Friday, April 29, 2016

The first week

After arriving in Boulder on Sunday, Beat and I quickly settled into new routines. Beat woke up early to run into work — the shortest route is about ten miles one way, along the rocky singletrack of Bear Canyon. He also tried two different routes over Green Mountain, because who wouldn't want to bag a peak on their way to work?

I've been getting up early as well to chase away an obnoxious woodpecker who has taken up residence outside the house, and feed the goldfish in the outdoor pond. They were surviving just fine before we arrived, but I've taken a liking to the fish and now think of them as "pets." Although I have several projects that should take priority, this week I found myself pulling a camp chair next to a window and working on my Iditarod book. I figure I can probably finish quickly if I keep momentum, and it's going well. Fun project in an ideal setting. I'm stoked on life right now.

There were a couple of trips to town, but mostly I hung out in the mountains and loved it. I've felt hints of how living up here might become lonely, but it suits me. I made plans to have coffee with a couple of local journalists next week, and I have no doubt I'll start to meet folks on the trails. Hopefully I don't become too much of a hermit, but having scenic, private spaces to write and all these trails out my front door is ideal. Beat loves having his own space and a burly human-powered commute into work, plus he's enjoying his new job, so this is pretty much the dream.

Views from Walker Ranch. I enjoyed exploring all these new-to-me trails on foot, but I admit I have been pining for a long bike ride. It's difficult to guess when I'll be up for riding again, and that's frustrating. My hand has better dexterity and strength, but still a lot of numbness. Earlier this week I attempted to use two trekking poles to cross a few creeks, and felt electric shocks of pain from the pressure. I'm looking into getting this properly checked out and hoping a something magic like a cortisone shot will fix everything, but ugh.

It's funny how working on a memoir-type project helps me piece together specific details that I'd all but forgotten. While re-mapping the events of the first day of the ITI, I remembered a crash on the glare ice of the Skwentna River, about two miles from checkpoint two. I've convinced myself this crash is the likely culprit for this injury. A wind gust caught me off guard and washed out the rear wheel, and I landed directly on the palm of my right hand. Specifically, I remember now an electric shock of pain through my wrist, and the stem was knocked out of alignment. I put that crash out of my mind because there were (embarrassingly) so many others during the ITI. But it fits the profile of acute CTS, and explains why I had no issues at all until I arrived at Skwentna Roadhouse, where my right hand was suddenly and inexplicably numb (I'm generally very aware of my own physical discomforts, because I'm really quite a pansy when it comes to pain. There was no hint of numbness before that point, even a couple of hours earlier.)

Anyway, the cause of my injury isn't really important, but it seems an easier mystery to solve than finding the solution. A small storm moved in on Tuesday night, leaving a dusting of snow for a beautiful but brisk morning commute for Beat.

I admit I waited for the sun to warm up before heading out for my own run along Beat's main commuting corridor, Bear Canyon. Something about this trail — the steep sideslopes, boulder-choked stream crossings or power lines — reminded me so much of the Tour du Mont Blanc in Chamonix. Beat reminded me that the rocks and trees and pretty much everything looks quite different here, but I think it's uncanny.

I looped around to climb Fern Canyon, which is a mean route, just mean. The trail is more like a staircase of boulders and roots, ascending 2,100 feet in just 1.2 miles — average grade of 32 percent and a max of 60 percent. I'm already bogged down by the altitude, so I wheezed my way to a 57-minute mile (and two tenths) to ascend Bear Peak. If I make Fern Canyon a regular part of my afternoon routine, I figure I'll either finally achieve the mountain running fitness I've long desired, or blow up my lungs entirely. 

Selfie on top of Bear Peak. I took many selfies this week. I make no apologies. I'm just so excited to be physically present in this place.

I could see my house from the top! It did take some deep zooming in Photoshop to find it again in this photo.

One of Beat's colleagues from Mountain View was in town for a few days and came to check out Beat's new digs. Beat was excited to show off the self-designated camp spot on the property.

On Thursday a spring storm arrived, dropping a couple of inches of wet snow. I took the more direct route to Bear Peak, and found my new favorite six-mile "run." (Six miles is a common distance for me because it was generally what I could cover on my local California trails in one hour. It is going to take me a while to run any six miles out here in one hour. This run took 1:27.)

Friday brought a few more inches of snow. It was not quite the spring snowpocalypse we were promised, but I did have a great time splashing through slush puddles and dodging powder bombs from low-hanging branches. And yes, I had to re-create the bench selfie at Walker Ranch.

Of course, a late-April snow means it's colder inside as well as outside. The empty house becomes a bit chilly, so in addition to running ten miles to his brand new job, Beat has been busy teaching himself to use his new chainsaw, and gathering and splitting wood. I can't be of much help with my bad hand, sadly, and he hurt his back while using the ax. But we still prioritized firewood gathering.

This is what it looks like when Californians move to Colorado in the spring. I've spent the past month running in temperatures topping 90 degrees, so any cold acclimation I ever had is long gone. But Beat and I are both enjoying the nesting process in the snowy Rockies.
Monday, April 25, 2016

Eastward home

 I warned Beat that Los Altos to Boulder is a really long drive. I explained that I genuinely enjoy sitting in a vehicle for hours on end, sipping gas station coffee and watching empty landscapes roll by, but I don't expect many people share my ability to do this and not become painfully bored. I also reiterated the high potential for weather-related drama along the mountainous route, although by late April I thought the worst would be over. Google would have covered Beat's flight, but he insisted he wanted to join me on the land route. We planned a two-day blitz of I-80 with a layover day in Salt Lake to visit my folks.

Beat decided to document the driving journey. Friday morning, we said goodbye to our last Bay Area traffic jam(s.)

A large storm front was barreling east on top of us, and the morning deluges became snow at Donner Pass. Chain controls and more traffic. So much for minimal weather drama in late April.

 It kept getting worse. Secretly I wanted to pull off the highway at Castle Peak trailhead and go play in the wet powder. I didn't voice this desire to Beat, but I wondered ... if I was alone, would I have given in?

The hills outside Reno. I've never seen them this color — usually they're a dull shade of sienna.

Outside Wendover, Nevada, a road sign warned of crosswinds gusting to 75 mph. Weather drama was high as we dropped onto the wide-open Bonneville Salt Flats, where gusts rocked the car violently, tumbleweeds shot toward us like cannons, and visibility dropped to less than a single car length at times. It looked like a white-out, but we could hear something gritty pummeling the car. Was this a sand storm in the fog? When visibility improved a bit, we could see a ground blizzard of sorts streaming across the pavement. Beat asked, "is that snow?" The temperature outside was 74 degrees. "No, I think that's salt," I said. "I think that's all salt."

At least I wasn't riding a bike. A 75-mph crosswind salt storm would probably be even worse than Alaska's sea ice in a 30 mph headwind with 40 below windchills (maybe.)

The visit to Salt Lake was fairly noneventful. We had lunch with my sister and then went for a short, soggy run in Corner Canyon. We were hoping to hike Mount Olympus, but the weather discouraged anything ambitious — heavy rain in the hills, wind, and a snow line that dropped below 7,000 feet. We were effectively following this storm east.

So of course we continued to tail the storm on Sunday. We chose to follow it along I-80, which turned out to be the wrong decision. While I-70 enjoyed a relatively nice, dry day, we got slammed with heavy rain and sleet outside Rawlins, Wyoming. The highway had only just opened after being closed all morning, and there were trucks jack-knifed along the road as 50-mph crosswinds pummeled us. Beat was annoyed with me because I advocated heavily against I-70. I maintain that he wasn't there with me in November when a not-so-large storm resulted in being stuck in traffic for eight hours between Vail and Boulder.

We were relieved to finally reach Boulder on Sunday evening. The weather was calm, dry and pleasant when we arrived at our empty house in the hills. I imagine many people moving 1,300 miles away would pack a car with clothing, dishes and other essentials, but Beat and I crammed the Subaru with our five most favorite bicycles (The three titanium fat bikes, my beloved Mooto-X mountain bike, and Sworxy the Specialized Roubaix.) The moving van with a small apartment's worth of stuff doesn't arrive until next week, so we are camping out at home with an air mattress and REI camp chairs.

Today I went about the tasks of switching accounts over and picking up necessities (draining my checking account for a cart full of cleaning supplies was not the most fun shopping spree.) I had a couple of hours to venture outdoors on a jaunt from home to the summit of Green Mountain, which is only eight miles round trip. The altitude is a challenge — as usual, it feels like there is an invisible bag of bricks hanging off my shoulders and pressing into my chest as I attempt to run. My experience with moderate altitude (6,000+ feet) is that it continues to get worse for a while, and I haven't spent enough time at these altitudes to know when it gets better. One must assume it eventually will.

The permanence of this move also hasn't sunk in yet. It's strange to walk around a building and ponder what I might do with a space, as though it's my space. Today I stood on the rear balcony and watched animals play out a veritable musical of activity — chipmunks chirping as they chased each other, rabbits hopping through the grass, some kind of raptor swooping low, and birds collecting twigs near the backyard ponds that I just discovered contain koi fish. Just as I was thinking, "This is a nice place to visit," it occurred to me that I'm not visiting. It hasn't sunk in, though.

Still, there is much excitement. The things I look forward to most are exploring the local trails on foot, scheming big bike routes when I can finally ride again, starting on some art projects, and dragging these camp chairs out onto the balcony to write. I imagine somewhere in there we'll buy some furniture and start settling in. But first things first.
Thursday, April 21, 2016

I guess it's not surprising, but it's spring and I should leave

Packing, cleaning, doctor visits, one last run up Black Mountain. I wasn't really in the mood for any of it. Transitions inevitably build stress, and stress is bad for stoke. Temperatures were in the mid-80s, recent frolics through the grass left my face oozing with tears and snot, and my lung capacity was on the low side again. The parking lot was full at Rhus Ridge trailhead, which evoked a sigh of relief. "Guess it's not to be." Just as I moved to turn my car around, another car starting backing out.

Shuffling up the hot gravel fireroad, snot streaming everywhere, sunscreen leaking into my eyes. My stomach was irked after eating two apples, a quart of strawberries, an orange, some grape tomatoes, a bell pepper, and some ice cream for lunch (trying to clear out the fridge.) "It seems dumb to force this." Still, this strange sense of duty to my own nostalgia pulled me upward.

At the singletrack junction, gnarled oak trees and chaparral provided patches of shade. There was a stick in the trail that was actually a small rattlesnake, but by the time I realized this it was already too late to do anything but leap over it. My heart raced. I remembered reading somewhere that babies are the most volatile and most venomous rattlesnakes.

I was cooked at the summit, where I plopped down on a jagged rock outcropping that overlooks the redwood ridges and cloudy coast. Memories cycled back through orange sunsets, frosty evenings, the golden grass of summer, coastal fog pouring over these soft ridge lines, autumn skies in a bright cerulean hue that seems truly unique to California. Everyone needs a place like this — close to home, simple but not easy to reach, a place to visit frequently, to look out over familiar landscapes and see all the ways the world is simultaneously a big and small place, and time is both linear and cyclical.

Flying downhill, where the old fireroad drops off the ridge. Glittering buildings of the Silicon Valley sprawl out below, and grade is so steep that it looks like you're falling into it, arms outstretched and plunging toward the city.

My spirit was buoyed as I turned back onto the singletrack and leaned into switchbacks, kicking my feet to pick up speed, eyes scouting for poison oak and rattlesnakes. It was all going so well until my right foot came down at an inexplicably bad angle, rolling the ankle and tossing my body onto the gravel-strewn trail. Skiiiiiiid. Ow ow ow ow.

I popped up quickly, hunched over, then plopped back down on the trail so I could sit and moan until the initial impact wore off. It's been a bad week for running crashes. I've noticed recently that while the clumsy is always there, it becomes noticeably worse when I'm at a certain point in my hormonal cycle. I've heard other women call this the "dropsies," because they drop things like coffee mugs and plates. I drop my body.

Limping down the trail, blood oozing from my elbow and shin, and pain throbbing beneath new tears in my favorite tights. Still three miles to go. At least I tucked and didn't land on my bad hand, but this may possibly be my worst run to Black Mountain yet, after five years of running and biking to Black Mountain. I suppose it's fitting, for a break-up run. You know I'll always love you, Black Mountain.

Friday is the day we load up the Subaru with our favorite bicycles and head east on I-80 toward Boulder. We expect to arrive on Sunday night, and after that I'll have new backyard mountains to explore and fresh scars to remember Black Mountain.

So long, and thanks for all the views.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

These long goodbyes

 I'm a nostalgic person. I value memories exponentially more than possessions. So when it comes time to pack up and move on to a new chapter of life, I tend to neglect the necessary chores in favor of revisiting people and places, shoring up batches of fresh memories. Friday marked the beginning of our last week in California. Although there is a lot to do, there's even more urgency to do all the things.

 My friend Jan thought it a travesty that in five years of exploring wide swaths of the Bay Area, I'd never managed to ride the trails in Water Dog Lake park. It's one of those smaller islands of open space in the suburbs. There are only about a dozen miles of trails, but they're refreshingly technical and scenic. Due to carpal tunnel syndrome keeping me off the bike (four weeks and counting, sniff sniff) I still can't say I've ridden Water Dog. But Jan did guide me on a fun six-mile trail run on Friday evening.

 Along the singletrack, an old road sign is slowly being swallowed by a tree. We darted around hairpin turns, skirted steep side slopes, and hopscotched ruts, roots and rock gardens. Jan pointed out several spots where he had crashed his bike into juicy patches of poison oak. I felt a little relieved that Jan never talked me into riding Water Dog.

 On Saturday morning we embarked on a 22-mile run with our friend Chris, whose family is visiting from Switzerland. The destination was a visit to the elder statesman of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Beat's "friend," a 1,200-year-old, 300-foot-tall coast redwood named "Old Tree." Although Old Tree lives within a half mile of the Portola Redwoods State Park parking lot, we like to give this ancient being the respect it deserves with a properly lengthy approach.

 Slate Creek Trail never disappoints.

 Beat mapped out an extra loop through the somewhat neglected but astonishingly empty trails of Pescadero Creek park. We climbed up a ridge with beautiful views, descended into grassy meadows, explored an abandoned cabin, and frolicked through redwood groves without seeing a single other person. People who know me and my small-town sensibilities have asked how I managed to cope in an overcrowded and sprawling metropolitan area with more than 7 million people. In two sentences: I didn't need to commute and thus only rarely had to deal with traffic. And one doesn't need to venture all that far into the outdoors here to really feel "out there." In the Bay Area, open space reaches through the sprawl like arteries, flowing with life.

 Beat with Old Tree. I can be sentimental about strange things, but touching the trunk of this giant always gives me a warm, hopeful feeling. If a living being can survive everything that Old Tree has survived and continues to endure ... perhaps there's always hope.

 I had a small scare during the flattest, easiest section of the return climb, when I managed to trip and fall directly onto my bad hand. A rigid wrist brace prevented the typical hand-extension, and all of the impact seemed to hit a small spot on my lower palm, which sent a powerful electric-shock pain into my fingers and up my arm. For the next several hours the tingling in my fingers intensified — to the point that I kept looking at my hand to make sure there weren't spiders crawling all over it, because that's exactly what it felt like. I was upset because I thought this was going to be a big setback to already slow healing, but the tingling subsided and the hand doesn't seem worse right now. It's been steadily improving — I have far more dexterity and strength, and less pain than four weeks ago. But it still hurts to grip anything, so cycling remains unappealing.

Today my hip was bruised but my hand was much better, so I renewed my request to Beat to make one last trip up Montebello Road ... on foot. Beat was understandably reluctant, because temperatures were close to 90 in the afternoon, he's still easing back into training after the Iditarod, and because Montebello is a boring paved road. But I insisted this goodbye visit was important. In five years of living in Los Altos, I've climbed and descended Montebello well over 200 times. Strava records alone confirmed 185 trips, and before 2013 I frequently worked out without ever telling Strava about it, so I would guess there are at least 50 more. It's been my go-to road climb; my memory reels contain hundreds of intricate details along the way. Occasionally I ride Montebello in my dreams. But I've never run here because ... well ... why would you?

 Beat relented to the goodbye run, but he kept veering off the road and looking over the embankments, no doubt searching for an escape route.

 Montebello, which gains 2,000 feet in five miles, actually is a nice grade for running. Runners call this "douche grade" — or more nicely, goldilocks grade — because it's not too steep and not too flat, it's just right. Beat was charging up the road but I was having a tougher time of it, with the heat bearing down and an upset stomach. Still, toward the top we actually passed a cyclist and nearly caught two others who passed us much earlier. I was surprised to look at my watch and realize it took just over an hour to make the climb — which is about the same amount of time it often takes me to ride the ascent on Snoots the fat bike.

Of course, we then had to descend the pavement on foot which was just ... ugh. Beat must have been enjoying himself at least a little, because he started talking about "50 miles of Montebello" as a running challenge. "We could probably break ten hours!" he exclaimed. The spark for this conversation was our friend Liehann, who as part of his training plan was attempting a deca-Montebello. I rode the ten-times-climb last November as part of Fat Cyclist's 100 Miles of Nowhere event, and I still talk about it because it was a fantastic and brutal challenge. I even had pipe-dream designs on "Everesting" Montebello, which life and the move to Colorado ultimately thwarted. (Everesting is what cyclists call 29,000 feet of climbing in a single day-ride. The 100 Miles of Montebello already has 20,000 feet of climbing, but five more laps is extremely daunting.) There will be plenty of opportunities for Everesting in Colorado, I know. But I would do it tomorrow if a magic genie granted total healing of my hand in return.

Liehann decided to call it a day after his eighth lap. I don't really blame him. It was hot and he'd completed a long ride on Saturday, and well, eight Montebellos are pretty brutal. But I certainly enjoyed my goodbye run, stealing long gazes out across the valley, and noticing many intricate details that I never caught in 200+ spins on a bike. Thank you, Montebello, for all the rides.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pre-empting the springtime slump

Ahead of our move to Colorado in two weeks, Beat and I have been making the rounds to say goodbye to friends in the Bay Area. One of the first questions they inevitably ask me is, "When's your next race?"

"Dunno," I reply. "I don't have anything planned right now."

I realized it's probably been nearly seven years since I finished one big event and didn't already have designs on another. (Only about a month passed after the 2009 Tour Divide before my friend Keith asked me to be the other half of his 2010 TransRockies team. So I'm not sure even that counts.) Sure, there will probably be another Iditarod. But that's a year away, and not set in stone. Summer is still wide open.

This was intentional, given my recent breathing issues. In just a couple of weeks I'll move from 300 feet to 7,100 feet elevation, where I'll face a host of new allergens to which I may already be susceptible (Recent history has shown me to be especially vulnerable to allergies in the Rocky Mountains.) Training through the transition could be downright terrible.

Although the Iditarod went well and I had no major issues during the month I was in Alaska, I'm still concerned about asthma. Allergy season is in full bloom here in California, and I can feel it when I'm running. Every time I venture outside, I turn into a snotty mess with sneezing and watery eyes. This is quite different than wheezing and constricted airways, but paranoia causes me to instantly dial back my effort the moment I feel remotely winded. I am still unwilling to approach that elusive red line. So I run more slowly and walk up the steeper hills. It's still enjoyable, and it's not like I'm training for anything.

I do wonder when — or if — I'll feel that fire again. That fire that burns in my throat when I've reached the edge of my abilities. That fire to charge up a hill without fear that the air will run out before I reach the top. To take on a summertime challenge with heat and dust and pollen, and not feel resigned to weakness and failure from the start. Today I first learned about and finally watched the short video about Lael Wilcox, "Fast Forward." The part that struck me most was the sound clip of Lael's labored breathing before she decides to call it during her Arizona Trail time trial. The sound ... the look on her face ... the emotions in her eyes. I had to hit pause and look away for a moment. It hit too close to home.

I've not spoken with Lael about her experiences with exercise-related breathing problems. (Sadly, we just missed crossing paths in Alaska last month.) I empathize with her because I suspect we caught the same germ in Banff, both developed lung issues during the Tour Divide, and experienced recurrences afterward. She is younger and fitter than I am, and can do some amazing things while wheezing, but I relate all the same. I know she's training for the Trans-Am, and am excited to watch her progress in the race. Secretly, selfishly, I tell myself that if Lael can get through the Trans-Am without issue, perhaps I'm in the clear as well.

The asthma doctor I am seeing has speculated that my symptoms have been caused by reactive airways following my bout with pneumonia last June and July. Given the depth of the infection, she said it could take months to recover, but she believed I would recover. She does not think I have chronic asthma, but I may be more susceptible to allergy-related asthma attacks, bronchitis, and asthmatic symptoms in the future ... because some of the choices I made as an endurance athlete shredded my lungs (okay, she didn't actually voice this last part.) She put me on a maintenance inhaler because I was heading into the middle of nowhere frozen Alaska with uncertain symptoms. I'm of the opinion the medication helped, but I suspect she won't renew it when I go in for my final appointment. I'm healthy right now. The Iditarod went well. Springtime allergies have not stopped me from running ... yet. I suppose it's all good news.

 On the injury front, I still have carpal tunnel syndrome. It still hurts to hold a toothbrush, so biking remains unappealing on top of inadvisable. I am still not getting the sympathy from friends that I would like ("It's been six weeks! I'm in pain. I have to type with one finger. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder because I'm trying to lift heavy things with one arm. Please stop e-mailing fun bike invites and giving me FOMO on top of CTS.") I miss biking. Running has been fun, though. The second and third photos are from a jaunt I did at Windy Hill during the week. On Saturday, Beat and I ran up Rhus Ridge in the rain.

 Ah, Black Mountain. The round little hilltop with radio towers, odd rock formations, and an incredible panoramic view of everything I love about the Bay Area — from San Francisco to Mount Hamilton to the redwood-forested hills to the Pacific Ocean. On a rainy Sunday, the views were of not much. I think I will need to return here once more, to say a proper goodbye to my special place before I go. It's not the easiest spot to reach on foot.

On Monday I drove to Santa Clara to donate bike parts and my beloved commuter fixie. It was a sad parting, as the fixie was the last vestige of my life before California. Living 2,000+ feet above a town where I would actually do any commuting means I have no desire to ride a fixed-gear in Colorado, so I decided she should go to someone who can actually use her. My knees are happy, but my heart is sad.

I consoled myself with a run around a park I'd never visited, Saint Joseph's Hill in Los Gatos. The lupine were out. I started down the hill at a brisk gallop, taking deep gulps of the pollinated air and trying to ignore the rash forming beneath my wrist brace. My heart was happy, but then my shins were sad. Time for a rest day.
Thursday, April 07, 2016

Injuries are never fair

Ah, the post-adventure blues. I always experience them to some degree, but this particular bout has been both tempered by excitement about the upcoming move to Colorado (April 21!) and exacerbated by frustration about my hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome gets no respect because it's a "typing" (read: desk jockey/couch potato) injury, but it's more debilitating than I anticipated.

Unlike the other sports injuries I've had, CTS has managed to irritate all aspects of my life. With limited dexterity and almost no strength in my right hand, I have to sloppily use my left hand for eating, writing, cleaning, shopping. Driving is more difficult, typing is a mess, and don't get me started on my page design job at which I'm now at least 20 percent slower. Sleep has been fitful because I often roll onto my arm in some way that causes me to wake up with shooting pain in my three affected fingers. Although the throbbing and tingling comes and goes, there's nearly always a low level of pain, despite taking four Aleve per day (my "prescription" from a physician I consulted in Nome.)

It is getting better, slowly, which is encouraging. The Nome doctors urged me to wait a few weeks before taking more drastic measures, since my case seems likely to be an acute injury. Since we're moving to Boulder at the end of the month and I'd need to switch doctors/physical therapists/hand specialists anyway, patience seemed like the sensible choice.

More on the acute theory: One week before the start of the ITI, I went over the handlebars during a fast descent and landed hard on my right side. Most of the initial pain radiated from my shoulder, but there were cuts on my palm indicating that I also landed on my hand, which would have impacted my wrist. With plenty of other pains and pre-race anxiety to distract me, I may not have noticed any initial compression. It's possible I started the race with a minor acute injury, and handlebar throttling and stress exacerbated it. Further crashes on ice (I had a bad one in the Dalzell Gorge that left my whole lower arm swollen) also could have added to the inflammation. It's one theory. Overuse doesn't really explain why I had problems from the first day, or why I suddenly have such an advanced case when I've never experienced nerve damage from any other long bike ride I've done.

The bad news from Dr. Google is that a majority of people with CTS, acute and repetitive, don't recover from it without surgical intervention. Especially with more advanced cases where mobility is severely impacted. Dr. Google always manages to bring me down. First he got into my head with all the lung studies, and now this. I should stay away.

One aspect of this injury that I haven't mentioned yet, perhaps because it hurts the most, is not being able to ride a bike. Beat thinks I am being smart about recovery, but really my hand hurts when I touch anything, so the temptation to ride is not there. Beyond the CTS, I can't say I feel too many after-effects from the ride to Nome. My sleep is poor, but that's because of CTS, and I'm still more hungry (All. The. Time.) than is warranted. But my energy levels are normal and my legs feel great, which is why I'm glad to have running in my life. Running keeps me from sliding too deep into post-adventure blues.

Of course I don't want to end up with other injuries on top of my limpy hand, so I'm trying to be prudent about returning to an activity after a month "off." An hour or so a day, five to six days a week seems prudent. I cherish these hours, as that's always one difficult aspect of the post-adventure transition — going from a predominantly physical existence to a sedentary one. The fatigue is quick to wear off, leaving all that conditioning that makes it feel more natural to move than to sit still.

I took Tuesday off because both of my shins were sore after Monday's run (see, restraint.) Still, I was chomping at the bit to get out today, even though there was a heat wave and it was 93 degrees, and just one week ago I was overheating at 65. I went to San Francisco to meet an editor, and took advantage of the commute home to revisit one of my favorite spots in the Bay Area, Sweeney Ridge. In my long absence I'd forgotten about the 30-percent grades climbing out of Pacifica, and nearly fainted at mile six (Not exaggerating. I experienced dizziness and briefly blacked-out vision, and chose to sit down on the trail before it wasn't a choice.)

But it was a beautiful day, even in the hot hot heat. I intend to use these final weeks to revisit some of the places that I'll miss the most. California has been my home for more than five years — it's difficult to fathom, as it feels as though I just moved here, especially with Alaska vistas so fresh in my memory. This realization of "leaving home" was enough to cause me to tear up as I descended toward a sweeping view of San Francisco, the Bay, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Crystal Springs Reservoir, and Mount Diablo. I was listening to a song by Darlingside that I'd played on repeat during my second day on the Yukon, when I was surrounded by the white expanse of the mile-wide river:

I stood above the Rocky Mountains
where Colorado touches New Mexico
And I could see a hundred miles
but I was many thousand miles from home.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Some of my Iditarod photos

 This will be my last Iditarod retrospective post, for a while at least. I realized if I don't write a long-winded race report for my blog, I may not have a chance to share photos. (I will not join Instagram. I will not.) Although I'd like to make a post with a hundred photos (I love them all!), I decided to stick to one favorite for each day of my race, with a short description, approximate mileage, and time stamp. (I used my own GPS data to come up with the mileage. Most agree this is an under-estimate of actual mileage.)

Day one: Squall over Flathorn Lake, mile 29. 5:05 p.m. February 28.

 Day two: Morning fog on the trail to Finger Lake, mile 110.  9:11 a.m. February 29

 Day three: Rainy Pass, mile 171. 2:36 p.m. March 1

Day four: The Farewell Swamps, mile 209. 9:07 a.m. March 2

Day five: Only five miles to McGrath!, mile 301. 9:13 a.m. March 3

Day six: Leaving Takotna, mile 329. 2:49 p.m. March 4

Day seven: The long and bumpy Iron Dog trail, mile 401. 5:14 p.m. March 5

Day eight: Mike, me, Sam and Katie at Innoko shelter cabin, mile 416, (Sam and Katie were not part of the ITI but rode the entire Iditarod Trail independently. The couple from Durango, Colorado, finished the Tour Divide on a tandem in 2014. 9:47 a.m. March 6.

Day nine: Miner's shack with a view on Poorman Road, mile 481. 11:45 a.m. March 7

Day ten: "I hope this Yukon River ice holds," mile 496. 8:45 a.m. March 8

Day eleven: Golden willows near Kaltag, mile 628. 6:36 p.m. March 9

Day twelve: Chasing Mike to Unalakleet, mile 690. 6:36 p.m. March 10

Day thirteen: Facing the wind tunnel from the crest of the Blueberry Hills, mile 734. 4:26 p.m. March 11.

Day fourteen: Mike at Reindeer Cove, mile 755. 1:19 p.m. March 12

Day fifteen: Passed by Brent Sass on the sea ice, mile 780. (Sass was leading the Iditarod Sled Dog Race at the time.) 3:24 p.m. March 13.

Day sixteen: Greeting my superiors on the flats west of Koyuk, mile 801. (I have high respect for sled dogs ... and I'm not even a dog person.) 10:09 a.m. March 14.

Day seventeen: Little McKinley, mile 852. 8:59 a.m. March 15.

Day eighteen: The coldest morning, mile 898. 8:44 a.m. March 16.