Monday, December 28, 2015

ITI training, week eleven

Monday: Trail run, 3:37, 18.1 miles, 3,424 feet climbing. I'd planned to put in a long ride during the single full day I had in California between our Boulder and Fairbanks trips, but Monday brought an atmospheric river that dumped well over an inch of rain in just a few hours. I think back to my years in Juneau and how utterly miserable it was to ride through cold rain, and I admit I just can't make myself do it these days. Trail running in the rain is considerably more fun. On this day I set out from home to run to Black Mountain and back. I reached the bald peak during the crux of the storm, when the wind-blown rain picked up both volume and velocity to the point where I felt like I was being water-boarded while climbing into the deluge. Yes, it is still more fun than biking in the rain. I only had this paper-thin rain jacket and I became deeply chilled, swinging my arms wildly as I descended the steep and rocky Black Mountain trail with a horizontal waterfall slapping me from behind. It was all quite exciting. 

Tuesday: Weight lifting at gym. Managed to squeeze three sets in about 25 minutes by doing a bit of a speed session. In rushing through the workouts, I pulled one of my abdominal muscles, which caused discomfort on the flights to Seattle and Fairbanks and several days later. Admittedly I got wrapped up in my outdoor activities after this, and only did one weight-training session this week. 

 Wednesday: Snow bike, 2:35, 16.1 miles, 1,665 feet climbing. It was 0 degrees for our first fat bike ride in Fairbanks, which is mild for these parts but always a bit of a shock coming directly from California. Another shock is the substantial increase in surface resistance that pulls heavily on the quads and keeps coasting to a minimum. It's a place where good trail conditions and lung-searing efforts yield a 6mph average, and muscles cool down and stiffen up after just a few minutes of rest. I admit snow biking has an air of ridiculousness, but I admire the local cyclists who endure these conditions all winter long, because that is some toughness forged in steel.

Thursday: Snow bike, 4:39, 28.3 miles, 2,713 feet climbing. Christmas Eve had a little more drama, as we were out for five hours, it was 18 below in the valley, breezy on the ridge, and we did a lot of descending (first two miles were fast downhill, ugh) and climbing as we tried new layering systems and re-learned what doesn't really work for us. I had it a lot better than Beat, whose feet were cold the entire time despite multiple gear-changes and strategic running. I had a cold lower back and hands, which sounds and is minor, but still manages to set off bouts of panic (my fingers are cold but I'm wearing my mittens, what do I do? What do I do?) I also had some breathing difficulties when my face mask — which is lined in silnylon — was cinched tight. After this ride was over, I'd rate my exhaustion level somewhere near the all-day range, even though it was only 5 hours and less than 30 miles. But it was a good test run.

Friday: Sled-drag, 2:00, 6.3 miles, 189 feet climbing. It was still 18 below in the valley, but it is notably easier to regulate body temperature and feel completely comfortable while hiking. Dragging a sled strains my hamstrings and hips, and I find I can only pull so hard regardless of my energy levels, but I felt pretty good on this "run."

Saturday: Sled-drag, 3:36, 10.2 miles, 1,454 feet climbing. When we arrived at the trailhead for Tolovana Hot Springs, the temperature was 12 below and winds were gusting to 25 mph. The parking lot is high on an exposed ridge. It's often high drama to embark on the trek into the hot springs, and this trip was no exception. By the time I got my sled put together, my hands were stiff, and I had to endure a particularly mean case of the screaming barfies as circulation returned (holding my trekking poles inside of pole pogies and shoving everything under my armpits as I stumbled down the trail.) This was a good test run for my balaclava (which Beat sewed for me last year). It's made out of windproof fleece with silnylon lining the inside of the face mask. The hope is that instead of turning my balaclava into an ice helmet, all the moisture from my breath will collect on the waterproof material and funnel down to the chin, forming a nice snotcicle at the bottom, which can be broken off at intervals. After consulting with my friends in Fairbanks, it seems that everyone finds face moisture to be an unavoidable nuisance, so I am not alone. The main issue I have with this mask is a panic-inducing feeling of suffocation when I am working and breathing hard. While hiking up Tolovana Hot Springs Dome, there were a couple of instances where I ripped the face mask down involuntarily, only to be blasted on my wet cheeks with the fierce windchill, with an unpleasant flash-freezing effect. Still, I think this is the right system. I'm quite happy with my windproof layers — Windstopper tights and hat, and this fantastic fleece jacket (Mountain Hardwear Airshield Polartec) that breathes so well it's dry on the inside after hours of sweating in subzero temperatures, yet blocks the wind completely. I've had this jacket for two years and love it.

Sunday: Sled-drag, 3:40, 10.2 miles, 2,623 feet climbing. Overnight, the wind completely died, and even though it was still quite cold — around 20 below in the low-lying valleys — we enjoyed a serene and drama-free hike back to the road. Compared to the windchill of Saturday, even these low-lying spots felt pleasant, and I was grateful to march along without a suffocating mask wrapped around my face. I'd eaten a lot of food and had a nice soak at the hot springs, and couldn't have felt better in the morning. My hamstrings were tight, but I realize that's something I've been complaining about for a couple of weeks now, and is probably only partially related to the sled-dragging. It only took us four hours to hike out of Tolovana, when it usually takes more than five. It's funny to feel strong and triumphant about hiking 10 miles in four hours. I felt pretty triumphant.

Total: 20:09, 44.4 miles ride, 44.8 miles run, 12,068 feet climbing. I was going to post more pictures from Tolovana, but I'll do that in a separate post. I was happy to squeeze in 20 hours this week, each one of them full of character-building goodness. Gear-testing is going well. We might actually be out of cold days for our remaining time in Fairbanks, but I suppose we can't complain about nice weather for further riding opportunities. Strava just informed me that I've biked 4,899 miles so far this year. If I rode 101 more, I could top 5,000 for 2015. I'm thinking about going for it, but it won't be a small task here in Fairbanks, where no miles come easy. We'll see!


  1. Seeing you all bundled up for the cold helps me to see that it's possible to do. Thanks for inspiring me!

  2. That balaclava is a great idea. I have the same problem--my face mask turns into an ice helmet and it's almost colder having it on than not. If I ever do winter races again, I hope I can pay Beat to make me something like your new one:)


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