Friday, December 21, 2007

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 day before the shortest day of the year.

9 a.m., Sandy Beach. I did a few laps around the trails to warm up for all the snow I hoped to plow over today. Sunrise's failure to make an appearance was a disappointment. I realized the day would end up toward the stormy side of the forecast.

10 a.m., Perseverance Trail. Climbing 20-degree pitches over peoples' footprints really helped this trail live up to its name. I hoped to go all the way to the end, but about halfway up I hit this massive landslide that completely blocks the trail. I scouted for a bit out of curiosity and could find no way around it, and it doesn't look like anyone has tried. Seems like a small disaster for the most popular trail in town.

11 a.m., Salmon Creek. Another tough climb. I'm already beginning to feel it, and the day isn't even half over.

Noon, Mendenhall Lake. I sought refuge beneath an iceberg to eat my lunch. Snow was coming down hard. The lake was a fun place to ride ... about eight inches of unpacked powder over a smooth-as-glass surface. It put up a lot of resistance without being too technical. I did a few laps but didn't make any tight turns. No studs. Oh yeah.

1 p.m., West Glacier Trail. I only saw a single set of footprints in the snow that weren't mine. There were a lot of low-lying branches that kept whipping the top of my helmet, and one actually pulled me off my bike. It was crash one of three today.

2 p.m., Dredge Lake. Lots of fun riding through here. It looks like a different place beneath snow ... more closed in and tighter, like an ice maze. I began to feel like the clueless mouse trying to escape. Crash two of three came when I failed to properly negotiate a minefield of clumpy ice hidden beneath the snow.

3 p.m., Montana Creek. My fatigue really started to set in and I was maneuvering terribly at this point. The trail is as wide as a road - in fact, it is a road that's closed to full-sized vehicles. And I was all over it, fishtailing and swerving and jumping the faint canyons created by snowmobile skis. It was a mess. After crash number three, washing out my rear tire, I decided I should probably spend the rest of the ride on roads and bike paths. As it was, with six inches of new snow and a bit of sand in the shoulders, even the pavement riding was strenuous and slippery.

4 p.m., somewhere in the Mendenhall Valley with my genius water system. So I mentioned yesterday that I wasn't going to carry a Camelbak. I got a new nozzle to replace the one I lost. Unlike the old one, this nozzle doesn't freeze too quickly ... but only because it leaks so much water, which then freezes like armor across any clothing it soaks. So today I filled up three water bottles and stuck one inside my coat and two in my handlebar poggies (the warmest places I could think of), figuring that if my water froze, I'd never be that far from a source (given that I was spending the whole day covering the meager winter trail system of Juneau proper.) The handlebar water stayed as toasty as my fingers ... I swear it was almost warm when I went to drink it after eight hours. The water inside my coat froze to slurpee-like consistency and the nozzle froze shut. I realize that while poggie water works wonderfully at 20 degrees, it's probably less wonderful at minus 20. I do still plan to get this Camelbak thing figured out.

6 p.m., El Sombraro. I forgot to take a 5 p.m. picture, so instead I'm ending with my friend Brian's 47th birthday bash at a Mexican restaurant. I gorged on beans, rice and a huge burrito and as well as most of Brian's birthday dessert. It pays to sit next to the birthday boy. Happy Birthday, Brian!