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Showing posts from February, 2014

I'm friends with the monster

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I intended to write more pre-race thoughts, but this week slipped away from me and suddenly it's Saturday night in Anchorage. The Iditarod Trail Invitational is all set to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday in what looks to be generally favorable conditions for the forty cyclists and fourteen runners who are signed up this year. It's a great field this year. The bikers should fly; it wouldn't be too surprising to see last year's 67-hour McGrath record broken again. Twenty-three people are signed up to go the distance, a thousand miles to Nome. There are seven women in this year's event, and five of them are traveling on foot. A fairly large percentage of the field on foot are people I consider friends, so I'm really looking forward to spending some time out there with a quality group of crazies. Although there is still a healthy dose of nervousness and a dash of dread regarding the daunting task ahead, I now mostly feel excitement about the prospect of a week-plus of noth…

Perfect bike for the Whites

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People collect things — stamps, pennies, books, bottles of wine, bobble-head dolls. Beat, love him, likes to collect bicycles. Every time he starts musing about potential acquisitions, I tease him about enjoying the process of buying and building bikes more than actually riding bikes, when I'm almost exactly the opposite — love riding bikes, but wish they could magically fix themselves and maybe go live somewhere else when I'm not using them. He always fires back that I, the primary cyclist in this relationship, benefit the most from his collections — to which I can only agree. Since I moved to California in 2011, I've sold or given away all of my previously owned bicycles save for one (my commuter fixie). Yet, thanks to Beat, I enjoy regular rides on a wonderful titanium soft-tail mountain bike, an S-Works Specialized Roubaix, a carbon Calfee road bike, an aluminum Fatback, and now a expedition titanium fat bike that I *will* plan a proper winter expedition for, someday …

Week 13, Feb. 3 to 9

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I didn't take my camera out much this week, so instead I'm posting a blog archive photo of Brij Potnis riding the soft trail out of Puntilla Lake during the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational. For many layered reasons, this sparkling, zero-degree day was one of the best days of my life on the endurance racing spectrum — only to be immediately followed by one of the worst nights of my life. Funny how these endeavors work that way. It amazes me that this was six years ago; so much about that week remains fresh in my memory, swirling through my subconscious as though it just happened.

I'm working on building up stoke as the pre-race jitters really set in. Not helping this matter is an exasperating hiccup in my health that I can't easily solve. I blogged a couple of weeks ago about a rash and congestion that I suspected were caused by allergies. The symptoms went away for about ten days, but came flaring back with a vengeance last Thursday. The symptoms are not debilitating…

If it's not snaining, it's not training

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An atmospheric river flowed into northern California with much-welcome precipitation, and finally some snow in the Sierras. Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park received a foot of new powder over bare ground. We've been waiting for quick-access snow for weeks now, so Beat, Steve, and I made plans for an sub-24-hour overnighter to Glacier Point. Forecasts predicted heavy precipitation with a freezing level at about 6,000 feet, which was iffy, but I remained optimistic. "It could be warm and wet in Alaska, too. We already got some good cold-weather training in Fairbanks, and this will give us the other end of the spectrum."

Of course, I expected (hoped for) nuking snow, but when we arrived at the ski hut in the late afternoon, it was raining. And not just a misty drizzle — it was raining hard, like a tropical downpour. Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s but the new and mostly unconsolidated snowpack was already fading fast. I made only light adjustments to my sled when …

The February ritual

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For many of the past nine Februarys, I've participated in this ritual — winding down a winter training block, amassing dishearteningly obese piles of food and gear, obsessively checking weather forecasts, and actively contributing to pre-race gloom-and-doom trail predictions whether I'm 250 miles away or 2,500 miles away. The gloom and doom right now is that there's no snow in Alaska after the January thaw, and the Iditarod Trail is made of frozen tussocks and glare ice. Temperatures have been dropping, and new snow has yet to materialize. If it doesn't, the technical challenge of the conditions can only be
imagined. I think some of the cyclists are envisioning a blue highway, but I don't see it this way at all. Have you spent much time on uneven glare ice? Such trail conditions were rather common when I lived in the freeze-thaw cycle of Juneau. Even with microspikes or studded tires, that @$%! is sketchy. And the Alaska wilderness is not a convenient place to en…

Week 12, Jan. 27 to Feb. 2

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Beat has been engaged in a gear-making frenzy for ... well, for several months now. But this week he really upped the production, sewing several things for me in the process: A custom balaclava with detachable face mask and a cupped waterproof "schnoz" to contain moisture flow, and a pair of primaloft-lined booties to pull over my shoes in the event of extremely windy or cold weather (Frostbite stories from the Arrowhead 135 scared me very much. I wanted some insurance for the possibility of windchills below minus 30.)

This week, I plan to go shopping for my two drop bags, one which will be placed at mile 135 and one at mile 210. As a walker, these locations will be about three days apart, so I need to cram three to four days of supplies in a ten-pound bag. As with my past two Susitna 100s, I plan to prepare pocket-sized baggies of "rocket fuel" — combinations of peanut butter cups, dried fruit, peanut butter pretzels, nuts, and chocolate, ideally in a 60/30/10 ca…

Training rewards

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I got out for three, two-hour cart tows this week, and for that I'm proud of myself. The best way to describe these workouts is slow, flat, and tedious — or, more simply, actual workouts, as opposed to the outdoor playing I usually engage in. I don't look forward to them at all, but they have helped me iron out some physical issues — testing out different strides, working my hamstrings without straining them, putting my butt and shoulders into a hard uphill pull rather than my back, and practicing a more efficient shuffle. Last week I averaged 19:50-minute miles on the bike path tow, and this week I improved that to 15:55-minute-miles, simply by trying to work with the cart rather than fight it (also, I suspect the brake pads are getting worn down so perhaps the resistance isn't quite as strong.) Anyway, I despise these workouts, but I also wish I started them sooner.

As feared, run-walking with "Allen" is a rather conspicuous, ridiculous thing to be doing. This…