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Showing posts from January, 2017

Escape to Alaska

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Last week in Fairbanks, Alaska, the temperature dropped to 53 below. It was more than 100 degrees warmer in Boulder, where I was mashing pedals through four inches of thick slush on top of mud. My speed stayed firmly lodged in the 2.5 mph range, while I fretted about the state of the world, geopolitical nonsense, and strong desire to not face a certain crushing expedition, now just a month away. I'm not ready for the Iditarod, again ... but of course I've never been ready, and I never will be. But I was desperate for a modicum of confidence. If I could just test my current and mostly non-negotiable state of fitness in real Alaska conditions — a place where the air is rich and cold, where the boreal forest stretches out for hundreds of miles, and I could possibly even tune out the news ... at least for a few days. 
That's how I ended up hovering over the Alaska Airlines Web site, debating mileage ticket possibilities, convincing Beat it was a good idea, and finally flying …

Running on 3 cylinders

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My first car was a 1989 Toyota Tercel, which I bought the summer after I graduated from high school. I called the car "Terry." It was my loyal partner in adventure — trips to the Southern Utah desert, snowboarding at Brighton, New Year's Eve 1998 in Portland. For my 21st birthday, my friends and I drove to Wendover, Nevada — a hedonistic outpost on the edge of the Bonneville Salt Flats. The following day, while driving east on a long, flat straightaway of Interstate 80, I decided to test Terry's limits. Hot August sunlight shimmered across the white desert as I floored the gas pedal — 100 mph, 110 mph. All four of us in the car were screaming as I buried the needle beyond 115 mph for several seconds, until fear got the better of me.
I'll never know if that Salt Flats speed record was the catalyst, but after that, my underpowered, 12-year-old car with 190,000 miles went downhill fast. First the car started sputtering up hills, and then the gas mileage plummeted. …

The definition of insanity

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I honestly don't know why I keep coming back here. There's invisible Velcro under my tires, just like there was in 2015, and I don't understand why my legs are burning. I'm just pedaling — as slowly as possible, really — while wispy clouds strain to capture fading light. The sun set and we're just getting started. I'm already lost in memories. I want to find new experiences, but I keep coming back here. It's inevitable that I'll relive the past. Island Park, Idaho — this is the place where I crumbled in this same 200-mile bike race last year. Two years ago, the Warm River gorge is where I stopped during the Tour Divide, crawled into a clammy sleeping bag, and alternately sobbed and coughed because I'd never felt so weak or hopeless. And yet I here I am. I keep coming back.

The pack fades into the distance and I continue spinning slowly, trying to ignore the tightness I already feel in my chest. This is how it is. This is who I am. I'm going to …

Out of shape and maybe okay with it

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Today I returned for allergy shots after a much-enjoyed two-week break while the clinic was closed. Before administering the shots, the nurses measure my peak expiratory flow rate (basically measuring how well I breathe out, a common way to monitor asthma.) Since I started the immunotherapy treatments, this number has been on a small but steady decline. The normal rate for a woman my age and height is about 430. The last time I went in for shots, my peak flow registered 290 — which is pretty much off-the-charts low. The nurse made me keep trying until I boosted it to 330, because if the number is too far below my norm, I can't get shots. I didn't tell her how light-headed I was feeling.

Today, however, I registered 410 on the first puff. This time, the nurse urged me to try a few more times to ensure it was a correct reading. Since my normal is in the low 300s, a 400 reading may lead to registering too low for shots the next time around. "If they ask, tell them you were…