Words to live by...

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~Author Unknown

"A good wife is her husband's biggest fan -- no matter how crazy he is." ~Me

"May God give you.. For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer." ~ Irish Blessing

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Idita-wha?

Tomorrow hubby leaves for Alaska where he'll spend the next, oh, three to ten days riding his beautiful Fatback on the Iditarod trail -- starting Sunday.

Before meeting Chris, my exposure to the Iditarod trail came primarily where most elementary teacher's knowledge comes from -- the book Balto. Yes, Balto. You probably read it in elementary school if you went in the 80s or 90s. I even used it as a guided reading book for my super high group when I taught 1st grade. It's a good book. I'm pretty sure at some point in my elementary career we also tracked the progress of the Iditarod dogs on some giant map. From there, my mind drifts to eskimos with furry hoods, beautiful husky dogs, and wind blowing snow across a barren landscape.

When I met Chris, he wasn't into this nutty stuff. He had a motorcycle and raced for the CU Triathlon team. That was all pretty normal. As everything spiraled out of control, as it often does with him, and I became introduced to the world of endurance cycling, he would talk about the Ultrasport -- or Iditabike -- or Iditarod Trail Invitational. Beats me what it's actually called, because I've heard all of these used to describe it... Hmmm... oh well. Doesn't matter. Anyway, I came to realize that the Iditarod trail in the winter was not just for eskimos and husky dogs any more. I didn't think it was for MY Chris, but I certainly saw that other crazies could do it on foot or on bike.

Fast forward to about July of 2009. Chris was coming down off his Tour Divide high and said he would love to do the Ultrasport but that it usually fills up so fast that there's no way he'd get in. Being the ever-encouraging wife, and knowing full well that he most likely wouldn't make it in, I told him to look into it. He did. It was full. Alaska was a no-go. Awww shucks ;)

Fast forward again to early October 2009. Chris was healing for crazy broken ankle, feeling pretty down on life and sports in general. We were both recovering from the biggest physical upset either of us had ever gone through, and life was taken one tiny step at a time. I tried to cheer Chris up, give him some goal to work towards or something to look forward to. My attempts were usually lame and not helpful. One day, as I prepared the gazillionth dinner in a row for the two of us, ready to schlep it upstairs to the bed that doubled as a dinner table -- I heard a really loud "HOLY CRAP! NO WAY!" come shouting from the bedroom. My little zombie had come to life suddenly! Scared his foot had somehow fallen off or he suddenly realized it was perfectly fine and not actually broken (the only two plausible causes for such a reaction at the time), I ran to the stairs and yelled "WHAT?" "You won't believe it!!" He hobbled to the top of the stairs and there was a look of elation on his face. "WHAAAATTTTT?" (wifey gets a little cranky without sleep...) "Umm, how do you feel about me going to Alaska in February????" (big giant smile) I specifically remember saying "wow! what do you mean?" in a pretty flat tone as I went back to the kitchen (yeah, cranky...). I'm pretty sure that wasn't the reaction he expected. He went on to explain that Bill had emailed him and asked if he wanted a spot on the start list. There was a brief conversation of Chris asking me if it was okay for him to go (really, would I tell my depressed broken husband that he couldn't do the one thing that had brought a smile to his face in the last two weeks???) and then general giddiness for the rest of the night. While his smile grew, my worries grew.

Now don't get me wrong, I was happy for him. I believed in him. I knew he would somehow be able to do it. But I'd read Jill's book, followed her exploits the following year on the internet, and then got to hear her frostbite stories from the Ultrasport firsthand as we drove her up to Banff. I had also just experienced snow being a bad, bad, bad thing.

With time, as always seems to happen, my excitement for this race grew right along with Chris's. As he ordered his new bike, waited what seemed like forever to get it, and watched him push his body to heal itself, I became more than a little invested in this race with him.

As he leaves tomorrow, with a feeling of being underprepared, undertrained, and rookie-ish, I see a pretty kickass husband getting ready to go have an unbelievable adventure. The rest of the world probably wishes they were as "undertrained" as he is. We could all be so lucky. Sure, his body isn't 100% perfect, but if I've ever met anyone who can override their physical state with stubbornness and willpower, it'd be him. I envy the views he's going to take in up in Alaska. I envy the feeling of being away from civilization, away from bills, away from work, away from internet and cell phones. I envy the possibility of seeing the northern lights. I don't envy the cold, but whatever, that's just not my cup of tea.

I know that, as with every adventure he sets his mind to, things will end up exceeding his expectations. Things will not go perfectly -- they never do. There will be highs and lows and times of self-doubt. But no matter what, he will always have me back here at home believing in him, trusting him, cheering him on as loudly as one can do inside her head or inside a closed car. I, personally, along with more than a few of you, will be glued to the updates on the web. The ultrasport does not allow racers to carry a SPOT (my beef with that ranges far and wide), so I will depend on someone else to let me know how hubby is doing. I don't trust very easily. But I do trust Chris. And I know he'll be doing the best that he can, hopefully soaking in views that most of us will never be lucky enough to set eyes on.

Good luck my Christopher. Enjoy the journey, whatever it brings.


Jill said...

Chris will do great, and you know he'll stay safe out there. He has a lot to come home to. :-)

The Ultrasport seems extreme from an outside perspective, but there are a lot of good people out there, from snowmachiners to Alaska Natives to fellow racers to dog sled race volunteers, who will lend a hand in a millisecond and never ask for repayment. And obviously Chris won't need help because he's extremely smart and fit and well-prepared (although I'm sure he feels underprepared. Everyone always does. Jeff Oatley is among those who has done this race a half dozen times at least, and lives in Fairbanks, and he tells me he feels underprepared every year.)

Anyway, don't fret too much this week. And if the race updates get a little staggered and you feel on the verge of a panic attack and need a distant shoulder to cry on, give me a call. Seriously. 907-209-6378. I have a good handle on trail conditions and communication blackouts and other such things, and I might be able to talk you down. :-)

And congratulations on the pregnancy! That is super exciting!

- Jill Homer

Anonymous said...

Marni -
He'll be fine and having the time of his life. I've done a couple of "big/crazy" things like this and my life is all the richer for it.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across your blog after reading my daughter-in-law's. I will now be following the race. How interesting! And, congratulations.

Cellarrat said...

hes doing great! your are so awesome and supportive as well M! i'm always blown away at that! can't wait to hear about it from him!!

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