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Showing posts from August, 2008

Obstructed view

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There has been this ongoing theme this week of rain, mist and fog in the mornings, followed by beautiful afternoons. It works well for most people. Not so much for me. But September is nearly here and I've come to the troubling realization that I've spent precious little time in the mountains this summer. My high ambitions are slipping away with the approaching snow. I hoped to get up early and try to reach Cairn Peak today, but after my alarm went off at 6:45 a.m., I looked out the window to a low bank of fog obscuring even the tops of buildings downtown. So I went back to bed. Hiking for the sake of hiking is all well and good, but not at 6:45 a.m.

I woke up again at 9. It was still foggy. I no longer had enough time to push for Cairn. But I figured I might as well make the most of what was supposed to be a dry day, and head up Mount Jumbo. No new territory there. But I like Mount Jumbo. I can walk out my front door and be on the trail in less than five minutes. Climbing 3,50…

Big day for Alaska

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Date: Aug. 28 and 29
Mileage: 36.2 and 76.7
August mileage: 748.3

"Six hours," I told myself. "I should ride at least six hours today." After a failed attempt at a long ride on Thursday, lead legs, scattered rain and an actual doubleback while deciding to quit twice, I was all set to go at 9:30 a.m. I had slammed down a quick breakfast, browsed the morning paper, packed up my backpack and had even cinched on my helmet when I remembered I hadn't checked my e-mail yet. It was mostly junk and a one liner from Geoff: "McCain is picking Palin as his running mate!!!! busy day at work on saturday for you."

He had to be joking.

So I started to make the full rounds - CNN, New York Times, Anchorage Daily News, the Juneau Empire (to make sure they picked up the story.) Then it was on to all the inane little Anchorage Daily News reader comments, the political blogs, the Alaska blogs. There was an electricity to the air, even in my dark room in front of my computer, th…

What the?

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I know this isn't a political blog, but Sarah Palin? Hol-ee cow.

Two years ago, she was the mayor of Wasilla, population 8,000, and a long-shot primary candidate against an old guard Republican governor. Then she beat Frank Murkowski in the primary, beat a Democratic former governor in the general, came into town, and every once in a while I'd see her walking down the street as I was pedaling through downtown.

We're gonna miss you in Juneau.

Pay it forward

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Date: Aug. 27
Mileage: 10.5
August mileage: 635.4
Temperature: 55

When I was in Huntington Beach last week, a group of So-Cal cyclists were kind enough to guide me on a tour of the coast so I didn't "go home and complain that L.A. is nothing but smog and too many roads with nowhere to ride." Today I had the opportunity to pay their kindness forward by guiding a Juneau visitor on a mountain bike ride so he didn't go home and complain that Juneau is nothing but rain and only one road that doesn't even go anywhere.

Steve is a software engineer from Denver and has already been in town for several weeks taking helicopter rides to the tops of mountains and installing wind towers. So, already his position is enviable, but he wanted to do some cycling on top of that. He's a self-professed "roadie," so I took him to the Juneau trail that in my opinion best works to convert any roadie to mountain biking (in that it's easy, fast and stunningly gorgeous) - the H…

The fallacy of water resistance

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Date: Aug. 26
Mileage: 61.2
August mileage:624.9
Temperature: 51

The argument about what clothing barrier will best protect a cyclist from falling precipitation while simultaneously rejecting inner condensation will go on until the end of time. I say such a garment does not exist. "A rain jacket can't keep out all rain and let out all sweat," Geoff told me once. "It goes against the laws of physics." Now, I haven't taken a physics class since I was in 11th grade. But I have owned a lot of rain jackets ... gortex, polyester, nylon, PVC. The driest by far has been the PVC - sure, it doesn't breathe, so it builds up a lot of inside moisture. But it's a tropical kind of moisture, warm and humid, and just a little bit damp - it's not the kind of frigid soaking I get once my other rain jackets give up the ghost and I'm left alone in the weather.

I feel strongly about this issue so today I actually set out to blog about it. Today's subject: My Pearl…

Double the pain

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Date: Aug. 25
Mileage: 27.5
August mileage: 563.7
Temperature: 50

I climbed the Eaglecrest road today, from the Mendenhall Wetlands (sea level) to the end of the new construction (high!). Twice. Doing two-minute intervals. Into a 20 mph headwind. Through a relentless downpour. I learned many valuable new things:

* It's impossible to recover from an interval on a climb.
* So eventually the interval and recovery periods look and feel more and more alike, which is impossible not to get frustrated about.
* At 40 mph, it is possible for raindrops to cause one's lips to bleed.
* Turning around to climb again at the bottom of a long descent really takes the edge off the hypothermia.
* I know the idea of hill repeats is to climb hard, turn around, and recover on the downhill, but I just can't face those frigid descents more than twice.
* Yet another expensive "water resistant" rain jacket has had the water resistance beaten right out of it. It was a nice two months, though.
* I nee…

If it ain't raining, we ain't training

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Date: Aug. 24
Mileage: 50.3
August mileage: 536.2
Temperature: 52

Hunter down in Ketchikan (where it really rains) told me about this old Army saying, and I've decided to make it my motto for the upcoming fall. My goal for the next couple of weeks at least is to rapidly increase my time and effort on the bike ... mostly to see how it makes me feel and assess where my endurance is after two months of pretty lax base training. (And yes, if it makes me feel awful, I will dial it back.) Increasing time and effort to me means more miles and purposeful climbing at a tempo pace (and tempo pace to me means sustainable, but just barely.) So yesterday and today it was three and a half and three hours, respectively, of near-hurt (and sometimes outright hurt), with one beautifully restful stop each day for photos. Tomorrow I plan to do some hill repeats, Tuesday go easy, Wednesday ride another three-hour tempo, and Thursday do something long. On Friday I'll step back and see how I feel. I thi…

Eric's Lost Coast

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Date: Aug. 22 and 23
Mileage: 14.7 and 46.0
August mileage: 485.9

I met Eric Parsons in April 2007, shortly after I posted an online forum message seeking a miracle-working knee doctor in Anchorage. I didn't find a doctor, but I did find a similarly injured, similarly minded cyclist living in Anchorage. We met up while I was in the city during a journalism convention. We limped around town and trails in the Chugach Mountains and commiserated. He told me he injured his right knee during the 2005 Iditarod Invitational and was still struggling to recover two years later. I told him I was unhealthily obsessed with that very race but didn't think my right knee, still locked up after two months of recovery following the Susitna 100, would ever be up to the challenge. I thought I could see a little bit of my future in his past, and it was cathartic to have a new friend who understood the psychological struggles related to long-term injuries. So after I returned to Juneau, we kept in tou…

Happy at home

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Date: Aug. 19 and 21
Mileage: 52.4 and 44.3
August mileage: 425.2

I was working my way through one of many cattle shoots at LAX early this morning when a man behind me pointed to gray mass hovering over the airport outside the window and asked "is that smog or fog?"

"It looks like fog to me," I said. Then the woman in front of me turned around and said, "Oh no, that's smog." I just glanced out the window again at the cloud, somewhat amused that, regardless of what it actually was, I was in a place where it's hard to tell the difference.

And with that, I left California after what feels like a short lifetime but was actually just a long week of fun in the sun.


My cute family on the Matterhorn. My 26-year-old sister, Lisa (not pictured), was deeply traumatized by this ride when she was 4 years old. So the mechanized abominable snowman has made its way into family lore, and the ride is now a fam favorite.

So after my mom informed me they had purchased Disne…

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Today's my birthday. I'm going to Disneyland. It's true. Hope I live.

Vacationy post

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I realize that the following photographs are probably interesting to nobody but me. But that's what vacations are about ... having a good day and wanting to remember it, so you take your stand-and-grin family photos and post them on your blog.

I hooked up today with three riders from the area, readers of this very blog who offered to not only lend me a (very nice) bicycle for three days, but also took me on a morning tour of the area. The man who lent me his cyclocross bike, Mark, told me he didn't want me to go home and write the usual "IHATELA" visitor news. I have to say, the sprawl of humanity that covers the area freaked me out at first, but I'm really warming up to Southern California. We started in Huntington Beach and headed down the Pacific Coast Highway (I called it the "PCH" and my mom said "That sounds so Californian!"). We rode to Laguna Beach and then up the canyon to Irvine, rolling through some bike-path-laced hills back toward …

You don't see that in Alaska

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Whenever my friend Brian and I go fishing for halibut out of Juneau, we always get so many laughs out of the whale-watching tour boats. They motor in erratic circles around the bay like drunken drivers, chasing distant humpback spouts, and when they finally see a tail or a piece of fin, everyone rushes to one side of the boat and erupts in a loud chorus of oooooooo's.

Yeah, those silly tourists, they sure are funny. So funny that I debated whether or not I was ever going to admit to climbing onto one of those silly tourist-clogged boats to take a whale-watching tour out of Dana Point. But when I walked away with one of my coolest wildlife encounters, well, ever ... I decided it was probably worth taking a little ribbing from my Juneau friends.

We saw a couple of blue whales, estimated to be 60 and 70 feet long, respectively (two of the largest animals that have ever lived!). Blues, as far as I know, don't come anywhere near Juneau, but they don't seem to have any qualms abo…

Huntington Beach

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So that's where I'm going on vacation. All week long, friends and co-workers have been asking me, "so where are you going?"

"Somewhere in Southern California ... near L.A. ... (trailing off.)"

You don't know where you're going?"

Um, no ... it's a family vacation. My parents planned it ... (trailing off.)"

"What are you, 7?"

But in a way, that's what this vacation is pretty much about. Being 7 years old again ... for all of the good and the bad of it. Today we set up on the beach and I actually went boogie boarding. I never saw much point to it before, but it is pretty fun. A couple of times I tried to paddle under the crest of the wave, like surfers do on TV, riding out that beautiful curve until it meets its natural conclusion. It didn't quite work that way for me. It was more like an underwater thrashing while the breaking water dragged me over a lot of abrasive sand. Even more fun was fighting the crazy tidal current as…

Sun shock

Date: Aug. 13 and 14
Mileage: 30. 7 and 44.1
August mileage: 328.5

My internet went down at home, but I'll always be a geek so I wanted to post my mileage before I forgot it, so I'm posting from a hotel room somewhere in the sprawl of Los Angeles. I just flew in from Juneau this morning. I heard the sun came out there today. I missed it.

I made two stops today - a beautiful flyover above the fjords surrounding Sitka; and Seattle, where I had a strange conversation with a man in which it took me at least two minutes to explain to him that I lived in Juneau, not L.A., and I was flying to my vacation, not home from it.

Then the plane dropped into the smog and the sprawl. The mountains were just ghosts in the hazy distance, and then it was just flat and buildings as far as I could see. I walked out the door into the warm sun and took off my outermost layer outside for the first time in, I don't know, years. I'm happy to soak it up when I can and I'm thrilled to see my famil…

Taste of October

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Date: Aug. 12
Mileage: 25.3
August mileage: 253.7

I rode into some really driving rain this morning - blowing sideways, it was a 30 mph direct hit to the face with sharp daggers of water. The temperature was about 50 but the windchill drove it down to something that felt almost frigid, and I remembered what it's like here, at least most of the time, during the fall.

The miles are well-earned in Juneau falls and winters. I forget just how much so until I compare a fall-like day such as today with the relative ease of the summer days earlier this week. I head out with a plan to go hard, but usually start focusing so much on how miserable I am that I lapse into survival mode, put my head down, and grind through it. The nice thing about October compared to a day like today is that it actually is cold. After an hour or so my hands and feet go numb, giving me a good excuse to quit, unlike a day like today, wherein I have to admit that I quit early simply because I was miserable.

And in the b…

Style and grace: Things I don't have

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Date: Aug. 10 and 11
Mileage: 27.0 and 30.1
August mileage: 228.4

My new fried Terry is trying to teach me how to pop a wheelie. No big deal, really, just one of the most essential skills in mountain biking. And of course I was terrible. And of course I blamed my platform pedals. And of course I also blamed my natural lack of coordination (Jill: "It's like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time.")

But he was persistent enough and even talked me into pedaling up the upper Salmon Creek Trail, a path I had jogged up many times but never dreamed people actually rode their bikes through the minefield of mud, downfalls and wet roots. People ride their bikes over lots of stuff, I've discovered. I'm still trying to get past the whole "but walking around that is so much faster and easier" philosophy. Problem with wet roots is they take a pretty good wheelie to climb over without washing out, so the lessons began in earnest. I'm always relu…

Back to normal

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Date: Aug. 7, 8 and 9
Mileage: 30.1, 35.7 and 15.2
August mileage: 171.3

Sorry I've been away from my blog for a bit. Not that anyone probably actually noticed - but three days is a long hiatus for me when I'm in town.

I've actually spent most of that time at my computer, typing like a crazy person. It started Thursday afternoon. As expected, the sun went away and the rain came back. I did a hard interval-type ride out to North Douglas (intervals meaning I go as hard as I absolutely can until I think I'm about to burst, and then I recover until I think I can go hard again.) I came home completely spent, actually had to take a nap, and then I woke up and drove Geoff to the airport (He was flying to Anchorage to run the Resurrection Pass 100) I had originally planned to come home and ride again, but that didn't sound appealing at all. And just as I sat down at the computer to kill some time blogging and whatnot, it occurred to me that I actually felt like starting on thi…