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Showing posts from July, 2006

Wintry ride

Date: July 30
Mileage: 39.2
July mileage: 710.3
Temperature upon departure: 47

It's been a little while since I doubled over in the shower to claw at the searing, itchy pain of blood circulation returning to my feet. But that happened to me today.

How quickly my long-term memory fails me. I looked at the thermometer before I left and observed the 47 degrees it was. I stepped outside and felt a light drizzle hitting my skin. But I'm so inclined to routine that my mind said "July" even as February weather descended outside. I thought little of my cotton T-shirt and light rain jacket, the only layers that stood between me and a soggy refrigerator.

I froze. It wouldn't have been all that bad, except for I stopped to wait for Geoff at the fishing hole. And waited. And waited. I was already drenched from a two-hour ride and standing still beneath a narrow balcony for a half hour nearly put me into convulsions. I was shivering profusely by the time I realized the pain I was i…

Lazy Saturday

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Date: July 29
Mileage: 26.3
July mileage: 671.1
Temperature upon departure: 62

I have here a picture of Geoff modeling the latest in Homer summer fashion. I promised him I wouldn't put it on my blog.

Geoff's dad and brother-in-law are in town soaking up all things Alaska. The brother-in-law toiled through a three-day backpacking trip and hasn't seen a grizzly bear yet, but now that there's a clamming trip planned, I think his vacation's looking up.

I should have spent some time packing today, but I didn't. At this point, I'm pretty much just planning on combing the house the day before I leave and cramming stuff into my car in descending order of importance until it's full. Why are you laughing? Honestly, I can't think of a more efficient way to pack. It's like preparing for an evacuation as a wildfire rages closer. Only in these moments of heightened urgency can you decide what's truly important to you.

OK. You got me. I just hate packing. And I h…

Gonna miss it here

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Date: July 27
Mileage: 29.5
July mileage: 644.8
Temperature upon departure: 53

A week is all I have left in the Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea.

Everything I do now is shadowed by the notion that it could be my last time.

My last time dodging erratic pedestrians on the Homer Spit;

My last time sweating up East Hill;

My last time pedaling down an abandoned road in search of an unobstructed view of the 11 p.m. sunset;

My last small town surprise - an overturned Subaru laid to final rest beside the silent shadow of Mt. Redoubt.

I know it's not the last. I know it's not yet over.

But I already miss it.

Recovery rides

Date: July 25 and 26
Mileage: 13.7 and 25.4
July mileage: 615.3

I can't believe I forgot to mention the outcome of Geoff's race, which took place the same Saturday as the Soggy Bottom. He ran the Crow Pass Crossing, a marathon-length technical mountain run. I hiked it on July 15 and it nearly took me out of commission. Geoff somehow managed to sprint over the rough trail in 3 hours 17 minutes, (interestingly, exactly 10 hours less than it took me to bike the Soggy Bottom course) and placed fifth overall in the race. It's pretty cool, because his standings place him in the top 10 mountain runners in Alaska. And this is something he just decided to take up this year, just for fun - sort of like the afternoon I returned from a three-mile snowshoe hike and decided it would be good times to bike a frozen wilderness century. This state, I'm telling you, does funny things with your mind.

I did a couple of recovery rides on the road yesterday and today that felt pretty good, excep…

Why I like endurance

One of the great things about putting in a good, hard day on the road or trail is that supreme feeling of tiredness you get right afterward - those rare moments when you curl up on the couch with a cold can of Pepsi and let your fatigue wrap around you in a blanket of calm satisfaction.

I have never experienced that after any of my endurance events.

Usually, I spend the first few hours after the ride wishing I owned a loaded gun. After a fitful night of sleep, I spend the next day in a "I-feel-like-I-was-hit-by-a-truck" state. By day two, I have a vague recollection of what normal might feel like, and by day three I'm itching to get back on my bike. There's no Pepsi. No supreme fatigue. Only the cold motions of recovery.

So a very good question that I'm often asked is - "Why?" Why put myself through it?

I think it goes back to high school, when I was looking for a place in the world. I was an odd duck like everyone else. I was introspective but not intellec…

A little soggy, A little foggy

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Date: July 22
Mileage: 106
July mileage: 576.2

I am really starting to grow into mountain biking, and not because I'm a natural. Quite the opposite - every pedal stroke is a small struggle - but it's always a challenge, and I'm completely addicted.

That said, I took a decent thrashing in yesterday's Soggy Bottom 100 - trail rash, bumps, bruises, bent fender, broken spoke, seatpost askew, flat rear shock, mud in my teeth. Through it all, my workhorse of a mountain bike motored on and carried me to the finish in 13 hours 17 minutes - which isn't as fast as I had hoped for, but after a few violent spills and some hard lessons about the demoralizing power of downhill, I'm pretty glad to be one of about half in the field to just have finished 106-mile course.

The ride got off to a great start Saturday morning, launching from the cheering crowds of the Seaview Bar and Campground in Hope. The 16 or so riders split off into two packs of eight, of which I happily joined the …

Feelin' soggy

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The stats
The truthDate: July 19 and 20
Mileage: 14.3 and 24.1
July mileage: 470.2 The Soggy Bottom 100 is upon me. This is the last race of my 2006 Alaska endurance trilogy. Time will tell as to whether it's a grand finale or "Scream III." Single-track century. 11,000 feet of climbing. Technical stretches. Time cut-offs. Self supported. 40 percent chance of precipitation.I've been trying to will myself strong ... as if self-fulfilling prophecy could make it so. "It's only 106 miles. Traversing 40 miles of uninterrupted wilderness. With just myself and people who are expected to pedal a whole lot faster than me. How bad could it really be?" The numbers are daunting, but when I step back from them, I'm surrounded by a new reality.Self supported on wilderness singletrack - just me and my bike and some Power Bars ... a jingling bear bell ... maybe some Catherine Wheel pulsing through the iPod (don't judge me; I keep the volume low) - climbing until th…

Movin' on up (er ... down)

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Date: July 18
Mileage: 28.9
July mileage: 431.8
Temperature upon departure: 56

Well, I'm moving to Juneau. It sounds a bit rash, I know, but it's actually the culmination of several weeks of events that started the day they handed me number 111 at the 24 Hours of Kincaid Race (Elevens, my friend Ryan always told me, signify shifts in universal or personal patterns i.e. routines.) Anyway, the next day I received a cold call from The Juneau Empire. Next month, I'm going to be working there. Crazy how quickly life can shift gears. While Juneau is technically in the same state I live in now (and who am I kidding ... it's the capitol), moving there is no small matter. It's about the distance equivalent of moving from Denver to San Francisco, if the only way to get to San Francisco was to drive to a tiny upstate town like Arcata and then hop a slow-moving ferry down the coast. Oh ... and throw in an international border crossing as well. I might as well move to Seattle. At l…

One weekend, two passes

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Date: July 16
Mileage: 15.3
July mileage: 402.9

I honestly used to think I was in really great shape. Then I did this hike called the Crow Pass crossing, which looks like a gentle traverse on a map but is in reality 26 miles of limb-pounding, joint-jarring terrain broken only by heart-stopping stream crossings. Brrrrr.

Geoff is actually racing this course next weekend, crazy man, so we set out on Saturday to check out the trail. We had no great plan for getting back around (Girdwood and Eagle River, an hour and a half apart by road, are hardly an easy two points to connect.) Also, I've done almost no hiking this summer. But, hey, I had that great biking base. I was insistent on going the whole way.

It was a little after 10 a.m. by the time we left. Despite a heavy drizzle, fog and temps closing in on 40, the hike to the pass was a breeze and I was feeling great. We crossed several glacier-fed streams that were running swift and strong but nothing higher than knee-deep. Soaked clothing …

A fed moose

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Date: July 13 and 14
Mileage: 26.7 and 15.2
July mileage: 387.6

Had a bit of a disconcerting experience with a local moose today. I was riding home from work when I encountered a young bull about a half mile from my house, munching on weeds at the side of the road. I stopped about 150 feet down the road and snapped a couple of pictures (not this one. This one I took several minutes later). Then I waited for something to happen - a truck to go by, or him to move. I don't really like passing moose if I don't have to. But then he caught wind of me, looked up, and started walking toward me. He didn't seem aggressive, but I was intimidated enough to back up and turn up a side road. And he continued to follow me, as I walked my bike backward up the steep gravel. He was just ambling along like he wanted something from me, but I just wanted him to go away.

The road turned out to be a driveway that dead-ended after about 50 yards. He was gaining on me, still at the same pace, and it wa…

Mmmm ... 5-cent Powerbar

Date: July 12
Mileage: 30.1
July mileage: 335.7
Temperature upon departure: 55

If you ever make it down to the End of the Road, Alaska, the Homer Tribune just published my own limited and subjective Biking Guide to Homer. Those are the trails. Here's the mountain/road package. Hey, I tried.

Theroretically, I should be entering the "peak" of my summer bicycling season in the next few weeks. It's hard to peak out when there aren't any more hours in the day to train. Since I still only have about an hour or two each weekday to ride, I've been trying to up the intensity - more hills, more attempts at speed, etc. I'm not all that savvy as to what these efforts have won me in fitness, but they sure do make me voraciously hungry.

This irritates me, because the hunger binges are becoming harder to avoid - and doing so just makes me grumpy. If I actually sit it out long enough, my appetite returns to normal and I can be satisfied with the appropriate number of calories.…

Baiku 2

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Date: July 10 and 11
Mileage: 18.4 and 30.6
July mileage: 305.6
The mileage stacked up Over these thoughts, stashed wayside And still I rode on

Tour de Point

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Date: July 9
Mileage: 66.2
July mileage: 256.6
Temperature upon departure: 60

Today I latched onto the Sunday ride of local road cycling club - the "Homer Cosmic Hams." With about nine or ten regular members, they comprise the only club in town - although that's one more club than I thought there was.

Not that I'm all that familiar with club riding, but this group seemed to have a particular tint of good ol' Alaskana. For one, half of the "road" ride was on a pockmarked stretch of gravel that I had previously only dared to ride on my mountain bike. (I rode my road bike today, because I figured these guys knew what they were talking about. My lower arms are still tingling.) For two, most of the members showed up on all manner of Frankenbikes - an old Cannondale mountain bike outfitted with slicks and a strange single front shock, a 1970s green Fuji with a much newer red front fork, etc. And three, after finally getting into a groove in our paceline on the des…

Indecision

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Date: July 5, 7 and 8
Mileage: 34.8, 26.4 and 25.5
July mileage: 190.4

Sorry for my absence. I spent a few days wallowing in indecision, like an uncomfortable dreamer locked in a losing fight for consciousness.

It's a strange state of discomfort - never quite in the moment, yet never able to completely let my mind wander. I'd stare vacantly at the back of the cereal box or watch my cat cross the yard and wonder where my mind had been, where it was now, what had I been thinking about before, did I draw any conclusions, what did I want to eat for dinner tonight, would it really be all that unhealthy to eat cold cereal again ... Finally, I'd give up and go for a bike ride.

That's how I did all of my riding this week - just sort of set out without really deciding to. That's the consequence of having a big decision to make. It erodes your ability to even make even the smallest decisions, decisions that are usually unconscious pieces of an everyday routine. One minute, I'…

I think I'm goin crazy

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Date: July 3 and 4
Mileage: 14.4 and 32.6
July mileage: 103.7
Temperature upon departure: 62

This is a picture of me in 2003 - frou-frou pajama pants tucked into my socks, a ski jacket complete with dangling ski tags wrapped around my waist, struggling to keep my Trek 6500 vertical on smooth doubletrack (look - my eyes are closed and I'm about to go off the trail!). Sigh.

I still use that same stupid helmet, but in many other ways, I have made huge leaps and bounds in the sport of mountain biking in the past three years. I've never had much confidence in my technical skills, nor have I had any reason to have much confidence in my technical skills - but I really surprised myself with my maneuverability around the 24 hours of Kincaid loop. Today, before the fourth of July festivities began, I set out to test myself on the Homestead Trail singletrack. Four miles of roots, switchbacks, milkweed canyons so tall and narrow that I couldn't see the trail at all, grass that brushed my f…

In your head

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Date: July 2
Mileage: 50.4
July mileage: 66.7
Temperature upon departure: 55
A reporter asked Geoff an interesting question the other day that I had never thought much about before - when you're out running or biking solo for four or eight or 24 hours, what do you think about? A lot of people would like to believe that the act of engaging in intense physical activity will lead them to life affirmations or ponderings on the human condition. But really, as Geoff answered, it's no different that driving or sitting alone in a coffee shop. What does a person think about when forced to spend four hours by themselves? Mostly, the random and the mundane.

People who know me know that I like to mark random and mundane anniversaries, and sometimes I spend the solo time on my bike dreaming them up. Today I did a three-hour ride that was intermittently chilled with headwinds and sweaty while tailwinds held the air stagnant as I climbed a couple of long hills. But I also realized today that July…

On the boardwalk

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Date: July 1
Mileage: 16.3
July mileage: 16.3
Temperature upon departure: 58

Wow. Until today, if someone had asked me if there were any good mountain biking trails in Homer, I would have scrunched up my nose and told them sure - but if they had anything longer than a three-mile ride in mind, they'd have to wait until January.

When I heard rumors that my ice-biking Mecca - a vast network of snowmobile trails weaving through the muskeg around Caribou Lake - had a rideable summer trail, I was very skeptical. But today Geoff and I decided to drive out there and see for ourselves.

During the winter, the Caribou Lake Trail rolls over ridges on punchy, snow-covered double track and traverses the bogs on fast, smooth ice roads. To my pleasant surprise, in the summer it does pretty much the exact same thing - if you replace snow with rutted dirt and the ice roads with hundreds of rough-cut 2x4s.

Fast and fun - and so completely rideable that you can go all the way to the lake and back without s…
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Guilty until proven innocent

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There is something seriously wrong with the Tour de France. Really. To dash the hopes of thousands by kicking out your top players mere hours before the event. Barry Bonds is under intense doping scrutiny, and they still let him play. Why? Because he's interesting at it. That's the American way.

I'm not saying I'm an advocate of illegal substance abuse; but what happened to burden of proof? I think casual fans such as myself should toss their cable boxes out the window in protest. Then they should tune into another crazy long bike race where substance abuse is still limited to caffeine, and perhaps the occasional something that a Ninilchik resident would grow in their attic.
The Great Divide Race has been plugging along for just over a week now. Eight racers started the 2,500-mile epic across the Continental Divide trail. I believe five are still in, laboring toward the Mexican border. All the updates are posted on a very thorough blogspot blog. Beats OLN anyday, if you …