Showing posts from October, 2008

Worth the wait

Date: Oct. 30
Mileage: 35.1
October mileage: 514.6

October has not been kind to Juneau, weatherwise. The last dry day was Sept. 25, which was the day I left on my Golden Circle bike tour. It seems like ages ago. Since then, we've set a number of disappointing records ... daily rainfall records, consecutive days of rain, high wind speeds. We're still pace for a record number of wet days for the year (Up to 211 right now, but who's counting?) Complaining about rain in Juneau is like complaining about sand in the desert. But it would be a lie, I believe for any of us here, to say that waking up to the 34th consecutive day of dripping gray fog doesn't make us feel like eating a few thousand calories of pure carbs and crawling back into bed.

So my point is, after a streak like that, when the sun comes out, it matters. It more than matters. It nourishes. Like fresh bread and butter after a long fast, the long-hidden rays soak into skin and fill every cell with warmth and light. …

Days of rain

Date: Oct. 28
Mileage: 34.3
October mileage: 479.5

I didn't think I was going to ride today, but then I read Elden's blog.

Most people who browse this site also read, so I don't need to rehash the details. But any entry with the title "Getting the ending right," in regards to cancer, casts a heartbreaking mood over the morning.

I had been sitting at my computer, downing cups of coffee and trying to pull myself out of poor-sleep fatigue. I had already decided I was due for a "reward day." Reward days are the days that I let myself skip the waterlogged rides and/or hikes, put on something comfortable and cotton, grab a New Yorker magazine, and spend a relaxing and dry hour or two at the gym. Most of the time I love to go outside, but the rain and wind does start to wear on me, so every week or 10 days, regardless of what I had planned to do for training, I'll give myself what is essentially a rain day and hunker down inside.

That was going to…

The impossibility of wet snow

Date: Oct. 26 and 27
Mileage: 5.4 and 30.1
October mileage: 445.2

On Sunday, wet snow fell for most of the early morning, switching over the rain before I left to go riding at about 10 a.m. The roads hadn't been plowed and were covered with about three inches of sludge. I tried to ride in the shoulder, but I could never make it more than three or four feet before the rear wheel slipped or spun out. I tried the sidewalk with the same results. The only place I could make the bike move forward was the narrow strip of wet pavement where the snow had been pushed aside by cars - and that was where all the cars were slipping and spinning and barreling through.

Riding the road seemed suicidal, so I turned around with a plan to ride loops on the trails near my house. I managed about three miles with mostly the same results - slipping and skidding and washing out. I might as well have been riding in bacon grease. I was bummed, because I was really hoping to get in a long ride on Sunday. But I j…

First snow

Date: Oct. 25
Mileage: 32.3
October mileage: 409.7

Although we've been seeing snow in the surrounding mountains since mid-September, the actual city limits of Juneau weren't hit with snow until Friday night. Oct. 24 is actually a little early for Juneau's first snow, located as it is in the banana belt of Alaska. It means winter's not here to stay, but it's always fun to see white stuff before Halloween.

Riding through 6-8 inches of fresh powder up a moderately steep trail is the best full-body workout there is ... you know, besides running, yoga, cross-country skiing, pilates and swimming. For the second day in a row, I came home coated in sweat with legs tired to the core after spending four hours covering 32 miles. Still, the downhill runs are amazing ... steamrolling down singletrack in a white powder blast, wheels nearly silent in the snow, bouncing over partially-covered rocks, carving wide turns with the fat tires, eyes streaming with tears in the cold wind, kin…

Pugsley's a happy bike

Date: Oct. 23
Mileage: 42.4
October mileage: 377.4

It's been a good week for Pugsley. Not only did I recently promise him many, many hours of quality training time this winter, but the hurricanes that deluged Juneau in rain dumped a fair amount of snow in the mountains. There was even a small break in the weather today. Time to head up.

I saw the sun bursting through this small sucker-hole near the base of Eaglecrest Ski Area and actually stopped for a few minutes just to stand in its path. It's the first hit of direct sunlight I've had since I walked out of the Grand Canyon on Oct. 11.

The snow conditions were predictably bad - dense powder covered with a thin layer of wind-scoured ice. Beautiful when I could stay on top, but mostly I just sank in. The riding became much better atop the mid-mountain fields, where I managed to stay on top of the crust for healthy distances. The swamps and bogs were frozen solid. Large blocks of new terrain had opened up overnight. This is what …

Hurricane days

Date: Oct. 20 and 21
Mileage: 19.0 and 31.0
October mileage: 335.0

While riding along Perseverance Basin, I saw this tree, stripped nearly bare in an April avalanche, sporting its first sprigs of new growth. The blueberry bushes and alder branches surrounding it, only recently uncovered from the slow-melting avalanche debris, were rushing to do the same. It was an interesting scene - a futile burst of life in late October. All around, the Devil's Club had wilted. Brown leaves littered the ground. All the other trees were bare. But in the avalanche zone, it was spring. It was a little sad ... but inspiring, too - a reminder that life never stops trying.

I have had a good week of fun little Pugsley rides, jaunts to North Douglas, and trips to the gym. It will be my last unfocused week. The real training will have to begin now. But the truth is, I'm not ever sure where to begin. I have a much stronger base than I had at this time last year. Hiking and cycling, healthy knees and stron…

I made a lot of mistakes

"I was in love with the place,
in my mind, in my mind.
I made a lot of mistakes,
in my mind, in my mind ..."
- Sufjan Stevens, "Chicago"

I was going through some old picture folders when I found the original file of a photo I have had over in this blog's sidebar for a while now. It was taken just a few minutes before the start of the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational by Damion Kintz (or at least, that's who the little copyright symbol in the corner attributes it to.) For me, this picture is filled with the nervous energy and hope that surrounded the moment. But more than that, I see the one of those pivotal moments that life is full of - a moment of innocence lost.

The week following is still burned with startling clarity in my memory, and I think about it often. I think about the world of extremes, the beauty and the bleakness, the strength and the weakness, the highs and the lows. And I think about the what ifs. What if I had trained differently? What if I had …

Seven things about work

Date: Oct. 19
Mileage: 32.0
October mileage: 285.0

Recent discussions on my and Geoff's blog gave me idea for how to respond to the ever-circulating "Seven Random Things About Me" blog game, of which I was recently tagged by Carrot Quinn. So here's: "Seven Random Things About My Work History."

1. My first job was at Wendy's. I tried unsuccessfully for most of my sophomore year to land a job as a 15-year-old. So the day after I turned 16, I went into Wendy's under the recommendation of a friend and filled out an application. I told the interviewer that I appreciated that "Wendy's makes quality hamburgers, not crappy ones like McDonalds." (Oh yes I did say that.) I was employed within a week of my 16th birthday. I made $6.25 an hour.

2. I hated that job - not because it was a crappy fast food job, but because an unapologetic sexist hierarchy chained me to salad bar duty, which I despised. I wanted to work the cash register, and expressed that…

It feels good to complain about the weather

Date: Oct. 12, 13, 15
Mileage: 61.0
October mileage: 253.0

Well, Geoff is back in town now. Even after some discussion, I'm still not completely sure why he decided to return to Juneau after vowing he would not - at least, not until fall and a fair chunk of November and December were good and over. Juneau has given him its warmest welcome, too. The weather has been on the soft side of horrific. I'm not sure what it was like while I was in Utah, but I do know it pretty much hasn't stopped raining since the minute my Alaska Airlines jet lurched violently in a gusty crosswind just feet over the runway. Now we pretty much just wait for lulls in the wind to go out. "Oh, just 15 mph wind and drizzle? That's practically sunny."

Yesterday, before three hours of cycling I misjudged how many layers I'd need and paid the deep and painful price. I noticed a chill set in as I was climbing and knew I was in for problems. I turned around before too long, but it was too late…

You can't go home again

I was grinding up a slick stretch of singletrack on Monday when the bike's rear wheel, unsurprisingly, finally refused to turn. I used a stick to chip away at a thick layer of mud crammed between the tire and the frame, but it was no use. The mass held as steadfast as concrete, and nearly as solid. A day of "warmer" temperatures and plenty of snowmelt had left the Draper trails wet and muddy. I headed out anyway, forgetting that those clay-packed trails in Utah become unrideable when wet, unlike the spongy trails in Juneau, which are always wet.

Eventually I stashed the bike in some trees and started hiking up the Jacob's Ladder trail, which I remembered as a steep but scenic route that, on an ambitious day, eventually reaches Lone Peak - a peak that, before I moved to Alaska, I considered my favorite place in the whole world. I knew Lone Peak was out of the question on Monday, but it felt good to walk in its shadow.

I hiked up the snowy trail until I met two other hik…

Grand outing

In the purple light of predawn, my dad and his friend, Tom, rushed to pull on every piece of clothing in their packs before the chill set in. I tilted my travel thermometer beneath the dim light of the South Rim bus station. It was 37, maybe 38 degrees. I was already wearing all of my clothing. Three years of Alaska outings have taught me to leave the house as pessimistic as possible and shed my way toward optimism.

The shuttle bus pulled up at 6:08 a.m. Arizona time (what time is that in Alaska? What time is that in Utah? In a state that does not observe daylight savings, the real time was a constant source of debate.) The bus was packed to the brim with people - other hikers bundled in their Arctic best for the long descent down the South Kaibab Trail. It was a swift dose of reality that the Grand Canyon is not the place to seek solitude. But more than that, we were astonished at the sheer number of people undertaking what just a few years ago to us was a bewildering idea - hiking fr…