Saturday, January 07, 2006

My snowmachine

Date: Jan. 7
Mileage: 35.5
January mileage: 108.2
Temperature upon departure: 33

Today's ride was sponsored by Kevin. I set out a little later than hoped (noon), but made up for my procrastination with serendipitous exploration. I found a maze of winter trails and unplowed four-wheel drive roads networking through the woods just north of Skyline Drive. For a mile I'd plow through untapped snow, only to suddenly find myself on a well-traveled snowmobile trail, cascading over packed waves of powder. Then I'd hit the rutted and icy roads, bounce around for a bit, take a left turn and find myself up to my pedal strokes in powder again. Along the trails I came across two dog mushers. One stopped to tell me the trail I was on was a dead end.

"It ends at my house," the man told me. His 4 or 5-year-old daughter was clinging to the cargo side of his sled. Four restless huskies whined and nipped at the air.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't realize this was a private trail."

"That's OK," he said. "It's not like you're on a snowmachine or anything."

As he pulled away I could hear his daughter say, "Daddy, daddy, was that a bicycle?"

All in all, it was a fun ride, even though this kind of cycling turns up disappointing mileage for time spent in the saddle (in today's case, a little more than four hours.) But all this trail riding is necessary for me to improve my handling abilities in snow. Any snow or ice condition, for me at least, still wavers on the unpredictable side (I think of it as riding through deep sand one second and the next bouncing over large roots - and having no prior knowledge of the transition because on top, it all just looks benignly white.)

Very knowlegable folks such as mags (who, by the way, is a future Olympian) have asked me why I don't enjoy all this God-given white stuff in more natural ways, such as skiing. And I do understand the importance of cross-training to stay in good athletic shape (I do run from time to time.) But these rides, especially the trail rides, are as much about gaining skill as they are about building a solid set of quads. I am a rookie in the most unapologetic sense. I had never even seen a studded tire (bicycle or otherwise) until this year. And I don't have much time, so I practice - any free moment I have. I know that my success depends on my level of confidence, even more than it does on my level of fitness.

Earlier today, I thought I had a good idea for a post. But Geoff and I just went to see King Kong, and my brain is a little bit mushy. Kevin, my sponsor for today, suggested I do a Susitna 100 gear post - what I'm planning on using and what I still need. This sounds like a good idea (I admit it. I'm hoping to receive suggestions and recommendations all around.) So I'll pencil that one in for tomorrow.