Showing posts from January, 2012

Tired legs 50K

The alarm rang out at 5:15 a.m., which was of course about three and a half hours after I finally fell asleep. I glanced over at Beat, hoping he didn't hear it, or maybe he would decide sleep was worth skipping the race today. No such luck; he groaned and rolled out of bed, so I made a move to do the same. My legs hit the carpet with an audible thud that seemed to say, "Um, you're not really going to go through with this, are you?"

"Look, it's only thirty miles. It will be over before you know it."

"We hate you. You know that, right?"

"I think hate is a strong word, don't you?"

"No. No we don't. You already overworked us with fourteen hours of biking and running this week. And 18,000 feet of climbing. Why are you doing this to us?"

"Look, we're all going to feel so much worse during the Su100. This will be good practice for the real deal. I need this kind of practice to stay mentally strong when the going g…

Danni's playlist

I've been working hard this week to make my legs as tired as possible. I only took enough time off on Monday to work out some kinks from Sunday's 50K trail race, such as the minor calf strain. I was up bright and early on Tuesday for a three-hour mountain bike ride (30 miles and 3,500 feet of climbing) and again on Wednesday for a hard-effort road climb (18 miles and 2,500 feet of climbing.) I went for an eight-mile trail run today (1,700 feet of climbing) and am planning another road ride tomorrow before another 50K on Saturday. This is my big week and this is my strategy — push just to the edge of exhaustion, incorporating cross-training to avoid injury, before an adequate period of recovery. This way I re-learn what it's like to run far on tired legs, and hopefully my muscles do too, because that's what the Susitna 100 is going to be like — tired legs, really tired legs, for a really long time.

Luckily, motivation is running high right now. My friend Danni in Montan…

Favorite winter gear

Early this morning, Beat, Liehann and I rallied for a mountain bike ride before work. For me, it was a sluggish but beautiful ride. Every time I try to exercise first thing in the morning, it seems to take me at least two hours to warm up. Plus, my legs still felt mostly dead after Sunday's 50K run. But it was the most fantastic morning — calm, clear above the valley haze, and warm. Temperatures started at 40 degrees and inched close to 60 before we were done. It's the kind of beautiful, idyllic outing that could make a person forget about cold weather and winter for good — and yet I still think about winter, constantly. Recently, I've received several e-mails and questions about my planned gear for the Susitna 100. It made me think about a few unconventional items that I've discovered after years of trial and error. So for my blog today, I'm detailing my four favorite pieces of unconventional winter gear:
Camelbak vest: Preventing water from freezing is one of the …

Weekend at the races

Four more weeks until Susitna, five until Iditarod. Beat has been busy with work and also inventing gadgets that will be useful or at least interesting during his big Alaska race, such as a thermometer that logs constant temperature readings on an SD card, customized maps for his GPS, and even his own primaloft skirt (this skirt is actually coming together quite well. Although he could find a women's skirt in his size, I think maybe he believes it will be more manly of he sews it himself. Oh, wait.) Actually, sewing does allow him to customize the skirt around the manly regions he wants to protect in the cold. But, either way, his work projects have already necessitated sticking closer to home on weekends. I doubt I'll see any more snow or cold temperatures before I return to Alaska, not that I believe this really matters. In a way, running on snow is like always running uphill, so what better way to train than on steep dirt trails in California? Yeah, still a stretch. But the…

So I got into UTMB

This morning, I received an e-mail from Les Trailers du Mont-Blanc:

Bonjour Jill HOMER,
Le tirage au sort a été effectué et nous avons le plaisir de confirmer votre inscription à la course UTMB®! Vous devez maintenant finaliser votre inscription, à partir du 20/01/2012 et avant le 30/01/2012.

In my just-woke-up bleariness, I spent at least two minutes trying to decipher the French words that I've never known how to read. Not that I needed to. I knew what that exclamation point at the end of the first sentence meant. It meant the race lottery came out in my favor. Oh, crap.

So what is UTMB? It's a 166-kilometer foot race around a popular hiking trail that circumnavigates Mont Blanc, beginning and ending in Chamonix, France. The trail ascends and descends more than 9,400 meters (30,800 feet) — which, in the popular vernacular of describing a boggling amount of elevation gain, is a little higher than the ascent from sea level to the top of Mount Everest. Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc…

Just the usual ride

I think every mountain biker has their "usual:" that one route they've ridden considerably more times than any other route. It may actually be their very favorite trail; more likely, it's the best option closest to home. But either way, it's a place to memorize the tiniest details — the ruts and curves, the line through the rock garden, where to let off the brakes and really let 'er rip. And it's a place to be consistently surprised by the bigger picture — a mountain range of clouds hovering over the ocean or red sunlight cast across the hillside. Most riders' regular routes have boring yet endearing names like "Tin Cup" and "The Goose." Mine is called Steven's Creek Loop.

I've ridden it so many times and taken so many pictures of the same vistas. And of course they always look the same because this is coastal California and I'm fairly certain I haven't witnessed a significant change in the landscape in the 11 months…

Creative running

My minor maladies often come in bunches, usually convincing me that they're somehow related. Just about the time the swelling on my elbow finally diminished, I came down with a wretched case of likely food poisoning. I spent a long evening and night clutching the toilet and wondering if I had some kind of horrific wound infection from the superficial cuts on my scar. It is humorous what my mind can conjure up when I'm coping with a downturn in my health. By the fourth purging session, I felt extremely dizzy. I laid down on the cold floor and obsessed about flesh-eating bacteria and probable paralysis in my right arm. Honestly, I can be such a hypochondriac. Luckily I know this and keep these delusions to myself until my health starts trending upward again.

Still, arm pain and food poisoning sufficiently punctured my motivation and led to a rather deflated weekend and start of the week. I had big plans to finally hammer out a kind of "deadline schedule" for my 2012 pr…

Reliable klutz

After a mountain bike crash last August left a quarter-sized crater in my elbow, I started demoing different elbow pads. After all, it took a full painful month of wet-dry bandaging to extract all (or at least most) of the gravel from that thing, and I really didn't want to have to go through that again. I briefly tried a roller blade pad — stiff and inflexible — and moved onto mountain bike armor — hot and uncomfortable. Just before a 25-hour bike race in November, I discovered lightweight pads for basketball players — basically a thin piece of foam on a sleeve. It seemed better than nothing, so I wore them a few times, but it didn't take long before I went back to arms au naturel.

Just as the pain of dragging a sled a hundred miles through frozen Alaska fades all to quickly from memory, I had conveniently forgotten all the ways in which I was kinda miserable for most of the month of August. Laying in bed with my arm propped above my head, unable to sleep ... jogging slowly w…

Afternoon spin class

Back in late 2004, I had twenty-five extra pounds I wanted to lose and not a lot of enthusiasm for my bicycles (I know, I know. Life was very different for me back then.) I was also an extremely dedicated non-runner. A co-worker listened to my woes and invited me to join her for lunchtime spin class at the Apple Fitness in Idaho Falls. "Her class is hella-hard," she said of the noon class's instructor (this is circa-2004 when people still said 'hella.') "But for seventy minutes a session it will get you in the best shape of your life, I promise."

The instructor was drill sergeant. Her classes were filled with creepy death-metal-electronica fusion music alongside the Gwen Stefani. She screamed in our faces and turned up the resistance knobs repeatedly without asking us if this was okay, and then nodded in stern approval as our knees made horrible crunching noises and our faces locked in a twisted grimace. It was so not my style. But my co-worker was righ…

2012 goals

Recently, Beat posted his adventure goals for 2012. It got me thinking about what I want to do in 2012. Below is a list of the events I'm thinking about for the coming year. Most of these are tentative, and I'm sure others that I haven't even thought of yet will become reality. But for now, these are the dreams that get me out the door most every day. My adventure dreams. This post is merely "part one." I'll post about other goals for 2012 soon.

Susitna 100
Foot race, February 18-20
This year will be my fourth showing at the illustrious Susitna 100. I finished the 100-mile "Race Across Frozen Alaska" twice on bikes (a full-suspension Gary Fisher Sugar in 2006 and an old Raleigh with Snowcat rims in 2007. It is possible to ride snow trails without a fat bike. Not well.) Even though I had much better bikes by 2011, I still decided to leave them at home and try my chances on foot. I surprised everybody and myself by finishing, and now I want to go back …


I should know myself better than this by now. I have two very nice bike lights that take all of thirty seconds to mount on the handlebars. However, I often leave these lights at home, on purpose, as though neglecting to bring lights will force me to return at a decent hour. So I leave the bike lights behind, but I do bring a small headlamp and red blinkies, because, you know, safety first.

I was little bit lost in my project today, and failed to noticed the quickly passing hours until it was already 3:04 p.m. Oh, I need to go. Slap on a long-sleeved T-shirt and tights. My running pack from last weekend's trail race and its leftover water, hat, jacket and mittens should suffice for supplies. The responsible side of me just wants to stay at home and keep writing; don't break the flow. But louder voices lodge a compelling protest.  You promised we were going mountain biking today. You've been home in warm, sunny California for a week. No more excuses.

Okay, okay. What  kind of…

Recovery run: Crystal Springs 50K

I felt weak and a little off-kilter, not unlike the way I felt a month ago after I returned from Nepal. I went for a couple short bike rides, and on Thursday decided it was time to return to running. Since nothing I did in the deep snow and intense cold of Alaska can really be counted as running, it had actually be a while. I ran my standard eight-mile loop. It felt weird. I returned home with my usual attitude that forms after a hiatus of any length — "running is too hard." But it was too late; Beat had already signed us up for the Crystal Springs 50K.

Upon arriving at the start in Woodside, I learned I was currently the female course record holder for the Coastal Trail Runs race. I did not know this, nor did I feel pressured to defend my title (Crystal Springs was a smaller affair in 2010 and 2011, but this year there were 60 people starting the 50K, at least a dozen of whom were women.) But as the "defending champion" I did feel some responsibility to at least sh…