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Showing posts from April, 2006

Hill day

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Date: April 30
Mileage: 75
April mileage: 568
Temperature upon departure: 40

Had a strange moment of de-ja-vu that inadvertently lead to yet another roadie crash.

Ok, Ok, the truth is, I'm just a sadly predictable klutz. But the timing was interesting nonetheless.

Today was a "hill day" - three big climbs with elevation changes between 1,000 and 1,500 feet in 2-5 miles, buffered by plenty of rollers. I spent most of the day listening to new music that I downloaded on my iPod yesterday. As I crested to highest point of the day - elev. 1,500 feet - the music switched over to a song I had heard only once before, a song implanted in such a surreal region of my memory that up until today I thought it was a dream. Turns out it's "DARE" by the Gorillaz.

Before I even registered the music, the memory came flooding back - midnight programming on the one radio station I could pick up on my little AM/FM, droning with Top 40 pop broken by frequent, jarring static. I was pedal…

We are not unique snowflakes

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Date: April 29
Mileage: 16
April mileage: 493
Temperature upon departure: 43

Today I read an amusing editorial in the Anchorage Daily News, addressing the grand delusion of many Alaskans - that we are unique, special, not like other Americans. Set apart by latitude and buffered by a rather large foreign country, I guess it would be difficult not to feel separate-but-equal.

But ever since I moved here, I've been more than a little bugged by the sense of entitlement at large. The state pays people just to live here, and still people whine about a 3 percent sales tax, they whine about paying for education, they whine about pesky federal mandates like wildlife refuge designations, but then beg the federal government for more road money. Alaska seems to have a serious case of youngest child syndrome, which of course bugs me because I come from an oldest child background. I'm the one who had to deal with a 10 p.m. curfew and had to begin working at age 11 to support my teenage lifestyle.…

Cool photo

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Date: April 28
Mileage: 26
April mileage: 477
Temperature upon departure: 40

I don't know how kosher it is to post a copyrighted photo on a blog, but since this isn't exactly an enterprise of any sort, I'm just going to go ahead and do it.

A former co-worker of mine, Troy Boman, just sent me a link to a photo of his that won a second-place award from the National Press Photographers Association. It's impressive because Troy works for a small community newspaper that covers a massive sprawl of salt and sand known as Tooele County, Utah - and he was up against big guys like the New York Daily News in this contest. I always thought it was kind of strange that Troy didn't move up to the big guys. He's always had this amazing ability to capture striking moments of clarity in the vast and mundane ... the face of a terrified boy standing amid an indifferent crowd ... the calm acceptance of a once-comfortable man suddenly doused in the mud and blood of his own mistakes. It&…

Snow and light

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Date: April 27
Mileage: 22
April mileage: 451
Temperature upon departure: 38

Warm day today. Temps even thought about hitting 50, but didn't quite make it. I seem to be writing an overabundance of extra-bloggy blog posts lately. The past month has been awash the mostly gray, windy, semi-warm, still-won't-melt-the-crust-on-my-driveway permanence that dominates "spring" in Alaska. My muse has been running a bit low, so I complain about the weather and take pictures out my bedroom window.

We now have officially more than 16 hours between sunrise and sunset, makes it hard to get those requisite 8 hours of sleep in. I'm one of those people that can barely dress myself in the morning, but I build energy as the day goes on, so it's also hard for me to go to bed. I had a really tough ride today, basically inexplicable as to why I was struggling so much. Lead legs on the commute. Dizzy up the hill. Spinning low gears on the gravel. It's probably just a matter of needin…

Training?

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Date: April 26
Mileage: 24
April mileage: 429
Temperature upon departure: 35

Today's ride was sponsored by Shasta, who just bought a new bike and is doing some training of her own down in Dairyland. I had about 50 free minutes after work to ride today. It was a seriously short period of time for an outdoor bike workout, but I made up for it by upping my effort. I can't honestly say that I was burning everything I had, but the total mileage - 18 - didn't seem too bad, after factoring in a couple of hill climbs and a light headwind. That's - what - about 21 or 22 mph average? I could definitely improve on that, and I'm thinking that might be a good idea.

I've been trying to visualize some summer training goals that have a little more strategy than my winter training, which mostly revolved around doing a lot of crazy cold rides. So far, most of my ideas revolve around crazy long rides - which are seriously hard to make time for, especially when I have to do the whole j…

Top 10 reasons for insanity

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Date: April 25
Mileage: 41
April mileage: 405
Temperature upon departure: 40

Now that I'm planning on riding the Soggy Bottom 100, I should probably make a full disclosure about another summer race that is pretty close to making it on my "must do" list - the 24 Hours of Kincaid.

I know what you're thinking. Why put myself through that ... again? After all, there is a definite point where a mountain bike event stops being a race and starts to become, well, something else entirely. An exercise in insanity. Insomniac theater for athletes. There are only so many times you can ride around a loop before everything turns loopy.

There are so many reasons why riding the 24 Hours of Kincaid would be a bad idea. So I compiled a list of the relative few that make it a good idea:

1. I've already ridden/walked with/stared at with bitter resentment/and ridden a bike for a 24-hour period, so I know it's not outside the realm of possibility.
2. Not many women enter this race solo. La…

It's soggy out

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Woke up this morning to more snow. I thought it was just as well because I was running behind and wasn't going to bike to work anyway, but the slush got its sweet revenge when it took me 10 minutes to back my car out the driveway. (When you drive a Geo in Alaska, it's all about patience.)

I thought more about yeserday's harassment incident. At the time, I was not really frightened. I just assumed they were bored idiots out for a joyride, who passed me once and thought it would be fun to go back and rile me up. It was enraging, sure, but I never felt in danger to the point where I actually would have pulled a can of bear mace on them (especially considering the high percentage of concealed weapon permits in this area.)However, it did think it strange that they were so old - they looked to be in their late-20s or early-30s, definitely old enough to know about the legal implications of terrorizing an unarmed cyclist. Also, as a strange coincidence, earlier that morning Geoff …

Harassed

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Date: April 23
Mileage: 63
April mileage: 364
Temperature upon departure: 36

I'm not a big fan of biking on the Sterling Highway anytime, but I've noticed that the further north I ride, the deeper the twilight-zone factor is. It's a strange land of driven unemployment; of rows of single-wide trailers that serve simultaneously as day-care centers/ kennels/ charter offices/ tourist lodging and summer coffee shops; of inexplicable architecture and fake flowers planted in the snow.

So when a white minivan blew by me today blaring its horn, I wasn't surprised. This highway has a wide shoulder with a rumble-strip buffer, so traffic isn't usually very threatening. I nearly had it out of my mind when several minutes later, a startlingly similar van approached from the oncoming lane and swerved toward me, blaring its horn and swerving back into its own lane. My heart was racing against the surge of adrenaline and rage, but I stayed the course on the highway. I just couldn't …

Herd mentality

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Date: April 21
Mileage: 31
April mileage: 301
Temperature upon departure: 38

During the past week, I have come to learn that there actually are other recreational road riders in Homer besides myself. They seem to be enthusiasts - meaning they're sporting no visible cotton on their bodies and riding bicycles that most likely weren't manufactured in China. However, like me, they always seem to be traveling solo. Scattered. Alone.

It's still too early in the season to know for sure, but it seems that there's no bicycle organization in my town. No bike club. There wasn't even a bike shop until very recently. Today I was thinking about organizing all of the lonely pedalers I've encountered into some sort of cohesive group - if nothing else, to find occasional reprieve from the near-constant wind on the Spit.

But as soon as I thought of it, logistics and doubt began to creep in. For one, I live in a terrible place to start a road bike club because I live in a terrible plac…

Just for the halibut

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Today I was finally indoctrinated into tourism side of Homer, which is known far and wide as the "Halibut Fishing Capitol of the World." (Note the addition of the word "Fishing" to that motto. If you just want to eat a halibut around here, you still have to dish out $12 a pound.) I hooked up with the Chamber of Commerce crew to tag some "little guys" for the annual halibut derby. After we tagged the requisite number of fish, they let us catch a couple of our own.

Compared to the rest of the boat, I had an awful morning. I caught three cod, had four incidents of snagging other peoples' lines, and then nothing - for hours. I just stood out there in the wind and blowing snow, wielding a fishing pole that weighs as much as my road bike and practically tap dancing to maintain an on-board (as opposed to overboard) position in the rising swells. I had taken two Dramamines to ward of seasickness but wound up feeling pitched and druggy instead. After a while it…

On the Arctic Blast

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Date: April 19
Mileage: 18
April mileage: 270
Temperature upon departure: 29
On the iPod: "Grey Ice Water" ~ Modest Mouse

"You're standing by the grey ice water
out in the wind above ground out in the weather
you had yourself a crazy lover
becoming frozen trying hard to forget her
you got a job up in alaska
it's easy to save what the cannery pays
cause there ain't no way to spend it

at home on a boat, it's a fish trap

You're standing by the grey ice water
out in the wind above ground out in the weather
you took the path of least resistance
on the phone cutting out talking
short to long distance

at home on a boat, it's a fish trap

you're standing by the grey ice water
out in the wind above ground out in the water
you had yourself a crazy lover
become unfrozen trying hard to forget her
you got a job up in alaska
it's easy to save what the cannery pays
cause there ain't no way to spend it

on the arctic blast
on the arctic blast
on the arctic blast
on the arctic blas…

Me vs. All

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Date: April 18
Mileage: 56
April mileage: 252
Temperature upon departure: 45
On the iPod: "To the Sea" ~ Razorlight

After several days of snow, it felt warm out today. Downright balmy. I forgot about windchill. Now my throat hurts. But I wasn't the only one who emerged for spring's first, best gasp.

Ever have one of those days when you feel like you're in a constant competition for space? I wanted to put in a 50-mile day while it was nice out, but I didn't have any interest in venturing into the great beyond just yet (North Sterling Highway. Fresh snow banks. Scary.) So I did my favorite 17-mile loop - thrice - with an extra 5 miles to say hi to Geoff. The problem with this strategy was that I had to ride out and back the Homer Spit, thrice.

It seemed like everyone and their dog took to the Spit today: the walls of walkers; the precariously swerving mountain bikers; the streams of cars; and the road riders donning their shiny new lyrca, which had obviously been stuf…
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Easter ride

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Date: April 16
Mileage: ~25
April mileage: 196
Temperature upon departure: 27
On the iPod: "Back to the Earth" ~ Rusted Root

When Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen "discovered" Easter Island in 1722, he Christened it with a name that evokes images of a springtime oasis with chirping birds and flowers. Then he wrote in his log:

April 5, 1722 (Easter Sunday) "We originally, from a further distance, have considered the said Easter Island as sandy; the reason for that is this, that we counted as sand the withered grass, hay or other scorched and burnt vegetation, because its wasted appearance could give no other impression than of a singular poverty and barrenness."

April 16, 2006 (Easter Sunday)
9:20 a.m. "The goal"
So the plan is to take advantage of the crust snow to find a trail through the wilds of Crossman Ridge to the oasis of Bridge Creek. All of the kiddies and their snowmobile-riding parents are down in town combing the muddy fields for half-frozen eg…

Enough already

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Date: April 14 and 15
Mileage: 23 and 27
April mileage: 171
Temperature upon departure: 28 (Friday) and 33 (Saturday)
On the iPod: "Modern Romance" ~ Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yesterday was Geoff's 30th birthday. Today is tax day. Tomorrow is Easter. Talk about a strange holiday weekend.

I sure do get lazier on the weekends. I blame stressful weekdays. And late Friday nights. And disconcerting weather. I'm starting to understand why many Alaskans, even us soft-skinned southcentral types, start to become a little, well ... touched ... as time goes by. I mean, we do live on the edge of the world amid vast amounts of uninhabited space. But I think it's the whole nine months of winter that really gets to our collective psychological health. Pretend for a minute you're a person from California, approaching this place on a plane. Outside is a brilliant, burning sun, still hours from setting at 7 p.m. On the ground, you see people milling around in shirt sleeves, which makes sense …

Bedroom view, 9:38 p.m.

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Date: April 13
Mileage: 23
April mileage: 121
Temperature upon departure: 27 (morning)
On the iPod: "History of a Boring Town" ~ Less Than Jake

Today's was a rough and windy ride. After I arrived at home, I tore off my helmet and balaclava, but my face still felt warm. The day was by no means warm, and neither was the house. Could it be? I walked toward a mirror. Red tint ... darkened freckles ... well, what do you know? The year's first sunburn.

It's like a rite of passage, a mark of my arrival into spring. I still associate the annual ritual with a sunburn I sustained almost exactly 10 years ago. I remember the date because it was tax day, April 15, 1996. My best friend and I walked out of our third period English class and kept on going. We were both car-less at the time and completely without a reason to leave school, but I remember that the sun was blazing overhead and it had to be at least 85 degrees out. Spring fever beckoned and we walked like zombies toward it…

Holy bike gear Batman

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Date: April 12
Mileage: 21
April mileage: 98
Temperature upon departure: 40
On the iPod: "We Are Nowhere, And It's Now" ~ Bright Eyes

eBay is an amazing thing. It brings the world's biggest garage sale to your doorstep, and whether you're a resident of New York or Alaska or Kalamazoo, it's yours for the taking if you want it enough.

Today Geoff stumbled across a listing for a huge lot of mountain bike gear. Absolutely mammoth. We're talking more gear than most ever dream of owning in their lifetimes, and then some. The seller is a chick who recently retired from racing, and she is unloading all of her stuff in one lump package. Her auction doesn't even list everything she is selling. It includes (and of course is not limited to):

* 10 different pairs of biking gloves
* 18 3/4 pairs of biking pants (don't ask me what the 3/4 implies)
* 20 pairs of shorts
* "Soooooo many tops" (her words)
* 3 vests
* 9+ jackets
* 9 half-tanks (what's a half-tank?)
*…

Crunchy goodness

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Date: April 11
Mileage: 24
April mileage: 77
Temperature upon departure: 32
On the iPod: "The Plan" ~ Built to Spill

Boy was I grumpy when I set out on my bike ride today. It started out as a sunny day and deteriorated quickly. By the time I left work, it was blowing snow. On top of that, I forgot my ski goggles. I guided my bike through the white static while trying to look anywhere but forward. The present came to me in a cinematic flicker of involuntary blinking. I was annoyed, but I wanted to take others' good advice about getting back on the bike, because I've already had plenty of days off.

Amazingly, about seven miles into the ride, I began to loosen up. The knot of irritation released in bursts of energy. I embraced my blindness and accepted that I was moving by shapes and sounds. And I began to think that maybe I'm not tired of cycling. Maybe I'm just tired of winter.

On the way home, I rode beside an open field of smooth snow. I don't know why I pulled…

Cyclists' block

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I am in need of some serious motivation. Like Matt Foley kick-down-your-door-and-enlighten-you-about-your-future-in-a-van-down-by-the-river-type motivation. I have a serious case of cyclists' block, and I'm not sure how to get through it.

It was so easy in the winter. Basically, I had a plan to do this frozen-tundra century that was so overwhelmingly terrifying that everything (and I mean everything) seemed pleasant in contrast. Now I'm facing decidedly easier conditions. Sure, the "paved" roads are so riddled with frost heaves that I can get some serious (and I mean serious) air on my road bike. And sure, a fierce west wind coupled with 25-degree temps dropped the wind chill down to single digits today. And sure, the slow-moving spring break-up causes all (and I mean all) surfaces to turn to soup. But still, there's no excuse for my inability to get out and ride.

This morning I woke up, dressed in some cycling gear, went downstairs and stared at my bikes. Just…

Back from the trenches

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This weekend was the first time I'd spent more than a few hours in the City of Anchors since I moved up here. Anyone (in any profession) who's ever attended a conference already knows what I did: ate greasy mall food and overpriced-but-still-greasy bistro specials for three days straight; spent the daytime hours sipping lemon tea and purified water in stale, 80-degree hotel conference rooms; absorbed a lot of industry knowledge laced with a touch of trademark self-importance; stayed out way too late every night in crowded reggae clubs; and tried in vain to sleep in a frigid hotel room with snoring coworkers.

Talk about exhausting. It was a lot of fun to meet the denizens of Alaska's alternative press, including the folks ofInsurgent 49 and The Ester Republic. Through it all I only really got out once, on Saturday, for an eight or nine-mile run along the coastal trail and the perimeter of the city. That small tour of Anchorage made me feel more homesick than I have since Chr…

Racing twilight

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Date: April 5
Mileage: 17
April Mileage: 53
Temperature upon departure: 37

I'm going to be on hiatus for a few days here so I can go up to Anchorage and hobnob with real journalists during the Press Club conference. The bikes are staying home, too, which means I'm going to have to spend the weekend sucking in those city fumes and making a mockery of running with my 10-minute miles. Maybe I'll get lucky and the hotel will have a fitness center. Maybe I can even challenge my boss to a treadmill race.

On second thought ... scratch that. But one thing's for sure - I do need to start thinking about training again if I am going to attempt any major summer events. I can't believe there's less than two months until June! I still leave the house every morning in the shadow of massive banks of snow. The old-timers tell me the spring thaw will wipe it out quick, but, really ... I'll believe it when I see it. For now, I feel pretty confident in my belief that I am currently…

I used to be better at my job

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Date: April 4
Mileage: 31
April Mileage: 36
Temperature upon departure: 41

Had one of those long, frustrating, hectic days at work that buzzed by before I ever looked up at the clock. I came home, ate because I felt a little hungry, and headed out on Roadie. At first I put the bike on top of my car, but when I couldn't get out of my driveway due to shin-deep slush, I just saddled up and rode my bike from my house - slush, mud, gaping potholes on all. I should do cyclocross.

I had a great ride, and I was amazed how little traffic there was. There didn't seem to be a car on the road. When I finally completed the climb back home, I found out why - it was 9 p.m. I don't care what people say. I love Daylight Savings Time.

Also, today I found out I won an award from the Alaska Press Club! I wanted to thank Mary for leaving a comment to inform me of this. Turns out I won third place for "Best Layout and Page Design" for a page I designed back in November called "Hanging …

Turtle

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My coworker took these pictures of Geoff making the transition from foot to bike - that smirk on Geoff's face is his reaction to all the cheering he received because he was the first runner in. I got my triathlon results today. I jogged the 5K in 31 minutes (I expected as much.) I climbed the 7.5K mountain bike leg in 29 minutes (at least that time was in the top half of all competitors, which I think is not bad for racing at my "commuter" speed), and finished the 5K ski in a dismal 41 minutes. There was only one guy in the entire race that skied slower. Judging by the amount of time I spent on the ground, I'm guessing that guy broke something.

This winter has been my first experiment with regimented exercise - training if you will - and I am definitely learning something about my physical inclinations. Geoff has been blessed with the enviable talent of both speed and endless endurance. I, unfortunately, will never have speed. But I do believe that endurance is within…

Triathlete

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Date: April 2
Mileage: About 5
April Mileage: 5
Temperature upon departure: 35

Today I raced the Homer Sea to Ski Triathlon.

Ok. Maybe "raced" is a bit of a stretch. While fighting off wind exhaustion and sore calves from yesterday's "out in the weather" camping marathon, I jogged a 5K, pedaled a pretty decent 7.5K mountain bike climb and - while still spectacularly awful - did manage to get through a 5K cross-country ski without stabbing myself with a ski pole.

But the important thing is, I completed my first triathlon. Which (I think) makes me a triathlete. Never mind my general disdain of running, the fact that climbing is my weakest link as a cyclist, or my stunning inability to stay vertical on a pair of skis. I am Ironwoman.

Geoff and I decided to do it on a lark. It was a sprint event after all, so there wasn't too much worry about not finishing or hobbling to the end. Plus, today was a beautiful day. And, according to current forecasts, it may be the only …

April fools

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April came around and Geoff and I finally got around to going winter camping. It was pretty cool. By that, I mean it wasn't a disaster. By that, I mean it wasn't a spectacular disaster.

We left for Caribou Lake in a raging snowstorm - him on skis and dragging what turned out to be a very study sled setup, me slogging behind on snowshoes and carrying what wouldn't fit in the sled on my back. We hiked into the wilderness about five miles on Friday and set up camp a little ways off the trail. I took off my snowshoes and instantly sank up to my crotch. It was all snowshoes all the time from that moment on.

We built a fire that provided warmth only in that it needed to be fed constantly with the thin, wet spruce branches we were trying to burn - so we had to do a lot of hiking, sawing, hauling, repeat. We began cooking dinner before we realized that we forgot to bring any silverware, so we had to eat this thin, soupy vegetable mixture in tortillas - slopping half our dinner over …