Showing posts from April, 2008

Sticking with snow

Date: April 28 and 29
Mileage: 14.2 and 13
April mileage: 745.1
Temperature: 47

This week was to be the first week of my re-entry into serious training. I had goals: ride tempo pace, put in longer mileage, sprint for real this time, attack the hills, go to the 24 Hours of Light and race the boys. On Monday, I planned to inaugurate my summer schedule with a tempo hill climb on the Eaglecrest road. But seven miles into the ride, my rear shifter cable snapped. I pulled over the side of the road to remove the dragging cable and assess how much I still wanted to climb a five-mile-long hill in my highest gear on back. As I threaded the broken cable through its housing, I saw it was frayed nearly throughout. I started to wonder if my cables had ever been switched out ... on a bike with somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 miles on it. I examined the brake cables and front shifter cable, also frayed in spots and nearly separated at the ends, held together in threads by the end cap. As I loosed the…

Rocky start

Date: April 27
Mileage: 31.5
April mileage: 717.9
Temperature: 45

The rain was coming in sideways when I felt my rear rim dragging on pavement. I pulled over to the side of the road to assess where I was; I had been squinting into the dim yellow circle cast by my headlight for so long that I wasn’t even sure. I shifted my trunk bag to reach my repair gear when it dawned on me that the headlight was in fact my only source of light. There was no way to illuminate the wheel so I could change the flat. I clip clopped in my cleats down the road, grumbling about how I really should have switched out my pedals when I had the chance. I walked nearly a half mile before I reached the nearest street light. Slimy brake dust goo and grit dripped down my fingers as I removed the rim. The rest of the flat change went quickly, but as I stood up to leave, I realized that the jeans I was wearing, covered by my very best pair of rain pants, had already soaked through. The denim chafed and scraped my thighs…

Video blog: Beach cruising

Date: April 26
Mileage: 24.2
April mileage: 686.4
Temperature: 49

Yes, I know these videos are pretty silly. But I have fun with them. Isn't that what matters?

Today's song is "My Rights Versus Yours," by the New Pornographers.

Living simply, simply living

Date: April 25
Mileage: 57.6
April mileage: 662.2
Temperature: 51

My housemate and I have agreed to shut off the heat as a way to conserve energy in this time of electricity famine. Although it's spring now and the weather has been really nice this week, the temperatures still drop into the low 30s at night and our northeast-facing apartment doesn't see much direct sunlight. The whole house has this icebox feel to it. The last time I walked by the thermostat, it read 57 degrees. I was really, really tempted to turn it up. But instead, I headed back out on my Pugsley for a little trail time after riding nearly 50 miles earlier today. Having no heat is actually a great motivator to get out. Cycling is still the best way to stay warm.

Right now in Juneau, saving energy is on everyone's mind. The prospect of having your electric bill increase fivefold will do that. The electric company recently reported that in a week's time, Juneau's energy use dropped 20 percent. It conti…

One more parked car

Date: April 24
Mileage: 35.5
April mileage: 604.6
Temperature: 47

Today was errand day. I had time to squeeze in a decent ride while my car was at the shop, but for the most part I spent a beautiful warm day knocking mundane things off a list that I had let build for a little too long. It made me miss Geoff that much more. I really took for granted all the little things he was always the one to do ... grocery shopping, recycling, repairs, cleaning. Now that I need to do all of this stuff for myself, I won't be able to just let my life revolve around working, eating, and biking anymore. I actually have to be self-sufficient again.

Much of my day revolved around my car. I had the summer tires put back on (only nine days past the legal deadline. Better than last year.) I had the oil changed. I vacuumed up a winter's worth of dirt from the upholstery, scrubbed all the panels, cleaned out the trunk and sprayed down the exterior. I took it on all the errands I need a car to do ... haul m…

The snow biking's still not bad

Date: April 23
Mileage: 33.1
April mileage: 569.1
Temperature: 43

I've been trying to reinvent my road bike as a do-all commuter, so it was in several pieces in the living room when my cats woke me up at an unspeakable hour this morning. I had a lot of time to kill before work (and my commute to work), but I wasn't looking forward to restarting my rack installation/tire changing/light mounting/pedal-swapping project. I decided I was going to take the Karate Monkey out for a morning spin on pavement before I finished fixing my preferred bike.

But when I went to the basement to grab it, I noticed the seat was still on Pugsley (I still only own one saddle and seatpost for my Surlys, and I have to swap it out between the two.) I was so, so lazy this morning that I didn't even feel like turning a wrench on a seatpost clamp. I grabbed Pugsley instead.

The tires were inflated to only about 7 or 8 psi from recent runs on soft snow, but I was so, so lazy that I didn't even want to pu…

Our last ride of spring

Date: April 21 and 22
Mileage: 40 and 29.2
April mileage: 536
Temperature: 42 and 45

I traced the emerging trail beneath a canopy of spruce trees, dripping snowmelt and strings of moss onto still-frozen mud. I reconnected with the paved bike path and rolled back to Geoff, who was parked on a bench and inhaling a sandwich.

"Still a lot of snow back there?" he asked.

"It won't be too long now before this town has real mountain biking," I said.

"Not soon enough," he said. He held out the remaining piece of sandwich. Tuna and mayo on pumpernickel bread. I wrinkled my nose. "How bout a Tootsie Roll then?"

I took the chilled piece of candy and popped it in my mouth. It was meaty and a little bit stale from possibly a few too many rides in Geoff's coat pocket. I kicked a piece of ice onto the grass, short and dead in April. I wasn't even thinking about the promise of May. I was wondering why there weren't corpses of August flowers everywhere. &…

I need a new training goal

Date: April 20
Mileage: 29.2
April mileage: 466.8
Temperature: 41

The rash of nice weather continues, and I feel like I should have endless, boundless energy - the self-perpetuating kind that feeds off warmth and light and gives me the boost I need to launch into summer. But instead I just feel a little sluggish, a little weighted, a little too tempted to crawl back into bed for early morning naps. The stamina's not there. I lack motivation. And focus.

Focus is something I need right now. In two days, Geoff leaves to head south for the summer and I need some projects to ward off the loneliness. Now would be a great time to prepare for a big event, if only I had one to work toward. I have some ideas, but nothing that really warrant the necessary vacation time or expense. I was thinking of embarking on a fast tour somewhere, but do I really want to burn a week of vacation to spend more time by myself? Lower 48 races are out of my league. Southeast Alaska has almost nothing to offer. I br…

Video blog: Blue Sky Gazing

Date: April 18 and 19
Mileage: 48 and 13.7
April mileage: 437.6
Temperature: 34 and 29

So instead of typing about my weekend, I thought I'd make another video blog. This one also didn't turn out the way I imagined it. I strapped my "helmet cam" way too high, so all of the cycling shots are basically blue sky and treetops. But I sprinkled some clips in because they help break up the blathering (don't worry. It's only six or seven minutes long.) I looked for a song that goes well with skygazing ... The Goldfinger cover of Nena's "99 Red Balloons." Someday I will get this video thing right. In the meantime ...

Juneau multisport

Date: April 17
Mileage: 21.1
April mileage: 376.9
Temperature: 30

When I woke up this morning, a swirling blizzard was raging outside. Of course I was thrilled about this development on a Thursday morning. "What should I do today?" I asked myself as I hurried to gulp down my Special K so I could get outside before it melted. "Should I go for a bike ride? A hike? Maybe try to do a snowboard run?" Then it hit me. Why not do all three?

I don't really have the gear to just ride my bike with a snowboard on my back. I tried to stuff the board in one of my larger daypacks, but its angle and height made my shoulders ache something fierce - not to mention the way it caught the 15 mph headwind like a giant sail. My original destination was Eaglecrest. I made it about eight miles past my house, just shy of the cutoff, before I decided that there was no way my screaming shoulders could survive the climb. I turned around with a new destination - the Douglas Ski Bowl.

I parked m…

Running on diesel

Date: April 16
Mileage: 29.2
April mileage: 355.8
Temperature: 40

My co-worker Brian shot this photo just as we were returning from our respective dinner breaks, about 7 p.m. We had about three inches by the time the sun set, and more slated for tonight. It was a little surreal to watch fluffy piles of new snow shimmer in the 9 p.m. twilight. A collision of seasons. I love it. Anything to lift the landscape out of the monotony of rain, which will surely return tomorrow.

The snow has everyone freaked out right now, and not because there's a few soon-to-melt inches accumulated on the ground. A massive avalanche cut down a series of transmitter towers to Juneau's hydro-power station, and the local utility announced they will be switching to diesel power until they can enter the unstable area and fix the transmitters, likely months. In the meantime, our power rates will be jumping 500 percent. 500 percent! When you look at your monthly power bill for $46.48 and do some simple math, the…

Tired of hypothermia

Date: April 15
Mileage: 40
April mileage: 326.6
Temperature: 38

In everything I’ve tried in my two winters in Juneau, I just haven’t found a way to stay warm during a long ride when the weather is in the 30s and raining. "Waterproof" clothing is anything but. Wet neoprene lets too much wind through. For a while I thought overdressing was a good strategy, but sweating out the inner layers before the outer ones soak through seems to nix any warmth benefit. I’ve been thinking about a seal-skin parka or a rubber suit, but one is probably pretty unobtainable and the other is very uncomfortable to exercise in. “Basically,” I’ve been trying to tell Geoff, “it’s impossible.”

Even so, I can usually achieve at least three hours of quality cycling before the deep chill slices through my meager barrier (at which point it just keeps cutting.) But that hasn ’t been the case lately. I don’t know if it’s a breakdown in every piece of clothing I own, or if my body is tired, simply tired, of being…

Awful weather

Here in Juneau, we have to set the "awful" bar on our weather gauge a bit higher than most places. Raining? Windy? Snowing? Cold? Some combination thereof? That's just weather. Torrential downpours? Hurricane-force blasts? Blizzards? That's just interesting weather. The top level on the terrible weather scale is reserved for deep-set grayness that smothers multiple days and even weeks, grayness so thick it seeps down the mountains and into the moods of everyone you meet, and rain that falls continuously for 48, 72, 96 hours. I am not talking about wimpy storms that drizzle for a bit and then retreat behind overcast skies. No, I am talking about water and slush and snain pounding the ground without pause for three days straight.

You know the scale has tipped when people start talking about the weather. People in Juneau don't talk about wet weather for the same reason people in Fairbanks don't say "sure is cold out" and people in Las Vegas don't sa…


I just returned from checking out my friend Kim's set at Folk Fest. Kim is a Type-A lawyer who lives in Anchorage. She's carved out this idyllic Alaska lifestyle for herself, though, residing on the outskirts of the city in a sod-roof cabin that has two big spruce trees growing out of the roof. Her nearest neighbors are sled dogs. She ice climbs. And she's an avid old-time fiddler.

As I watched her saw frantically at her violin tonight, I was flooded with the memories of the last time I saw her, on Feb. 23, the night before the Iditarod Invitational. The top picture is from that night. I realized that I never told my story of the night before the race. It was a bewildering tornado of a Saturday that couldn't have been a more perfect setup for the sensory overload of the next six days. The night of the 1,000 dumplings.

We stayed in Kim's cabin, all 500 square feet of it, during the nights leading up to the race. On Saturday night, she had planned a huge Vietnamese Ne…

Folk Fest

Date: April 10 and 11
Mileage: 19.1 and 38.5
April mileage: 286.6
Temperature: 44 and 38

It's a bit late to be blogging, but I feel like I need to unwind a little after a crazy "weekend" of Folk Fest. The Alaska Folk Festival happens once a year and the whole town shows up. Even a lot of people who don't live in this town show up. It's pretty much the only time of year that Juneau is visited by other Alaskans who have nothing to do with the Legislature or cruise ships. It's also the only time of year I "go out" every night for several nights in a row. Tonight was old-time Creole followed by Salsa and Fusion Celtic. I don't think I've danced like that since I was 17. Seriously. I was about to pass out and my friends still wanted to hit up the Rendezvous and The Alaskan afterward. Sometimes the endurance of people amazes me.

It's been a bad weekend for bike riding. The Folk Festing for all hours of the night doesn't help, but it goes beyond…

Video blog

Since I discovered the motion picture button on my camera, I have become more interested in doing a little video blogging. Not a whole lot - because most home movie clips usually weave between grating and boring and mine are no different. I shot some footage up at Eaglecrest yesterday. I wasn't going to post it. Mostly because video always seems to take something I find scary and exhilarating - such as shimmying through fresh, heavy powder at a barely controlled 10 mph - and makes it look like a flatly lit slog down a ski slope. Plus, I shot an introduction, forgetting that my face was covered in mud from the sloppy climb and my bike helmet was pushed way back because that's what it takes to strap a camera to my forehead. I realized that I've never appeared "live" on my own blog before. This first shot doesn't make for a very flattering portrait. But then I remembered ... I've been doing this blog exhibitionist thing for more than two years. Since when ha…

April showers

Date: April 8
Mileage: 30.2
April mileage: 229
Temperature: 35

I love spring snow. I've always loved spring snow. But I even love it here in Alaska, where spring snow is not so out of the ordinary.

A thin white blanket settled on Juneau overnight, a temporary shield from the dull browns and wet yellows that dominate the landscape in April. So even though I had scrubbed Pugsley shiny on Sunday, thinking we would not be going out again for quite a while, I couldn't help but drag him up to Eaglecrest today.

Streaks of sunlight danced across the unplowed road, until the drifting clouds finally closed together. In a swirl of flurries I pushed up the slope, right on the trail of a pair of tele-skiers. When I caught up to them, they got a few good laughs. (I didn't point out that I, a post-holing hiker pushing a 35-pound bicycle, had caught up to them.) I did concede that I looked ridiculous, coated head-to-toe in slush and grit as I was, walking a bicycle up a ski slope in April.


Inbetween times

Date: April 6 and 7
Mileage: 12 and 29.5
April mileage: 188.8
Temperature: 41 and 39

I yelped as wet snow soaked through my socks, filling the empty space where I stood in a snowdrift, thigh deep and sinking. It was a struggle to even lift my leg in this slush, so close to liquidation that it had become a solid, like wet cornstarch or quicksand. A deceptive solid. Not solid enough to hold me, just solid enough to trap my foot - soon to be, I feared, trench foot.

I swung around to search for the trail. I had abandoned my bike a mile back to press on as a hike. Now I was swimming. It was time to swim home. Time to give up on this whole snow hiking/biking thing. Time to leave the mountains alone until their permanent surface re-emerged from this rotting seasonal veneer. Time to think about "summerizing" the Pugsley to prepare him for the season of salt water and sand. Time to give up on winter.

So we wait now, for something. Summer, I guess. I know summer only in vague terms. It begi…

Training vicariously

Date: April 4 and 5
Mileage: 46.2 and 41
April mileage: 147.3
Temperature: 42 and 45

Just about every time I go out riding these days, I imagine what life will be like for Geoff during the Great Divide Race. Sometimes I feel jealous. But most of the time, I just feel a pained, pre-emptive sort of empathy.

I think a lot of casual fans imagine the challenge of the Great Divide Race is its length. And it is long - 2,500 miles long. But I think the most important route statistic, the one that is overlooked all too often, is the sheer amount of climbing - more than 200,000 feet along the way. And if you have a goal to ride this route in say, 24 days, you are going to be spending a lot of time in your granny gear slumped over your handlebars. 100 miles per day on a mountain bike? That sounds tough. 10,000 feet of climbing per day? That sounds like something that already has been outlawed in most developed nations.

So I think about the sheer audacity of the Great Divide Race and smirk when I set …

Breakuping is hard to do

Date: April 3
Mileage: 30.1
April mileage: 60.1
Temperature: 41

I wasted a fair amount of time this morning moping around the house, gazing at my Karate Monkey and randomly making little adjustments on the bike. I felt like a kid who just received a brand new snowboard for her birthday ... in July. A coveted new toy and nowhere to ride it.

Every spring, every community in Alaska must endure the awkward transition known as "Breakup." Breakup is like the period between Christmastime Academy Award contenders and summer blockbusters when every movie you see feels like a barely-constitutional alternative to waterboarding. Or like the horrible year in junior high when even the cutest kids get braces and pimples and walk around looking like they've been slapped with a fugly stick. Basically, Breakup is when all the ice begins to melt and everything gets really sloppy. Winter activities become unappealing because the snowpack turns to messy slush, and summer activities are still imp…

It's a Monkey!

Date: April 2
Mileage: 31
April mileage: 31
Temperature: 39

My Karate Monkey is done! Strange how these things come to pass. It wasn't even a month ago that I was happy as could be with my Gary Fisher. How does a person shift from "I need a new bottom bracket," to, "eh, what the heck, I'll just buy a whole brand new bike"? Very quickly, very easily, I'm afraid. Combined with all my winter-riding expenses, my bank account is now hemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. But since when do I care about money? Give me shiny goodness!

A close-up shot of the Reba fork. It has a pop-lock, which I like since I do so much pavement riding just to access trails. And when it's not locked out, it's oh-so-buttery smooth. You can't even tell you're bouncing up and down.

And here's the drivetrain. Nothing to really brag about, but it is notable in that it's brand new. When I built up Pugsley last fall, nearly everything I stuck on it besides the frame c…

Out with the old

Date: March 31
Mileage: 30.1
March mileage: 636.3
Temperature: 38

My Gary Fisher Sugar sold on Sunday. I went to my local bike shop to pick up a shipping box, realized they were closed on Mondays, and drove around back to dig one out of the rubbish pile. (I was disappointed to discover that there was no Orbea in that box. Just tattered packaging materials.) Tomorrow I will box Sugar up ship him off to his new home in the frozen land of Minnesota (where I'm sure he will feel right at home.) Tonight is our last night together.

I wanted to take him out for one last ride, but I didn't want to tarnish the scouring I gave his drivetrain or risk damaging a part of a bike that no longer belongs to me. I felt a tinge of regret when I realized I couldn't remember our last ride together. Since I discovered he needed a new bottom bracket, he's sat idle - and sometimes in pieces - in my front room. There was never a grand send-off, never a tearful goodbye. I like to joke about being in …