Right around the equinox, springtime came to Alaska in a big way —glaringly clear skies, sunlight, and temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s. Although Beat returned to California on Monday, I'm lingering for a few more days thanks to plans to race the White Mountains 100 in Fairbanks. Beat had to quickly go back to work and routines — always a difficult transition amid the mental and physical recovery of a month-long journey. I feel guilty about remaining in Alaska to play, but I also have been struggling with feeling overwhelmed myself — managing logistics and deadlines amid a tight timeline, thinking about the many projects I need to finish, the summer plans I need to begin preparing for, and also just wanting to be home with Beat. I feel like I should smack myself in the head because it's early spring in Alaska, the weather is beautiful, trail conditions are superb, and I need to DO ALL THE THINGS before it's too late.
So I had a good run, but mainly I have been putting in some medium-length rides on my bike to assess both bike and body conditions ahead of the White Mountains 100. The front brake of the Moots fat bike somehow imploded. After two weeks of adjusting the lever and riding it when I possibly should not have been, I realized the caliper was leaking fluid and had to have it replaced with a mechanical disc brake (Argh. But I can't ride the hilly White Mountains 100 with my skills and only one brake.) As for my body, I have some concerns about my left knee, which begins to develop sharp patellar pain (my usual knee-bike issue) after three hours. I'm going to try testing different saddle heights, but it already feels the best when the saddle is on the cusp of being too high. All pre-race reports point to fast and largely rideable trail conditions, so I might have to adapt for long hours in the saddle without much pushing. To be honest, 100 miles of biking kind of scares me right now. I suppose this is a good thing.
On Monday I managed a 36-mile ride in Anchorage that was almost entirely on snow. I love that I can leave my friends' house in the middle of town, and in two minutes reach a groomed pedestrian path that leads to a huge network of well-packed singletrack throughout the Chugach foothills. Anchorage is awesome in that regard — you can ride dozens of miles in city limits entirely away from vehicular traffic and often on trails. One thing I don't deal with very well are singletrack mazes. I get disoriented easily and it doesn't take long before I have no idea where I am or which direction I'm going. After riding a fun trail called Moose Meadow, I could not relocate the Rover's Run connection. I inexplicably kept returning to the same intersection until I thought I might be losing my mind. This intersection was in view of a paved road, so I opted to veer over to the road and coast a mile down to a known trailhead. The sun was setting, and all of the day's snowmelt had solidified into black ice. I still didn't have a front brake at this point. Coasting down the road at 20-plus miles per hour, I lightly tapped the back brake, which sent the rear wheel into a sharp skid that jack-knifed the bike sideways. I really thought I was going down; I even envisioned the impact in slow motion, the way you sometimes do in that heart-sinking second before an inevitable big crash. But as I let off the brake, the bike somehow righted itself, and I was able to coast to the bottom of the hill with terrifying momentum because I knew I couldn't hit the brake. Once I reached the trailhead and returned to the safety of snow, I could not stop shaking. I put on all of the clothing layers I was carrying, but it didn't help. I was a shivering wreck for all of the six miles home.