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Showing posts from February, 2015

The week of gloom 'n doom

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Beat and I leave for Alaska on Friday amid grim trail and weather reports. I can't believe it's been nine years since I first fretted about "Iditaswim." (I also appreciate how this blog documents all of my famous last words, including this gem from 2006: "I'm fairly certain I could walk 100 miles given 48 hours to do so. Not that I'm about to enter this race in the foot division.")

Still, spending a healthy portion of the month of February obsessing about conditions along the Iditarod Trail has become a time-honored tradition that I can't seem to get away from, no matter how much else in my life changes. The outlook of 2015 is particularly gloomy, as illustrated by this collage of photos I compiled from Iron Dog snowmachiners and others who have been out on the trail in the past few days:

I'm currently anxiously awaiting Iron Dog Snowmachine Race reports from the coast, where I hope to embark on my 250-mile tour starting March 15. But even…

Hot town, summer in the city

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The big news this week has been the Iditarod Dog Sled Race's decision to move the race start to Fairbanks, which effectively cuts out the first half of the route and redirects dog teams on the Tanana and Yukon rivers all the way to Kaltag, some 650 miles into the Iditarod Trail. It's a big deal for Beat and others in the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which relies on the big-money events — including the Iron Dog smowmachine race — to break and maintain the trail. Without these races, the Iditarod Trail is little more than a loosely linked series of reflective markers affixed to trees, and wooden tripods. Whether or not any trail is actually broken underfoot depends on the whims of local snowmachiners, such as trappers and hunters, who might travel through before the cyclists and runners get there.

The Iditarod races were set to follow the southern route this year. After the dog sled race's announcement, the ITI made the quick decision to instead send racers on the northern…

Sometimes it does get easier as you go

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The night before the Golden Gate 50K, Beat came down with a fever. He was bummed because he had to miss out on the long run, and I was disappointed because these local trail races are more fun with him — even if we don't run together, there's still all the enjoyment of post-race afterglow, eating burned lentil soup and watermelon, sharing trail stories with other runners, and indulging in creaky laziness for the rest of the evening. Ah, post-50K veg-out. Is there anything better? 
Still, as usual, I didn't want to miss out on the pre-post-race fun. As I drove toward San Francisco in the morning darkness, a dam in the sky burst and torrents of rain followed. Even with wipers at full velocity, the view through windshield was a violent blur. Wind rattled the car and the city streets were eerily empty, even for a Sunday morning. I picked up Steve at a deserted bus stop. We crossed the bridge into Marin while discussing our parking and bib-pickup strategy to avoid standing for…

Saturday again?

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Time again for a weekly blog update? Occasionally I wonder if I'm going to become another one of those dinosaur bloggers who quietly fade to black (or that one post from six years ago that stays at the top of the page forever and ever. They always begin with: "Wow, so I haven't blogged in a while." And that's how it ends.) Most of the outdoor and cycling bloggers I used to follow back in the day now only update their sites infrequently if at all. I used to write in this space nearly every day; now it's closer to once a week. The blog is a dying medium, and I mourn that fact as much as anyone (As much as I use social media sites, they're all really just blogs with fewer choices in worse formats. I genuinely despise Instagram.) Still, it's admittedly become more difficult to maintain momentum, perhaps because of waning interest from readers, and departures of friends. Why must I love only outmoded communication mediums? (Oh, newspapers. I will stay loy…

Weaknesses

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It occurred to me this week that one of the reasons I'm so nervous about embarking on a solo fat bike tour in western Alaska is because I'm a bit of a weakling. Load a 30-pound bike with 40 pounds of gear, fuel, and food, and I couldn't lift it over my head if I tried. Now you'd think that wouldn't matter, but last year I had my ass handed to me plenty of times because I lacked the strength to do something crucial to forward motion, at least well. Dragging a sled across wet, spongy muskeg in Alaska. Carrying my bike up the "tiger line" of several mountains in South Africa. Simply hauling my sorry self up that steep climb to Coda in Italy (sure, it was the descent that did me in. But sloppy legs didn't help.) Anyway, this is a thing I'm fretting about — I'm not strong. If I had to push my loaded bike up a steep or soft trail with a foot or more of fresh snow, I might never make it.

 The realization came last weekend while riding a big loop ar…