Monday, July 02, 2007

Base building

Date: July 2
Mileage: 7.8
July mileage: 38.2
Temperature upon departure: 60

So I have a rather long "off season" ahead of me. I'm focused on staying healthy, but I'd also like to push closer to my limits and build some strength. One of my goals is to regularly hit some of the gut-busting trails around town and hike them as fast as I can. The mountain bike approaches are a nice warm-up/cool-down.

Hiking Mount Juneau was a bit of a tall order this morning, given the time window I had and my current state of fitness. I locked up my bike at the trail junction and settled in to the hike, which became a brisk trudge, and then a four-legged climb. Mount Juneau's elevation is 3,576 feet. I started at sea level on my bike. The actual hike gains about 3,000 feet in two miles. Hunched over the trail, I could hear huge droplets of my own sweat hitting the dirt. I crossed a snow field that seemed to spin sideways with every step. My heart raced ahead and dark shadows darted through my field of vision. I was in the red zone and I was hurting, but I was feeling alive. I crested the final scramble and shuffled up the trail to the peak, where a family from the Yukon put down their lunch and gave me a somewhat alarmed "Hello." I looked at my watch. 53 minutes.

I felt proud of my 2 mph average ... a little lightheaded, but proud. I took about three minutes to snap a few pictures and then started back down the trail. I figured I had about 45 minutes to hike down before my time window closed in. What I didn't plan for was the unrelenting pull of gravity on my tender knee. I realized quickly that every step would have to be tentative and taken sideways. It took me an hour and 10 minutes to walk/slide down.

Even though I reached speeds of 35 mph riding my mountain bike home, and took a seven-minute shower, and packed a quick cold lunch and only half blow-dried my hair, I was still 12 minutes late for work. Nobody asked me why I was late. I was bummed about that, actually, because my coworkers are always telling me how they'd like to hike Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts one of these days "if I could only find the time."

How I love Mount Juneau on a cloudy day.

If I peek over the edge, I can actually see the rooftop of my gym. I thought of the two friendly women who dutifully show up every day at noon, and how they were probably running in stagnant circles at that moment. I sent them my deepest sympathies.
Sunday, July 01, 2007


Date: July 1
Mileage: 30.4
July mileage: 30.4
Temperature upon departure: 56

Did I mention before that I am so, so happy to be riding again on a regular basis? Lately I've been eating worse and sleeping worse, and have been under more stress at work because of a recent exodus of co-workers ... but I feel so much more upbeat, optimistic and excited about the future than I did in March. It frightens me, actually - it seems I need cycling just to feel like a complete person. These past few months have taught me that I'm not just an avid cyclist. I am a habitual cyclist. I've crossed that dangerous line between recreational use and dependency. And even as I work toward my goal to become a more well-rounded person (I am still going to the gym and doing my PT stretches and building my quads and planning activities where I just use my feet), it's so easy for me to just slip on my touring bike and head out for a two-hour spin that will carry me through the day.

Before March, it would have been easy for me to deny my addiction. But four months of painful withdrawals and subsequent binging have me wondering otherwise. So today, I googled for the signs and symptoms of substance abuse:

1. Seclusive behavior - long periods spent in self-imposed isolation: So I primarily ride alone. So what? I work a strange schedule and do a lot of my riding in the winter. Hard to find people who want to hang out with me ... even my own partner generally just laughs when I say "want to go for a ride today?" But during the 24 Hours of Light, when the party was really going down, there was pizza and debauchery and all of the things that should make a social human happy - and I was riding around, and around, and around in circles ... all alone.

2. Long, unexplained absences: So sometimes I tell Geoff I am going to go for a one-hour ride and it turns to three. It's so easy to lose track of time. Don't judge me!

3. Lying and stealing: Luckily, I haven't resorted to this yet. But if I saw a Pugsley propped up on a post and no one was watching, can I trust that my conscience would prevail?

4. Involvement on the wrong side of the law: Sometimes, when I see a stop sign, and no one is around ... I run it. Ok? I have a good average speed going on. Don't judge me!

5. Deteriorating family relationships: The last time I called my mom, it was her birthday. It was June 2. That's terrible. But it seems like these days, I'm either working, or riding, or attending barbecues. Sometimes I sleep. But I should call my mom.

6. Obvious intoxication, delirious, incoherent or unconscious: If you had seen me after I rode the Susitna 100 this year, you would have seen me exhibiting every single one of these traits.

7. Changes in behavior and attitude: Today I made a U-turn at the glacier and was headed down the road at 18 mph when a huge herd of Cycle Alaska tourists darted across the intersection of the trail to a parking lot, completely cutting me off. I had to slam on my admittedly weak brakes, and just barely yanked my foot out of my pedals in time to not topple over or slam into them. I was filled with a road rage I have not felt since I used to commute I-15 when it was being rebuilt. I was seeing red. I was incapacitated with anger. All for people who, regardless of how clueless they were, were my fellow cyclists. Afterward, I felt a bit ashamed.

8. Decrease in school performance: I used to be good at and had interests in other stuff that wasn't cycling. Now ... hmmm ...

The Web site goes on to recommend, "Always remember that any one of the above signs may not be enough to indicate substance abuse, but should be enough to suggest that there may be a problem."

I guess the only question left is ... where can I find help?
Saturday, June 30, 2007


Date: June 29
Mileage: 36.2
June mileage: 598.2
Temperature upon departure: 61

So Geoff just casually announced to me today that he is planning to line up for the Great Divide Race next June.

And, um, I think he's serious.

And, um, I think I believe him. It's one thing to say such a thing a year in advance. It's quite another when Geoff says such a thing a year in advance.

And I thought I was climbing way out on a limb by announcing in the midst of a knee injury that I'd like to ride in the Ultrasport race to McGrath next February. Clearly, I have no concept of ambition. That, and Geoff has no concept of prudence.

I'm not sure how I feel about his intentions. On one hand, I'm excited, because I know him and I know it's something he could excel at, even with the odds stacked against him. I also know that he would put his whole heart and soul into it and be gone for weeks, if not months, to prepare for and participate in the GDR. That should probably bother me ... that some dumb 'ol bike race is more important to him than hanging out with me, or that some dumb 'ol bike race is more important to him than building a "real" life. But I don't really feel that way. When I think about Geoff racing the GDR, I first feel empathy, and then envy. I think our relationship works because we're equally afflicted with the same misguided passions ... and equally self-involved.

June 2008 is a long way away. But I know - from the first time I thought it would be "interesting" to move to Alaska, or "fun" to ride 100-mile winter bike race on the Iditarod trail - that these ideas have a way of becoming self-perpetuating. It will be interesting to see what the next 12 months bring. But I already suspect (with relief, but also disappointment) that it's not going to be a mortgage and ceremony where someone smashes cake in my face.