I am Both Jealous and Not Jealous

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.

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