Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend Olympics

Voluntary unemployment is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you never have to work. The curse is that you always have to work. I spent the hours of 12:45 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning working on an article that was due "Saturday morning" because I managed to burn up the entire day Friday organizing belongings, chatting on the phone, and then going on a hike. Then, when my roommate asked me if I wanted to go see "Alice in Wonderland," I thought, really, why not? On my desk, I have a list of "actual assignments" followed by "definite goals" followed by "maybe projects" and the whole thing keeps getting longer. Meanwhile the weekend comes, and everyone is going out to play, and I feel so much guilt about joining them.

The Friday hike: I slogged through slushy snow and soft tundra up the Rabbit Lake valley and then climbed up to Ptarmigan Pass. After looking at the map, I had wondered if Ptarmigan Peak (ahead) was climbable as a solo hiker in May. Ha! Once I reached the base, my knees got weak just looking at those super-steep, rock-lined snow slopes. But that pass was a beautiful spot to stop and have lunch, and contemplate life, and avoid writing my article.

Saturday morning I had tentatively planned to get as many of my preferred eight hours of sleep as I could post-4 a.m. and then buckle down and work on another "actual assignment." Instead, I received an 8:45 a.m. call from my friend, Brij, telling me about a plan he had to ride to Chickaloon for the annual "Chickaloon Olympics." (Um, yeah, Chickaloon is about 80 miles from Anchorage, and my knees were still burning after two days of long snow slogs.) Still, how can you turn down an event called the Chickaloon Olympics?

Because of the aforementioned snow slog pains and lack of sleep, and because my touring bike is currently falling apart again (yeah, one brake lever is broken) and because the two other women on the ride are actual Ironwomen with real road bikes who I figured would push the pace to something quite fast, I agreed to ride as far as Palmer (50 miles), where a friend was going to meet me and drive the rest of the way to Chickaloon. Turns out the ride was pretty mellow and quite enjoyable, right until the end, after I got a flat and only pumped my rear tire up to about 45 psi and we were running late and the girls threw down the hammer. Still, I shoulda just done the whole 80 miles. In my defense, the Ironwomen also stopped in Palmer and traded vehicles with a man who joined Brij for the rest of the ride.

The Chickaloon Olympics started off on a fine note, with everyone trying Megan's specialty, chocolate covered bacon on a stick. (Verdict: Gross.)

The Chickaloon Olympic events were very competitive and traditional, such as the "Ax Toss," where the gold medal went to a small woman who managed to stick all three throws, much to the chagrin of the many big males at the 2010 Games.

There was the "Partner Carry," adapted from the popular Alaska pastime, the "Wife Carry."

But the Chickaloon Olympics are a progressive event, and all manner of partners are encouraged.

Then there was the "Jandle Race," four people strapped to a board.

The Olympic Village, up on a bluff overlooking a 360-degree view of two huge mountains and a lake. And this is actual private property, owned by young professionals who live in Anchorage. Makes one wonder if being gainfully unemployed and transient is really the best way to go.

Brij won his own medal for being the only person to ride the whole distance to Chickaloon the day of the event. Two limes on a string. I wonder if they are supposed to represent anything?

Sunday I joined up with another group of cyclists for mountain biking in the Mat-Su Valley. The trails were dusty and dry, but well-built and fun. I don't love trail system mountain biking (I really like the purposeful feeling of "going somewhere" rather than pedaling around a series of small loops.) But I'm really hoping to do a lot more riding like this during the summer as I prepare for Trans Rockies. My technical skills could use a lot of work. But for now, I can still blame my former location ("We don't even have singletrack in Juneau," which is mostly true) and my high-mileage rigid mountain bike, which is falling apart in many of its own ways. (Are you sensing a theme here? I need new bikes but I'm unemployed. Boo.)

It was a completely unproductive weekend, and I wouldn't have it any other way.