Saturday, January 19, 2008

Brand new camera

Date: Jan. 18 and 19
Mileage: 36.6 and 54.5
January mileage: 445.4
Hours: 3:00 (plus 3:00 at the gym) yesterday and 4:30 today
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 28
Precipitation: 1.61 inches!!! (All rain, all yesterday.)

Last week, I received an e-mail from Stephanie at Olympus. She told me she had looked at my blog, enjoyed the cycling/photography concept, and just happened to have in mind the perfect camera for me: The Olympus Stylus 770 SW. She told me she would send me one, no strings attached ... I'm sure knowing that any blogger is going to brag publicly about free gear. But what she didn't know is that I already owned an older version of this exact camera, and had been abusing it quite heavily since April. Even after I told her so, she didn't withdraw her offer. "You'll like to new version," she told me. "This one is freezeproof."

Mendenhall Lake

The sparkling new silver camera came in the mail on Thursday. Today I took it on its first ride. Not a bad day for a first shoot, and not a bad little camera. I don't have an memory card yet, and the internal memory limited me to 11 pictures. I decided this was a good thing, because I was aiming for a long ride, and I wanted to keep moving. Instead, I spent way too much time during my ride self-editing my photos. Definitely an amazing, beautiful day.

Auke Bay, with enough steam to show that is really is somewhat cold out.

Juneau had its first sunlight in nine days, coming off a string of some of the crappiest weather January can conjure. I've had people tell me they'd prefer cold winter rain to subzero temperatures. I can't even fathom that. Subzero, rare as it is here, brings all that crisp dry air and clear skies. Dress for it right, and this kind of weather is both comfortable and exciting. Rain and temperatures in the 30s, on the other hand, can only mean one thing to me as a cyclist: That I'm going to be really wet, and really miserable, and I'm eventually going to be really cold no matter what I do.

Tee Harbor

Friday was one of those "put your head down and ride" kind of days. In continuously heavy rain, especially with the kind of flooding we get against the snowpack, it only takes about a half hour for my outer "waterproof" clothing barrier to be broken. After one hour, I'm soaked through and through. And that's the way I have to ride, in temperatures in the high 30s, a 15-20 mph wind and windchills hovering between 20 and 25, for as many hours as I can endure it. I can usually hold out about three hours without completely changing my clothing. But by the end of the ride, especially if I make a single stop or, as I did yesterday, slow for a while to talk to Geoff as he runs, I usually have to spend the last half hour of the ride racked with chills, hating every minute of my miserable existence. Maybe weeks of unbroken subzero temperatures would teach me differently, but until then, there is no weather I hate more than cold rain.

SPRING! (Not really, but it doesn't take much to coax a little green around here.)

But today! Today was exactly the shot I needed. Blazing sun and temps just cold enough to refreeze all the slop. I'm on day three of my current long training push ... exercising about five hours each in four consecutive days (a little short today, a little long yesterday.) Either way, it eats up a lot of time. Geoff is training at a similar level right now, and between us, we're putting in more than a full-time job's worth of hours in the selfish pursuit of fitness. We've had to make more and more concessions in the things we normally do just to clear up the time. One of the things we've given up is grocery shopping. I thought it was pretty funny when I was eating frozen ravioli two nights in a row and spooning peanut butter out of a jar for lunch. But I think we've both started to run a bit of a calorie deficit (go figure ... keeping food out of the house is a good way to go on a diet.) I stood on the scale at the gym yesterday and learned I weigh five pounds less than I did at this time last year. No necessarily a bad thing, but I was just beginning to think that a little extra pudge might even pay off during the Ultrasport. Because there's no way I'll avoid running a calorie deficit in that event, and it's not like I'll even notice a little extra junk in the trunk once I slog out there with 60 pounds of bike and gear. This is the excuse I've drummed up to hit the ice cream ... if only we had some.

Auke Lake with Mount McGinnis in the background.

But where was I? Oh yes, the Stylus 770 SW. I had great fun with it on this sunny, beautiful day. Miles and miles of rubbing up against Power Bars in my pocket has scratched my old Olympus's viewing screen to the point of abstraction. This camera's screen was crystal clear. I am excited to test out its "freezeproof" claims. I already know it's basically bombproof. In August, I inadvertently used my old camera to break a rather rocky fall off my mountain bike, landing directly on the hip pocket that held the camera. I put a gouge in the casing nearly a millimeter deep, but the camera didn't even flicker. The Stylus 770 SW is waterproof, too. It's definitely not a top-of-the-line, professional camera. But I think pro cameras really aren't practical for cyclists. Cyclists need something small, something simple, and something that can endure a 15-foot huck off a gnarly cliff and still take pictures at the bottom. If National Geographic ever comes knocking, I'll go buy something with a zoom lens.

This little point-and-shoot Stylus really is the perfect camera for me. I'm not just being a shill by saying that. I bought the same camera long before Olympus volunteered to sponsor my blog efforts. Does a comped camera make me a sponsored photographer? I guess this is my blog, so I say it does. Be sure to click on the Olympus logo in the sidebar. Yeah Olympus!