Showing posts from January, 2008

Camping in January

Date: Jan. 29
Mileage: 6
January mileage: 761.8
Temperature upon departure: 7

I slipped out the door at 12:31 a.m. and pedaled beneath the orange glow of suburban street lamps. Blasts of hard wind amplified the already tiny temperature, but only the crackle of rubber on ice betrayed a bewildering quiet. I rode toward the black mass of mountains that would swallow me for the night. I was consumed with the loneliness and awe of the conditions I was simulating. I had to keep reminding myself I was only a few blocks from my house.

I couldn’t remember the climb up this hill ever being so laborious. I had severely overdressed and was paying for it in a shower of sweat. I thought about returning home to change my base layer, but remembered the full set of clothing in my frame bag and decided this sweat was a good test ... a simulation of a full day’s work. I took off my balaclava to steam off some of the heat. My helmet froze to my hair.

I pushed my bike through soft snow for two miles up the stee…

Frozen hub

Date: Jan. 28
Mileage: 26
January mileage: 755.8
Hours: 2:30
Temperature upon departure: 0

Lows are predicted to reach 10 below 0 tonight. I am going to putter home from work around 11 p.m., pack up my Pugsley, putter up a nearby trail, and try to get some sleep.

But first I wanted to thank Dave Kingsbury and company for their kind contribution. I also want to thank others who have donated to my cause. I have received encouraging words and support from all over the world. It amazes me actually, because this is my fun, and my pain, but your help touches me more than I can really express. So thank you.

This recent cold snap has allowed me to test out some of my new gear in more Iditarod-like temperatures - clear, cold, windy and dry. So far my comfort level while moving in temperatures near zero (and windchills around -15) hasn't varied much from the system I use at 30 degrees. The only changes I've made are a heavier balaclava, an extra layer on top, vapor barrier socks and a vapor ba…

Experiment gone awry

Date: Jan. 25
Mileage: 55
January mileage: 739.8
Hours: 6:30
Temperature upon departure: 5

As soon as I finished writing my argument against the use of panniers in snow-bike racing yesterday, I realized that I hadn't even convinced myself. "What was so bad about the use of panniers on a snow bike?" I wondered. Instead of dreaming up imaginary situations, why not try them in real life? Then I came home from work to discover that Geoff had figured out how to attach my cheap, touring-bike rear rack on the front of the Pugsley (I had been complaining about expensive front racks for weeks, and he just up and improvised. That Geoff sure can be innovative.) Anyway, I suddenly had endless options for gear. So today I repacked my bike with
rear saddle bags and the sleeping bag strapped to the front rack. All of my stuff didn't even fill the saddle bags half way. In that, I saw one peril of panniers ... the option for too much stuff.

The weather forecast called for a high of 7 degree…

Hauling out the big rig

Date: Jan. 24
Mileage: 25.1
January mileage: 684.8
Hours: 2:15
Temperature upon departure: 23
Snowfall: 11.8" Friday and Saturday

I started taking deep, involuntarily louder breaths with every precarious step up the icy, narrow staircase. My knees begged to just buckle already and my biceps burned, but I couldn't stop now. I had nowhere to go. My palm seared against the top tube of my bicycle, and I tried to climb faster, but I was already feeling faint. I hadn't even planted my final foot on the top stair when I lobbed the ridiculously heavy bike at the porch, letting the rubber bounce a couple times as I caught my breath. I had just climbed two flights of stairs. It would be the hardest thing I had to do all day.

Beyond the trips up the stairs, however, I am becoming more and more accustomed to Pugsley's recent, rapid weight gain. We had a pretty big snowstorm yesterday, and many of my neighbors were out shoveling their driveways. As I puttered by, more than one commented,…

12 hours and a hard fall

Date: Jan. 24
Mileage: 109.5
January mileage: 659.7
Hours: 12:15
Temperature upon arrival: 21 (forgot to check what it was when I left.)
Precipitation: 0"

I think I am really starting to get this all-day-on-a-bike thing dialed in. I finish the ride, eat a good meal, and almost instantly begin to feel fresh and halfway recovered. I almost feel as though I spent the day at work, not riding my bike. Almost. Except for the issue of the road rash on my elbow, and the dent in my hip. Well, it's not a dent, really; it's more like a lopsided purple goose egg. Either way, it's sure to become a solid streak of soreness before tomorrow. These long rides just wouldn't be the same without small disasters.

I finally peeled myself away from my warm house at 8:15 a.m. and headed directly for the Mendenhall Valley trails. The snow is really set up solid right now ... footprints, ice-covered roots and all. It's a bumpy ride. I wanted to test out the loaded-down bike on some technical…

Elections and a heavy bike

Well, I finally have the bike set up for my big ride tomorrow. I'm not going to camp out tomorrow night. I just wanted to strap all of my gear to my bike and see if it's even feasable and/or functional to navigate the beast. While this version is more reality-based than any of my previous set-ups, I still don't think I'm very close to the finished product. That truth became frustratingly clear as I grunted and wrestled with my handlebar straps just to create a few extra millimeters of clearence. There's no way I'll acheive that kind of leverage when it's 10 below. Especially considering those straps likely will be frozen to plywood consistency. Plus, all the straps are annoying. There's got to be a better way.

It won't matter for tomorrow, though. The weather will be relatively warm - high 20s - and all this gear will serve mainly as dead weight. I ended up packing clothing, bivy and sleeping pad in the handlebar bag; sleeping bag, pot and stove on t…

Between clouds

Date: Jan. 22
Mileage: 28.4
January mileage: 550.2
Hours: 2:30
Temperature upon departure: 28
Precipitation: .01"

Laura from NPR put together a pretty cool audio slideshow in which I retell the story of Juneau's resident wolf. You can listen to it at this link: "A Wolf Named Romeo." It's been interesting to see a bit of national reaction to the story of Romeo. I hope it's clear that I'm rehashing a local legend, and not presenting a factual timeline. There's a lot that's unknown about Romeo, and I'm certainly not an expert on his origin or needs. But I do know the wolf has co-existed peacefully with the recreational users of the Mendenhall Lake area for a least two years, and nobody seems to be clamoring to upset that balance.

I was feeling quite a bit of fatigue this morning. It could be all the training hours I've put in this week, or it could be the fact that I've been sleeping less, and generally not very well. Geoff and I are moving to …

Happy Blue Monday

Date: Jan. 21
Mileage: 12.6
January mileage: 521.8
Hours: 2:45
Temperature upon departure: 27
Precipitation: 0"

A couple of years ago, I learned a psychologist had proclaimed the third Monday in January to be "The Most Depressing Day of the Year." (Yes, I also know it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But the psychologist is British and probably didn't mean to coincide the two.) I like to acknowledge the passage of "Blue Monday," if only because the day is usually anything but. I love mid-January. It's the time of year I'm pushing toward the peak of my training and riding an endorphin high that can't be crushed by even the heaviest office workload. Days are becoming noticeably longer. Winter has settled into its maximum splendor. Spring is on the horizon.

The weather forecast today called for "mostly sunny." So I was more than a little disappointed when I woke up to a thick bank of clouds hovering above the city. I suited up for the possibil…

I don't really have to quit yet, do I?

Date: Jan. 20
Mileage: 63.8
January mileage: 509.2
Hours: 5:15
Temperature upon departure: 23
Precipitation: 0"

I veered onto Mendenhall Lake and looked at my watch again. 12:47 p.m. In a perfect world, I would be sitting at my office desk in 13 minutes. In my own skewed world, I didn't really need to be at work before 2, and that was more than an hour away. In the real world, I still had more than 15 miles to ride even if I turned around right there and went straight home, a shower to take, some lunch to eat ...

The studded tires clacked loudly on the ice; in the still air the sound echoed like a symphony of snare drums. I skidded to a scraping stop and looked back with pride at the deep gouges I had scratched into the surface - like skid marks off a muscle car. The traction definitely seemed satisfactory, and I was much more interested in circumnavigating the lake than racing the clock home. But still my watch ticked and still I stood there, undecided even as I acknowledged my fir…

Brand new camera

Date: Jan. 18 and 19
Mileage: 36.6 and 54.5
January mileage: 445.4
Hours: 3:00 (plus 3:00 at the gym) yesterday and 4:30 today
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 28
Precipitation: 1.61 inches!!! (All rain, all yesterday.)

Last week, I received an e-mail from Stephanie at Olympus. She told me she had looked at my blog, enjoyed the cycling/photography concept, and just happened to have in mind the perfect camera for me: The Olympus Stylus 770 SW. She told me she would send me one, no strings attached ... I'm sure knowing that any blogger is going to brag publicly about free gear. But what she didn't know is that I already owned an older version of this exact camera, and had been abusing it quite heavily since April. Even after I told her so, she didn't withdraw her offer. "You'll like to new version," she told me. "This one is freezeproof."

Mendenhall Lake

The sparkling new silver camera came in the mail on Thursday. Today I took it on its first ride. Not a b…

I broke both my snowshoes

How, you might ask, does one go about breaking two individual snowshoes on the same day? By accidentally running them over with a car? No. By hucking off cliffs? Sounds fun, but no. By practicing my kickboxing with a Sitka spruce? No, it's really much more mundane than that. First, you take a pair of cheap collapsible snowshoes. Then you use them to break your own trail up a typically steep slope in Juneau, Alaska, through wet, deep, heavy, heavy snow (I mean, really, is there some kind of lead pollution in the precipitation that nobody knows about?) Fail to notice that the back end has come loose after two miles. Continue stomping around, breaking crucial plastic parts and filling up the tubes with lead-based snow. Act surprised when the back end finally snaps off. Try in vain to wedge it back on to the front. Repeat with other shoe.

I was hoping to put in a long day on my bike sometime this weekend, but the weather turned absolutely atrocious: Temperatures in the high 30s and hea…

Slow snow

Date: Jan. 15
Mileage: 25.1
January mileage: 355.3
Hours: 3:00
Temperature upon departure: 32
Precipitation: .48"/3.5" snow

Holy cow, I had a tough ride today. It wouldn't appear that way on paper. I rode to the end of the North Douglas Highway and back.

That’s right. A 25-mile road ride with a mere 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The ride I know by heart. The ride I’ve done in as little as 1:20 on several occasions, mostly windless days in July. The ride I could barely recognize today through windblasted daggers of icicle snow as I bumped and bounced over a heavily plowed-in shoulder. The ride that kicked me endlessly sideways with wind gusts that stopped me in my tracks and constant effort that left me wheezing up the smallest of hills. And when I sat down to lunch after three hours of tough riding, I really believed I earned it.

I brought my GPS to play with the new electronic map I just received in the mail. I had a ton of fun watching the contour lines roll beside my virtual …


Date: Jan. 14
Mileage: 17.8
January mileage: 330.2
Hours: 3:15
Temperature upon departure: 27
Precipitation: .02"/.75" snow

The more movement grinds to a halt, the more time seems to speed by. I slumped over my handlebars and drew a deep breath, again. I wrestled with my right foot until I freed it from the shin-deep snow, again. I planted my foot a few inches down the slope, where it promptly disappeared into the drift, again. I inhaled another big breath and did the same with my left foot. My bike sat upright in the snow with no need for my support. I yanked on the handlebars, but it refused to budge. My calves burned and glutes throbbed as beads of sweat formed on my face in defiance of nonmovement. Even the bike's odometer mocked me, still registering 0.0 mph after more than 50 yards. "Well," I thought. "This is definitely worse than the trail." I waded over to the single soft snowmobile track I had used to trudge up, and now down, the mountain over my …

Meal planning

Date: Jan. 13
Mileage: 25.8
January mileage: 312.4
Hours: 2:00
Temperature upon departure: 30
Precipitation: .22"/4" snow

I had a great short ride today. I felt the strongest I have since my left knee started acting up in late December. My actual moving time seemed exceptionally short (the ride took two hours, but I stopped for a while in two different spots.) I hope to put in my longest single ride yet this weekend if the weather cooperates. I won't ride for 12 hours in 35-degree rain. There's just no reason to suffer that much in the name of "training."

I have been spending a fair amount of my off time trying to decide exactly what I'll have in my "kit" during the Ultrasport. In some aspects, I still have quite a bit of testing to complete before I really get my gear dialed in. I have a list and an pretty concrete idea of the clothing I want to bring, but I'm still not completely sure if it's enough. Or too much? My testing isn't likely…

Pugsley presence

Date: Jan. 11
Mileage: 48.8
January mileage: 286.6
Hours: 5:00
Temperature upon departure: 26
Precipitation: .58"

When I first attached enough parts to my Pugsley to enable its mobility beyond my back yard, I thought for sure the sight of my obese clown bike would garner a lot of attention. I thought people would be stopping me on the streets ("Excuse me, but I think your bike's wheels are about to explode ...") Surprisingly, the early reactions to Pugsley were few and far between (and most of them involved some variation of "does that thing have studs?") I became comfortable with the idea that Pugsley did not in fact look all that strange to the indiscriminate eye, and relished in my cycling anonymity.

For some reason, that all changed recently. Suddenly, I've become this crazy bike lady that people recognize and feel compelled to question. If I ride out to the lake on a semi-nice day, I almost have to put on an extra base layer so I can stay warm during all…

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. Bu…