Friday, January 09, 2009

Powder dump

Date: Jan. 8
Mileage: 52.4
January mileage: 228.3
Temperature upon departure: 6

It's amazing how warm single digits feel after a short swing into the subzero range. Even when the sun is gone, and icy flakes are falling from the sky, there's a certain warmth to the air that can only be felt after dips into something much colder - like climbing out of a glacial lake on a cool spring day. I think that may be the only reason people can tolerate living in Interior Alaska. I check the current weather for McGrath almost every day. During this past cold snap, which lasted more than a week, every time I clicked on weather.com I saw current temperatures of -43, -47, even -55. Weather.com always includes a "feels like" reading with the actual temperature to account for windchill, but during the cold snap, the "feels like" temperature just read "N/A." I thought about writing weather.com and telling them they should change "N/A" to "outer space" or "standing on the moon." But maybe, just maybe, after a week or so of that, -45 just feels normal. Or not. Either way, if McGrath has a cold snap like that forecasted for the week of March 1, I am going to think hard and twice about starting the race. Cold weather training can only go so far for those of us who do not live in outer space.

Thursday, long slow distance and more weather exposure, 52 miles, 6 hours. Thursday was not really a great day on the bike. A snowstorm moved in, and with it a gray pall over the general cold. I pulled on my goggles and rode into the whiteout, plowing through the powder and trying to imagine what I could think about to get myself excited for many hours of that. It really was just one of those put-your-head-down-and-ride kind of days. It's good pshycological training to have days like this from time to time. One of the skills most endurance cyclists must hone is pushing through boredom. (And thanks again to Brian for the photo. I see him out often while I am riding, and it's a little like having my own personal photographer.)

After about four hours, I started to feel sharp streaks of pain in my right knee - old injury flareup. It happens from time to time. I am never quite sure how seriously to take these flareups. Whether I should turn around right there and soft pedal home, raise my seat up a little more and carefully push through it, or ignore it entirely. I decided on option two. But I couldn't get my seat to raise in the cold with the seatpost somewhat rusted and frozen in place. I finally decided to turn toward home and finish out six hours - on the low side of what I was hoping to ride Thursday, but still in range of my goal. The knee pain continued to bother me throughout the evening, so I decided Friday would be a bike-free active recovery day, even though I was trying to push through this 10-day period without any recovery. It was just as well, anyway, because the forecast was calling for 18 to 36 inches of snow Friday.

Friday, active recovery on snowshoes, about five miles, 2.5 hours. Geoff and I went on an afternoon snowshoe hike that turned out to be a little more strenuous than an actual recovery day. An hour of snowshoeing is generally more difficult than an hour of cycling, and two and a half hours leaves me good and tired. But I really like hiking when I am having knee pain, because it heavily works my lower quad muscles and actually helps me feel like I am pushing out the inflammation that is causing the pain (obviously, there's probably no real physiological proof of this, but that is the image I see in my mind while I am walking.) Anyway, like most placebo effects, it works wonders, and I actually feel much better tonight. I think I'll try to get back on the bike tomorrow and take it generally easy, and hope the pain doesn't come back. If it does, I may be in for a longer rest period.

I don't think the 36 inches of snow are going to pan out, but it's a foot at least and still falling. Even though I don't live in the "feels like outer space" region of this state, 2008-09 is definitely shaping up to be a harsh winter.