Showing posts from June, 2008

Hours and light

I just wanted to write a quick update on the 24 Hours of Light for family and others. I'm not going to expand on it too much right now because I am in a pretty somber mood. The friend who I have been coordinating with on the Great Divide Race updates, Pete, was the first on the scene at a horrific bear mauling at the 24-hour race in Anchorage - which was going on at the same time as my race. The attack involved a young girl he knew. I hope everyone involved will fully recover, but that still remains uncertain. Also, Geoff is having pretty serious doubts about continuing with the Great Divide Race. I can only imagine there must be some deep and dark self doubt involved with the decision-making process, but I have as of yet been unable to connect with him to talk to him about it. A bit of a dark day, and I could feel it, I could, even as I was surrounded by the cheery festival atmosphere of my race in Whitehorse.

I won the female solo division of the 24 Hours of Light, which I did by…

I smacked too soon (but I am gonna win)

I definitely feel silly about all my smack talk now, because I am in love with the Yukon. I don't want to beat the good mountain bikers of Whitehorse. I want to join them. They live in paradise - a Canadian Dream. An endless maze of singetrack that starts right out the back door. Dry, flowing trails that you have all to yourself. Amazing winter biking, too (sure, it's sometimes 50 below, but what place is perfect?) I'll tell you what place is close - Whitehorse.

I have experienced a ton of amazing biking in my first two days here. Probably way more biking than is healthy this close to a 24-hour race. But the lure of these tight, rolling trails is too strong, and I have lived in Juneau too long. In the land of roots and mud, you can forget what mountain biking can really be like. I am a singletrack-aholic from a prohibition town, currently on a bender.

My friends and I spent today in Carcross, a trail system with built jumps and berms (trails made for mountain biking! What a …

Dear Canada: Fear me

Date: June 24 and 25
Mileage: 18.0 and 12.1
June mileage: 677.1
Temperature: 61 and 57

I'm trying to get myself pumped up for the 24 Hours of Light. So I thought ... what the heck? Why not engage in a little good, old-fashioned trash talk.

Dear mountain bikers of the Yukon,

You may not remember me. It was just a year ago I first visited your fine land, but I was forgettable back then - the chick with the knee braces and the squeaky full-suspension 26'er. I pumped out a respectable number of laps before midnight, then I ate some soup and crawled into a tent. Just another one of those girls that couldn't handle the full 24 hours, right?

Wrong. I'm coming back. And I'm bringing with me a full year's worth of healing, training, glucosomine and suffering. I'm bringing a full year's worth of technical riding improvement and a new 29'er that can roll over your puny interior-of-the-continent black spruce roots like they were brittle pencils. I'm bringing my he…

Forced taper

Date: June 22 and 23
Mileage: 21.2 and 17.7
June mileage: 647
Temperature: 60 and 62

I am getting in a really good taper this week. Only rode an hour and a half yesterday and an hour today. I have so many little errands to run, I likely won't even be able to make the commute tomorrow, and late Wednesday night I leave for Canada. Often when I say I'm insanely busy, it's not really the truth. But right now, I really am that busy. The other day for lunch, I ate several spoonfuls of spicy peanut butter (spiked with cayenne pepper) that was given to me as a Christmas gift. And that was it. It was about all I had left in the cupboard. So this wonderful taper isn't exactly accompanied by wonderful nutrition. I am still trying to decide what I'll eat in the 24 Hours of Light. I am thinking one small water bottle every lap, every other one spiked with Nuun, and a Power Bar or Pop Tart for every two laps (it will probably take me an hour to do each lap.) The temperatures will be…

These long days

Date: June 20 and 21
Mileage: 20.7 and 32.3
June mileage: 608.1
Temperature: 64 and 54

As I suspected, I have been completely consumed by the Great Divide Race since it started. There have been a couple of other things in there. On Friday, I went fishing out North, where the reflection of the Chilkat Mountains glimmers in glassy bays and I could just dissolve in the scenery, and sometimes do. I caught a small halibut and a yellow-eye rockfish. The "chicken" halibut made for a heavenly lunch, which I scarfed as I listened to the first wave of GDR call-ins. There have been bike rides, work, movies, a new roommate, anger and stress. But, always on my mind, the GDR and its slow march south.

While Brian and I fished on Friday, a humpback whale circled our boat, again and again. A couple of times it breached far out of the water. It blew geysers of water so loud that they startled me. Sometimes it came so close to the boat I could see the deep shine on its skin; of course I never had m…

GDR 2008

Date: June 19
Mileage: 54.2
June mileage: 555.1
Temperature: 57

Today I went out for my last longish ride ahead of the 24 Hours of Light. I dawdled through the gray morning and left around 2 p.m. in light drizzle only to return with the high 8 p.m. sun over a cerulean sky almost completely flush of clouds. A mood-brightening development for sure. I hit up all the trails in the Valley. All of 'em. Well, there were probably a few singletrack spurs that I missed (there are lots of trails out there that you can only follow for a quarter mile before you're forced to backtrack.) I also made my first-ever wheeled attempt of the East Glacier Trail. I definitely ventured beyond my comfort level, both on the climbs and descents - but especially the descents. In doing so, I also pulled, unintentionally, the coolest mountain biking move I have ever successfully rolled away from. I was bombing down the switchbacks, a little faster than I probably should have been, when I hit a hairpin curve I …

Commuting is easy

Date: June 18
Mileage: 39.7
June mileage: 501.9
Temperature: 51

Dull twilight clings to the horizon at 11:30 p.m., casting a purple glow on wisps of fog draped over the mountainside. My headlamp captures streaks of rain like static in on a TV screen. As the static flickers, it stings, and I glance downward to watch my knees churn. In the yellow light they don't even seem like a part of me, the one who already is zoned in on late-night relaxing and the promise of the weekend. But all the while, my legs carry on, a simple crankshaft spinning mindlessly over the wet pavement.

I started bike commuting more than a month ago, and it no longer feels like extra work. In fact, it doesn't even feel like any work. I used to climb into my car and now I climb on my bike. Little else feels different.

I thought turning myself into a bicycle commuter was going to be my great challenge for the summer, but I was wrong. It isn't hard at all. It took me all of two weeks to get my logistics dialed i…

Yeah for me

Date: June 17
Mileage: 42.2
June mileage: 462.2
Temperature: 57

Yes, this is completely just a bragging post. I learned today that I received a first place award in news page design in the 2007 Society of Professional Journalists’ Pacific Northwest Excellence in Journalism competition. (Take that, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana!)

This is a big deal for me. Maybe even bigger than winning the 24 Hours of Light! (which also will happen this month, by the way. Ha!) I've mentioned before that I'm on a somewhat rough and rocky trail in my career right now, but navigating that kind of terrain makes the podium placement that much sweeter.

I think some readers of my blog might be surprised by the fact that while I play one on the Internet, I'm not actually a writer. I'm a graphic designer. I tried reporting early in my career, but after several brain-numbing city council meetings and reprimands for not being hard-hitting and confrontational enough, I drifted over to the other …

Parents part two

Date: June 15 and 16
Mileage: 19.4 and 28.0
June mileage: 420.0

I feel much more exhausted right now than I do when I'm cycling all the time. Strange to feel like I'm on vacation in my own hometown, but it's been a good week.

Dad in snow.

Mom in snow.

Dad and I rode out to Herbert Glacier. I was bouncing over the big boulders of the glacier moraine, thinking that was terrain only Pugsley could handle, and looked over my shoulder only to see Dad right on my tail on the Karate Monkey, with the fork still locked out no less.

He's a natural on a mountain bike. I guess years of dirtbiking on the rugged trails of the Utah desert will help with that.

Even out the road into the wind, the pace kept up. Riding Pugsley on the road felt like a pedaling a reconfigured paddle boat with two flat tires. I can't believe I spend entire winters on that thing. But I guess the glacier moraine riding can't be beaten, except by my dad.

Together we made the year's first attempt of Mou…

The parents in Juneau

Date: June 12 and 14
Mileage: 12.1 and 17.1
June mileage: 372.6

My parents flew up from Salt Lake City for a few days. This is the first time they've visited Juneau. They weather's been blah and I've already dragged my mom on more hikes than I think she would prefer, but the Alaska bug has burrowed in. She seems genuinely excited for the next day's adventures, even if the shopping is somewhat sub par ("How many Glacier Soap stores are there?")

My dad caught his first king salmon, a 25-pound, 34-inch monster. Later we trekked up Mount Roberts; Mom motored the whole way up, and didn't even complain when the hot chocolate stand at the Tramway was closed. Later we had the most delicious, melt-in-your mouth salmon dinner. Nice to have someone in the house who can cook, again.

Mom thought Pugsley was a riot, and Dad and I went on eBay and searched for his first non-motorized bike in what must be decades. He bought a nice, steel-framed Trek 820, perfecting for commut…

I am not my job

Date: June 10 and 11
Mileage: 12.1 and 42.7
June mileage: 343.4
Temperature: 51 and 55

It's been a rough couple of months at my place of employment. And, like the stock market and oil speculation, things just keep getting bleaker. Today the Powers That Be pulled us all into the conference room. Being gathered as a group is never a good thing these days, and everyone in the room sat in shadowed silence, braced for bad news.

The latest cut is our retirement benefits. Indefinitely. There was wide-eyed shock before the protests began. "Human capital is all you have." "We are this industry." "Our attrition rate is at an all-time high right now. Those of us who remain are already weighted beyond capacity and hanging on by threads. We live in one of the highest cost-of-living cities in the U.S., and now you're giving us one less reason to stay?"

The PTB just leaned back in his chair, himself just a messenger of the Corporate Overlords. He nodded in empathy and…

Tracking Geoff

Date: June 9
Mileage: 41.1
June mileage: 288.6
Temperature: 46

I had to take a day off yesterday because I was so sore from my silly little mud run. It was a good thing because I got a lot of cleaning done - once I freed my hip flexors from their overnight seize-up enough to walk, that is. But I was still disappointed. I've reached a point where I can go for 10-hour mountain bike rides and not even feel lethargic the next day, but I can't run four measly miles. Just when I thought I was in pretty good shape ... I'm not.

This is the part where experts recommend cross-training. I think that's an excellent idea. After the mud run, I browsed the Southeast Road Runners' Web site and found a few more races I'm interested in: A late-July mountain run, a five-mile hill climb and a possible road 10K (not because I'm crazy about the idea of a road 10K; I'm just curious how long it would take me to run that far. I'm guessing 9-minute miles multiplied by six.) I am …

Mud run

(Photo by Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)

Date: June 7
Mileage: 12.1
June mileage: 247.5
Temperature: 51

The mud swallowed my shoe with a deep, slimy "shlorp." I pulled against the current with my free leg, but I was stuck, actually stuck, with frigid water rushing past my shins and salty liquid that was either sweat or sea water seeping between my lips. "Wow, I'm actually going to lose my shoe," I thought, and bent forward to gain more leverage. Another loud "shlorp" finally released my shoe, coated in five inches of cement-like mud but still attached to my foot, and I bolted toward the mirage of dry land, only to find more channels, more mud. Blood dripped down my legs from a menagerie of cuts sliced by the razor-sharp tall grass. The cold salt water burned my skin until it went numb. Tourist-laden float planes buzzed overhead. They were no doubt enthralled by the string of crazy Alaskans stretched out across the channel, a strange parade of running shorts…

Competitive drive in neutral

Date: June 6
Mileage: 76.2
June mileage: 235.4
Temperature: 53

I had planned to "peak" for my 24 Hours of Light training this weekend, so it seemed prudent to do a longish ride today. I actually got some good riding in yesterday, so it didn't have to be epic. I just needed to chug out at least 10 hours for the weekend. Herbert Glacier and back sounded grand. Done and done. But what I really wanted to do was a car shuttle out to the Montana Creek side of the Windfall Lakes trail so I could bike out to Herbert Glacier and then walk to connect the two. I hear the hike is on questionable trail and about 11 miles one way - really need a weekend day to do something like that. Since my parents come to town next weekend I'll likely not get another chance this month, and then after that the mountains will be free and clear of snow and hiking the flats won't be as appealing. Oh well. Five hours on the bike won out.

I've had a good month of bike training, but in all likeliho…

Good day exploring

Date: June 5
Mileage: 53.7
June mileage: 159.2
Temperature: 51

I read an interesting article today about a study that tracked 100,000 undisclosed cell-phone users in an undisclosed location outside the U.S. Besides the obvious ethical dilemmas involved with nonconsensual tracking, the scientists in this study noted that nearly 75 percent of the people being tracked never ventured further than a 20-mile radius from their home in six months. Half the people stayed in a circle little more than six miles wide. I know this is "outside the U.S.," far away from American car culture supposedly, but I wonder how many Americans mirror this lifestyle. How many Americans rarely see the spaces more than 20 miles from where they live?

It's interesting to me because this is my biggest issue with the place where I live. I have a somewhat-smaller-than-20-mile radius to explore, and beyond that, I can't go anywhere that I can't reach with my own two feet (or arms, if I had the courage …

More green-up

Date: June 4
Mileage: 18.7
May mileage: 105.5
Temperature: 46

This is a fun time of year. The rain seems to have much less bite, and all of the benefits of being inundated with 90 inches of annual precipitation finally start to shine through. I like the greenness.

It also makes for more interesting exploring. Even well-trodden paths like the Perseverance Trail look different every time. Especially amusing right now is the presence of full leaf cover in areas where the ground is still 90 percent covered in snow. Birds are chirping, leaves are rustling in the warm, drizzling rain, and the slush is still knee deep. In a place where winter slithers in over a span of months, summer is surprisingly impatient.

I saw my first bear of the season today, a little blacky on the other side of the creek. Summer is here.

My clipless platform

Date: June 3
Mileage: 35.7
May mileage: 87.2
Temperature: 48

The other day, someone asked me why I use platform pedals on my bikes. It’s a good question. Platform pedal use does seem to run against the grain of most acceptable bicycle accessory standards. It’s a blatant rejection of nearly universally adopted technology, and, unlike fixed-gear bikes and leather saddles, you don’t even get cool points for your retro grouchiness. In fact, I think there are even fixie hipsters who sneer at platform use. Platforms are for children, and BMX bikers ... and me.

I do feel like I’ve given clipless pedals a fair chance. I’ve had a pair of LOOK pedals on my road bike, off and on, for more than a year now. All of that pedaling has given me lots of time to think up reasons why I like platforms better. So here is my “Top 10 Reasons for Reverting Back to Platform Pedals” list:

1. I hate being stuck with one pair of shoes. There are so many subcategories to this - shoes get wet and take two days to dry; sh…


Date: June 1 and 2
Mileage: 39.4 and 12.1
May mileage: 51.5
Temperature: 62 and 57

My parents are coming to visit me next week. This will be their first visit to Southeast Alaska. I thought about pushing the typical tourist excursions ... helicopter tour of the ice field, wildlife cruise to Glacier Bay, etc. But then I thought it would be more fun if I could show my parents Juneau the way I see it. My dad loves hiking, so I have been hitting some of the nearby trails to gauge the progress of the snowmelt and decide how enjoyable they'd be in a week and a half. Today I tried the Mount Jumbo trail. All was clear up to 1,300 feet, but beyond there it was still pretty deep with hollow, slushy snowpack. I made it to about 2,000 feet before I decided I was way off the trail and hopelessly lost, and followed my faint footprints home.

I'd really like to show my dad the best of Juneau. After all, he was the one who introduced me to this place we call the Great Outdoors. If he hadn't hoo…

The end of May

Date: May 30 and 31
Mileage: 8.4 and 41.2
May mileage: 1,188.4
Temperature: 61

"You've certainly done a lot of biking this month," my mom said to me on the phone today. "Is it because Geoff's gone?"

"I think I've ridden about 990 in May," Geoff told me as he was driving from Moab to Salt Lake to start his long bike trip north. "I'm training for the longest mountain bike race in the world, and you're still riding more than me."

So now I have a just-shy-of-1,200-miles month. The majority of the miles were spent on a mountain bike on pavement, usually either touring, commuting or traveling to and from trails. If I break down the factors that led to all the miles, they're really more complex than just a good, old-fashioned bike binge. For starters, I took up bike commuting in earnest this month. That's only cut very minimally - if at all - into my regular riding, and adds an average of 60 miles per week - 240 miles over the mon…