Showing posts from 2007

Happy New Year

This is one of my favorite photos I took in 2007 ... serendipitously captured while I was wandering lost in the woods below Heinzleman Ridge in September. I like the way the beams of light slice through some shadows and slip behind others. I like the intense illumination on that single bush in the center. And I like the context ... the first streaks of sunlight to cut through the fog. Everything below here was shrouded in a thick cloud. Everything above was glaring and clear. But for these few steps in my meandering search for a trail, the two worlds collided, perfectly.

New Year's is a good time to write a reflective year-in-review blog post. Here's mine.

January: The holidays. January became consumed by my training for the Susitna 100. It was a fun month because nearly everything I did had some connection to cycling. I spent my mornings plowing through snow drifts and skirting icy roads. I wandered into work with wind-burnt skin and more times than not, a huge smile spread acr…


There's something underrated, and yet subtly satisfying, about putting on a pair of shoes, stepping out the front door, and going for a walk. There seems to be an cultural perception that it is difficult to have a good time outdoors without strapping oneself to some sort of toy. I definitely buy into this idea, what with my penchant for dragging and hoisting my bicycle over every near-unrideable trail I can find. The temptation to bring a toy on my walk today was nearly overwhelming. "I can bring my bicycle," I thought, "and only ride it downhill." But even downhill snowbiking involves a fair amount of pedaling, and I am trying to cut back on the deep bending of my left knee for the time being. Then, I thought about carrying my snowboard. But if cycling is bad for my knee right now, then snowboarding most definitely is. So, almost grudgingly, I strapped on my snowshoes (which could be considered a toy, but I like to think of them as a "walking aid"). …

My year in miles

Date: Dec. 29
Mileage: 14.4
Hours: 1:30
December mileage: 710.3
Temperature upon departure: 28
Precipitation: 4"

When I break down my 2007 miles by month, I realize I've had a fairly inconsistent year:

January: 893.4
February: 361.1
March: 14.4
April: 25.3
May: 168.9
June: 598.2
July: 874.6
August: 1,009.1
September: 475.6
October: 648.1
November: 793
December: 710.3

What surprised me is the total: 6,572 miles. That's still about 1,000 more than last year, despite a three-month period between mid-February and mid-May in which I essentially did not ride a bicycle. Looking back on my year of riding, I'd say the "most challenging" month was January. The "most fun" month was August. The "most eye-opening" month was February.

Cycling hasn't been the same since February. I'm beginning to understand that it never will be be the same. When my right knee locked up on me in February, I began to realize how precariously close I am, all the time, to not being ab…

Ten hours in photos

Date: Dec. 27
Mileage: 111.5
Hours: 10:00
December mileage: 694.9
Temperature upon departure: 38
Precipitation: 0"

I had a good ride today - first of the winter to break double-digit hours and triple-digit miles. I felt really strong except for two small things. But more on that later. Now, for my weekly photo essay:

8:30 a.m.: My only big wildlife sighting of the day: phosphorescent deer.

9:30 a.m.: North Douglas. I was again disappointed by the lack of sunrise.

10:30 a.m.: Looking toward West Juneau. After two hours of riding, my house is in that shot somewhere.

11:30 a.m.: Obligatory glacier shot.

12:30 p.m.: Auke Rec.

1:30 p.m.: Basking in the 30 minutes of sunlight that reached me today. I could see sunlight on the mountain tops for most of this "mostly cloudy" day, but the sun was always too low on the horizon for any light to touch the ground.

2:30 p.m.: A dirty-looking sunset way out toward the end of the road. This "increasing daylight" thing is happening way to s…

"The point of snow sports is hot chocolate"

Date: Dec. 25
Mileage: 30.4
Hours: 2:30
December mileage: 583.4
Temperature upon departure: 36
Precipitation: .31"

Geoff was on NPR today!

It has been really interesting to listen to the feedback Geoff and I have received since we decided to enter the Iditarod Trail Invitational. We've heard a fair amount of commentary, not only from friends and family, but also from strangers - radio personalities, marathon runners, people who blog in Ajax, Ontario. The general reaction is “They’re crazy. They’re going to hurt themselves out there.” And yet no one has stepped in and tried to stop us. Instead, we receive an abundance of encouragement and advice. I think nearly everyone who stumbles across our story has some understanding of how it feels to aspire to something so extreme, it all but promises both the depths of suffering and the apex of joy. If they had no comprehension of that feeling, they simply wouldn’t care.

One aspect of this race that is incomprehensible to nearly everyone is ho…

Hints of Christmas

Date: Dec. 23 and 24
Mileage: 30.2 and 25.1
Hours: 2:30 and 1:40
December mileage: 553.0
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 34
Rainfall: .11"

This is the third year in a row that I haven't been home for the holidays. Instead, I work right through them ... Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, all that time lingering among the ghost crew at the office while the people with priorities, the people with families, disappear into warm-looking homes. Geoff and I don't make a big deal out of Christmas (we don't even exchange gifts), and the rest of my Alaska family is comprised of two cats who only understand that this is a dark and foreboding time of year. Our good friends, who are Jewish, took pity on us and organized a potluck tonight. We will be joining a few other holiday orphans for a Christmas Eve dinner of mac 'n cheese, salad, and if I am lucky, some kind of fudge.

My lifestyle has evolved such that Christmas sneaks up very quietly, hiccups quickly…

Toward the light

Well, the winter solstice has come and gone. The days are growing longer now. For the first time in months, we have physical evidence that summer will in fact return again, someday. Alaskans always seem a bit more reflective this time of year. It may have to do with the calendar turning over yet another notch, or the stress-fueled holiday season nearing its climax, but I think a lot of this reflection has to do with the irresistible pull of darkness that draws us inward. I even uploaded the music mix I made specifically for the 2007 Susitna 100 to my iPod, filled with several songs I haven't listened to since. Music never fails to evoke vivid images, and today I found myself so swept up in a mindscape of spindly spruce and snowy expanses that I actually startled myself when I snapped back to the image of my reflection clutching a 15-pound barbell in the gym's mirror. These "race" memories are so valuable to me. I feel like no matter how I perceive my accomplishments …

Nine hours in photos

Date: Dec. 20
Mileage: 68.4
Hours: 9:00
December mileage: 507.7
Temperature upon departure: 19
Snowfall: 2"

So I hijacked the one-hour-one-photo idea again, because it can be difficult to come out of a nine-hour ride and write anything intelligent about it. Especially a ride like today's. It was relentless. Lots of trail riding on foot-packed (or unpacked) singletrack, lots of climbing and technical descents, lots of fighting loose powder and tweaking all the muscles I've failed to build. The kind of ride that makes you earn every single inch. Snow fell for most of the day. They recorded two inches near my house, but six or more fell out in the Valley, where I spent most of the day. This was probably the toughest single "non-race" ride I've done this year, and I include in that assessment any segment of my 48-hour, 370-mile trek around the Golden Circle. 68 miles in nine hours. This is my reality.

8 a.m., West Juneau. Hitting the road before dawn. Today was the da…

Another great day for a ride

Date: Dec. 19
Mileage: 10.3
Hours: 2:00
December mileage: 439.3
Temperature upon departure: 16
Snowfall: 0"

I was supposed to go to the gym this morning. I've had a hard time getting in my twice-weekly weight lifting as it is, and I told myself I wasn't going to neglect it any longer. But when I woke up this morning to the blaze of blue sky and hints of sun on the horizon for the first time in, well, it seems like weeks - I had to get out. I decided I would go for a hike. And as long as I'm hiking, I might as well take my bike for a walk.

So it was another day of walk-up, ride-down, just like the handful of skiers I passed. Several inches of new snow and powder-stirring snowmobile use put the trail in considerably worse condition than yesterday. It was hard to gain any traction, uphill or down, and there was lots of fishtailing and lots of meetings with snowmobiles. Everyone was out enjoying the sun. Still, it was worth it just for the views. And it was worth it the hints of…

Downhill freestylin

Date: Dec. 18
Mileage: 15.1
Hours: 2:30
December mileage: 429.0
Temperature upon departure: 25
Snowfall: 1"

I had four miles to lose nearly 2,000 feet of elevation. I was standing thigh-deep in a posthole I accidentally punched through a thick bank of powder. Ahead of me, a faint snowmobile trail rolled across the otherwise pristine snow of a mountain meadow before plummeting over a horizon line into certain oblivion.

If somebody had informed me right then that within 20 minutes I would be back at sea level, spitting gravel off my back wheel and making a turn toward Sandy Beach, I would have never believed them. It had taken me well over an hour just to push to that point, mostly on foot. Despite the hike, I was amazed how much terrain I was able to ride. It was the first time I had taken Pugsley on a real snow ride - not just a ride on a trail covered in snow, but a ride on a trail made of snow. At the trailhead, I deflated the tires to 10 psi and was soon floating over packed powder a…

On commuting

Date: Dec. 17
Mileage: 7
Hours: 35 min. (plus two hours gym)
December mileage: 413.9
Temperature upon departure: 30
Snowfall: 2"

I rode my bike to work today.

Contrary to my aspirations, I rarely bike commute to work. I use my bike for nearly everything else. If fact, going to work is one of the few situations in which I use my car these days. There are a few reasons for this. One, it makes it much easier to show up at the office looking “presentable.” Two, driving allows me to go home during my dinner break, which is about the only time I see Geoff during the workweek. Three, my commute is short - 7 miles round trip - which makes it more difficult for me to get motivated about suiting up after I’ve already taken a shower following my regular training ride, packing something clean to wear, packing myself something to eat for dinner and riding to work, just to save two gallons of gas per week (which is how much gas I use if I drive back and forth to my office twice each day.) Four, all o…


Date: Dec. 16
Mileage: 31.1
Hours: 2:45
December mileage: 406.9
Temperature upon departure: 35
Precipitation: .03"

I did quite a bit of Internet research tonight regarding my travel/training options for this winter, and I've drawn the conclusion that I am officially trapped in Juneau until Feb. 21, 2008. People who advocate building a road that connects Juneau with the real world said the state ferry system was useless, but I didn't know they meant it. I even agreed to work Christmas and New Years just to cash in on a four-day weekend in early January, only to discover I might find one boat to Skagway during that period, but I wouldn't be able to return until sometime in 2010.

I briefly considered a flight to Fairbanks, but for what it would cost, I'd probably be better off buying some wool base layers and a pair of waterproof pants that don't have duct-tape patches across the backside. It's a bit frustrating because I had this whole "cold-weather" cycl…

A little bit SAD

Date: Dec. 14 and 15
Mileage: 33.4 and 31
Hours: 3:00 and 3:00
December mileage: 375.8
Temperature upon departure: 36 and 35
Precipitation: .54"

I think just about every Alaskan - at least once during the winter - experiences a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a depressive condition cause not by cold, but by lack of sunlight. Here in Juneau, we have a more daylight than points north of here, but it is arguable we see even less sunlight. As solstice nears, with the low sun barely scraping above the peaks of Admiralty Island and a thick, thick cloud cover refusing to budge, Juneau appears to be locked in perpetual twilight - like the Arctic Circle, but without the long sunsets.

Darkness takes its toll. I love winter and spend a fair amount of time outside, so SAD has never hit me that hard. But when it does, I know exactly what's happening. I sense it in the morning, when I wake up with an enduring junk fatigue - not the satisfying fatigue that one feels when returning…