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Showing posts from April, 2015

Finding Mars

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I admit, during the past week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the Tour Divide. I blame, in part, a book I've been reading: "Finding Mars" by Fairbanks-based science journalist Ned Rozell. It's one of thirty or so paperbacks I still have on a bookshelf after culling my collection substantially over the past ten years. Since returning from Alaska, I've commenced nightly sauna "heat training." Because I can't read my Kindle in the sauna, I rifled through my bookshelf for old paperbacks to sacrifice to the cause (high heat causes books to fall apart.) I think Rozell's publisher sent me a copy of "Finding Mars" when I was still an Alaska journalist — anyway, I've had this book for four or more years, and assumed I'd already read it. Somehow I must have overlooked it, because while this "second reading" hasn't jogged my memory, much about this book has captured my imagination.
"Finding Mars" is a fi…

Cures for the springtime mehs

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You'll have to forgive me if I'm a little quieter on my blog these days. I'm just going through my annual period of readjustment that I've come to think of as "the springtime mehs." This begins when temperatures climb into the 80s, and I remember that summer is coming and summer is long. I regard summer with the same disquietude that many people feel toward winter. I adore winter — from deep cold Alaskan winter to (ideally) rainy and mild California winter. I manage summer, with its hot hot heat, searing sunlight, insects and wide array of allergens. I'll admit the outdoor stoke just doesn't come as easily when faced with these discomforts. I'll also admit that most of my outdoor stoke is driven by the prospect of adventure — any adventure. Even backyard adventures can be full of novelty and discovery. But as I enter the fifth year in my tenure as a Californian, adventure admittedly takes more creative spark than it once did. Some weeks, inspirat…

Always wondering what's next

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Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, back in California. Beyond the usual flurry of tasks that every long trip away from home demands, both Beat and I had a rough re-entry to our routines. We were wrecked after the White Mountains 100, and then embarked on the worst recovery day possible. First, we drove for seven hours from Fairbanks to Anchorage, taking turns at the wheel while I worked on deadline on my laptop (yes, I am one of those people who becomes car sick when I don't watch the road. It was a delicate balance of tolerating nausea just to the point of vomiting, then looking up for a while.) In Anchorage, I finished up my work while our wonderful friends made us dinner. Then we packed up our three bulging duffles and enormous bike box, returned the rental truck, dragged the very large load across the airport, and boarded a red-eye flight with a long layover. By 7 a.m. in Seattle, I was as emotionally volatile as an overtired toddler, and nearly had a meltdown because my ar…

Still the best race ever, part two

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I enjoy tracing the White Mountains 100 course on a map. The lollipop loop is flung like a lasso over a small region of topographic ripples between the wide drainages of the Yukon and Tanana Rivers, which in turn divide expansive valleys between the Alaska and Brooks mountain ranges, which feather across a much larger landmass — all of it nearly uninterrupted by the roads, cities, and railroads that crowd most maps. The course itself is a tiny circle in this geographic expanse, nothing at all, and it's a hundred miles. It's a visual reminder of just how big Alaska really is — that one can walk 50 miles away from the nearest road, and still only be at the edge of a vast wilderness.

It may just be the edge of the wilderness, but the boreal forest felt wholly wild and remote as we began the climb to Cache Mountain Divide. Not many people travel here — even 40 miles is considered a good day's distance on a snowmachine, and fewer folks venture beyond the two cabins this trail …

Still the best race ever, part one

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I call the White Mountains 100 my favorite race, but the emotional attachment runs deeper than that. My introduction to this race came in early 2010, when I was going through an extensive personal crisis involving my career, relationships, location, and lifestyle. I was 30 years old, and everything that I thought I was had been flipped on its head. I spent most of the winter months holed away in the single room I was renting in Juneau, cuddling with my cat, eating peanut butter out of a jar, and writing "Be Brave, Be Strong." I wasn't riding my bike all that much, except to commute to work. The one activity I truly enjoyed at the time was hiking in the mountains. I was pretty sure I was going to give up endurance racing altogether. 
Then I received a call from Ed Plumb, a Fairbanks skier who I met at Yentna Station the previous year, while I was coping with frostbite and scratching from 2009 Iditarod Trial Invitational. He told me about this new race he was developing i…