Saturday, January 26, 2013

2013 dreams, spring and early summer

Daylight is beginning to creep back into Leah's and my evening bike rides in the Marin Headlands. On Thursday we got out for our favorite loop from the bridge, watched a beautifully hazy sunset, listened to coyotes howl as burrow owls swooped through our headlight beams, and remarked how warm it was because 45 degrees and moonlight sure beat the pouring rain that was happening at my home only forty miles south. It was a typically beautiful ride, and we topped it off with some fantastic Chinese food from this unique fusion place in the Mission.

As we buzzed with endorphins and chili sauce, we schemed possible bike tours for the spring or summer. The adventure planning reminded me that I'm still making my wish list for 2013. Spring and the first part of summer are bound to be the time for a bike tour and micro-adventures, but there are a few endurance challenges that I hope to include as well:

May 11: Quicksilver 50-miler. Fifty miles is the one major ultra distance I haven't tried, and honestly, it's the distance I'm least likely to enjoy. Fifty kilometers is just short enough that I can savor a challenging run without it degrading into a slog. A hundred miles is so hard that I can embrace the slog and let it take me to all of the magical places that it will. A hard hundred kilometers or seventy miles offers some of the flighty fun of a hundred miles with less of the pain. But fifty miles — that's a tricky distance. Much longer than a "fun run" 50K, but not quite long enough to venture into ultraendurance mindgame territory. So there it is. I'm going to give fifty miles my best shot at the Quicksilver 50 in San Jose. The course has 8,500 feet of climbing, promises to be an inferno of oppressive heat, and enforces the trails' consistent runnability with a twelve-hour cut-off. Can you tell I'm looking forward to this? But I need a long training run for:

May 31: The Bryce 100. A hundred miles of high desert alpine and otherworldly redrock formations on the outskirts of Bryce Canyon National Park. May 31 is Beat's birthday, and this is how he wanted to celebrate. The course rings the rolling hills of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, ranging between 7,800 and 9,400 feet. The altitude is harsh for a sea-level dweller, and judging by some of the breathing problems I had in the Bear 100, Bryce promises to be a hypoxic struggle amid some of Utah's most breathtaking scenery. The total elevation gain is something over 14,000 feet. My goal for this race is to not pass out, be gifted with great photo-taking weather, and finish before the cut-off. My sights for the summer are set on multiday adventures, so I don't want to run myself into an injury by trying to push my speed limit. (Last month I wrote an article previewing the race.)

June or early July: Sierras fastpacking adventure. This is something I've been dreaming about since I moved to California. I hope I have a chance to pull it off this year. The grand out-there dream would be to hike/run the 220 miles of the John Muir Trail in seven or eight days. Whether I can leverage the time and planning to pull this off is the question. Eight days is lot of time in itself, and the effort will require significant recovery after a full week of going as strong as I can for twelve to sixteen hours a day. I've also received conflicting advice about how to apply for permits, so I have to spend more time looking into this. Also, I need to figue out how to actually *become* an ultralight backpacker rather than just covet their cool gear from afar while I imagine them shivering in space blankets and gnawing on twigs and moss. The John Muir Trail is realistically too much to bite off for a first-time fastpacking adventure. But I still want to plan some kind of multiday endurance challenge on foot. A three- or four-night loop in Yosemite National Park or part of the Pacific Crest Trail would be great possibilities as well.

I'll get to the rest of summer in the next post. I will say that it won't include the Tour Divide or any big bikepacking race, this year at least. As I mentioned earlier, 2013 is the year I want to test my limits on foot, because there are so many incredible places in this world that I can't access on wheels. But the wheels still hold the first spot in my heart, and I'm sure after this year's for-fun bike adventures, I'll be looking for something more challenging once again.