Thursday, January 03, 2008

First rides

Date: Jan. 1 and 2
Mileage: 14.5 and 36.1
Hours: 2:00 and 4:30
January mileage: 50.6
Temperature upon departure: 30 and 34
Precipitation: 1.03"

As I roll over the frozen Mendenhall Lake in a sleetstorm, the surface and the sky blur together in a wash of light gray. The lake blends into hillsides, which blend into mountains, which blend into air without borders or distinction. The world is a blank canvas broken only by brilliant blue brushstrokes at the center of the monotony. The color draws me forward like a distant light on a dark night, even as my conscience nags me to heed wise warnings and turn back. The warnings tell me not to go near the glacier, with its electric blue spires threatening to peel off the mountain of ice and tumble into the water below ... the threat of a spectacular death by ice-shard tsunami. The unlikeliness that such an event would happen keeps me rolling forward, but my heart rate shoots up and sweat beads form on my face in anticipation of that enjoyable fear - the fear of something that probably won't happen, but it could.

But in the true form of someone who's always willing to assume the worst-case scenario, I stopped about 200 feet shy of the last solid ice before the glacier's face, took a few quick photos, and high-tailed back to terra firma. But it's so irresistible, sidling up next to a glacier. It's hard to appreciate the scale until the glacier's right there, towering over me like the skyline of a city, with alleyways so deeply blue, I'm convinced they stretch beyond the bowels of the glacier into another dimension.

I was actually going to take a full week off the bike, but I became a little bored on New Year's morning while waiting for my friends to roll out of bed (we had a couple of friends visiting us from Palmer over the weekend. We love them, but they are in their own way unapologetically lazy when they're on vacation. I've never see anyone sleep so much in three days.) Anyway, I took out the Pugsley and was encouraged to find it didn't hurt to pedal. And after two hours, it still didn't hurt. Nor was there any residual pain after that. It seems I was taking a bit of an alarmist stance with my knee. Better to be safe and overcareful than reckless and injured, but I decided it wouldn't hurt to go out for a little bit longer today.

Because of my "injury watch," I allowed myself to do something I never do - I put my bike in my car and drove it to a trailhead. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon almost entirely on trails, but the lack of pavement commute to the Valley actually made for a much harder ride overall. The weather today was a fluctuating mixture of snow and rain that people around here call "snain." Trails started out wet and soft and gradually deteriorated to saturated and soupy. I've had a light week and brought a lot of energy to spend on the effort, but still I felt like I was slogging through quicksand. Only because I have a fat-bottomed Pugsley that I can run at <10 psi was I able to ride much of that trail at all. I have this theory that once I finally find my way to the cold snow of Southcentral Alaska, my Southeast-forged quads of steel will be so strong that I'll just be able to fly over the snowy trail as though it were pavement. Either that, or the cold will drive me into the ground. But if there just happens to be an extreme, snain-soaked warm spell during this year's race, I'll be ready.

This is turning into a longish post, but I wanted to thank Andrea Recht for nominating my site as a VeloNews "Site of the Day." That is really too cool! I couldn't believe the number on my hits counter. I think this blog received more hits today than it did in all of 2005. It won't be the Site of the Day anymore by the time this post goes out, but if you dropped in from VeloNews, hello. There are probably a lot of things in the cycling world that are more interesting than a soggy snowbiker in Southeast Alaska, but I appreciate you stopping by.

Also thanks to Laura Conaway for the mention in the Bryant Park Project blog's "Best of the Blog 2007." I came in a little late in the year, and only post about once a week, but it's nice to feel appreciated.

And, I wasn't going to mention this, but ... Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I was going to mention this. Nominations have started for the 2008 Bloggies. Last year, this blog actually was nominated for a Weblog award in what I thought was the unlikely category of "Best Sports Blog." But it was cool nonetheless, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't secretly hope it would happen again. Ok, I guess it's not much of a secret. But, if you feel like wasting a few more seconds, you should drop by the site and nominate someone for something. It doesn't have to me. We bloggers, all of us, pour a lot of time into our pastimes and relish in feedback. It's true. Even though most bloggers fling their heart and souls into cyberspace for entirely selfish reasons (the same reasons others watch TV), we still like to tell ourselves we're doing something worthwhile.

So thanks to everyone who reads and stops by this blog. I don't have a good exuse to quit writing as long as you're around.


  1. I'm here, just one of many who quietly enjoy your stories & beautiful photos. Happy New Year.

  2. have a great '08, jill! keep up the adventures!

  3. happy new year jill. i was wondering what kind of chain lube you use and how often you wash your bike. i ride mostly streets here in wisconsin and the salt really raises hell with my drivetrain. i read your blog every day and thanks for the link to dirt diva's blog. thanks ,jerry

  4. Yep, found your site from velonews, awesome pics, definitely not like anything in Mississippi. You are an inspiration for cold weather riding, keep it up and watch the knee. Peace, Love and Grits. Steve

  5. 'course i nominated you. same time i nominated me.

  6. Jill you are fantastic. Keep up the spirit. I have to say I love your blog.
    We get a lot of snain here by Crater Lake Oregon too so I can relate. I commute through some almost daily... although not too much to kill me.
    My wife is only 33 and two years ago had a total knee replacement surgery. So I can relate with the knee pain. Have you seen a sports mechanics therapist person about this? Perhaps some micro adjustments to your positioning and pedaling style would help.

  7. Jill, your photographs are absolutely breathtaking, and you yourself are an inspiration. People I know think I'm over the top for riding my bike through a Maine winter, but I've got nothing on you.


  8. Jill, you are an inspiration of endurance and drive. My husband and I are moving to Juneau in June and I have truly appreciated your pictures every day, every season. You're one of the only bloggers I can find that stay current with your photos and entries. Much love and maybe I will see you on the trails of Juneau soon.

  9. Such amazing pictures, you are really experiencing life and seeing so much of it's beauty.

    I'm enjoying reading about your trips!

  10. It's been fabulous experiencing a new side of Southeast, and hearing about the determination you face. After running high school cross country on perseverance trail and mendenhall lake, I'm enjoying seeing them in your photos again, but during the winter. Gives us all a jolt of inspiration to get outside, thanks!

  11. Thanks for the blog. Found you via NPR.

    I'm an outdoors person myself (of a different sort.... a backcountry archer and adventure racer).

    Good stuff.


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