Friday, January 11, 2008

So much beauty it'll make you cry

Date: Jan. 10
Mileage: 65.4
January mileage: 238.2
Hours: 8:45
Temperature upon departure: 22
Precipitation: 0"

Disclaimer: There are a particularly gratuitous number of pictures in this post. It may make the post seem obnoxiously large. You have been warned.

I didn't have many goals for today's ride. I wanted to spend at least eight hours outside, slowly as I am trying to ween my knee back into long rides. I wanted to spend most of the day riding trails and check out some new trails. But I have to admit, I wasn't that particularly excited about it the prospect of an all-day bike ride.

My mood kicked into manic mode at the first sight of blue sky after breakfast. There's no way to overemphasize this: There's really nothing like a (partly) sunny day in Juneau. We all spend so much time slogging through downpours that even I sometimes catching myself wondering why anyone would take a job here, buy a house here, commit themselves to living here for any amount of time. But then the sun comes out, and every lingering speck of S.A.D. disintegrates. We have great selective short-term amnesia, we Juneauites.

I knew, looking across the Douglas Island bridge first thing this morning, that the day was going to be beautiful.

Even the commute was nice.

Temps were in the low-20s ... preferable to the soggy mid-30s by any Juneauite's standards, and absolutely ideal in my mind.

The Mendenhall Glacier was looking very azure this morning.

The Mendenhall Lake was covered in a little more than an inch of fresh snow resting atop glare ice. A great day for speed. Not a great day to make figure 8s.

As I crossed the lake in the light mist, I heard this low, loud howl. "It couldn't be," I thought, but I made a U-turn toward the sound anyway.

Sure enough, I caught a glimpse of the black wolf called "Romeo" as he loped along the shoreline. The story behind Romeo, by local legend, is one of a lone and lonely wolf who was somehow separated from his pack (another story has his entire pack killed by wildlife officials.) So now he lives on the outskirts of suburban Juneau, looking for dogs to be friends with (another story has him looking for dogs to eat.) Either way, he is regularly sighted near the lake, but he still takes my breath away every time.

I soon made my way over to the north end of the valley. This is what I imagine the pre-Alaska Range Iditarod landscape looks like.

Pushing my bike up the Lake Creek trail was completely exhausting. Most of it was a steep sheet of glare ice covered in a very meager layer of snowmobile-chewed snow. One would imagine that, when training for a bike race, it would make the most sense to ride one's bike. But I've found that my most valuable training comes in taking my bike for long, steep walks. I'm never working harder than I am at 1.5 mph.

I sweat a bucket and a half while slogging up there. But when I reached the wide-open trails of Spaulding Meadow, I knew the ice climb was worth it.

Totally worth it.

Totally, totally worth it.

Back to the lake by sunset, making a few more loops on the ice before hopping over to the nicely foot-packed trails of Dredge Lake. I had hardly noticed the day had slipped away.

And just like that, it was nearly 4 p.m. Even though I absolutely had to be home by six, I had a hard time peeling myself away from the trail. I felt completely strong. My knees felt completely strong. I wasn't even hungry. It was like I hadn't ridden a single minute the entire day.

I can't believe I let myself count these rides as "training."