Winter of discontent
|Cache Mountain Divide during the 2012 White Mountains 100: So bonked, so tired, so having the time of my life|
Happily, Beat's month-long commitment to Nome will likely give me a lot of time to work with in winter 2012-2013. Less happily, my usual, convenient and fun solution of racing is not an option this year. The three races that have played the largest role in my personal development — the Susitna 100, the White Mountains 100, and the Iditarod Invitational 350 — are all unavailable to me this year. I do believe the Susitna 100 will be back someday, and I've mostly been able to let go of the ITI 350, but the White Mountains 100 lottery outcome has been hard for me to cheerfully accept. I admit I was one who didn't understand why some runners are so devastated when they fail to make it through the Western States or Hardrock 100 lotteries. What's the big deal? There are lots of other opportunities. But now I get it. It's hard when you've been part of a small community for three years, channeled so much effort and devotion toward one event, and suddenly you're shut out. I understand why it has to work that way. It's still hard.
So the question remains: What to do? I appreciate the votes on my blog poll. The results were interesting:
|Rainy Pass during the 2008 ITI 350: So frightened, so destroyed, so loving every minute I'm alive|
One of my ideas when I first started considering this in 2009 was to launch an initial "shakedown tour" on the first 165 miles of the trail, closer to "civilization" but far enough out that I could still make a day trip over Rainy Pass and see a lot of amazing scenery. At this point, having never done a longer winter outdoor camping trip, this is probably a better idea. Another idea suggested by Phil in Nome was to fly out to a village much farther west on the Iditarod Trail, connect two points, and see some incredible and completely new-to-me country. This, in some ways, would be more manageable than a McGrath tour since I could mail myself food packages to all the villages along the way. I could arrange it to finish in Nome and wait for Beat there. This is also, of course, an intimidating and probably expensive prospect.
|2012 "Pecha Kucha Mountain" fat bike weekend: All of the fun, none of the suffering.|
There are other possibilities for great tours as well — the 48-mile wilderness trail on Resurrection Pass, snowmobile trails around Homer, and the Denali Park Road, although I'm not sure whether that's maintained at all during the winter. There's also the White Mountains loop in Fairbanks, and of course lots of options in the Susitna Valley. I could certainly spend a happy month seeking out 2- to 3-night snow bike and snowshoe/sled tours, working on my book, riding my Fatback around Anchorage, and hiking a few small mountains. Wait ... why am I considering anything else? Oh, yeah, because I would genuinely miss my annual slogfest. If nothing else, I'm likely to be very lazy the rest of the winter with nothing to train for.
|The Dawson Overland Trail, home of the Yukon Quest and Yukon Arctic Ultra. It is beautiful.|
|Walking the Yentna River in December 2011: I will say this, there's a lot of time to think out there.|
"Experiment with speed work and see if I have a 'fast' 50K in the old legs," 23 votes (6%): I mentioned in my last blog post that I wouldn't mind aiming for a ~5:30 50K, acknowledging that I would need to focus my training in order to achieve this. This and the Homer Epic 100K could the efforts I train for in California while planning other short Alaska adventures. The problem is, the race I'd like to train for, Crystal Springs 50K, is in early January — right after Beat and I return from a dark and cold training weekend in Fairbanks. It's not the ideal taper for a fast 50K. I might look into other trail races and keep this possibility on the table.
|The Douglas Island Ridge in Juneau, Alaska, in November 2009: Fleeting beauty worth experiencing|