Friday, April 05, 2013

Moving forward

I've gotten out for a run most afternoons this week but have yet to bring my camera along, so I'll have to settle for a picture from my last full day in Alaska that I never had a chance to post. Anchorage had just received more than a foot of new snow followed by a cold snap, and it was 8 below zero when I woke up that morning. But the air was calm, and after Nome it felt downright balmy. I had to take the Fatback to the bike shop to be dismantled and crammed into a tiny road bike box, and figured I might as well extend the ride for an hour or two since I was going out anyway.

The Chester Creek Trail was smothered in soft powder that had been stomped up by walkers, but the strenuous 5 mph grind suited me just fine. I didn't see many people out on this cold morning except for a Ukrainian woman who my friend Dan told me walks this trail all the time. He also told me she doesn't like bikers. Sure enough, she waved me down to yell at me for "wrecking" the trail. It was laugh-out-loud humorous, actually, given I was pressing nice, smooth track over the snow as she made shin-deep craters. That's one thing about Anchorage I've noticed ... anti-bike sentiment seems to permeate rational thought, whether it involves commuting or trail use. But it was too beautiful of a morning to get worked up over it:

 And riding the fluff made me sweat. At one point I took off my fleece jacket and was down to a short-sleeved T-shirt from a California trail race. But the windchill was too cold on my exposed skin, so I put the jacket back on. After I dropped off my bike at Speedway and met a friend for lunch at the Middle Way Cafe, I observed, "It's nice and warm here in Southcentral." My friend gave me the side-eye and then pulled out her phone to confirm it was still only 10 degrees outside, which is actually very cold for Anchorage in late March. "Huh," I said. "California heat is probably going to take some adjusting to this week."

Maybe it's the heat. I have been struggling this week to plod back into a routine. But on a positive note, I landed some part-time work while I was in Alaska. When I visited Homer last month, a former boss of mine, Carey, offered me an opportunity to pick up some contract work with her current employer, Report Alaska. The small media company produces weekly newspapers for rural Alaska villages, and Carey needed someone to help lay out and copy edit the Bristol Bay Times (Dillingham) and Arctic Sounder (Barrow.) It seemed like an ideal fit for me — something I can do from my home in California, but stay connected to Alaska journalism.

Work started this week at the bottom of the learning curve, without a lifeline. On Tuesday morning, I made a grave error with the file sharing that resulted in *all* files being deleted from the server. That alone should have gotten me fired on the spot, but luckily they had ready backups in place as I was not the first person to make this mistake ("you're actually the third or fourth," Carey told me.) After that I was chained to my laptop for the better part of fourteen hours, re-teaching myself skills I haven't used in three years, for newspapers I'd never even read before this week. Once I get around the learning curve, my workflow should move faster, and it will be fun to spend two days a week working with people in a "newsroom" of sorts once again (never mind we're spread out from California to Texas to Homer to Anchorage to Kotzebue.) And I have to laugh at the concept of doing virtually the same thing with the same editor I worked for seven years and a veritable lifetime of experiences ago. Life can be cyclical like that.

An image I just found from last month's Homer Epic 100K. There was *some* running involved. Photo by Don Pitcher.
And I'm running again. Or I should say, I'm trying to run again. I want to ride my bike, but my bike won't get me exactly where I want to be in a few weeks and later this summer, so for now I run. I go out with my heavy legs and little bottle of water and feel sick to my stomach, but still I run. I know I've on the tired side of fitness right now, so I don't push it too much, or for too long. But still I run. I thought I had Alaska to blame, but yesterday Beat decided to join me for his first run since he arrived in Nome, and his first time moving faster than 3mph in more than a month. He killed it ... bounding down the trail like a gazelle while I more closely resembled an arthritic elephant flailing to keep up. It seems after a thousand miles of strenuous walking, he has retained decent running form. As for these buckets of goo I call my legs ... I have no one to blame but myself.

So I run. I finally broke the 8-mile barrier today and found that I started to feel much better and move faster in the final miles. Maybe I'm just in ultra-long-distance-endurance shape right now, that level of slow-burn fitness where it takes me an hour just to warm up. If that's the case, I guess it's not a bad place to be.


  1. That's a great picture of you. I think it's ok to just transition back into California weather. Next weekend I doubt I'll be up for much more than long leisurely walking and I only did a couple of days of effort.

  2. In case said gig isn't keeping you busy, I have some topic requests for your blog:

    1) Keith's road back to health post-crash

    2) Update on your new Alaska book

    3) Your plans to hike and climb in the Washington Cascades this summer (because, you know, you totally should)


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