Showing posts from April, 2011

Berry Creek Falls 50K

It was a reason to go there — Big Basin Redwoods State Park. It's California's oldest state park, established in 1902 and now teeming with coastal redwoods, old-growth conifers, chaparral and oak trees that have been largely left alone for more than a century. It's less than 30 miles from our house on a narrow, winding road, but through the occasional openings along the thickly forested ridgeline, all we could see were green mountains and trees — no buildings, no roads, no logging scars. "Might as well be in Montana," I said, just before we caught a glimpse of the Pacific, deep blue and sparkling in the morning sun.

After a month of recovering his Achilles inflammation, Beat got a go-ahead from his doctor on Friday to "tread slowly" toward running again. I had already expressed interest in running a 50K at a mellow pace as I start to increase my own running mileage. Saturday just happened to be the Berry Creek Falls 50K. We both signed up less than 24 ho…

Flailing and awkward

It was a gorgeous day on Russian Ridge. I was out for a 10-mile run, soaking in sunshine and searching for wildflowers that haven't yet emerged. I veered down the steep trail toward Coal Creek and quickly developed the side-stitch that I often suffer from when I run downhill. I realize this is likely caused by too-shallow breathing, but running downhill honestly frightens me a little and I almost can't help myself. I slowed down and took deep, long breaths, concentrating on the rhythm of motion as the sharp pain stabbed at my rib cage. While I was locked in focus on steady steps and breathing, I planted my foot in a deep mud puddle across a particularly steep slope and slid forward. Leg kicked up, arms flailing, and just like that I was lying sideways in the mud with yet another bloody elbow, scratched leg, bruised hip and skin coated in brown sludge.

After I arrived at home, I had to explain to Beat why I was yet again coated in mud and blood. He just shook his head. "Whe…

Good weekend

Ah, Easter weekend. When I was a kid, Easter always signaled the beginning of spring. I currently live in a place that seems to have no seasons, but that doesn't mean I can't wholeheartedly embrace spring all the same. Flowers are blooming in the roadsides, hillsides are green (I have heard there are times when they are not green) and temptations to overindulge are everywhere. I binged a bit this weekend. And I fully enjoyed it.

On Saturday morning I headed out to the East Bay area to go for a road ride with a guy I met at the "Ride the Divide" movie screening, Russ McBride. Russ is signed up to ride the Tour Divide northbound this June, and asked for a few hours of my time to ply me with questions about the route. We met up in Walnut Creek for a "Tour of Mount Diablo." I didn't quite know what that entailed before the ride, but it turned out to be a full circumnavigation of the mountain with a spur to climb to the 3,888-foot peak, for good measure.

Russ …

All we do is climb

My current training plan alternates days of cycling and running to help me transition into more focused running training, because all of my planned early summer races are on foot (yeah, I really need to find a good 24-hour mountain bike race to plan for. Summer in the Lower 48 just wouldn't be complete without a grueling lap race.)
So far my runs have been fairly unambitious and easy going, because Beat is smartly taking time off to recover from his Achilles injury, so since Sunday he hasn't been with me to crack the whip. I was planning to put in a good solid run after I finish up some projects this afternoon. But I've been feeling a bit tired all morning, and wondering why. It occurred to me that despite my lax running week, I've had a fairly ambitious cycling week. I decided to crunch the numbers:

Saturday, April 16. Road cycling. Distance: 44 miles. Elevation gain: 4,377 feet
Sunday, April 17. Running. Distance: 9 miles. Elevation gain: 1,000 feet.
Sunday, April 17. Si…

Patience is the virtue of the singlespeeder

Singlespeeders may only have one gear on their bike, but based on my limited experience, I've theorized that they more than make up for it in "cerebral gears." There's the glazed-over boredom of coasting gradual downhills, the frantic hamster-wheel spinning on the flats, the happy forgetfulness of that small grade range the bike is actually geared for, and of course the leg-ripping, lung-busting, handlebar-wrestling, "it hurts to look down" battle of the steep ascent. That last cerebral gear is the one I believe most singlespeeders strive to reach. At least, that's they way it is for me. As a lowly geared rider, I am too often guilty of shifting down to the granny and breathing with only moderate pain as my speed drops below 5 mph. Singlespeed, on the other hand, yanks my heart rate up to 180, drops my cadence to something only slightly faster than the minute hand on a mechanical clock, creates some kind of extreme electromagnetic force field beneath my…

Feeling good about fitness

After I finished the Susitna 100 in mid-February, I set aside structured training. Not that my training is ever all that rigid, but pre-Su100 I was consistently putting in miles, long-effort weekends, 50K races and of course mind-numbing slogs with my sled. After the Su100, I decided to get an early start on my "off season." I dedicated more of my outdoor time to pure fun. I did a few moderately long bike rides to prepare for the White Mountains 100, but they were fun bike rides. Except for a few fun runs, I stopped running. My fitness goals were entirely focused on discovering new trails and soaking up sunshine. March was good.
Then I surprised myself by having a fairly good race in the White Mountains 100. "Maybe I'm better when I don't train," I mused when discussing it with a friend afterward. "Maybe I should just focus on fun, and not beat myself up if I have a really low-key week or three." Beat also subscribes to a similar theory. His race t…

Finding my place

Six months ago, if you asked me how I felt about the idea of moving to coastal California, I would have cringed and made a sour face. In fact, six months ago, I did exactly that when I was visiting Utah and my sisters asked me about possible future scenarios with Beat. "I like him," I told them. "But California ... I don't know. There's just so many people, so much sprawl. I have this sense that it's not my kind of place."

What is my kind of place? It's a place where I can go outside every day, where I can walk out my front door and wander into the mountains, to quiet places where I can listen to streams gurgle down narrow gulches and watch wild animals sprint across open meadows. It's a place that sometimes pummels me with drenching rains and stiff winds. It's a place with steep roads to climb and narrow trails to ride, and enough of both that every day has potential for new challenge and discovery. It's a place where I can find solitude…

Quiet week

I've had a fairly quiet week since I fell on my face on Sunday. I had been looking forward to getting out for some road rides and runs this week, but swelling and bruising on my arm and knee has limited me to minimal-impact activities, like taking my mountain bike on smooth-as-possible pavement rides. Even slight jarring from potholes on my bouncy bike has been enough to bring a few tears to my eyes. I feel battered. It really is humorous in a pathetic kind of way, especially when it comes time for the nightly cringe sessions needed to clean and redress the road rash, which is finally close to the point of scabbing over. I'm taking this silly running crash as the final sign from the universe that I was meant to take some real down time this month. OK, universe, you win. I'm taking down time. No more signs, OK? Because at this point I'm really itching to get out for a good long effort.

In the meantime, I really wanted to bump down those disgusting road rash pictures, so …

Running crash

After two weeks of feeling rougher than normal, my string of illness and minor maladies were finally starting to clear up. Finally, for the first time since Fairbanks, I felt strong. I joined Beat on his long Sunday run that he unfortunately had to cut short due to lingering Achilles pain. But we were still in it for 13 miles, climbing 3,000 feet of dusty trail, wending through a tight corridor of chaparral and descending on steep, root-covered singletrack. With the hard part completed, we were coasting home on the smooth, wide fireroad, running fast enough that I could feel a strong breeze on my sweat-drenched face, when suddenly ... thud.

My body slammed into the dirt and skidded several skin-scorching inches to a dusty stop. It was a full-body superman crash without even the dignity of handlebars to launch over. I had heard of such things happening — runner crashes — but I can't say I believed in them. Aren't people just inherently supposed to know what they're doing whe…

Bikes that do the work for you

I'm being honest when I say that the number of times I've ridden a "road" bike can probably still be counted on two hands. My first two bikes were "touring bicycles" — lower-end Ibex Corridas that I rode over thousands of miles of pavement, but they had flat handlebars and relaxed geometry and couldn't really be called road bikes. I have a fixed-gear commuter that is also a hybrid of a road bike, but my experiences with drop-handlebar, high-tire-pressure, lightweight road bicycles are still limited to a few borrowed and rented bicycles on a few random rides.

I do ride pavement. I just ride it on a mountain bike. This has always worked just fine for me in the past because I lived in climates where the weather turned roads to debris-strewn obstacle courses for much of the year, and on the rare days that they were clear, I was probably out pursuing high-country dirt anyway. For my style of riding, a road bike just seemed excessive — a boutique bike, like a …

The rough stuff

I've had a trying week of working around a couple of minor medical maladies — unrelated to cycling and running, but a disconcertingly consistent source of fatigue and pain all the same. My mind is also swimming with seemingly dozens of project ideas that I am overanxious to dive into, and the result during my "workday" is near-constant distraction — I sit down neatly at 8 a.m. to start up one thing, only to jump to another, and then another, until suddenly I look up and it's inexplicably 4 p.m. and I wonder if I've actually done anything productive at all. One thing I am actually accomplishing is that I'm nearing completion of a Tour Divide manuscript I feel fairly good about. I still need to comb through it to incorporate a few more of my editor's very good ideas, flesh out a few areas and cull others, but it's close.
I've been mountain biking and running this week as well, but in shorter blocks of time with limited intensity. Thursday was the fir…

Beat's WM100 report

Beat just finished up his White Mountains 100 race report, with a spot-on observation about the competitive dynamic of these crazy winter races:

"65 racers collect at the Wickersham Dome trailhead to participate in the White Mountains 100. About half are bikers, half skiers and then there are the crazy seven, the foot people, “walkers” as the local news article had called us. That term is a sad mix of insult (at least in a 100 miler) and omen, evoking visions of elderly with walking aids that reflect just how we would feel in a day or so, when we would be reduced to just that — walkers.

The dynamic among the groups is interesting. From what I can tell, Bikers are here to compete most and foremost with other bikers, and to make sure the skiers know their place. Skiers come here to race each other, upstage bikers and hope for soft trails that would give them the edge to do so. Both think walkers are crazy and stupid for choosing such a poor form of winter travel, but there is a spark…

Facing the fuel

Since the White Mountains 100, I have been giving more thought to exercise nutrition. I realize this is a complex issue and I personally believe that everyone has different needs and inclinations that they largely must discover for themselves. The personal philosophy I have developed over years of trial and error is fairly simple: If I am out and about for the better part of a day, I need calories. Salt, too, but mostly calories. My method for getting those calories mainly involves listening to my body, and when that fails, cramming in whatever is available.

In my early days of cycling, I was constantly battling with low energy. I carried gels and energy bars because I believed those to be the "right" foods, but when it came time to stuff one of those smashed, waterlogged, half-frozen chunks of tar in my mouth, I decided I would rather pedal around in a daze than eat my food, so I didn't eat. Some suggested I try liquid nutrition, so I sampled all kinds of milky syrupy nu…

And the next day, it was summer

Bike shorts, short-sleeve shirt, sunglasses, 70 ounces of water, SPF 45 — all things I needed for my first "recovery" ride following the White Mountains 100. It was 86 degrees in Los Altos, California. Sweat beaded on my arms and streamed down my face as I pedaled up Steven's Creek Canyon. Even the thick green tree canopy seemed to provide only weak shade beneath a blazing sun. I squinted at the electric blue sky with the same kind of excitement and trepidation that many Alaskans feel during the first snows of October: "Six more months of this? Really?"

Yes, I already miss Alaska. Flying over Denali on Wednesday morning, I felt a tinge of homesickness when I realized that for the first time since I left, I have no solid plans to return to the state. Perhaps Juneau in June? For now, it's time to gear up for the long summer. There are places I want to mountain bike, local trips I want to plan, and of course I need start training for the Tahoe Rim 100. That'…