Showing posts from May, 2007

Camelbak packrat

Date: May 30
Mileage: 14.4
May mileage: 168.9
Temperature upon departure: 49

Today's ride was short and sweet, punctuated by some swimming to give the day a little more meat. I've made some great progress with my knee following my joint-shredding vacation to Utah (the exercise suggestions that people sent me have really helped. Thank you!). But I'm back on a bit of a plateau. I've gained quite a bit of strength but I still don't have the range of motion I need to turn pedals comfortably. I probably should take some more non-bike weeks for healing, but I'm dubious about the whole notion of that ... if only because I'm in less pain now that I actually use the joint from time to time. Got to get blood flowing to the cartilage somehow.

Earlier today I was digging in my Camelbak to look for a bandaid, which I didn't find. This surprised me, because I'm used to finding just about everything else under the sun in that pack. I'm prone to lugging around an im…

10-month itch

Date: May 28
Mileage: 21.1
May mileage: 154.5
Temperature upon departure: 51

In April 2003, I moved out of my college student commune and into an extended period of homelessness, some of which I had only my bike and whatever I could carry on that bike. Since I returned to the real world, I've never lived in one place longer than 10 months. In fact, all of my moves - Tooele, Utah; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Homer, Alaska - have all been spaced between 10 and 11 months apart. I didn't plan it that way. It's just eerie how life progresses.

I moved to Juneau 10 months ago. After a short period of homelessness during my first weeks here, I was certain the move would become very temporary. I don't think I would have guessed that this rainy, isolated, rainy, expensive, rainy place might go on to become my most prolonged post-college home.

There is enough not to like about living in Juneau. Unless I land a job bribing state legislators, I don't think I will ever be able to afford a hom…


In the past couple of months, as the world of endurance cycling has rolled on without me, I have found myself more immersed in it more than ever. Chalk another one up to an amount of chair time that is directly proportional to the amount of time I'd rather spend outside. I've found these ways to move on vicariously, learning about these epic rides from afar, and reading the words of the people who participate in them.

One arching quality I've noticed in many of these athletes - some near the top of this ever-expanding game - is an almost anti-competitive introspection. These are athletes who are more immersed in the battle within than the battle outside. They are out there not to prove themselves to the world, but to prove the world to themselves. It is an interesting juxtaposition from everything I was ever taught about athletic pursuits. My teachers, my friends, all drilled it in me that sports were a way to best others. And I was not really interested in that. But I was …

Nice to be back

Date: May 26
Mileage: 18.4
May Mileage: 133.4
Temperature upon departure: 47

I've spent the past hour squinting at wet pavement, thinking only of known consequences, and shoulder-buzzing tour buses, and all the ways I can already visualize summer slipping away. Cold liquid is cascading over my lips and I don't know whether it's rain or snot. I don't know if it matters. I don't know if I should buy more neoprene. I don't know why it's so difficult to just turn pedals. I don't know if I should just quit this whole cycling thing. I don't know why I'm so frustrated by the decision. A truck pulls up beside me as the driver yells something over the downpour. I know it must be rude - it always is, in this kind of weather - so I glower at him and yell "What?!"

"Hey!" he screams, "You're hardcore!"

And we both know I'm not.

But thanks for that, anyway.

In and out

Geoff had a big day planned today - a 25-mile trail run or something equally crazy. I was jealous. I think it's what I miss the most about the months when I did a lot of cycling - that supreme satisfaction of embarking on a long day. Some days, when everything is dialed in perfect, the miles only stoke the energy fire and I feel like I could move forward forever. Other days, I slip into a bonk coma and struggle and struggle and struggle, but when I stumble home and crash, I know I earned it.

So I wanted to do my own long day in my own long way ... something low-impact and scaled down and knee-friendly, but ~25 miles just the same.

I started at my gym with a brand new book, "Driving Mr. Albert" and a copy of the Backpacker gear issue, which is what I spent most of my time reading. I hadn't been on the elliptical machine more than a minute when the gym maintenance guy called out from across the room, something about wanted to check the wheel. I stopped pedaling and turne…

May snow and thorn ride

Date: May 24
Mileage: 12.3
May Mileage: 115
Temperature upon departure: 54

I did not have a destination or a mileage goal in mind today. Just wanted to do a ride - any ride, anywhere. These days, the details don't mean as much to me as the simple act of pedaling.

But because I'm still unsure about whether this act should continue, I decided to make the day's ride a good one and travel out the road to the Herbert Glacier trail. I spent a decent part of the morning prying my super-tight studded tires from the rims of my mountain bike. It was a Herculean effort that I had to recruit Geoff for; even he struggled with that carbide-tooth monster for a while; I was two steps away from grabbing a burly pair of scissors when he finally freed it. Then I cut my thumb while putting the summer tires back on. And for all that effort, and all that driving, I was less than a mile into the ride when the trail started to look like this:

This is not an elevation ride. It's a couple hundred fee…

Now it's seven

Eero asked me to share "seven little-known facts" the other day. I think I did this meme a few months ago when the number was still five. But I haven't tried seven yet, and I didn't go for a ride today, and I do owe her for lending me a bivy to use in the Susitna 100, so I thought I'd oblige. Seven "little-known" facts about Jill:

1. Somewhere deep in the recesses of childhood memory, I know how to play four different instruments: the accordion, the string bass, the harmonica and the piano. That may sound decidedly nerdy, but put them all together and I could form a mean one-woman zydeco band.

2. I have an irrational but paralyzing fear of moving water - whitewater rapids, ocean swells and the like. I can trace this fear back to a lot of incidents, but the first was when my parents took me to a Sesame Street theme park near Dallas, Texas, when I was 3 years old. One of the "attractions" was little more than a narrow, dark tube that children craw…


Date: May 22
Mileage: 21.6
May Mileage: 102.7
Temperature upon departure: 57

Some time on the road today gave me a chance to watch my legs do their pedal thing. It was not pretty.

My left leg holds straight and strong over the pedal, but my right knee pulls rather dramatically to the left. How far left? It’s centimeters away from crashing into the top tube, that’s how far left. Continued effort to straighten my leg felt tight and unnatural - like I was purposely trying to pedal bowlegged. But my natural inclination is to pedal like I’m overcome by an urge to pee. Ugly, ineffective and definitely detrimental.

An effect of knee injury ... or the cause? Probably both. There seems to be some knee-cap tracking that is causing the joint to collapse toward the inside. There also is the issue of my wimpy quad muscles that are probably disproportionately wimpy to one another.

Either way, the damage has been done. My concern is what I can do about it. I realize quad strengthening is the best road, but…


Date: May 21
Mileage: 7.5
May Mileage: 81.1
Temperature upon departure: 56

I was not going to ride today. It was an odd (off) day, so it didn’t fit into my Baby Steps Back To Recreational Overuse® cycling plan. But then I woke up a little on the early side of the day and, as directed by my plan®, went straight to the gym. Going to gym is like eating a pound of broccoli - healthy, but tasteless and unsatisfying. When I returned home, I still had more than two hours before I had to be at work. And I thought, hey, I've been good all week. I deserve some desert.

The short road goes to Sandy Beach. And low tide meant the coastline was a sparkling sheen of high-resistance goodness. I really don’t know what it is about cycling on snow or sand that turns me on so much. Maybe it’s the random swerving; the spastic spinning; the all-out effort just to hit 5 mph. But I think what's really most appealing about snow or sand is the smooth, borderless surfaces that stretch out to seemingly limitle…

Moving on up

Date: May 20
Mileage: 14.4
May Mileage: 75.6
Temperature upon departure: 58

I going to start keeping track of my cycling mileage again. Why would I bother? Well, after three months of flailing defiance, mistake after mistake after mistake interrupted by short periods of indifference, I think I may finally be poised for a comeback.

My recent numbers tell most of the story themselves:
December, 476.1 miles
January, 893.4 miles
February, 361.1 miles
March, 14 miles
April, 25.3 miles
May, 75.6 miles

Somewhere in there, I went very, very wrong. Maybe now I have finally learned my lesson about the perils of overuse, and the virtues of steady increments. But probably not.

I managed to whittle myself back to the bottom; now there's nowhere to go but up. Because I'm facing the slow climb as an alternative to the depths of inactivity, I feel like I have nothing to lose. And so I amble.

I tried out my clipless pedals for the first time today. I was a ball of nervous energy; suddenly thrown back into t…

I pretend I'm a tourist

I figured out a way to hike up a mountain without actually having to walk back down. The Mount Roberts trail wends through the rainforst, switchbacks up a steep slope and, in the last half mile, disappears beneath neck-high layer of crusty snow. Then, right at treeline, and just when you think you can climb no further lest you risk being swept away in an avalanche, you reach the Mount Roberts Tramway. You can purchase some useless trinkets, gawk at caged bald eagle with a bullet hole through its beak, buy a $5 cup of coffee and coast effortlessly back to sea level via the Mount Roberts Tram.

I arrived at the platform just in time to catch the 5:45. A rush of tourists, nearly every single one clutching a red bag from the $5 T-shirt shop, wedged me in next to the driver. He rattled off the safety spiel and we shot downward.

“How are you liking Juneau?" the driver asked me.

I paused for a second, considering the part of a tourist. “It’s pretty cool,” I said. I couldn’t think of what to…

Making 10 miles count

Today I got to ride 10 miles. I like my new incremental cycling plan, because it keeps me happy without feeling too reckless. I self-impose mileage maximums, and as long as I force myself to stick to them, I can convince myself that no harm has been done (whether or not actual harm has been done is, I think, secondary to perceived success.)

This morning, however, I looked outside and knew that keeping to my maximum was going to prove a huge challenge ... not a cloud in the sky, sunlight pouring down and a thermometer that had climbed above 60 degrees. These warm, sunny days are so rare that I can't say I've seen a second one in all of the nine months I've lived in Juneau. It was not the kind of day to spend spinning on a road bike for a half hour. So I thought ... how can I turn eight miles into an excursion that would fill up an entire morning? I came up with a four-part plan:

1. Pick a technical trail that I know will keep me slow and honest, like Dredge Lake.

2. Stick to…

Desperatly seeking fitness

I had a talk with my doctor the Ironman triathlete today. He strongly discouraged complete inactivity as a healing option. His advice was exactly what common sense would dictate, but for some reason we pay professionals to tell us so ... if it hurts, don't do it. "But it's important to keep up with your fitness," he said. He told me the story of a patient of his in Ketchikan who has a similar injury. Our MRIs were nearly identical, he told me. The only difference - she contracted runner's knee while hiking on a steep mountain trail. I earned mine in a long, slow bike race. Now, she can ride a bike without even feeling that burning pain. I could hike up steep stuff all day as long as I was never required to come down. But neither of us can do the thing we love.

Despite this, I am actually still considering inactivity. From everything I've learned, it is probably the quickest path back. My current path of small cycling increments is mostly just an experiment in…

5.98 miles

I said I was only going to ride five miles today and I only rode five miles ... give or take a mile. I won’t lie and say I’ve never felt better, but it went about as well as expected. The weather was terrible but I didn't care. These things just don't matter.

I made the odd choice of riding my snow bike. Of all my bikes, that one required the least maintenance to be road ready. Plus, I reasoned, anything that forced me to ride slower was probably a good thing. But deep down, I knew that it was about time my snow bike, "Snaux Bike," and I made amends. Snaux Bike and I have a typical relationship. He hurts me, and I neglect him, but still, I feel like we could have a bright future together if we only we could work through our differences.

We rode out toward Douglas because the road dead-ends there exactly 2.5 miles from my house. Even if I felt great, I knew there wouldn’t be any temptation to ride further once I hit end of the road. Twelve minutes later, I was at Sandy …

Thinking about defiance

"As life gets longer, awful feels softer ... well, it feels pretty soft to me."
- Modest Mouse, "The View"

Today I walked out the front door with my snowshoes in my hands. I passed the row of pansies in my front yard, crossed a dry street strewn with Barbies and tricycles, and brushed a row of bushes now spiny with spring buds. Signs of summer are emerging everywhere ... cruise ships in the harbor; sightseeing buses streaming down the road; dogs prowling the yards; children's voices in the distance. I fought through a tangle of broken branches, wet roots and mud for a quarter mile. Then I strapped my snowshoes on. It may be the middle of May, but there is still enough snowpack for me to move freely across the soft surface of Douglas Island. I hiked for four hours, and then I went to work. I am happy to be back in Alaska.

I went a little higher, and a little longer, than I intended too. On the way home, I started to feel the usual downhill pangs in my knee. So I f…

Yet more Utah pics

These are a few of Geoff's pictures. I'm sure they'll turn up on his blog. But I'm posting them here, because this is my Web site and I'll do what I want.

I went swimming in a White Canyon pool. It wasn't the Colorado River, but it was cold enough. If only there was enough water for me to travel the entire canyon that way, I would have been set.

Dave Nice and I build fire because Utah is cold place.

Pete rides up what I assume is Murphy's Hogback, along the White Rim trail.
I love this picture. I'm not quite sure why. I just do.

Anna in Fry Canyon, shortly before the group hit a dead end that no one was expecting on exit day.

The group gathers in White Canyon. I'm the gimp on the left.

The backpack trip

I never got around to blogging about my backpack trip in Southern Utah. A fairly large group and I - there were 11 of us, total - trekked through White Canyon from National Bridges National Monument to Fry Canyon. It was about 20 miles, three days, two nights, a chill downhill slope, some mild scrambling, and could have been one of the toughest backpack trips I ever participated in ... if it wasn't for my friends.

I had fairly well cooked my right knee during the couple of easy bike rides I did in Moab over the weekend. It had seized stiff by Monday morning. I was more frustrated with my physical state and my inability to participate in the simplest activities than I have been yet in this injury cycle, now going on three months. But I made it through ... mostly on the backs of people who were willing to lighten my load, hoist my pack, lend me hobble sticks, and offer a hand over the boulders. These are the people who essentially carried me through White Canyon:

This is my friend, …

Santa Barbara

If you are a person of an impatient persuasion, you probably hate commercial flying. If you are a person of an irrational phobia persuasion, you probably hate commercial flying. And if you are a person of an "I am not livestock" persuasion, you probably hate commercial flying. But if you are a little of all three, you would probably let a day-long, three-legged flight with a four-hour layover in Santa Barbara make you really grumpy.

I completely forgot about that first leg, and told my mom I wasn't flying out until 4:50 p.m. We were planning the day together and everything. But when I actually checked my itinerary, I realized I was flying at 11 a.m. After we rushed to the airport, I wandered around the Salt Lake terminal for a little while looking for a map of the states. I get all of the San's and Santa's in California confused. I thought Santa Barbara was in the Central California/Sacramento/Purgatory area. But I was wrong. It's right on the southern coast.