Showing posts from October, 2015

ITI training, week two

Monday: Road bike, 1:32, 17.4 miles, 2,424 feet climbing — I'm starting to feel a little stronger on my bike. But I'm still terrified about the deca-Montebello coming up on Nov. 7. Sadly, Beat was diagnosed with pneumonia this week. He hasn't been able to log any hard training in more than two weeks, so 100 Miles of Nowhere is definitely out for him. He's starting to feel better, but damn, it's been a rough year for our respiratory systems.

Tuesday: Trail run, 0:54, 5.6 miles, 701 feet climbing — In an effort to inject a whisper of "speed work" into my routine, I'm going to make an effort to improve on my regular Tuesday run, a hilly half-pavement, half-trail loop. This pace is about 9:34-minute-mile average. I'm going to work on getting that under 9-minute-miles. Also, I'm hoping to break the top three times for a half-mile downhill segment called "Hill Trail Descent" on Strava. Currently I'm 6th out of 181 women. Isn't Strav…

Moving forward on the Western States Trail

This weekend I traveled out to Auburn to record a few interviews with Ann Trason. I've been wanting to work on a biography about Ann for two years now, but pushed the project to the back-burner last year when we reached what I felt was an impasse. I operate best as a visual writer, which requires a lot more details than a bullet list of of accomplishments with quotes from people who were on the periphery. Since I wasn't there to witness any of the events I want to write about, I have to rely on Ann for these details. It's a problem, because Ann feels mortified by even the idea of talking about herself. She's an extremely private person, and that's okay. But as self-effacing as she can be, I think she understands that she's led an extraordinary life, and has a story that's worth telling.

The only window I've ever found with Ann is when she's running — out on the trails, she lets the stories flow out, and they're wonderful. Somewhat belatedly, I …

I ♥ races

This is my favorite portrait from any of my races, taken by a volunteer at the Eaglesong Lodge/mile 46 checkpoint during the 2006 Susitna 100 — my first race. I love the floppy overboots, the dangling Camelbak hose, the 2003 Gary Fisher Sugar with 26" studded tires and plastic pedals, the bulging stuff-sack bundle on a seatpoast rack. Most of all, I love that blissed-out look on my face. I was in awe of the expansive Susitna Valley, the notion of being 46 miles from anywhere in Alaska, and the fact that I was out there, and I was doing it.

This was quite the revelation, and set me on a path that I continue to follow a decade later — seeking out endurance races as a way to focus my emotions, expand my perceptions, find flow, and experience life at an intensity that never ceases to amaze me. Although this is all possible in non-race adventures, I appreciate organized races for their community and support, and also because perimeters force me to think and act outside my own boxes. …

ITI training, week 1

So, there are about 19 weeks until the start of the Iditarod Trail Invitational on Feb. 28, 2016. I wanted to revive my weekly training log from winter 2013-14 because it proved to be a useful record. Since the Firetrails 50 was a re-set of sorts, I'm starting with the following week — Oct. 12 to 18.

I'm a little embarrassed because I haven't started a weight training routine yet. I decided to join a small gym near my neighborhood, and it's been a frustratingly slow process. But my membership is set to start on Wednesday, so I hope to report back next week. The benefit of this gym, besides being relatively inexpensive, is there is one trainer there for a few hours each day who can work with me as long as they're not already occupied with other clients. It's not as good as personal training, but at least I can ask questions and receive feedback. This is all new to me, so obviously the first few weeks will be about treading lightly and focusing on form. Hopefull…

As it turns out, I am allergic to summer

This week I went in to see an allergist in hopes that the doctor could provide insight into my recent breathing difficulties. Skin tests came up negative for mold, dust mites, weeds, and most animals. I only showed mild allergies to a handful of tree pollens. But when the doctor arrived at the spot on my back that felt like a tiny piranha tearing into my skin, she exhaled loudly and said, "Oh, yeah, grass is really blowing up. Wow."

I get hay fever every spring and always suspected I was allergic to grass pollen, but it turns out I am severely allergic to grass pollen. The doctor was surprised I'd never sought allergy treatments in the past. She said people with allergies occasionally experience a tipping point when they contract a cold or the flu during allergy season. Productive coughing creates an environment in which allergens are held in the mucus lining the bronchial tubes, exacerbating the inflammation and causing more mucus buildup, which in turn bolsters the vi…

Bustin' out at the Firetrails 50-mile

Every September, Beat returns from the Tor des Geants buzzing on run-bliss and eager to sign up for all of the fall races. This is also about the time he acknowledges he doesn't have any vacation days left, so the smattering of hundred-milers left in the year are scratched out, and we usually end up at a local 50K. My Ultra Signup profile contains a handful of October and November races that have caused me to wonder, "Wait, why did I run that one? Oh, yeah, Beat's TDG chaser."

October is also the month when I need to launch my winter training. It's the "on" season, when I need to mentally and physically prepare for the grueling Alaska slog that always comprises my favorite endeavor of the year. I haven't wanted to talk or write about 2016 because of the level of cognitive dissonance it takes to contemplate a thousand miles to Nome. Beat hasn't enjoyed hearing me talk about it either, because the conversation always devolves into sniveling about…

Adventures in roadtripping

I love long drives. I love traveling at 80 miles per hour across vast empty landscapes, shamelessly guzzling cheap gas station coffee, listening to NPR and singing out loud with pop radio. I love glancing toward the mountains and imagining adventures along their contours. I make the commute between California and Utah at least a couple times per year, and recently decided to start acting out some of these daydreams. Twelve hours is a long time to sit in a car, and I've found it goes a lot smoother if I punctuate the drive with two or three hours of off-highway adventuring somewhere in the middle.

Light rain pattered the windshield as I pulled off an exit near Donner Pass on the eastbound trip. Castle Peak is a prominent landmark just off I-80, but I didn't know exactly how to get there. The Pacific Crest Trail climbs to Castle Pass here, so it seemed like the appropriate route. With the long Grand Canyon trek coming up, I was feeling lazy. Although I set out with an intention…

The tradition

When I tell friends I'm heading to Arizona to hike across the Grand Canyon, I've heard the response, "Didn't you do that last year?"

"Well, yes," I'd answer. "I do this most every year."


"I go there with my dad. We hike together."

"Don't you and your dad want to do something different one of these years?"

"Well, no. It wouldn't be the same. Rim-to-rim is the tradition."

 Tradition is an interesting concept, isn't it? Repeating the same activities, year after year, generation after generation. Tradition has perpetuated things nobody likes, such as fruit cake and Black Friday, but it also generates a sense of familial belonging and stability. One could argue that the best traditions combine the warm fuzzies of familiarity with elements of awe and wonder. Fall Grand Canyon is top shelf in this regard.

 I'm not sure my dad was setting out to create a tradition when he invited me t…