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The following is the story of one woman’s journey to do just that.

Chapter One

Disaster on the Iditarod

Somewhere on a blank slate of tundra, where the shadows of nameless mountains devour the snow, I tried to bury the pieces of myself that I longed to leave behind — the pieces that were careless, the shards that were weak, and the remnants that were terrified of the unknown. Beneath crushing cold and fatigue, they cracked like glass in my cupped mittens. Low-angle sunlight reflected moments from an impossibly distant past — my existence beyond this deep-frozen swamp, before this odyssey that left me both shattered and enigmatically whole. As a ground blizzard raged around my ankles, the wind scattered the pieces like so much glitter. I watched glimmering reflections of myself swirl through the snow until they were invisible, and then gone. I felt like I had crossed an irrevocable divide. One I would likely never approach again.

One year passed. The winter sun glared hard and heatless when I lined up for the Iditarod Trail Invitational a second time. Forty-five runners, skiers and cyclists crowded the starting line for an adventure race across the frozen wilderness. My boyfriend Geoff, a runner, stood next to me, though my bicycle created a barrier between us. A small crowd of spectators gathered around the race start, which was little more than a single banner stretched over the edge of a frozen lake. Anxiety crackled in the cold air. We looked like specks on the tongue of Alaska’s backcountry, staring down its cavernous throat. With only minutes remaining before the start, I contemplated the overwhelming task of pushing deep into its frigid heart.

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