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Showing posts from July, 2007

Pugsley is here

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Date: July 30
Mileage: 25.1
July mileage: 832.1
Temperature upon departure: 53
Inches of rain today: 0.30"

This frame actually arrived a few days ago. I originally thought I was going to mull it over a while before deciding whether I really wanted a Pugsley or a Wildfire or another beefy bike. But then I found a good deal on a 16" gray model, and I snatched it up quickly because I am not interested in riding anything that's the color of fermented grape Koolaid. However, since it showed up, I seem to be having delayed onset of joy.

There may be two reasons for that. First, a bit of knee relapse has me questioning the wisdom of training all winter long. Second, I started dismantling Snaux Bike to cannibalize some parts and unload others. Yesterday I wrapped up the SnowCat wheels in a box bound for Colorado. Now Snaux Bike is no longer a snow bike. He's just something useless ... broken ... and there's sadness in that. Bringing Pugsley into the house is a bit like having …

Urban trailriding

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Date: July 29
Mileage: 14.1
July mileage: 807.0
Temperature upon departure: 65
Inches of rain today: 0.04"

Living in Juneau has not done wonders for my progression as a mountain biker. I have finally come to terms with the reality that the best option for workweek trailriding is to tootle around on the Mendenhall Valley trail system. I am the first to admit that I don't mind riding loops, but there is something about weaving a tight grid in a small area that is vaguely ... suffocating. As such, I don't feel compelled to take out the mountain bike nearly as often as I should. So my technical skill-building suffers, therefore my handling suffers, therefore my confidence suffers. Plus, the combination of fairly little elevation gain with root-choked trail means it's nearly impossible to get a good workout on a mountain bike.

But it is fun, just the same. It reminds me of motorcycling with my dad as a small child. He would sling me over the seat of his dirt bike and I would cla…

Savoring sunset

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What to do with a gimpy knee day? A friend of a friend is in town from D.C., and we have been trying to help her along the fast track tour of everything Juneau. Wednesday night it was dancing at The Alaskan with the rockabilly sounds and Janet Jackson costumes of the Glorious Youth Parade. After the show, several dozen spectators poured into the street with donated hula-hoops, swiveling the after hours away in some kind of strange Alaska-flavored luau. Today we promised her a good hike, but she is too gimpy herself (with a sprained ankle) to do much walking. She stayed in town, but the two Geoffs and I still went. Today we hit Sheep Creek trail, another new one for me.

I discovered the trail is actually a delicious stretch of grass-covered singletrack, hidden deep in a beautiful highland meadow. The only catch? Getting a bike up there would require a gruelling 3/4-mile hike-a-bike that really redefines hike-a-bike (meaning, you'd probably have to put the bike on your back as you s…

Cut my ride short

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Date: July 26
Mileage: 99.4
July mileage: 792.9
Temperature upon departure: 54
Inches of rain today: 0.01"

I'm feeling a little bummed right now. It's the kind of creeping guilt I usually feel when I intend to get up and do something active first thing in the morning, but instead muddle around for several hours with back issues of the New Yorker and handfuls of Honey Nut Cheerios. It's the kind of remorse I feel when I realize I just watched an entire sunset from the narrow screen of a digital camera viewfinder. It curls the edges of my memory until the only image I see are the bold-type words, "Could Have." It's regret. Not the way I usually feel after bashing out nearly 100 miles.

I had big plans today. Twelve hours of big plans, and lasted through about half that. The regret comes from the fact that I had everything in line. I was feeling strong, and eating well, and finding plenty of water despite having only one water bottle - meaning I wasn't wearing…

Seriously, why?

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Date: July 25
Mileage: 15.1
July mileage: 693.5
Temperature upon departure: 65
Inches of rain today: 0.01"

Despite the cycling nature of this blog, I was not going to post about the Tour de France because well, I don’t watch the Tour de France. But I do read newspapers. And after yet another day of being inundated by dopers in the headlines, I have to say ... sad. Just sad.

As a member of the nonviewing general public, I am probably not qualified to comment. I've actually never followed the tour because I don’t find much personal entertainment in it. I tend to identify more closely with dog mushers and adventure racers than I do with skinny Europeans all hopped up on other peoples’ blood. I do admire fast pedaling as much as the next cyclist. But ... if the pros are all dirty, if they’re really all dirty (and why would I, a member of the nonviewing general public, have any reason to believe they’re not?) ... then what’s the point? Why not build a bunch of cycling robots and watch t…

Happy Pioneer Day

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Date: July 24
Mileage: 35.4
July mileage: 678.4
Temperature upon departure: 58
Inches of rain today: 0.02"

That's right. Pioneer Day. In most states, people couldn't even tell you the specific dates on which their respective state holidays fall (isn't Alaska Day in October sometime?) But in Utah, July 24 is second only to Christmas.

Everyone comes out of the woodwork to celebrate the day, 160 years ago today, that Brigham Young and his motley band of American dissidents trudged over a mountain pass, looked out across the cracked-mud valley surrounding a giant dead lake, and said, "Well, I'm sure no one's going to kick us out of this place." (A quote later aesthetically revised to "This is the place," which looked better on T-shirts.) Thus, Salt Lake City was born.

Among that crew were my great-great-and-so-forth-grandparents. I've always been proud of my Mormon pioneer heritage. I like to believe that the same adventuring spirit and irrational…

Is there enough?

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Date: July 22
Mileage: 43.3
July mileage: 643.0
Temperature upon departure: 61
Inches of rain today: .87"

I had a good session at the gym today - some heavy lifting and hard maximum-heart-rate intervals on the elliptical machine. Just 90 minutes and I feel sore. Always a good sign.

I am trying to weigh some knee fears against a desire to "peak" this week. What am a trying to peak for? Nothing, really. A long weekend. A vacation. A road ride in August. It will probably be the hardest single ride I've attempted to date.

I want to be in good shape for this thing because I don't think I'll be able to fake it. I want to ride the broken loop between Haines and Skagway in a 48-hour "overnight" ride. It's about 360 miles of rough pavement and stretches of gravel, mostly in northern Canada. I believe that the sketchy road conditions, remoteness of the area and climbing will make it more akin to a smooth mountain bike ride - sorta like parts of the Great Divide…

BIG Wheels!

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From left to right are my oldest set of wheels to my newest. Notice the progression of girth over time. I am now about as fat as you can get. And I gotta say, it's a lot more fun to gain fat than it is to lose it.

Date: July 21
Mileage: 25.1
July mileage: 599.7
Temperature upon departure: 56
Inches of rain today: .17"

Shortly after I hung up the phone upon learning that Geoff had won his big race this morning, I hauled my touring bike up the stairs only to see a big cardboard box waiting at the top. It had my name on it! I tossed my bike aside and raced down the steps with the package, tearing the tape to shreds with the first knife I found. When I looked inside, I squealed. Out loud. Like a 4-year-old girl at a princess party.

The box held the wheels that I impulse-bought on eBay on the Fourth of July. On July 3, I received an unexpected federal tax return in the mail. The next day, I won the bid for wheels that I had been drooling over for seven days. The final price - exactly 63 …

Geoff won Crow Pass!

Geoff just called me from Eagle River, letting me know that he took first in the Crow Pass Crossing (26-mile wilderness marathon with sketchy technical trail, a climb over a 3,800-foot pass, and a glacier river crossing) with a time of three hours and seven minutes. This is Geoff's demon race, the one he wanted the most, so his winning it is very exciting. He said he lost several minutes during the race when he crossed the path of a mother bear and cub. The cub scurried away while the mother stood just off the trail huffing and grunting. He couldn't pass so he said he took advantage of the situation to "take a quick break and eat a Gu." I think eating a Gu is the last thing I'd do if an angry mama bear was huffing at me, but it's a good illustration of just how focused Geoff gets in these races.

He's taking a quick break and the Eagle River visitor's center, and then he's going to drive back to Hope with Pete and hang out and ride with other mounta…

All to myself

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Date: July 20
Mileage: 13.5
July mileage: 574.6
Temperature upon departure: 51
Inches of rain today: .63"

Geoff is out of town for the weekend, which means I get to watch trashy movies like "Smokin' Aces" and eat cereal right out of the box - as a meal! It also means that after a few hours, I am going to feel like a brain-dead blob in need of some sort of nourishment.

But I definitely picked the right day of the weekend for a long ride. It rained pretty much nonstop today and the temperature I think dropped into the 40s at one point. Brrr. But then I got to thinking - if I don't really want to be out in that, probably nobody wants to be out in that.

So I set out for an evening recovery ride on the most popular trail in town - the Perseverance Trail. The trail can be a mob scene on sunny days and lined with iPod-wearing oblivious joggers even on wet days. But for some reason, it was completely deserted this evening. I guess it's because, even though I think of Frida…

Fire it up

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Date: July 19
Mileage: 108.7
July mileage: 561.1
Temperature upon departure: 68
Inches of rain today: .11"

The weather started out beautiful today and tiptoed toward crappy - so slowly that I didn't even notice until the headwind I was plowing into finally reached that breath-stealing threshold and the rain drops arched into horizontal daggers. But, surprisingly, my long ride today followed nearly the opposite progression.

Not that the ride wasn't chock full of suffering. There was plenty of that. I felt like I spent the entire day perpetually on the front end of a bonk. It reminded me of the month I continued to drive my '89 Tercel after one of its cylinders burned out. The car began to guzzle gas at the rate of a monster truck, but no matter how much I floored it, I could barely coax it up the babiest of baby hills. That was me today. I was the three-cylinder Toyota.

Twice today I was determined to quit. And each time I would stop, take a long break, and stuff food down my…

Gastineau Peak

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Date: July 18
Mileage: 5.1
July mileage: 452.4
Temperature upon departure: 65
Inches of rain today: o"

Today I hiked to Gastineau Peak, elevation 3,666 feet. I was gunning for Mount Roberts, but I had no idea that the trek to Gastineau and back was a 9-mile endeavour in itself. The extra two miles to Roberts was a little too much to ask of my Wednesday-morning window.

I would like to make it to both peaks one of these days, but it may be a while before I attempt this trail again. It was a beautiful day with stunning views, but I was just not feeling the Mount Roberts trail love. The lower stretch of the Basin Road access trail was lined with sketchy homeless camps - syringes, used condoms, everything. I had to sidestep a sleeping body when I accidentally wandered off trail on one of the footpaths, and that is never fun.

After that unpleasant stretch, all was quiet until mid-mountain, which was mobbed with all manner of tourists fresh off the tram. Huge, denim-clad groups clogged up the …

Climbing priorities

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Date: July 17
Mileage: 35.5
July mileage: 447.3
Temperature upon departure: 62
Inches of rain yesterday and today: 1.09"

My aim for the past two weeks has been to trust my knee and attempt more strenuous, lung-burning workouts. Today my plan was to climb up to Eaglecrest Ski Resort at the tail-end of a 35-mile ride. I shed my usual "As Fast As I Can" goal for something more tangible - keeping the odometer above 7.5 mph at all times. Sounds slow, right? It was an all-out, red-zone effort on some of the pitches.

But what struck me most about the ride was how anticlimactic the descent was. I was coasting at 40 mph, on constant lookout for gravel patches, porcupine and deer, with instant death lurking around every corner ... and I was feeling involuntarily relaxed, and a bit dazed, like one might before laying down for a nap. In short, I was coming down.

When I was 7 years old, bicycling was all about the descents. One of my best friends lived at the bottom of a steep cul-de-sac. …

Gasping for breath

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Date: July 15
Mileage: 10.5
July mileage: 411.8
Temperature upon departure: 66
Inches of rain today: Trace

I completely blew up on a climb today. Imploded. I was following Geoff up the Salmon Creek trail, the first part where you really have to take the full brunt of an average Juneau slope, mashing my pedals and promising myself that I would ride the entire climb. The dark shadows crept along my peripheral vision, and that was OK; the red dots starting shooting across my line of sight, and that was OK; the gasps and whimpers started to come out involuntarily, and even that was OK - until breathing ceased to be an option. I nearly tipped over sideways before I slammed by foot down.

That was probably the furthest I've ever fought before giving into inevitable defeat. It was also a good reality check about my fitness level. I thought I'd gotten into pretty good shape since spring, but it's obvious that my lungs are nowhere near peak performance. My fear of injury continues pressur…

Maybe I will always be a tourist here

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Date: July 14
Mileage: 30.2
July mileage: 401.3
Temperature upon departure: 54
Inches of rain today: 0.08"

Saturdays are like Mondays to me, and this morning felt particularly bleak. I had planned to do a mountain bike ride regardless of the weather, but I wasn't feeling adventurous at all. I felt particularly unadventurous about the inevitable mud bath and the prospect of having to hose myself down before walking in the house to take a shower. I wanted to do something safe and mindless, something to accentuate the Monday-ness of the day. I wanted to do a two-hour ride out to the valley, a ride I have so permanently drilled into my routine that I don't even have to think out there any more.

I always take a short break at the Glacier Visitors Center, which has a real bathroom and an outdoor drinking fountain - a dream pit stop. It also has hordes of cruise ship tourists who are bused there in steady streams on any given day. The crowds used to bother me, but I have learned to mo…

Fish Friday

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Two tasty silvers today. We landed them and a pink salmon in a flurry of activity that lasted less than an hour. Brian let me fight them all into the boat. The big guy wrapped the line around the engine, which Brian untangled in an impossibly quick feat of logic while I clutched the reel to prevent the fish from gaining any more leverage. The next two hit right away, bam bam, as a half dozen boats swarmed closer to what everyone hoped was a huge school of salmon. I reeled and danced around Brian who was juggling the net and the fish skull basher and at one point knives, as the boats closed in and wake kicked up and the sea swirled in a vortex of incongruous activity.

Then, just like that, all was quiet again. My heart was pounding, and I sat back down in a bit of a stupor, not really knowing what to do with myself or what would come next. Fishing is really nothing like cycling, which has a fluidity to it ... a continuous movement that ebbs and flows and eventually finds its even pace…

Soggy century

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Date: July 12
Mileage: 101.8
July mileage: 371.1
Temperature upon departure: 57
Inches of rain today: 0.47"

Sometimes I look at the weather forecast and think, "Might as well go for a ride now, because it's probably not going to get any better," without taking into account the fact that it couldn't get a whole lot worse, either. But I am Jill in Juneau and I need to learn to ride in the rain and like it. So I set out in a storm precipitating at a rate of about .25" per hour, wearing my most non-breathable plastic clothing, knowing full well that I could be asking for a 100-mile-long cold shower.

The rain tapered off for most of the first half of the ride, and I thought I was in the clear. I even took off my body tarp. But all the fog north of the city set the stage for the kind of solid downpour I imagine is only possible in a rain forest. Sheets of rain pounded my back. I could only look straight down because raindrops would blind me every time I looked up. I co…

Searching for the cave

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Date: July 11
Mileage: 25.1
July mileage: 269.3
Temperature upon departure: 54
Inches of rain today: 0.61"

I didn't have much time to ride today. But my knee felt stronger than usual, my legs felt fresh, and I thought it was about time I go out in search of the pain cave.

When I lived in Homer, the pain cave was not a hard place to find. With a 1,200-foot monster to tackle just to commute home from work, I was practically guaranteed a daily visit. Big climbs in Juneau are further from home, and I haven't been strong enough lately to take them with any sort of gusto. Reaching the pain cave on flats is even harder. Without resistance, riding at sea level, my lungs can outlast my legs almost any day, until I'm pumping deadly levels of lactic acid but still breathing with relative ease.

But today had the perfect combination of fresh legs, strong knee and decently fierce headwinds out on North Douglas Highway. I notched up the shifters, amped up the RPMs, and shot across the slic…

Rain days are here to stay

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I was hoping to hit another mountain top today or tomorrow, but the weather forecast is not looking good. It's true when they say Juneau only has two seasons ... Rainy and June. Now that June is over, I have a long season of tolerance-building ahead.

Today was a day for the gym, which I like to speak of disdainfully, but I really get a lot of benefit out of it. There's really no better way to train with weight resistance and build specific muscles that ideally will keep injury at bay. I plan to keep going at least once a week - if nothing else, to recoup some of that membership I bought during a panic attack back in April.

Rainy Season also is a good time for retail therapy. I turned to retail therapy back when I was injured and not cycling, and bought a lot of dumb stuff - like clipless pedals and short-sleeved bicycle jerseys. But my new string of purchases may prove to be a lot more rewarding. I recently received a check from the federal government that I wasn't expecting…

Not pretty

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Date: July 9
Mileage: 38.2
July mileage: 244.2
Temperature upon departure: 51

The day started out so well. Drizzling rain tapered off early. I rode a light tailwind out to the valley and managed some strong intervals on the Glacier spur road. Mileage increased rapidly, and just as I was thinking “this whole summer cycling thing is way too easy,” the brunt of the storm blew in.

It was the kind of storm that earns its own regional designation. I think in Juneau they’re called "Taku Blasts" or something equally ominous. But no matter where you are, these storms always feel the same to a cyclist - headwinds that suck the air out of your lungs, sideways rain that could pierce a helmet, and an unexpected drop in temperature. I fought the storm like an outnumbered conquistador all the way home, knowing defeat was imminent because I was going to have to maintain my early pace just to make it to work on time.

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror after a ride like this? I try not to, …

Baby fireweed

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Date: July 8
Mileage: 25.1
July mileage: 206.0
Temperature upon departure: 54

The Fireweed 400 wrapped up this weekend. Geoff crinkled his face as I read him the results. "Who would want to ride on a road for 400 miles?" he asked. I would! I'm pretty bummed I couldn't get healthy in time to train and plan for this ride. I thought in passing a week ago about buying a plane ticket just so I could go out there and try to survive it, but I shed the thought pretty quickly. Luckily. But still I wonder ... how would it feel to be completely wrecked right now? Even if I ended up sprawled on the finish line, drooling and moaning, it would still feel so great to go full-bore into something and not worry about long-term consequences. Of course I would, though. That's why I'm not there.

As it is, I'm still trying to limit my recreational riding to four days a week, tops. It helps me avoid repetitive-motion flare-ups, and also build strength through other activities. I'…

Return to cripple valley

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I did a great hike today with friends on the Dan Moller trail. As we ambled up the long and narrow strip of wooden planks, the seasons changed with each mile. The full bloom of summer faded into the stunted grass of late spring, which regressed into the skunk cabbage and mud of early spring. By the time we reached the cabin, we were clawing through petrified snow drifts. Somewhere beyond there, winter still lingers. But no matter where I am on the Dan Moller trail, winter is all I see.

The Dan Moller trail is one of those places that represents an abrupt hiccup in my life. For some reason, the remnants of emotions and memories from most of my personal upheavals come to rest on very specific places. There's a park in Salt Lake City that I couldn't bear to walk through for years after one of my first boyfriends broke up with me. My early frustrations with Juneau always come flooding back when I pass Mendenhall Lake campsite No. 5. And now, I can't walk up the Dan Moller trail…

Thinking about heat

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Date: July 6
Mileage: 89.2
July mileage: 91.7
Temperature upon departure: 57

Before leaving for my ride this morning, I put all of my handlebar bag gear in a little pile ... Nutrigrain Bar, Clif Bar, camera, extra wool socks and mittens. "Mittens," Geoff said. "It's July! You don't need mittens."

I pointed out that it was raining from the large bucket outside. "Once I get wet," I said, "my hands and feet are going to be cold. I don't care if its nearly 60."

As I set out into the downpour, I did have to pedal hard early on to generate heat. As I was doing this, I thought about Utah. Geoff told me that the state hit its all-time high yesterday, in St. George, with a 117-degree scorcher. It took me back to a ride I did in July 2002, when Salt Lake hit what was at that time its all-time high, 107. I decided to pedal to my parents' house in Sandy, which was less than 20 miles from my college commune. I set out with what I though was a reaso…

No fish

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Today I spent seven hours in a boat with a fishing line dangling in the water, but I only caught one fish. People in Alaska would call it a "baby halibut." People in Utah would call it a "big, ugly fish." We threw him back. Then, even with a cyclical catalog of boppin' 60s hits blasting over the satellite radio, the ocean gods never smiled on us again.

My co-worker Brian was nice enough to invite me on his day out on the boat. He spends his summers stocking and restocking the freezers of his entire extended family, and he was flabbergasted at the idea of no fish, no fish at all. I always bought into the idea that just by showing up in Alaska and making some attempt to tie a herring to a line and then place it in the water, you were all but guaranteed to catch a fish. If that is true, it must be more of a Homer thing, because I've never had any luck in Juneau. And as the afternoon wore on and my dream of gorging myself with halibut meat for dinner quickly fad…

Everyone loves a parade

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Date: July 4
Mileage: 30.1
July mileage: 91.7
Temperature upon departure: 61

As the parade moved south, I pedalled north. A congestion of cars spilled out across the bridge and oozed ever so slowly beside me. Blanket and umbrella-wielding pedestrians poured over the pavement for festivities being held more than two miles away. I could still smell bonfire in my hair and I was having a hard time blinking the steady drizzle from my sleep-crusted eyes ... but I pitied them more. No one likes to be lost in a crowd.

I rode out here, north Douglas Island, into the eerily quiet afternoon. It seems Juneau is never silent in the summer, but July 4 must be the all-consuming holiday in this town. Traffic disappeared, people vanished, and even the bridge across Fish Creek - which is now choked with king salmon - was devoid of anglers tromping along the street in their waders. It was empty ... winterlike ... lonely. After I turned to head south again, I couldn't resist the pull.

The line of cars had …

After midnight

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Date: July 3
Mileage: 23.4
July mileage: 61.6
Temperature upon departure: 70

In Juneau, the July 4 fireworks are dark-permitting, not weather-permitting.

So we get our kicks real early.

Happy New Year ... er ... Independence Day, everyone.