Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 in reverse

Date: 30
Total mileage: 21.0
December mileage: 476.1
Yearly mileage: 5,547.5

This year I resolve to see more beauty.

What's your New Year's Resolution?
Friday, December 29, 2006

Becoming rusty

Date: Dec. 28 and 29
Total mileage: 57.0
December mileage: 455.1
Temperature upon departure: 38

I have to be honest. I'm struggling. Struggling with motivation. Struggling with a disparity of location ... when I lived in Homer, I didn't enjoy my job much, but at least I had a satisfying cycling hobby to fall back on. Now, I enjoy my job more, but ...

It's my weekend. I thought I'd take advantage of Geoff being away to put in some longer miles, but I do what I find tolerable. Yesterday, tolerable was about three hours. Today, with a daunting Wind Advisory extended to 9 p.m., I decided to head north. After about two miles I realized that there wasn't any point in pedaling - my gearing only goes so high, and the wind already was pushing me along at about 25 mph. That didn't bode well, but I decided it would be a great workout going home.

I had, simply, no idea what I was turning around to face. Hurricane-force blasts stole the breath right out of my throat, leaving me gasping for oxegen that seemed to have been sucked right out of the air. It was hard enough to breathe holding still - it was nearly impossible once I really started pedaling into the wind, holding my nose against the handlebars as sharp needles of rain pierced my scalp through the holes in my helmet. I have never experienced anything like that wind. The 11-mile trudge homeward grew to be more tolerable, but as I crossed the bridge, a crosswind gust hit so hard it slammed me, sideways, right into the guardrail. The guardrail ... the only narrow barrier that separated me from a 60-foot freefall into the churning channel. It scared me so completely that I got off the bike right there and walked the rest of the way home - the entire way, even after I had reached the relative safety of solid ground.

Only later did I find out that the weather service had advised people not to drive due to unpredictable gusts and sustained, gale-force wind. They recorded gusts as high as 109 mph in the area.

Before I returned home, I did spend some time riding on the beach. That helped save the what may have otherwise been a miserable ride (although I do have to admit that riding with that wind at my back was an absolute blast.) I started about a mile down the road and rode back through the sand with the wind wisking me forward. I wove through the shipwrecks and stopped to take some bike pictures in an effort capture the mood of the day:

I also have been use music to help internalize some of the more difficult rides, which helps ease the suffering. I compiled a short list of some of the albums that are cycling through my roatation right now. I call this list "Good albums for riding a bike in the cold rain:"

"Halloween, Alaska" by Alaska Halloween
I discovered this album by accident because Halloween and Alaska are two of my favorite things, but it really has a lush fusion of beautiful noise that lulls me into the contented motion of the moment.

"This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About" by Modest Mouse
This was the first Modest Mouse recording introduced to me, way back in 1997, by my "Straight Edge" high-school boyfriend with a soft side for basement emo music. (We called it emo back then. I'm not crazy about what the label's come to mean now) But it's still my favorite.

"The Meadowlands" by The Wrens
Also beautiful indie-pop that at times is unexpectedly catchy. Kinda like Radiohead but more accessible - which is a good thing on a bike, where music that is too intellectually stimulating can become grating.

"Slanted and Enchanted" by Pavement
I also came into Pavement in a pretty embarrassing way - by the song "Cut Your Hair" from the Brady Bunch Movie. But it's stayed with me for 10 years, so it must be worth something.

"Soviet Kitsch" by Regina Spektor
I had this song in my rotation for the longest time while I was training for the Soggy Bottom 100. It still carries a lot of the beautiful sadness I felt upon leaving Homer.

"Summer in Abandon" by Pinback
If you don't think melancholy hazy-day rock is also good mood music for cycling in the rain, this list really isn't for you.

"We Will Become Sillhouettes" by The Postal Service
I understand that The Postal Service is some kind of side-project for the singer in Death Cab For Cutie. It's a little more trip-hoppy than Death Cab, and has a lot more introspection.

"Tonight and Forever" by Sense Field
Just in case all of this indie folk puts you to sleep, I threw in one of my favorite power pop albums ever.
Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happiness is frozen and dry

Date: Dec. 26 and 27
Total mileage: 43.0
December mileage: 398.1
Temperature upon departure: 26

Today, for the first time in the month of December, I had real, actual, nonfiltered sunlight in my eyes. For three beautiful miles around the north corner of Douglas Island, I actually had to squint as the unobstructed sun slid over the tips of the mountains. It was one of those famous partly sunny sinkholes that open up between the weeks and weeks of dripping gray. From these momentarily clear skies descends colder air ... refreezing the puddles, slush pots and soft snow. On days like today, I can go for a two-hour ride wearing a single layer on my legs and just two on my upper body and feel toasty warm. And I'm so excited about being dry, the pedaling doesn't even feel like work.

I finally sent in a check for the Susitna 100 this afternoon. I know I decided to do it a couple of weeks ago, but this is really the point of no return (which is why I put it off until the end of the month.) Now it's either go, or make a really big donation to the Flathorn Lake Brownies and Paella fund. I also mailed a check for Geoff. He's entering this year's 100-mile race. On foot. That's right. Running. 100. Miles.

I like that I can feel almost normal in the company of people crazier than I am. I'd call him absolutely nuts, but deep down I know that if I drop the exhorborant entry fee and airfare and vacation days and gear purchases on this thing, and I show up on Feb. 17 and the trail is covered in two feet of new snow, I might just ditch the bike and do the race anyway. I'm going to bring my snowshoes and backpack just in case.