Friday, March 02, 2012

Taking this show on the road

I am falling victim to waiting syndrome. I'm not really doing the work I hoped to do. I toss and turn enough at night that I'm not really resting and recovering from the Susitna 100. That race already seems like it was a year ago, and I forget that my legs are still a little tired and that the bottoms of my feet are still tingling and sore. But this morning I wasn't as productive as I'd hoped to be with an article I started, and I was become tired of refreshing the ITI Web site repeatedly when I already knew the latest information about Beat's whereabouts. The weather was poor and I didn't feel like driving, so I decided, "I'll go blitz Lazy this afternoon."

The Lazy Mountain route is typical of the Chugach Range in that it starts at somewhere near sea level and ascends to 3,720 feet in less than two and a half miles. I imagine it's pleasantly steep in the summer, but in the winter, touring skiers and hikers pack the route into an icy slide with a deceptive skiff of powder. I wore crampons for maximum traction and my plan was to hike it as hard as I could. I endured 2,000 feet of calf-searing, lung-pounding, sweat-drenched marching before I broke near treeline. The temperature was about 16 degrees with a stiff wind, light snow was falling, and I debated heading back down. But after my red-line blitz, I didn't feel like immediately launching into the steep downhill, where I had no choice but to dig in and brake hard with each step or risk riding the ice slide all the way down the mountain (I believe this would be a lot less fun than it sounds.) I always appreciate my time in the mountains, so I piled on all of my dry clothing over my soaked base layer and abandoned the blitz for a pleasant stroll. (You know, among the zero-degree windchill and stinging snow.)

I was glad I climbed to the top, but downhill in the crampons was indeed hard work. I actually had to remove most of my layers again even before I reached the wind protection of the birch forest. I was cooked at the bottom, in good way — a kind of peaceful tired washed over me, and I felt satisfied in a way I haven't since the Susitna 100. I drove to Vagabond Blues for warm-up soup and tea, and received another call from Beat. He sounded so much more energized than his previous calls, and told me he had reached Puntilla Lake — four hours earlier than I had expected. He had an enjoyable hike through the foothills of the Alaska Range with Dave and Andrea. The trail was getting better, he was feeling better, and planned to continue toward Rainy Pass with Anne around midnight.

The fact he's decided to take on the pass is a decisive action. It means he's fully committed to the finish, barring an unworkable injury or bad weather. This was great news — the best of the journey so far. I feel like this means I shouldn't wait around and worry any longer. Beat is going to do his thing and cover his miles, and I'll hear from him when he feels like calling. Sitting around hitting refresh on a computer screen won't do either of us any good.

I've decided to head out to Whitehorse this weekend to join an overnight snowbike trip with friends. I'd been on the fence about going, but the schedule will put me back in Southcentral Alaska before Beat's likely to finish the race. And I do believe, now, that he'll probably finish. If not, there's going to be a delay in our reconnection, but I think he'll understand. I did tell him about this trip before the race started. It's going to be so full of awesome that I'll probably completely forget about the refresh button. It does mean my own Web updates will be more delayed, but I will continue to post about Beat's progress.

Meanwhile, current standing are posted here: