"I swore I'd never do the ITI..."
I'm scared. For the first time in 10 years, I'm legitimately scared for an expedition. I swore I would never do the Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI). I'm not intimidated by the distance, but instead by the brutal elements and conditions of the Alaskan winter. You see, I don't belong in the cold. I have the unfortunate combination of poor circulation and active sweat glands. In the subzero temperatures of Alaska, this can be a deadly combination. I also have lung and breathing issues that have caused debilitating infections in cold or long races.
So the question is, "Why?" As I frantically try to figure out the challenging logistics, dial in the massive amount of gear that I'll carry on my bike and look to high altitude mountaineers, ask ITI veterans and polar explorer friends for advice on surviving these extreme conditions, I'm asking myself the same question: Why put myself into this place where I don't belong and I'm not sure I can survive, let alone finish?
The reason is simple: Risk = Reward.
Exploration and pushing outside my comfort zone have been part of who I am my entire life. I've lived and preached the rewards of taking calculated risk for decades. What I realized this year, as I turned 50, is that it had been awhile since I'd taken a really big athletic risk myself. I've done hard things, but haven't had that palms-sweating, heart-racing feeling about an expedition for 10 years. I realized I needed to really and truly challenge myself again. It was time to take on something bigger than I've done before. I head to Alaska with plenty of expedition experience and help from so many friends. But I also head to the ITI as a rookie with sweaty palms, a deep respect for the elements, safety plans, and some primal fear. I don't know yet what the reward for taking this terrifying risk will be. I am certain I won't come back from Alaska the same person.
Want to #JoinTheRusch for your own adventure? My team of riding, coaching, and nutrition experts and I have planned ways for riders and adventurers of all levels to stretch your limits, challenge yourself, and see parts of the world that will amaze and inspire you. Be part of the Rusch Academy 4 days of gravel riding at the #GravelLessTraveled Camp, celebrate in my hometown with a Labor Day Weekend ride of 20, 62.5, or 100 miles at Rebecca's Private Idaho, or travel with this fall to experience the epic trails, impactful history, and beautiful people of Laos on mountain bike on the MTB-LAO4 trip.