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Showing posts from 2005

Last minutes

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Date: Dec. 31
Mileage: 42.6
December mileage: 381.1
Temperature upon departure: 27

Today was sunny, calm, below freezing (but just barely). Perfect way to end the year. I biked the North Fork gravel road for a loop with a lot of ice and A LOT of hills. When the loop was over, I had biked for 3 hours and 39 minutes, and traveled 42 miles. On the way down to Anchor Point, I broke my mountain bike top speed record and coasted at 35 mph for nearly a mile. The last three miles consisted of a steep climb (one of four long hills on this ride) where I rarely broke the 5 mph barrier. When I arrived home, I thought I was shot. But then I ate a couple of peanut butter balls and took a big swig of water, and felt pretty good. I really should have gone for the last 19 miles. I especially felt that way after I found out that Geoff did a 15-mile run in Palmer this morning - before going out for some afternoon cross country skiing. But, considering my original goal for this month was 225 outdoor miles, I…

After dark

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Date: Dec. 30
Mileage: 21.4
December mileage: 338.5
Temperature upon departure: 30

Today's ride was sponsored by Adam, and by Richard. Thank you! I left after work at 4:45 p.m. and did most of my ride in the dark - my longest night ride to date. It was a little surreal. When night strips the landscape bare, the shadows start to creep into your thoughts. I've had similar experiences hiking at night in the winter ... when there's only the dark and the silence, all of your senses are thrown into doubt. You wonder if you're colder than you feel. You wonder if the crunch of your tires on snow is as loud as it sounds. You know exactly where you are, and yet you can't help but wonder if you're lost - turned down another trail, slipped into another dimension, maybe. It was really interesting - never scary or dangerous. Just interesting. Night riding is definitely something I'm going to work harder to acclimate myself to before the Susitna 100. Plus, now I know exactly…

Snow ride

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Date: Dec. 29
Mileage: 11.3
December mileage: 317.1
Temperature upon departure: 31

My snow ride today was slow ride. (sponsored by Adam. Thank you!) It took me nearly one and a half hours to do those 11.3 miles, mostly because I was dabbling on the ski trails while squinting against a torrent of wet, stinging flakes. And the conditions, well ... fresh, wet snow atop old rain-soaked snow means everything's soft and sinking. I was hoping to pound out 20 miles today, but I was not liking the visibility as it became dark. Plus, I had that annoying Foghat song running through my head ... Substituting some lyrics of course, and mashing my pedals to the rhythm ("snow ride ... take it easy.") Oh, and I received a dirty look from a skate skier. I always try to stay as far to the side as possible when I ride on established trails, but I think in these conditions, no one is happy.

There was one break in the blizzard early on. I pulled out my camera to snap a picture, only to find the le…

Cool before fumes

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So I received some lectures for my post yesterday, and rightly so (apparently, even my use of the word 'bonked' was a bad choice, although I have no desire to find out its other meaning. Each hemisphere has its own way of mangling the English language. Those Aussies probably wince at the word 'bonked' the same way we do when a Brit asks if he can bum a fag.) Anyway, I probably have a tendency to embellish a bit, and I really wasn't as bad off as I made it sound. I was just trying to point out that I'm not laboring under a delusion that a few weeks of training is going to turn me into an unstoppable endurance racer.

I know nutrition is important (I had Alpha-Bits for breakfast - now featuring "0 grams of sugar" and "rich in whole grain like Cherrios, plus has letter learning fun!") And I know training is important (Three-mile run and 45 minutes on the trainer today, thank you very much.) And I'm learning that understanding when to say when…

"Bonked"

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Date: Dec. 27
Mileage: 16.4 (plus one hour on the trainer)
December mileage: 305.8
Temperature upon departure: 35

Cyclists have their own term for the special, fluffy sort of feeling one experiences when their blood depletes entirely of sugar, when their legs go AWOL and they begin to see imaginary bunnies darting in front of them - they call it "bonking," and it basically means you've gone as far as you're gonna.

I've never bonked before, although I have many experiences where I think I may have been on the precipice. Either way, bonking is definitely something I fear, and training for the Susitna 100 is as much about preparing for the psychological warfare of bonking as it is about building up my quads.

Today I was so, so tired when I stumbled home from work just before 3 p.m. I don't know why. Getting to bed late and waking up early wasn't exactly it, either. My whole body was on the riot path. Since Tuesday is the one day of the week when I can reliably ret…

More sunset goodness

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Today I drove from Palmer to Homer (5.5 hours), worked a full shift in the cement box (8.5 hours) and watched a movie while putting in 80-percent effort on the trainer (1.5 hours). All in all, a pretty full and pointless day. I have been trying to develop a regimen for my New Years training. In order to get through some creeping self doubt, I have been experimenting with power of positive thinking. My mom told me that the friends and fam liked my last childhood sports story. I have only a handful of athletic stories from my education years, but this one is by far my favorite:

When I was a junior in high school, I somehow slipped through registration without enrolling in a required phys-ed credit. When my counselor realized the mistake, there was only one class available during my free period - boys basketball.

The class was actually called "Fundamentals of Basketball" and there was no implicit gender requirement. But 30 out of 31 students in that class were boys - and not jus…

Orphan

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Here I am in Palmer, Christmas Eve, 250 miles from my bike and 3,000 miles from home. I went for a 90-minute run along the Matanuska River this morning that felt amazing. The last time I was here - Thanksgiving - I was definitly not in the kind of shape to run for 90 minutes straight. And now I am. How quickly my body has responded to relatively casual conditioning really surprised me. I felt strong, in charge. I was tearing off layers like it wasen't 18 degrees out; feeling the crisp air on actual skin; sprinting, sweating, gliding across the windswept ice.

I eventually came home because it was 11 a.m. and the sun hadn't yet crawled above the mountains. It felt like a good idea at the time, but now it's high noon and the sun still hasn't made it up (my friend Craig informed me that this time of year, in never does); I've eaten a bowl of Special K and two salmon-shaped Christmas cookies; and all I want to do is head back out. All I can think about it taking off down…

Where I live

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Date: Dec. 22
Mileage: 3.3
December mileage: 289.4
Temperature upon departure: 27

It seemed like a good night for a solstice ride, but I wasn't out the door until 10:15 p.m. On my way up to the trail my headlight went out and my brakes were slipping under all the new, wet snow. That deflated my resolve just a bit - I was grinding into the soft trail (mostly for naught) and it was dark - really dark. Solstice dark. A good thing to practice - but the headlight I need.

I was happy, though, because my illustrious Sen. Steven's first bid to open oil drilling in ANWR failed in the Senate. It's a mixed happiness because I feel a helpless sort of pity for my state's senior senator. I always picture him bent over some table in Congress, with his rumpled "Incredible Hulk" tie and the creeping great-grandfather sadness of his 80-plus years. He looks so tired and I think he just wants to go out with a bang. That's all he wants. But his bridges to nowhere crusade was just …

Snow and solstice

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Five new inches of powder in my front yard and a final daylight loss of 0 minutes, 3 seconds. It only goes uphill from here.

Color and light

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Date: Dec. 20
Mileage: 12.3
December mileage: 286.1
Temperature upon departure: 29
Sunrise: 10:05 a.m.
Sunset: 4:04 p.m. (tomorrow, the same)

The light is fading, but tonight I ride.
I ride with a remnant sunset,
and its flecks of cayenne pepper
searing the lavender sky.
Beneath sunset, Mt. Augustine looms
in steam and subdued silhouette,
fighting the twilight for distinction
before the pitch descends
and shadows contract.

I ride with the pitch,
only a dull yellow beam between me and nothing,
only the ice spray glittering like disco glass,
and screaming descents into nothing.
Moose tracks dig empty holes.
Great tussocks roll over snow,
and I bump. I ride.

I ride until there's no distinction between trail and field
until the white opens wide beyond darkness,
until strips of green stretch over the northern horizon.
Could be the apocalypse.
Could be the aurora.
The world is fading,
but tonight I ride.

... Tonight's ride was sponsored by Kevin, a yearround rider of the truest type down in St. Paul, Minn. The …

Bright spots

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Today I learned through the reporter grapevine that a prowler was lurking around the building I work in one week ago Sunday. He hauled in several gallons of gasoline and set them down in strategic spots throughout the halls. After successfully shutting off the sprinkler system and making away with a fair amount of merchandise from a hardware store, the would-be arsonist fled for unknown reasons and left everything behind. My initial thought upon learning how close my employer-issued iMac came to being an friedMac was "Joy to the world, the school burned down." But then I remembered that losing my job might be a bad thing, even on a Monday in the midst of the holiday slew.

But I successfully made it through at least one day; three more to go. Such is life. I came home after enough hours in the cement box to fill in two healthy shifts. I rode the trainer for an hour so I could watch "Arrested Development." (Yes, I do get nearly four channels on my analog, antennaed te…

Oh, I'm stressed

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Date: Dec. 18
Mileage: 43
December mileage: 273.8
Temperature upon departure: 39

Today's ride was sponsored in part by my good friend, Jen, who is currently freezing her ski tips off in Alta, Utah. Jen is the bomb. This picture of a "b'eagle" kick'n it atop Salty Dawg also is for her. Go B'Alaska!

I get the sense from some of the e-mails and comments I get that many believe I live a charmed life up here in the not-so-frozen north. And I do, really - the scenery, the strange encounters, the wildlife, the biking. I love it and that's what I write about. But I still have my desk-jockey alter ego to contend with, and she is having a hard time sitting out this Sunday, knowing that when Monday comes there will be so, so much to do.

I don't typically get the Sunday blues, but this week before Christmas is going to be tough. The phrase "I'm going to be so busy this week" is pretty vague, and doesn't really get to the heart of what most of us do in…

It's summer out

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Date: Dec. 17
Today's mileage: 32.3
December mileage: 230.8
Top speed: 36 mph
Temperature upon departure: 39

Today's ride was sponsored by Kevin in Wisconsin, and by Eric and Jesse. So much love, so much riding.

Geoff and I dropped off the ridge for a 32-mile loop, squinting against the spray of rain water and grit and watching rogue rays shimmer on the sea. The wind was calm, the water as smooth as glass. And as the sun gained more ground through parting clouds, the summer recreationalists began to emerge from their warm cocoons, blinking against the bright reflection and stumbling into surreal summer wonderland filled with Christmas lights and the gray remnants of melting snow.

It wasn't exceptionally warm today, nor was it exceptionally sunny. But the combined efforts of two weeks of unseasonably warm weather, calm air and a thin but clear window after days of drizzling rain coaxed everybody outside.

We rode along the Spit, drafting a flock of sea birds as they rose from the s…

Pedaling backward

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Date: Dec. 16
Today's mileage: 21
December mileage: 198.5
Temperature upon departure: 45

Today's ride was sponsored by Moe at The Bike Geek. This outpouring of generosity has inspired me to get in the saddle even on days like today - where I had a lot of writing to do, a *required* Christmas work part at 3 p.m., and an entire of day of yucky warmth and constant rain. (For those riders down south who balk at my complaining about 45-degree temperatures, try to visualize that with a stinging drizzle, sea spray and headwinds approaching northern Nebraska-strength) Ok. You caught me. It's not always brutal cold in coastal Alaska. But most of the time - in the winter at least - most of us here wish it was.

I took my new gloves for a test ride today - kind of an interesting day to do it, what with the warmth and soaking weather. Not really conducive to warm winter gloves, but they held up well in the rain and proved their waterproof abilities. Even the zipper, surprisingly, was impene…

It's Christmas to me

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Well, I tore into the Christmas care package my parents sent me today. For the record, I let it sit almost 18 hours before I finally thought to myself - I'm 26 years old and I'm spending the holidays 3,000 miles from home. I'll open my Christmas gift whenever I want.

On top of a generous helping of calorie and nostalgia-laden peanut butter balls was a pair of CZIP Gloves. They were a cool surprise because they actually are so perfect for my two favorite winter sports - ice biking and snowboarding. Plus, they are unforgettably linked to my long past of physical limitations and subsequent accomplishments.

See, the gloves were designed, patented and are now being marketed by my playground nemesis, Eric Vaughn. I went to kindergarten with this guy, as well as every grade thereafter. And before my childhood experiences faded into the gloss and glamour of memory, he held a special, cold place in my heart.

I was always the kid who was bad at sports - threw the baseball in the dirt f…

Boom

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So they tell me Mt. Augustine's about to blow. It's rated "Code Yellow," for what that's worth (just like the United States has been in a code yellow terrorism alert since, well, since the British were coming.) This photo is actually Mt. Iliamna. It could be Mt. Redoubt. I don't know. What I do know is - I live near a lot of volcanoes. And one of them, they tell me, is about to blow.

I never really thought about volcanoes before I moved to Alaska. An active volcano is something that belongs on a tiny tropical island, somewhere deep and warm and surrounded by chanting natives hoisting a screaming virgin up the face. No one told me that Homer was surrounded by these things - one big geothermal hug.

So I came into work today, wide-eyed and clutching the Anchorage Daily News with a shot of a big, steam-spewing cone on the cover. My co-worker just laughed at me (she has lived in Homer since the beginning of time, or at least since 1986 - the last time it blew its to…

Night crasher

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Date: Dec. 13
Today's mileage: 14.2
December mileage: 177.5
Temperature upon departure: 25

I have a better picture from Sunday, but this is one I actually took today, so there you go. I'm still aiming for journalistic realism. Today's ride was sponsored by Cyclelicious, a great read for everything from unfair cycling legislation to calendar girls who can't ride a bicycle to save their life. Also, Cyclelicious is one of the top-ranked bike blogs online, so I thought I'd make today's affiliate ride a good one.

By the time I dismounted from my swivel chair and left the cement box, the sun had already set. I decided to grab my headlight and head up to the reservoir - try my skills on the snowmobile paths up there. Unfortunately, after the thaw some ATVs and other wheeled vehicles drove up and down the trail, creating deep, frozen ruts that all but trapped me once I dropped into them. I tackled the trail with all of my lung-searing strength going up, remembering that spe…

Night rider

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Date: Dec. 12
Today's mileage: 6
December mileage: 163.3
Temperature upon departure: 19

Monday's my long day at work. Dec. 12 is a rather short day in the year. But that doesn't mean we can't get out for an evening jaunt on the ski trails (shh ... don't tell the Nordic skiers. They don't like us using their trails. But I figure - what they can't see can't hurt them.) Snow conditions were ideal today, but I am still working on developing my trail-riding technique. Navigating deep ruts covered over by soft powder takes a fair amount of concentration any time, but it's definitely tougher in the dark. Of course, I gotta learn it - just like I need to learn to change a tire with mittens on (but I'll save that frustration for another day.)

Today's ride felt pretty technical, especially during climbs. For that, I feel lucky to hail from the desert. Riding in snow is in many ways similar to riding in sand - a lot of swerving and correcting, grinding wit…

Elevation

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Date: Dec. 11
Today's mileage: 25.1
December mileage: 157.3
Top speed: 28 mph
Slowest speed: 2.5 mph (didn't know it was possible to ride that slow until today.)
Temperature upon departure: 31

Great ride today, sponsored by my good friend in Salt Lake City, Chris. Chris spent three months living out of a van with me, Geoff and our friend, Jen, towing four mountain bikes across the length of Alaska. We traveled from Prudhoe Bay to Juneau, and pretty much everywhere inbetween. We all developed an Alaska lust that none of us has been able to kick. I'm happy to see Chris is still with us in spirit, nudging us along as we navigate these northern climes.

A freezing rain hit overnight that iced all the roads. I headed out for what I intended to be a short ride. As I headed upward, the ice slicks turned to snow cover, and I began to think about riding to the highest elevation in town - the top of Ohlson Mountain, 1,513 feet. I thought the ride would give me great practice for conditions …

Refrost

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Date: Dec. 10
Today's mileage: 33
December mileage: 132.2
Temperature upon departure: 32

"I haven't been that terrified on a road bike since we left Missouri." What thaws must freeze, such is the code of Alaska. Geoff and I headed out East End Road today, giddy to cycle 17 miles of rolling hills on the newly exposed pavement. Mostly ignoring the closer-to-freezing temperature on the bank clock in town, we parked the car at the Homestead Restaurant and began the long climb toward the ridge. We pedaled upward, about 3.5 miles and 1,000 vertical feet, until the ice on the road was so thick that our back wheels started spinning out. Geoff stopped just shy of McNeil Canyon Elementary (which is, incidentally, the highest-elevation school in Alaska) and posed a very good question that I hadn't thought much about at 8 mph - "what's this going to be like coming down?"

And I meant what I said to him once we returned to the safety of sea level after white-knuckling…

Roadie gets the December treatment

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Date: Dec. 9
Today's mileage: 32
December mileage: 99.2
Total riding time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Top speed: Judging by the truck that faded behind me on East Hill, at least 45 mph
Temperature upon departure: 40

Today was all about color, sugar and speed. I love it. While the good folks down in Austin, Texas, are digging out of an ice storm, I'm pacing trucks on my road bike - in Alaska, in December. Sometimes, life turns upside down and smiles at you.

No one at the office wanted to work today. The publisher announced yesterday that we were having a pot luck and *no one* was allowed to bring anything but desserts. Even the girl who brought in Fuji apples the size of small pumpkins was frowned upon. So we stuffed our faces with cookies, brownies, pistachio pie - then, bloated and reeling from sugar shock, we pulled down all the Christmas decorations and started throwing tinsel everywhere. At about 1:30 p.m. I looked outside and could see a hint of sun showing through the rain clouds. And …

Dancing

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I was going to write a post about the beauty of 2o-degree weather when this damp, gray, slurping muck is the alternative, but Tim beat me to it. Still, I watch the winter melt temporarily around me and I remember that life creates beauty where it will - snowbanks dressed in mud; the late-morning sunrise slipping through a blur of precipitation; flattened blades of grass that haven't seen light since mid-October.

I tried out O.V.'s recommended one-hour ride on the trainer today. Pretty effective. Back when I was more of a gym rat than a snow bunny, I used to attend spin class religiously on Tuesday nights. Plowing through those intervals today reminded me of my favorite spin instructor, Nick, who was constantly prompting us to turn our dials to "thick mud" setting. "You're out on the trail!" he'd yell. "You're riding in thick mud and it's raining! Let's see you ride in the rain!" And we'd all grind into the pedals, but of co…

You talk'n to me?

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I don't have much time to write today, but I just had to post this picture. They may flock to dumps and snack on dead fish, but they have so much more personality than seagulls. This one looks just like one of the Seinfeld street toughs to me ... he's hawking this piercing glare, but you can see right through those ruffled feathers. Before he was so rudely interrupted, he was probably saying to his otter friend, "Don't you just love the blue sky today? Look at the way it reflects on the snow. Oh I just love it. It's just gorgeous, simply marvelous."

Slush puppy

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Date: Dec. 6
Today's mileage: 12.8
December mileage: 67.2
Top speed: 27 mph
Temperature upon departure: 36

Conditions were not ideal for cycling today. We've had about 70 inches of snow up on the ridge so far this season, and none of it has had much time to melt - until today. I've heard these warm spells hit, but they're rather disconcerting. A month goes by with below-freezing temperatures, and then, all of the sudden, one morning you walk outside and don't feel the urge to take off in a blind sprint for climate-controlled buildings. And all of your coworkers say it feels like springtime; meanwhile, you're up to your ankles in slush and wondering - "now how in the world am I going to bike through this?" It ain't easy, I've learned. The best parts of riding today: while pushing my bike up one particularly slush-covered hill, I slipped on a patch of ice and went knees-down into the muck, thereby learning that my bike gets better traction than I do;…

Gearing up

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I didn't ride my bike today. I worked a 12-hour shift in the cement box. Then I spent an hour at the gym running on the elliptical trainer. It said I burned 818 calories, but I don't know what that means. You can't measure that in elevation or miles. If you measured it in Pepsi, that would mean I get to drink six cans of Pepsi. Not that I actually believe those calorie logs anyway.
This picture is a couple weeks old, from a walk I took on the Spit. You're probably getting sick of my sunrise/sunset pictures. Keep in mind, when the daytime logs in at less than six hours, you don't see much else.

I ordered a load of warm gear online today. When that package comes, it will be better than Christmas - as long as the package comes before my credit card statement. People who knew me back in the day (five years ago) would probably be amazed at all the stuff I own now. My good friend, Monika, still remembers (and regularly reminds me of) the time we hiked Upper Black Box (a 14…

Anchor's away

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Date: Dec. 4
Today's mileage: 17.3
December mileage: 54.4
Top speed: 29 mph
Temperature upon departure: 8

Today's ride was sponsored in part by The Old Bag, and by John in Maine. Thanks, guys, for keeping me on my toe clips ... so far. Long way to go, still.

The ride went shorter than planned today when Geoff and I headed down to the Anchor River to look for a winter trail, which was displayed with some prominence on our map. It was eight bone-chilling downhill miles to the Anchor, only to arrive to a half-frozen river and no sign of a trail. Even the moose we saw near the bridge was breaking his own path through the snow. My guess is the river itself is the winter trail. But because temperatures haven't been any higher than a degree or two above freezing since people had pumpkins on their porches, I have to wonder when exactly this winter trail forms.

After that, we had only the long climb home, plodding slowly through gritty snow on the Sterling Highway shoulder with a lot of t…

Blind spots

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Date:Dec. 3
Today's mileage: 20.0
December mileage: 37.1
Total time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Top speed: 26 mph
Temperature upon departure: 9

Today's ride was sponsored in part by Tracy in Iowa, and by The Old Bag. Two inches of new powder meant I didn't break any speed records today, but I did get some great lessons in maneuvering. My favorite part of the ride was blasting down a decent (probably 8 percent) grade on Skyline Drive. Powder clouds whipped around me as I coasted down the untapped shoulder, carving a perfect line in the thin layer of new snow. It was a single moment, but felt quietly flawless, like I was floating - like I was snowboarding. Toward the bottom of the hill, I met one of the few vehicles I saw today - a full-sized Chevy pickup buried to its sideview mirrors in a snow bank. Its path was carved in the powder as well - and was decidedly less pretty than mine. How a vehicle that size left the road is beyond me, but judging by the dirt and rocks strewn across a 20-…

"Pain and suffering"

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Date: Dec. 2
Total mileage: 17.1
Total time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Top speed: 32 mph
Temperature upon departure: 11

Today’s ride was sponsored by Tracy of Iowa, donated very generously under the heading “pain and suffering.” Geoff and I left at the crack of dawn, and by "crack of dawn," I mean it was 9:30 a.m. We cruised up the packed snow of Skyline Drive and headed for Ohlson Mountain. I was having a hard time keeping my eyes on the road as a blaze of sunlight erupted all over Kachemak Bay, due south above a shock of whitewashed mountains. It hasn’t snowed since last weekend’s powder dump, and we had some pretty good speed going throughout most of the hilly ride – including a 32-mile-per-hour plummet down one ice-covered hill. You can’t do that on a skinny tire … or, at least, you can’t do that and live to tell about it.

I arrived home, drenched with sweat from overdressing. On this rolling glacial terrain, you can’t have it both ways – you either freeze on the downhills or sweat o…

Revisited

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I spent an hour grinding away on my bike trainer today, staring at a fuzzy television program I couldn't hear anyway and thinking about how I'd really like to attempt the Susitna 100. Geoff is still talking about doing the Little Su 50K ... he thinks he may even run it ... but I don't know. If we're going to all that effort, why not go all the way? I know, I know. I've already had the "crazy" talk with Geoff. And I know I'll need to acquire some more gear and a little good 'ol Alaskan toughness and all of that. But still, I kinda want to do it. Why, you ask? Well, why cross the country on a bicycle? To see if I can.

I still have that other aforementioned problem of paying the entry fee. I came up with an idea while riding the trainer that may seem more crazy than wanting to do this race in the first place. In charity rides, people usually put some sort of monetary value on their miles and collect pledges. So here's what I resolve to do ... I s…

Sunrise, sunset

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9:45 a.m. I've been working for nearly three hours now, long enough that the room goes dark when I move my eyes away from the computer screen. My coworker walks in just as I stuff another handful of Fruit Loops in my mouth. "How long have you been here?" he asks. My shoulders go up in a halfhearted shrug. I answer with some loud crunching. "Well, you should go outside." I shake my head. "Why?" More crunching. He points to the digital camera sitting on my desk. "The sunrise is killer today."

4:35 p.m. I forgot my headlight again. I'm pedaling toward home, but at the last minute decide to turn left instead of right. Twilight's disappearing fast, but I want to get a good sprint in before the ride's over. The temperature's single digits ... again. I feel like I'm used to it, but the renewed wind tears into my eyes - the only body part exposed to it. I can barely see, but I'm not deterred because I know this road by heart b…

Chasing sunset

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So studs rule. I blew out of work today just in time to catch the last hour of depleted daylight - the 3:45 p.m. sunset and subsequent hour of twilight. Most of the ridge roads are packed snow and ice - a little precarious on treads, but as solid as pavement with studs. I climbed up a steep hill, one that's gravel in the summer and loose enough that you really have to throw all your weight on the back tire. Today I just cruised up it, standing, as sunset's shadow inched over the crest. I thought I could beat those last orange rays to the top, but the packed road quickly gave way to a soft snowmobile trail. I upped the RPMs but just kept grinding into the powder and falling over. I'm learning that when you're an ice biker, powder is bad. Especially when there's two feet of it, and a handful of snowmobiles do not a packed trail make.

Oops ... I forgot that I'm in Alaska now and need to call them "snowmachines." But I'm rebelling and keeping my nativ…

Becoming frozen

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A four-day weekend means putting in a long, long, long day on Monday. I had to dig into the archives today for an illustrative photo - this is the Kasilof River, shortly after the first deep freeze. There were nearly two more hours between sunrise and sunset when this picture was taken - we're down to just over six now. Life does slow considerably in the winter, and the dark and cold seems to spark a subculture of people affected by SAD, or "Snow Activity Disorder." In Idaho, almost no one I knew ever even heard of ice biking - the only one who had said, "well, that's one way to ruin your tires."

My group of friends in the spud state went skiing occasionally; the hardcore among them tried ice climbing once or twice, but most curled up in the winter and watched "Survivor." Even with the Tetons nearby, I never found anyone in eastern Idaho who felt any urge to break a winter trail in knee-deep powder in the dark, ride a bicycle on a snowmobile path …

Susitna dreams

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Scenic drive back down the Peninsula today. A blanket of frost gave the trees a skeletal look and new snow oozed down evergreen branches like frosting; the air was as clear as a cold day and the sunrise sent steams of pink light down the whitewashed mountains. A rather rough freeze has transformed the Turnagain Arm into a boulderfield of ice. I looked out at the tortured seascape and instantly thought of Death Valley, a beautiful, rocky desolation born of heat, not ice.

We stopped at a bike shop in Anchorage and bought studded tires for our mountain bikes. And it looks like we'll have snowcover to practice on for a long time now. We returned home to nearly two feet of new powder on everything, as demonstrated by this photo - I call it "Geo Prison." We spent a better part of the clear and cold evening stamping through thigh-deep snow to find the snowshoe trail we've been working on.

Anyway, Geoff and I were so giddy at the prospect of extending the cycling season indefi…