting refresh on my browser about every hour or so at work and at home. I was disappointed this morning when I woke up to find that more riders had reached the next checkpoint, but as of yet, no Jill. I have no doubt she will make it, though. She’s tough. Go Jill!

  27. Comment by chtrich | 02.26.2008 | 8:03 am

    Sure wish those updates on the ITI came more frequently. Where’s the local TV coverage of this event? :-)

  28. Comment by kathy b | 02.29.2008 | 10:27 am

    You are very funny. I am a knit blogger married to a cyclist. Upon awakening from anesthesia recently, my husband, took my hand and said, “Im going to buy a new bike now, hon. You just rest.”
    This is not a fabrication. You must adress this to your audience b/c there was nothing I could do about anything at that moment. I love to tell the story. The new ideal is some bamboo bike he read about. Im sure he’s planning it for my next post anesthesia Zofran stupor.
    I’ll bookmark your blog.

  29. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Stuff That’s Come in the Mail, Part II: Ghost Trails, by Jill Homer | 02.11.2009 | 1:26 pm

    [...] I obsessively tracked Jill Homer’s ride / race in the Iditarod Trail Invitational (as well as navel-gazed about why I would never do it myself). And then, once she got back, I pretty much had her blog on 30-second refresh, waiting for each [...]


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