Showing posts from December, 2008

Year in miles

January: 833.8
February: 647.7
March: 636.3
April: 789.6
May: 1,188.4
June: 822.1
July: 747.0
August: 748.3
September: 893.3
October: 587.0
November: 831.1
December: 790.1
Total 2008 bike mileage: 9,514.4

I finally got around to tallying up my 2008 mileage. I just used the numbers that I kept track of on my blog, with a few approximate additions of the Iditarod race (about 350 miles) and the 24 Hours of Light (120 plus 25 of extra riding around Whitehorse, probably on the low side.) The total surprised me. I had no idea I was that close to 10,000 miles. If I kept track of all of my human-powered mileage, including hiking and (limited) running, I almost definitely would have a 10,000-mile year behind me. Not bad.

The high-mileage month by far was May, although it certainly wasn't the most difficult. That designation would have to go to February, the third shortest month in terms of miles. After that, I'd probably throw in a bunch of other winter months and of course September and put May in …

I eat snow for breakfast

Date: Dec. 28 and 29
Mileage: 36.3 and 31.1
December mileage: 790.1
Temperature upon departure: 19 and 15

For the past few days, biking conditions have been tough. Really tough. Like fishtailing-in-sandy-sugar-snow- punching-through-postholes- being-blown-by-wind- into-deep-snow-drifts tough. And that's just in the road shoulders! All the trail riding I've tried has been an abysmal, bike-pushing failure. Every other person in the entire city is up at the ski resort, lining up to battle for first runs through two feet of fresh power. And while I don't necessarily want to be doing that (ski crowds: ugh), I am still a little unclear about why I am trying to ride (and often walk) a bicycle in the worst of conditions.

Yesterday, I was wading through a still-unplowed bike path when I came to a mountain of chunky snow that had been deposited by a highway snowplow driver. The pile was at least six feet high. It was over my head. On one side of the path is a chain link fence; on the oth…

12 months in photos

I went through my blog archives tonight to pick out my favorite photos of the year, and it was hard to decide. I don't really think of myself as a "photographer." Photographers generally take photos for the purpose of taking photos, as works of art and expression. I'm more of a "photo documentarian." I take photos for the purpose of illustrating a particular time or place or event (most often a bike ride.) As such, it's nearly impossible for me to separate the actual aesthetic quality of photos from my emotions about the events and places surrounding them. But I tried. One for each month - 12 months in photos.

The top photo is my favorite of the year, taken on Sept. 25 along the Klondike Highway, south of Carcross, Yukon, during a late fall bike tour of the Golden Circle. Maybe it's because we spend so much of the year washed in the blues and grays of winter, but all of that color still leaves me in awe.

"Long ride," Jan. 10: I guess it'…

Snow days

Date: Dec. 26 and 27
Mileage: 30.1 and 34.2
December mileage: 722.7
Temperature upon departure: 27

Well, I'm back home now after starting the drive north, running into a wall of whiteout conditions, and thinking better of crawling my front-wheel-drive-with-summer-tires sedan out to the Eagle Glacier trailhead for a 5.5-mile night hike and campout in the snow. I was going to meet my friends, who are staying at the Eagle Glacier cabin. My plan was to resist the lure of the toasty cabin, and instead test my trench-digging and sleeping-in-a-suffocating-bivy-sack skills by camping outside. I realize now that even though I couldn't make it out to the cabin, I could in theory still go camping. But I've been avoiding that crucial aspect of my training. Eight hours of winter bivying is in many ways more exhausting than eight hours of biking, so I've been waiting (stalling) for the perfect opportunity to come along. It's too warm tonight (25 degrees.) Maybe I'll wait for ano…

Christmas Day

Over our years in Alaska, Geoff and I have become more and more minimalist in our holiday celebrations. We moved past the pretense of giving each other gifts years ago. We do give serious thought to going "home" for the holidays, but each "home" is on the opposite side of the country, and neither is anywhere near Alaska. Geoff went home in 2005 and 2006. I have yet to make the leap. And we have the admit, the sadness we feel in missing our families and their holiday traditions is tempered by relief in missing the extra expense and stress that always accompanies travel this time of year. I work at a business that operates 365 days a year. I wouldn't even have Dec. 25 off work if it wasn't my natural weekend. But since it was, Geoff and I decided to go for a Christmas Day snowshoe hike.

The winter sun was out.

We went for a casual stroll up to Spaulding Meadow. It was a holiday outing, and we treated it as such, walking easy and talking about life. I think i…

Christmas Eve

Date: Dec. 24
Mileage: 12.1
December mileage: 658.4
Temperature upon departure: 23

My boss gave me an unexpected day off today. Geoff had to work. I finally put Pugsley back together after getting a new free wheel installed, and managed to mangle the chain during a particularly bad case of chain suck. Now I'm going to have to order a new one. Lately, Pugsley's been sick more often than he's been healthy. But there wasn't much I could do about it on Christmas Eve, so I went for a hike.

I worked hard to reach the Douglas Island Ridge, and decided to walk along the spine for a while and see if I could make it to sunset. Low clouds on Admiralty Island promised the possibility of some spectacular colors, and it seemed like the ideal Christmas Eve situation: Watch the sunset at 3,000 feet, sprint down the mountain in the twilight, and ride home beneath an emerging pattern of stars, all while scanning the sky with that same kind of childlike anticipation that my sister and I used…

New York Times coverage

I don't have much of my own content to add today, but I wanted to post a link to this great New York Times article about the Iditarod Trail Invitational. There's an embedded video on the Web site that is probably my favorite piece of reporting I have ever found about this race. The video follows race organizers Bill and Kathi Merchant as they conduct a winter training camp for those who plan to attempt the race this March. It captures so well the transition - well, it's more of a startling realization - between the expectations about the Iditarod Trail and the realities of it. The two men at the winter camp, George Azarias and Aidan Harding, start out with the usual "easy explanation" Iditarod banter: "Oh yeah, we're crazy, we don't know why we're here. The guys go out on the trail, eat some nasty yellow glop, push their bikes for a while, and, suddenly, you can see that moment of truth in the face of George - the moment that I think every rookie…

Day 11 of sun

Date: Dec. 22
Mileage: 27.5
December mileage: 646.3
Temperature upon departure: 14

Eleven days have passed and I'm still in awe of this clear, colorful, holy-cow-you-can-see-forever weather. Today was likely the last day of sun, with a Tuesday forecast calling for seven inches of snow. But it's been a good run, and I'm not complaining. I'm fairly certain this has been the longest stretch of consecutive dry days since I moved to Juneau two and a half years ago.

"Clear weather is such a waste this time of year," Geoff told me. "For every clear day you get, what, six hours of sunlight? And none of it's direct sunlight. I'd rather have three sunny days in the summer then 11 in December."

I disagree. The winter is such a beautiful time of year, in my opinion, and the clear sky opens up jaw-dropping views that catch me off guard even after two and a half years. Just today, I headed out North Douglas for a mellow "endurance pace" two-hour ride …

Shoutout from the South Pole

Claire "Down in Antarctica" sent me this photo, and I had to share it because it's so cool. That's the South Pole (the South Pole!) and that's a sign for me (for me!) right next to it. So cool. What a great Christmas present. Thanks, Claire.

Claire told me they are currently enjoying balmy (read: Frigid) summer weather on the South Pole, where she works for a physics project called "Icecube." She offered to traverse the continent on a bicycle with me if I ever decide to do so. Careful, Claire, I might just take you up on that offer.


Date: Dec. 21
Mileage: 38.1
December mileage: 618.8
Temperature upon departure: 23

Dec. 21 is a big day in Alaska. And not because it's the first day of winter, which no one gives much thought to, because most Alaskans have been thinking about winter since October. And not because it's a solstice, a designation that no one gives much thought to on June 21 when they're kicking back in lawn chairs, sipping cold drinks and watching the sun set at 11 p.m. No, Dec. 21 is a big day because it's the winter solstice. The day that brings the light.

I rode out to the glacier today, and the area was packed with people. Ice skaters weaved around each other in erratic lines like water skeeters on the surface of a blindingly blue pond. The low sunlight sparkled on the frozen lake. I ventured out onto the glare ice for the first time. I'm terrified of riding glare ice. I've washed out enough with my studded tires to know they're not slip-proof, and I don't have any tractio…

On ice

Date: Dec. 19 and 20
Mileage: 4.0 and 23.4
December mileage: 580.7
Temperature upon departure: 7

I've had actual requests to start listing the departure temperatures in my daily ride stats. I think I stopped posting them back in July, when I got tired of typing boring old 50-something every day. Temperatures get interesting again in the winter, and more meaningful for my future reference, so back they go. It was 7 degrees when I left the house today. Feels brisk! But, then again, it feels less brisk every day. Juneau's been locked in this clear cold snap for so long (nine solid days with hardly a cloud), that when the rain (or even snow) finally does return, it's going to feel strange.

I only cheated a little on my day off on Friday ... with one quick sunset lap around the Mendenhall Lake (so quiet, so cold, so perfectly beautiful. I heard a wolf - likely Romeo - howling in the forest.) I was out in the Valley running a bunch of errands (first and last time Christmas shopping a…

Wash the day away

Date: Dec. 18
Mileage: 82.7
December mileage: 553.3

I feel like I just went through the bike version of the Master Cleanse:

* I set my mind to completing something illogical and counterintuitive.
* It pretty much took over my life for a little over a week.
* It tested crucial aspects of my willpower.
* I started to suffer toward the end.
* I walked away with feelings of renewed vigor and control, a better understanding of my own body, and a reluctance to go back to solid food (or, in my case, free time that I don't spend riding my bike.)

And thus ended my eight-hour ride following a 30-hour week, for 38 hours of riding and hiking in eight days, always in temperatures below 25, with plenty of single-digit temps and windchills below zero. That's essentially a peak week for me. I don't plan to do any longer efforts in preparation for the Iditarod. This week just had a perfect storm of ideal conditions for enjoyable riding and race training, and I figured a "peak" week would …

Only one more shopping day!

Date: Dec. 17
Mileage: 39.2
December mileage: 470.6

I completely forgot to hold my LIVESTRONG drawing for a book this week. I plugged the pleasingly large numbers into a raffle and Nancy P. is the winner. Congratulations! I sent you an e-mail, but if you didn't receive it, post a comment and let me know. I'm going to hold another drawing this Friday, and this week's pool is still relatively small. Five bucks nets you one ticket. You can donate to the fight against cancer here.

Also, Thursday is the last day to buy a book in time for Christmas. I'm going to make a trip to the post office Friday morning for shipment on "Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, depending where they live (in the U.S.)," according to the postman. Then it's Christmas. You can purchase a signed book or two or several from me directly by clicking on the gold "Buy Now" button in the sidebar of this blog.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in my book-selling efforts this past month. …

The brightest time of year

Date: Dec. 16
Mileage: 12.5
December mileage: 431.4

The sun rose today at 8:42 a.m. and set at 3:06 p.m., for a daylight total of six hours and 24 minutes. Juneau is going to lose exactly one more minute of daylight between now and the solstice on Sunday; then we begin the long upward arc toward summer. It is, by most accounts, the darkest time of year. And yet, I don't see it that way.

Back when I first moved to Alaska and started venturing out into the snow and painful air to train for the Susitna 100, I joked with Geoff that winter was my favorite time of year in Alaska. But as years wore on, as snow fell and wind blew and I spent more and more time out in it all, that became less of a joke. Now I find myself in my fourth winter in Alaska, falling more deeply in love.

I love the sharp lines and soft colors of a world swept with snow and encased in ice.

I love the crunch of tires spinning up a difficult trail. In winter, the rides become so much harder; the rewards so much greater.

I …