Monday, July 30, 2007

It's just water...

I knew it was raining when I woke up this morning, but thought, it never rains hard in Anchorage, right? So I strapped on my helmet and my new biking shoes and got on my bike and took off. As soon as I got to the Chester Creek Trail to start my morning commute, it started pouring. I mean... really pouring. I was soaked within 30 seconds. I was uncomfortable for awhile, but thought, if I'm going to ride through the winter, I can't let a little water send me screaming back to the comforts of my Jeep.

Water. That's all that rain is. I know, this is not a profound statement. But why are we conditioned to stay inside when it rains, run to our cars, cover our heads or avoid the outdoors all together? I don't know how many times I've heard people say, I can't go (fill in the blank) today, it's raining. Adults are conditioned to believe that getting wet, outside of a shower or pool, is not acceptable. Why is this?

So I kept riding. And because I'm conditioned to think rain is unpleasant as well, I started thinking, "This is miserable... and I'm wet. ...Wah." But then I just relaxed and realized, it isn't cold out and I was wet and that was fine. I enjoyed the rest of my ride and showed up at work looking like I had ridden my bike through a lake. And I was completely comfortable. And I survived. So I'm rebelling against society and making a point to go outside and play the next time it rains... whose with me?

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Since August is drawing near, the berries are finally coming out. At our new house we have huge raspberry bushes out in the back yard. Today the raspberries were ripe for the picking, and since we are taking a weekend off and just relaxing around Anchorage, Brian and I went out this morning and picked some. We only got about a cup of them, and left the others to become more ripe. But we had enough to make waffles with a fresh raspberry syrup. It's a simple recipe involving water, sugar, butter and raspberries (or any fruit). Mmmm... raspberries. When I get a substantial amount, I plan on making jam.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My new commute

Last night my new bike arrived. It's new and shiny and pretty and I'm afraid to get it dirty. I'm in that mode when you get something new and you vow to keep it perfect, forever. "I promise to wash it after every ride, and lube the chain regularly and tune it, and..." (I don't even know how to tune it to be honest) .

So in the past 4 agonizing days that I have been awaiting the arrival of my new bike I have come up with a commuting plan that will allow me to completely phase out my Jeep Wrangler (that I love and Brian hates) as far as getting to work is concerned. I realized that I live in a city that has the biggest interconnecting trail system in the country and that I need to start utilizing it. At the last client site I was working at I would commute by bike one or two days a week, and sometimes run, but I didn't really have a solid plan. Now that I'm working at my company's office, the commute is only about 3 miles. So here is my new plan...

The summer is easy. I will ride my bike to and from work every day, and keep a change of clothes in the office. Today it took me 20 minutes, but I was trying not to break a sweat. I'll continue to ride this bike throughout the fall, it should be okay even with a little snow on the ground. When the snow and ice starts piling up in November and December I'll need to revise this plan a bit.

I don't want to get my new bike all wet and rusty, so I plan on buying a cheap mountain bike for the winter, that I can put some studded tires on. I may even get two sets of wheels that i can switch out. One for ice and one for snow. The other part of my winter plan involves getting a pair of skate skis. Right now I have some classic cross country skis, but I find them slow and I don't really get a great workout. The skate skis will allow me to go fast and get my heart rate up. It's also a great substitution for running in the winter time.

The conditions on the trails change drastically from day to day in Anchorage. It snows, it warms up, the snow melts, it freezes, it snows some more, everything gets packed down. Brian figured out last season that when the trails are good for winter biking, they suck for skiing. And when the trails are good for skiing, new, fresh, fluffy snow, it makes for a tough bike ride. The plan is to let the weather dictate my mode of transportation each morning. Maybe I will even throw a run in there or two.

So that's the plan. The main reason I'm writing it on here is to make me accountable for this plan. If I don't do it now, I look like a big wimp. More on this subject as the plan unfolds...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Denali National Park

Denail National Park
On June 29th, Mom, Angie, Brian and I set out for Denali National Park. I made a reservation for a Wonder Lake campsite in early March, to ensure that we would have somewhere to stay. We drove about 2 hours Friday night and camped at Troublesome Creek in Denali state park. We took a short hike (about 1/2 mile) complete with beers. This was my first hike where I was actually drinking a beer while hiking. Ya have to try new things, right?

It was pretty rainy the whole weekend. We drove the rest of the way to Denali on Saturday and then took the 6 hour camper bus ride out to Wonder Lake. This was a great time for me. The only responsibility I had was to sit on a bus, relax and enjoy the great scenery of the park. There is rarely I time that I get to sit and do nothing, and as far as I was concerned this was perfect. I think the 6 hour bus ride took a toll on the others.. it started out good, lauging, looking at wildflowers, searching for bears... but I think I may have heard some whining towards the end. :)

We didn't see one bear on the way out to he lake. Actually we saw no wildlife, except for a squirrel. Denali is funny like that. There is so much wildlife in the park, but it is so vast that you are not guaranteed to see any of them. There is only one road that goes into the park and you can't drive on it. The only vehicles allowed into the park are the tourist buses. Think about it, if you were a bear with 6 million acres to roam, would you hang out by the road?

The other attraction in the park is Mt. McKinley. The peak that rises over 20,000 feet in the middle of the Alaska range. It's known as Denali to Alaskans, because this was the original name given to it by the native Athabascan people. The problem is, so many people come to see this mountain that only shows itself 1 out of 10 days. So if you only spend one day in the park, you have a 10% chance of actually seeing the whole mountain. Most people just see pieces of it. We couldn't see Denali at all the first day, but the second day, I had been up all night reading a book, and peaked out of the tent at 5am. We could see most of the mountain for about 30 minutes.

Monday morning we packed up and after fighting for seats on a crowded bus, with some smelly climbers that had been on Denali for a month, we took the bus ride back to the park entrance. The group of climbers were with NOLS (North American Outdoor Leadership School). I was secretly envying these people who had just spent 30 days on the mountain, sleeping in snow caves, eating dried foods, and not having showered for a month. The bus ride back was a bit more fruitful as we saw 3 grizzly bears, a bunch of Caribou, a mama Moose with 3 babies, and some ducks.

On the drive up, Brian had been talking about trying to catch a king salmon on the way back. To make a long story short we stopped at Montana creek and within 45 minutes he had caught his first King! We celebrated by having a BBQ with a few friends and cooked it up on the grill. It was the most delicious piece of fish I have ever eaten.

Okay click on the album above to view pictures.. my cat is whining to go outside right now, so I gotta go!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wow, I've really been slacking..

.. on this blog. Been busy. I still have to write about the trip to Denali and the bike race that Brian rode this past weekend. Tomorrow night I'll be catching up.

Oh! I bought a new bike. I was so inspired by Brian's performance in the bike race this weekend that I bought a new bike today. My old bike is way too big and it is time for me to get serious about riding. There aren't many women entering these long endurance bike races and I think I could do well, with alot of practice. I also set out my running plan for the next year. More on that later... here is a picture of my new bike. Niiiccceee....

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mt. Marathon Race - Done!

Mt. Marathon

So as the race day grew near, I thought more and more about how I really wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. Everyone I told about it was like, "Really, your going to run THAT race?". But I was banking on the fact that Alaskans love to exaggerate and that it probably wouldn't be that bad.

The night before the race I had to go to a mandatory race safety meeting. Brian, my mom and Angie joined me for the meeting which consisted of a graphic video of every injury that has ever occured in the race set to music. Mom and Angie were not thrilled. All of the scree face plants, rocks falling down on peoples heads, people falling off cliffs, etc. Hmm.. maybe they weren't exaggerating so much?

Race day came and as soon as the gun went off the nerves were gone. We ran 1/2 mile through the town of Seward to the base of the mountain. Then the climbing began. The first 50 feet of climbing was the most intense. I was head to butt with the other women in the race, grabbing onto roots and rocks just trying to keep my balance. When I topped off over the cliffs, I knew the most dangerous part was over. The rest was just a long uphill trudge.

There were a ton of people cheering us on along the course, including one guy in a tuxedo, holding a cocktail tray with a vase complete with daisies, and little cups of gatorade. Rounding the top I saw Brian, and my friends Larah and Rocco, who had hiked up earlier that morning so they could wait for me at the top. I was feeling good and I knew I had completed the toughest part. Although, Brian tried to hand me a cliff bar and I thought I might yak! They told me that I had been racing for an hour and twenty minutes so I was ahead of my goal. I wanted to finish in under 2 hours and I knew I could run down in 35.

After I rounded the top and started down a shooting pain went up my Achilles tendon. Uh-oh! The pain went away quickly as the fun part began. Down the scree field, into the chute, climbing down a series of waterfalls, under a snow bridge and through the woods (where I fell about 6 times in the mud), and out to the screaming crowd at the bottom. As soon as I stepped onto the pavement to make the 1/2 mile trek back to the finish line, my calves started cramping. Then I heard the crowd and sped up and adjusted my "stride" so that I didn't have to use my calf muscles much.

I finished in 1:55 just under my goal; dirty but not bleeding! This was the most fun and the toughest race I have ever competed in, but it turns out if you are careful, you won't get hit by a rock or fall off a cliff. Now that I've completed it, I can race it every year without having to enter the lottery!

Click on the photo to see some pictures that my mom, angie and Brian took along the course...