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Showing posts from December, 2011

So much white

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Less than 24 hours after we arrived in Anchorage on the winter solstice, it started snowing and hasn't really stopped. What looks to be at least three feet of new fluff has fallen at our friend's house near Hilltop Ski Area. Combine that with temperatures in the teens and single digits, December's dearth of daylight, and the fact that all of this new snow has fallen on a base of what appears to be a solid sheet of ice. Our friends around town greet us with a partly sympathetic, partly gloating "welcome to winter."

I reply with a smile, "We came here for winter." But I don't mask the fact that this has been an adjustment. This kind of winter makes even small efforts feel huge. On Christmas Day we went out for a "run," breaking trail with the snowshoes. We covered about six miles in a little over two hours (and yes, we did "run" some), did a lot of sweating in our minimal layers at 11 degrees, and came home exhausted. Some of that e…

Just a Lazy Christmas Eve

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Twas the morning before Christmas, and deep in the Mat-Su Valley,
Six intrepid sightseers were getting ready to rally.

Their snowshoes were packed in the truck with great care,
Knowing thigh-deep fresh powder awaited them there.

The hikers were nestled snug in the cab with their coffees,
While the thermometer on the dash dropped below zero degrees.

But with mittens and balaclavas and frozen gumdrops to snarf,
The group set out in the frost for a long winter's march.

When out of the fog they arose with surprise,
To see a whole world emerge beyond ice-crusted eyes.

Up Lazy Mountain they trudged like molasses,
Sweating in frigid air and fogging their glasses.

The low solstice sunlight on new-fallen snow,
Gave a luster of summer to the fog bank below.

When what between two layers of clouds should appear,
But a spread of Chugach Mountains, brilliantly clear.

And a peak in front, so wind-swept and crazy
They knew in a rapid heartbeat it must be Lazy.

A strenuous 3,500 feet they had climbed,
To s…

Testing sleds

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Before we go on our big Alaska trip, which looks like it will be taking place next week (beginning Wednesday), we wanted to conduct several test runs of the sleds. Since we returned from Nepal, Beat has been in a frenzy designing and building Sled V.2, which has been fortuitous for me because it means I can use V.1 without actually having to build my own sled (given my usual lack of success with even simple projects such as cooking or adjusting my bicycles' derailleurs, I think it's better I avoid building my own crucial pieces of gear.)

I tried out a few of my own new winter things on our first trip out: A down skirt to combat cold-butt syndrome, and the trekking pole pogies that Beat sewed for me out of a cheap synthetic sleeping bag. This all began when I was digging through my winter bike stuff, saw my Revelate Designs pogies and said to Beat, "I wish someone made a small version of these for poles." Unlike me, Beat loves to build gear and is actually pretty good …

Home for Christmas

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These short days have a way of creeping away from me. I'll work for what feels like an hour, look up at the clock and realize it's 3 p.m. and if I don't get outside right now I won't get a ride in at all. Headlights I have, but you can only do so much with trail closures, traffic, and headlights. I'll throw some kind of mixed winter/summer ensemble on my body on and hope it's warm enough. The sun is usually already slipping behind the mountains by the time I race out the door.

Daylight is tight, but I can't really complain about being able to road bike in December. I can move faster in this cooler air. And even though the pavement is just as dry as summer, and the sky just as clear as ever, there's something quieter ... more contemplative ... about these early winter evenings, even in California. Or maybe that's just a vestige of the winters I spent in colder climates — an expectation that there has to be a time when everything quiets down.

I strugg…

2011 in races

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This past year stands out as my "racingest" year ever. Although I love to train (which, as many of us know, is just an adult excuse to go play outside), I have generally limited my competitive efforts to two to four (usually completely outlandish) races a year. Beat, on the other hand, has no time for training but he loves to race. So he just races into shape, then races to recover, and generally just races a lot. Now I've found myself sucked in to the allure of near-constant racing. I enjoy the community and challenge. Racing fuels my competitive drive to "best" myself by completing something that a larger part of me feels I have no business completing. (This is why I generally aim for long and tough events that are a challenge just to start, let alone finish, and then don't concern myself with the smaller details, like getting faster.)

Anyway, this was a great year of racing. Since December 18, 2010, I've completed eight ultramarathons, one half marat…

2011 in photos

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Each December, I pick a crop of photos, one for each month, that I feel best illustrate the events of the year. These aren't what I consider my "best" photos; they're simply my favorite. For various reasons I'm posting my Year in Photos blog earlier than usual. The above photo, which I took in the early hours of the 2011 Susitna 100, is possibly my favorite of the year — and not because I believe it's a great photo. I'm not posting to nitpick technical details, so I'll just tell you why I love this photo. It was a gorgeous frosty morning — still a few degrees below zero after warming up from -12F — when we turned off a postholed mess of a trail and onto this road. Freed from the mire of mush, the three of us — Beat, Danni, and I — suddenly took off running at a brisk pace. As it turned out, these few miles of road would be the only easily runnable section of that entire race, but we didn't know that at the time. What I remember from this moment wa…