Showing posts from March, 2007

My 14-mile month

I feel like I'm going to be riding my bike again soon. I can't say why I feel so confident about it, especially since I have yet to obtain a proper opinion on the matter. But it just feels intuitive. It's like that time I hobbled around with undiagnosable muscle injury for a month (blood clots, probably.) One day, all of the tension just drained out. I didn't know it was over at the time, but I could feel it happening. It's more likely this time around that I've traded denial for self pity for clingy optimism. But who knows? I've been reserving strong judgement or reckless experiments for my PT appointment on April 2. And after that? I think I saw a horoscope somewhere that said April's the month to begin anew.

Today was a nice day, the first in a while, but I wasn't really able to capture any interesting pictures. The top picture was actually an attempt to photograph a bald eagle perched on a branch. But Juneau raptors are much more wily than the pe…

Big day indoors

My hair is now officially an indoor fire hazard and my eyes are sore from squinting at small pages, but other than that, I feel pretty good right now.

So I spent four hours working out indoors today. I wasn't all that bad, physically or mentally. And it didn't even turn out to be a nice day outside, so I feel like I won this small battle.

I started at the pool, noon sharp. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about pool swimming. It makes me thirsty like the land of 1,000 suns, and makes my skin and hair feel like I just got back from such a place. But it goes smoothly enough in the meantime, and there's great people watching pretty much nonstop ... because I still can't put my face in the water without taking a big draw of liquid chlorine. I still need to figure that one out.

Open swim lasts two hours, and I thought I'd try to stick in out the entire time. But at about minute 94, I was hit with a need to visit the bathroom at a degree and urgency I did not anticipate.…

Clean slate

The only exercising I did today was a 45-minute walk along the Mendenhall Lake shoreline. It was a rest day, but it seemed important to get out - if only just to look at a waterfall and snap a picture of a glacier. Thing is, there are a lot of places in Juneau to go "see." Lately, especially so on these sleet-streaked, featureless days, I seem to gravitate out here. Maybe it's the lack of contrast. Staring out across a rotting sheet of ice and wondering where it meets the sky. I spend more time looking in than out.

I've been working on changing my outlook about things. Before now, my philosophy about endurance cycling - and life in general, really - has been that if you want it, really want it, so bad that you've convinced yourself you need it, it's possible. Out of shape? No food? No water? If you had to bike that 100 miles to survive, you'd find a way to do it. Of course, I never lived by anything that extreme. But I like to operate under the delusion th…

Ode to the gym: A sonnet

Ode to the gym and its hamster machines,
Where sweat, not love, drips onto the floor.
And bleary-eyed faces, as though in a dream,
Just keep circling and circling for more.

Ode to the worker, who each day at noon,
Chips away at her unyielding routine.
Where meaning is found in a glaze of tunes,
And Fox News full blast on TV screens.

Ode to gym and the peace that I find,
With nowhere to go and nothing to see.
Read magazines till my conscience goes blind,
And circle until my legs are set free.

Hearts beat in hopeful pursuit of each run,
In static frenzy we find our own fun.

Geoff has a blog

Signs of spring 2

March snowfall: 92 inches
Season to date: 244.6

Today has been a day of weather contrasts. Sunny with fingers of warmth reaching through the air one minute, then snowing the next. It was perfect, really ... enough sunlight to perk up the sullen mood that comes from not enough sleep, but snowy enough to absolve any guilt about spending too much of the day inside.

Spring seems to be on everyone's mind. I think it's because the first signs of the season are starting to break through. Evidence of early spring in Alaska is very subtle ... even imaginary, in some cases. A sprout here, a non-raven bird there. Spring likes to keep a low profile here until it's suddenly summer, so, in the meantime, we cling to whatever clues we can find.

I remember last year, those subtle moments in which I first started to get a sense that the cold and snow would in fact not last forever. So I scrolled back, and found that the first concrete images of spring 2006 also appeared on March 26. Since this …

Cabin fever

I don't have any pictures today because I haven't been outside for a couple of days. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. And with work as busy as its been, and the rest of life as enclosed as it's becoming, I'm about ready to burst out the door in a fight-or-flight sprint from apathy.

I can't shake the feeling that if this were the era of survival-of-the-fittest, I would have already been culled from the herd. It's funny to think about life in the caveman days, wondering what would finally bring you down. Some would die in a vicious battle with a potential meal. Others would die in an arduous journey, or by accident when trying to impress a potential mate while jumping over fire. I would be the one to contract a minor injury and become the slowest in the pack by just a touch - but just enough - to fall behind when the predators came around.

I've done some more swimming in the past two days. My hair is like straw and I've been fending off a cramp in …

More avalanche photos

Sorry. I came across some photos of the recent avalanche in action, and I just had to post them for posterity. I'm actually not sure who took these photos or where they came from. They are one of those things that have been circulating in mass e-mails around town. And we identify with them and pass them on to our friends because we *almost* share a common experience.

Tonight I went with friends to see The Who's "Tommy" at the Perseverance Theatre. We were under the impression that we were going to see a local production in a small-town theater in Douglas, so we showed up thinking we'd just be able to buy tickets. They looked at us like we had twirled in wearing bed sheets and begging for free seats, but they did offer to herd us into a corner and sell us a seat if something opened up. It seemed unlikely that they'd have five extra tickets, but we persevered and they managed to wedge us into the last five seats available, even vaguely within sight of each other…


I don't start physical therapy until April 2, which means I'm on my own for another week. That hasn't proved the best place for me to be - I'm reminded of that fact each night when shots of sharp pain wake me up and some unlikely hour. Still, I'm dying to get this ball rolling. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

That's how ended up at the edge of the public pool today, blinking in a bewildered haze at the rush of swimmers crawling up and down every single lane. I arrived there a full 45 minutes later than I intended to. (That's about how long it took me to find my swimming suit, which I'm fairly certain I haven't worn once in nearly two years.) Finally, a teenage lifeguard walked up to me and explained that I could swim in a lane with someone else, as long as we kept a circular pattern. That sounded insurmountably complicated, so I pretended I forgot something in the locker room and waited in the shadows until someone get out. Appropriately…

A good day to not be riding

(Photo by Brian Wallace/Juneau Empire)

So somewhere beneath this mountain of snow is Thane Road, a favorite route of mine. The road was of course closed for avalanche control when this one came tumbling down. But I think the gunners shot off a little more than they could handle. Road crews said it would be at least 10 hours before they could clear away the 20-foot-high powder wall, and there's a whole town's worth of people who live on the wrong side of this thing. Rough.

It's crazy weather day here in Juneau. We hit the all-time seasonal snowfall record early this morning - 195 inches (the official number is measured at the airport. Where I live, on Douglas Island, we have received closer to 240 inches.) Then it switched over to rain - heavy, heavy rain. Heavy in the way that waterlogged snow sitting atop a fresh powder slab is heavy. Avalanche danger right now is an understated "extreme." Flood advisories are rampant. They even threw in a wind advisory for good m…

Patellar tendonitis

So my diagnosis has been upgraded from "angry knee" to "jumper's knee." At least this diagnosis makes a little more sense - even if it is a malady usually reserved for basketball players (and, apparently, people who can't pedal a bicycle as well as they think they can.) The bad news is my condition is at least "grade 3," which means I need to:
* Rest completely from the aggravating activity. Replace it with swimming/running in water (if pain allows).
* See a sports injury specialist/therapist who can apply sports massage techniques and advice on rehabilitation. * Accept the fact that I've basically wasted an entire month.
The doc recommended physical therapy. That sounds expensive. But I'm willing now to accept that this is a problem worth throwing money at. The fact that I've been so stingy and stubborn is one of the reasons I've lost an entire month.
Because I acquired the injury in an interesting way - riding a 100-mile snow bike ra…

Into the daylight

I believe today is the Vernal Equinox.

In the northern hemisphere, that means springtime. In Alaska, it means cold daylight.

Twelve hours now. And very soon, much more.

I've lived through exactly two Alaska winters and one Alaska summer. I may be one of the deranged few who actually enjoy winter more. Don't get me wrong. Summer holds its own joy, and its own trials. I basically stumbled through last summer. Making a major move and enduring a period of homelessness in the middle of it all didn't help. I found myself pinned between obligation and the constant crush of activity. Winter is very liberating to me. The landscape freezes over. The world slows down. And I can move freely among it.

Summer is going to be very difficult for me if I can't ride my bike. I don't say this to fish for sympathy or diminish the trials of people who are truly suffering. I'm just making a statement that I suspect is true. It's not about my life one, 10 or 20 years from now. It'…

Top o' Douglas Island

I hiked too long and too high today, and now I regret it. It was clear and calm and I was down to short sleeves in the 32-degree sunlight. Now ... swollen. I can't detect my tipping point, and I can't define my boundaries. Heaven knows I'd push them, though, even if I knew what they were.

I learned that a window of three hours will take me deep into the heart of the Douglas Island mountains. It's much further than I've ever been on my bike, because the canyon's grade increases significantly and the trail fades out into dozens of "high mark" lines. I always thought that "high marking" was the term for snowmobilers' testosterone-fueled efforts to kill themselves and all of their buddies in massive avalanches. But today I watched several snowmobiles roar up the slope before carving a graceful arc and descending in a cloud of powder. It looked wicked fun. I was jealous of them, and wishing that I had brought my snowboard with me, and at the s…

Snow walk

March snowfall in West Juneau as of 3/17: 82.2"
Season to date: 234.9"

I may have left the impression that the impact of not riding my bike and the recent deluge of mid-March snow has left me miserable. That's really not the case. I'm actually thrilled about the snow. Geoff predicts that this past storm was winter's last big gasp. With the 12 hours of daylight and temperatures threatening to creep toward 40, that may be true. Once the freeze breaks, the rain will return. Then I really will be depressed. So I'm trying to enjoy it while I can. I take a lot of snow walks. Maybe you'd like to join me today.

The above picture is my backyard. My patio table is buried in there somewhere.

This is my neighbor's house. He religiously snowblows and sands his driveway every day, methodically shooting all of that snow into neat piles that are now more than 10 feet high. Since the street itself is rarely plowed after storms, I can only deduce that all of that effort is…

Sunday link dump

I blew off a "Young Democrats" St. Patrick's Day fundraiser after work because I was too tired to function. Then I ate a big bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, and now I'm up surfing the Interweb. I thought I'd share a few good links for those who have time to kill today.

She's even more of a exhibitionist than me. But she's beautiful and amazing, and I can't help but visit her blog every day.

The other day, I guessed his weight and won a prize. The best part? It's a surprise prize.

A bunch of people have come to this blog recently in Google searches for "March Juneau Snowfall." I get all of my information from my neighbor in West Juneau, who also is an amateur meteorologist.

I like the way he races. And I like the way he thinks.

If you think I'm crazy for aspiring to long-distance winter mountain bike rides, this amazing story will confirm your suspicions.

This one reads a little more sane (but only a little.)

Juancho and I are fighting the same …


March snowfall in West Juneau as of 3/16: 77.2"
Season to date: 229.9"

Today, while Geoff skate-skied a few laps around the campground, I went for a walk on Mendenhall Lake. I made up a few haiku poems while I was out there.

They protested war Message obscured through cold glass Smiling and waving

Walking on the lake Where white is the one constant And variable
This vacant landscape Beauty that could make you cry And yet feel nothing
Mood rollercoaster
I didn't buy this ticket
I just sat in back

Just ... can't

Date: March 15 Mileage: 8.2 March mileage: 14.4 Temperature upon departure: 32 When I was 17, I wrote an editorial for my high school newspaper that I was really proud of at the time. It was our special "fitness" issue, full of exercise tips, nutritious recipes and columns about working out. And right in the middle of all that was my article, arguing - essentially - that exercising for the sake of exercising was asinine.

"We have classes to walk to and friends to visit and pickup volleyball games to join and punk shows to dance at, and you want me to wake up at 5 a.m. and go jogging? No thanks," I wrote. My point: Life was an exercise, and "exercising" was just a redundant waste of time.

I think of that article from time to time when I wonder how 17-year-old Jill would regard the fitness freak she's become. She had that idealistic slant that convinced her she would actually be able to spend her life in pursuit of intellectual and cultural enlightenment. The…

Acute angles divide my path that I have lost

March snowfall in West Juneau as of 3/14: 68.6"
Season to date: 220.8"

It seems like the snow is basically coming nonstop now. I think this makes me happy, although it’s difficult to tell. A hard seven miles on snowshoes definitely evens out my emotions for the rest of the day.

But during the hike, I felt positively giddy. I marched through the powder into the heart of Douglas Island, stripped down to bare hands, bare head and only a thin outer layer of clothing. Whenever the wind chill crept through my sweat-soaked shirt, that was my signal to work harder. One thing I’ve noticed about most Alaskans is they don’t get up very early ... or at least, they don’t get out very early. At 10 a.m., I was the first up the trail. At one point, a couple of snowshoers intercepted the path from the snowmobile trailhead, but I caught them pretty quickly. I climbed out of the woods and found myself in a bald, U-shaped bowl that really pushed the word “avalanche” into the forefront of my though…

The day I quit mountain biking

( After the four-year hiatus: Me on the White Rim trail in April 2003)
Today I made it another 90 minutes on the trainer. My Netflix DVD ended so I started it over from the beginning. I really need to get back outside soon. But since I can't quite do that yet, I thought I'd share the story of my first and nearly last time on a mountain bike.

I still remember the date - April 7, 1999. When I think of that time, I remember myself as a giggly little girl ... but in reality, I was a junior in college. Back then, I had a boyfriend who - not unlike the one I have now - was better than me at pretty much everything. But unlike the boyfriend I have now, he was either unable or unwilling to reach into that vast reserve of knowledge and teach me the ways of the great outdoors. Whenever we went snowboarding together, I would spend an entire afternoon dragging my bruised knees down whatever black-diamond slope he abandoned me on. When we went backpacking, he would laugh as I juggled my gear …


It's just my luck that the minute one Iditarod race wrapped up, another one started. This year's dogsled race is actually pretty compelling, with your favorite redneck and mine, Lance Mackey, tearing up everyone's expectations. The backlash from this is that every day I have to scroll through dozens of pictures like the one above (by Al Grillo, Associated Press) on the AP wire - sometimes lingering on them well past the point of productivity - and the images have started to show up in my dreams.

I have a strange dichotomy following me through my post-Susitna life, the one in which I'm not riding my bike at all and yet spending more time thinking about riding my bike through increasingly more difficult and more mind-bending situations. Now I can't even imagine how I'll survive another year if I don't ride the 350 Iditarod trail race to McGrath in 2008. The strange dichotomy of this is that I can't imagine how I'll survive if I do. Why must it haunt me…

Summer dreams

Daylight Savings Time always gets me dreaming about spring. Why did it have to come so early this year? We logged another 9-10 inches of snowfall today to add on to our 50 inches in March alone and 200 so far this season. That stuff stacks up and always seems to take its sweet time melting. So spring is nowhere near my horizon. Might as well dream about summer.

I think I have my 2007 endurance race season planned out. It’s a meager one for sure ... probably another trilogy this year, with a few long independent rides and maybe a mountain running race or two thrown in. The Susitna 100 has come and gone, so here are the other two:

24 Hours of Light (June 23-24?):
I know close to nothing about this race. I don’t even know exactly when it is. But I do know that it’s around the solstice and it’s in Whitehorse, Yukon, which is a small jump across the pond from Juneau. The only description the Web site gives is “No lights allowed (or required) ... Ride sweet singletrack and rolling terrain all …

Reason to believe

Today was one of those days when it felt like a bad idea to get out of bed. I have very few of these, and I never know what to expect from them.

I spent two hours in the morning on the elliptical trainer at the gym, dripping sweat all over a borrowed book. It just feels so good to work some energy out, and when I move without expectations, it doesn't hurt.

After Geoff came home from work, we ate yet another meal of leftovers from the lunch counter (I swear, I am going to become very fat eating organic wholesome hippy food from Rainbow Foods.) Then he convinced me to go cross-country skiing at the glacier campground.

On the drive there, we approached a mass of traffic that can never be a good sign in this small city. Geoff let off the gas as I squinted in the distance for flashing lights, but saw none. Before we even knew what was happening, we found ourselves in the middle of a vehicle mosh pit. Cars were spinning in circles behind us, fishtailing beside us, veering directly in front…

Adventures of Unipedal

Date: March 8
Mileage: 5.1 (Made it further than last week)
March mileage: 6.2
Temperature upon departure: 34

This is the second time this week I've become self-aware of my own ridiculous behavior, and felt compelled to photograph it. Since I obviously set this picture up, I probably didn't look quite this ridiculous for the better part of three miles. But the truth can't be that far off.

I think my doctor is right about the resistance of outdoor cycling. It's just too much, too fast. But I made good on my promise to myself to try, and mostly good on my promise to stop once it hurt. Juneau received a massive amount of snow early in the week, and that's been followed up by a warm spell and a steady stream of sleet and rain. The snow pack funnels all of the melt-off into the streets, which means shin-deep slush, snow dams and flooding that can reach knee level. You don't pedal in this stuff. You ooze through it.

I noticed the strange feeling return almost immediately, …

Spun out

You can always tell when Geoff or I are injured or burnt out, because those are the only reasons my road bike ends up mounted on an ancient magnetic trainer in the front room. It just sits there, propped on stacks of flattened USPS boxes, gathering dust as rain and sleet pound the front window and Geoff’s disassembled car racks crowd in like bars in a jail cell. Roadie on the trainer has become a depressing sight to me.

I set it up when the weather or trail conditions have become too much for me. I ride it for a day, and it reminds me how wonderful blowing snow and cantaloupe-sized ice chunks can really be. But when I set it up today, it was under doctor’s orders. It felt less defeatist and more purposeful. I started one of two DVDs I own - and have seen about 20 times - and set into easy spinning.

I didn’t feel any knee pain. I didn’t feel normal ... but no pain. The feeling was more akin to a slightly dislocated joint that was looking for its proper place. I planned to ride for an hou…

No news is good news, I guess

Well the doc didn't really find anything in my knee. He yanked my leg in weird directions and scolded me repeatedly for tensing up. He said he felt "residual inflammation." He said he heard "creaking." He diagnosed me with "angry knee." He recommended the same ol' "RICE" crap ... Ice, Compression and Excessive amounts of Advil. But not Rest. He recommended Rehabilitation. He told me to get back on the bike. "Don't ride outside," he said. "There's too much resistance. Put your bike on a trainer and spin easy."

I went to the gym afterward and ran on the elliptical trainer - no incline - for an hour. That motion feels pretty much normal at this point. Then I sat on the ancient stationary bike, set the resistance to "2" and started spinning. It felt really strange. Not necessarily painful ... but if I stopped thinking about it, I would eventually become aware of other physical reactions that are typically…

Lots of snow

The latest storm has dumped nearly two feet of snow on Juneau. The city closed all of the schools and gave non-essential government employees a paid day off ... which means none of the streets were plowed and all of the snow-day beneficiaries were funnelled onto nearby trails. I love days like this. I somehow ended up in front of snowshoer rush hour and punched a new path up the mountain. I walked up for one hour. It took me 35 minutes to walk down. I wandered off the main trail and postholed a few times up to my thighs - even wearing snowshoes. It was a real struggle to get out. The first time, I wrenched my bad knee beyond its point of sharp, blinding pain. After that, I just threw all of my body weight toward the direction of the trail (or my best guess of were it was) and swam out. I'm still not sure all of this snowshoeing is helping my physical situation. But I do think it's helping me maintain some kind of an aerobic base.

That other Iditarod race is going on right now .…

My two homes

(Picture taken Sunday at Knik Glacier, Alaska, posted with other great pictures on a MTB forum thread.)

(South Window Arch, Arches National Park, Utah)Geoff and I have started planning a spring trip to Utah. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking, "Do I really want to go back to Utah this spring? Why not save the vacation time to do something really cool ... like bicycle camp my way to Inuvik?" Despite the appeal of visiting friends and family, sometimes thoughts of Utah dredge up a 'been there, done that' sentiment.I still can't deny - despite my current location in Juneau and 'born and raised' familiarity with my state of origin - that I'm completely enamored with Utah. I've become more lost inside myself within the shadows of towering sandstone canyons than I have in my wilderness treks through trail-less Interior Alaska. I've been gripped with more primal fear in the rushing rapids of the Colorado River than I have standing in the path of…

Better days

I spent less time wallowing in self pity and more time snowshoeing today. It worked out a lot better for me. The trail hadn't been broken since the big snowfall yesterday (about a foot at the trail head ... and seemingly exponentially more as it went higher.) I was buried to my shins in soft powder, swinging my hips dramatically to take the strain off my knees. The fluid motion felt vaguely familiar. I couldn't quite place it. It was like walking in quicksand, or running in a slow-motion dream. My arms skimmed snow drifts that topped out at shoulder level, sending clouds of ice crystals air-born. That's when I realized where I had felt this before. I was swimming.


I received a reply from the Fireweed 400 folks. They told me what I was expecting to hear ... No, you can't ride our race unsupported. But the assistant director, George Stransky, did take the time to write a thoughtful suggestion:

"Last year, a friend of mine entered the 200-miler (which we support wi…

Still can't ride

Date: March 2
Mileage: 1.1
March mileage: 1.1
Temperature upon departure: 11

I tried. I tried.

The bike box was covered in several inches of snow by the time I finally dragged it into the house and sliced it open. I went to work restoring Snaux bike from a duct-tape-covered mass of aluminum and cables to something that might move forward again. But I had to make sure.

Juneau was in the midst of a "blizzard warning," but it seemed pretty tame ... about nine inches of new snow and only light powder falling at the time. Most of the streets weren't yet plowed, so I couldn't just coast and spin easy for a while. I had to set right into the crank, and the knee pain came instantly. I winced through it for a about a half mile, thinking that my knee was probably just stiff and needed to loosen up. But it just became worse. Eventually, my leg started involuntarily jumping off the pedals. If I had pedal cages, I probably would have just let it dangle there. But I needed the leg's…