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Showing posts from January, 2014

Week 11, Jan. 20-26

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Beat and I were really hoping to get at least one winter-training weekend in before we head to Alaska, but there is almost no snow to be found in the entire state of California. Yosemite Webcam views show open fields and bare pavement, and a friend reported hiking on dry dirt on the Tahoe Rim Trail, in January. The cold-weather gear testing wouldn't do us much good anyway, when it's 40 degrees overnight at 7,000 feet. Yes, it's summer in January here on the West Coast, from California on up to Nome, Alaska (51 degrees this week!) Here in the Bay Area we have sweaty outings in the high 70s. I admit this makes me grumpy. Not only do we have to endure summer discomfort all over again (wasps, chunder trails, sunburn), but I envision actual summer turning out much like a Steinbeck novel.

The grumpiness persists because I encountered a bad batch of allergies this week. I don't know what I am allergic to, but symptoms manifest as mild congestion, an uncomfortable rash, and r…

Exercise in doubt

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I suspect I am not cut out to walk 350 miles to McGrath.

On some level, I can convince myself that's okay. I wasn't cut out to ride a loaded fat bike 350 miles to McGrath back in 2008, and did it anyway. However, given the speeds bicycles can move in optimal conditions, there's more of a time buffer on a bike. Foot travelers have a much slimmer range between "slow" and "too slow" — and "too slow" is exactly that.

Beat finally got our exercise cart up and running. This has been a laborious process in itself, involving much tinkering on Beat's part. He retrofitted a bicycle trailer with an extended pole attachment and Avid BB7 disc brakes, which are partially clamped onto the wheels at all times to mimic the resistance of snow (because wheels by themselves roll much too easily.) They brakes are even hooked up to brake levers on the pole for fine-tuning the resistance level. He added a wooden board to provide a firm base so the canvas bag is…

Double beatdown

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Thanks to the regular race schedules of the Bay Area's three trail running event organizers, and the annual regularity of our own training cycles, Beat and I have several local races that we've run many times. The Steep Ravine/Mount Tam 50K in the Marin Headlands is one of these races. I've run it five times ... five times! It's a little embarrassing, because this particular run never seems to go all that well. It makes sense, I suppose. Most of the climbing is quite steep, necessitating a walking speed, and I'm uncomfortable enough on steep descents that I end up walking or slow-shuffling a lot of the downhills as well. There's always that smidgen of hope that I'll have some kind of breakthrough in my trail running technique at Steep Ravine — which usually ends in disappointment after long hours of frustration accompanied by some kind of low-level pain.


It was a beautiful but hot day. I think California's severe drought is now well-publicized enough t…

Driven to disperse

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When I ride my bike, I am always traveling. Sometimes I travel through the past, coasting effortlessly across the landscape of my memories. Sometimes I travel in the most immediate present, a space that spans no farther than each breath and pedal rotation. Sometimes I travel into the future, through the stories I tell myself about the things that haven't happened yet. Occasionally I venture far into the future, the places beyond my own lifetime, and the stories that ignite my most unsettling existential fears. Even less frequently, I take trips far into the past, to times long before my own and places that only exist in the stories I've been told. On Wednesday, I rode my bike from home up and over a nearby mountain that I'd never before climbed, and traveled to this deep past — specifically, the journeys of ancient people who ventured across the Bering Strait and set the first human footprints on the New World.

If I could be a human at any time and place in history, I mig…

Week 9, Jan. 6 to 12

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Post-Fairbanks training panic spurred a high-mileage week of running, as my bikes sat woefully neglected on yet another unseasonably warm and dry January week. I've had several debates about my training approach with Beat, and the conclusion seems to be that any workout I do at this point will likely have little to no impact on my overall physical preparedness for the upcoming seven- to ten-day effort. Still, I tend to thrive on higher-volume endurance training; since I started this training block ten weeks ago, I have become progressively stronger as a runner. A fast-for-me 50K and an 80-mile week of trail running had no negative impacts in terms of pain or fatigue. I definitely wouldn't have been able to manage the same volume so naturally one year ago. This coming week I'm incorporating at least one "trailer-pull" and more bike rides, because actually, I can't neglect maintaining a bike base if I want to enjoy summer (not the mention the White Mountains 1…

50K PR

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After we returned from Fairbanks, I caught a touch of the training panic. Sled-towing was so hard, and I felt so slow, that I came back to California with a number of resolutions. I need more running! Less biking, more time on my feet! More back-to-backs! More hills! More weight! The weight goal is still in progress. I opted against running with a heavy pack because it's so hard on my knees. Then Beat acquired a bike cargo trailer that he is going to outfit with disc brakes to add resistance, and today I purchased 60 pounds of kitty litter for the purpose of hauling around in the trailer. As soon as he gets the brakes set up, we'll trade off a weight-training session here and there. If I can add just a little more strength-building and volume to my routine in the next three weeks, I'll feel more confident about my conditioning for the ITI.

On Saturday we ran the Crystal Springs 50K, a pleasant trail run through the redwoods along Skyline Ridge. The course is almost identi…

Like rolling waves

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This week, I have been experimenting with "bonk" running. This wasn't entirely intentional — basically, I got caught up in what I was doing during the day, skipped lunch, and then headed out in the late afternoon for a run without snacks. Monday was eight miles of one long climb and descent, running on what felt like the fumes of a long-ago-incinerated breakfast. Tuesday was six with Beat, and for two of those miles I was downright dizzy. "What a hopeless carb burner I am," I thought. "But at the same time, it's not really that much worse without carbs."

Beat is still considering the experiment of walking unsupported to Nome, nearly a month on only the supplies he can carry in his sled. It's a baffling goal but also a potentially valuable learning experience toward becoming an expeditioner, for which Beat has aspirations. This has led to multiple discussions about high-calorie density foods — such as pounds and pounds of peanut butter — and t…

Weeks 6-8, Dec. 16 to Jan. 5

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I'm far behind with my training log, so I'm attempting to catch it up here will the workout-specific notes that I wanted to record. Most likely only interesting to me, but then again what is a blog for?

Monday, Dec. 16: Zero. Somewhat forced rest day after running 66 miles over the weekend. As often happens after big mileage push, I was still buzzing with endorphins and wanted to get back out there. This whole week was intended to be an easier week, to rest up and prepare for Alaska the following week. I'm hitting more of a stride with distance running in general. No physical issues from the weekend.

Tuesday, Dec. 17: Run, 1:07, 7.3 miles, 659 feet climbing. Average pace 9:15 min/mile. I do all of my runs based on feel, so it's interesting to see which random routine trail runs generate a faster pace. I tend to perform better after rest days, who knew? Not that it makes any difference over the haul of a seven-plus-day effort. Strength is something I should have spent mo…

The Fairbanks Journals, day 10

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December 31. Sunrise 10:55 a.m. Sunset 2:53 p.m. Temperature -10. Still clear. Awesome. 
I couldn't leave Alaska without getting in at least one bike ride. Happily, Joel's roommate let me borrow his Salsa Mukluk while he was out of town. He was gone all week, so I suppose it's a shame that I only managed one ride. As it turned out, even New Year's Eve was a tight squeeze. I had been awake for most of the night before finishing layout on the Alaska newspapers that I contract for, and we were flying home late that evening (we enjoyed salmon and fondue dinner, fireworks, and a raunchy card game with Joel and Erica, but spent the stroke of midnight at the Fairbanks airport, which is as sad as it sounds.) Still, snow bike ride, yay! Finally, I was going to fly!

Except the trails were still soft, and the rolling was strenuous and slow. I did not find 5 mph to be an acceptable pace, so I laid into the pedals, working near maximum capacity just to produce that feeling of actu…

The Fairbanks Journals, days 7-9

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December 28 to 30. Sunrise 10:57 a.m. Sunset 2:50 p.m. Temperature -3 to -25. 
 Back in Fairbanks after the Tolovana trip, the temperature was near minus 30. A smog-saturated ice fog hung over the streets like a dirty curtain, empty cars idled in parking lots, and we pulled on our down coats and went out for a burrito because this was quickly becoming our new normal. We had only about twelve hours to shop for new supplies, eat, and sleep before it was time to pack up in the pre-dawn chill and head north again, this time for a three-day trip to the White Mountains Recreation Area. This trip plan had me especially excited, as I love the White Mountains. With all of the beautiful spots in Alaska, it's difficult to explain while this particular space holds my heart so tight — the Whites are a small mountain range, dotted with anemic spruce trees and large swaths of burn, not immediately remarkable in any way. But my time here has always been filled with joy, and awe, and just enough f…