Monday, September 17, 2007


I'm sitting in the Chicago airport in a haze of jetlag, waiting to board my plane to Allentown, so I apologize if this is incoherent.
Brian and I spent the weekend in Traverse City, Michigan, with his brother and his wife. I don't have much time to write but Saturday we spent riding 14 miles of awesome singletrack on the North Country trail. This trail runs from New York to North Dakota and has been in the works since 1986. It was great to get out and do some biking in new scenery. The trail was not very technical but did have alot of climbing and descending. We had fun trying to clear the too close for comfort trees and getting over the many speed bumps. Small logs placed across the trail so that just as you would start going fast downhill you'd have to slowdown to safely clear them. I thought I might use my new bunny hopping skills, but the trail was too narrow and some parts had steep drop offs, and frankly my hops tend to be sloppy.

Yesterday we rented Canoes. Brian and I in one canoe, Kevin and his wife in another, we floated down the Platte River for about seven miles. Before we got in the water, Brian mentioned that he had a "merit badge" from boy scouts in Canoe paddling and therefore he should sit in the back of the boat and steer. Okay, so I let him have his fun for awhile and then said I wanted to try controlling the boat. So we very carefully switched places and I was in control. Steering a canoe is not as easy as it looks. The river was pretty narrow and the water was fairly low. Branches and trees in tangled webs scattered the banks and jutted out into the middle of the river. I successfully navigated my first few turns and then took one turn too wide, while getting Brian and the front of the boat wedged underneath a large tree. Brian yelled out, "I'm not gonna make it!" (under the tree) and we slowly tipped our boat and all of our stuff into the 55-ish degree water. Included in that stuff was my camera (hence no pictures) and my cell phone (don't try to call me). Now soaking wet, we quickly got to shore and emptied the boat of the water, while noting that today would not be the day that I earned my merit badge in canoing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Heading South and Random Acts of Insanity

I'm off to the Lower 48 for some hot weather. Brian left for Traverse City Michigan to visit his brother on Monday night. I'll be meeting him there for the weekend and then flying to good ole ABE Airport to stay in PA for a week and a half. While I'm there I planning on riding bikes, running around, drinking many beers, going to NYC to see a show and eat some REAL pizza (sorry Anchorage but the food here just can't compete) and playing with my friends kids.

Random fact. I haven't gotten my haircut in 6 months, because living in Alaska you tend to neglect these things. Or maybe it's just me. So I had all of these split ends growing and my hair has been a long, frizzy, tangled mess. Last night I took a pair of scissors out of the drawer and cut off my ponytail. Then I did this sort of "Ernie takes a bite of Berts cookie" episode where I trimmed one side and it was uneven, and then I trimmed the other side to even it up. And so on and so on. So now my hair is really short and looks like I let the cat cut it. Not really what I had in mind, but atleast is out of my way!

Hopefully I'll be reporting in next with some adventures in Michigan.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday night races

Courtesy of

I don't have much time to write because I'm packing right now, but tonight I ran my second "Tuesday Night Race". These are races of varying distance in and around Anchorage, where the course is not revealed (including the distance) until about 3 seconds before the start. Some woman shouts the rules and the course through a bull horn, "Around Mise's loop, up into the valley, down the coast..". Most people can't hear her and have no idea what she is talking about. So about 300 people start running, shoulder to shoulder, following pink and yellow tape, not really sure where the course will go next. Both courses have been much fun and very hilly.

I've started to think about running the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage next year, so I'm working on my base endurance now. I wish I would have run Cross Country when I was younger, except for two things.. I hated running and I had this funky knee that blew up like a balloon when I ran. Oh, yeah, and I hated running. The truth is I never gave it a chance, I felt my lungs burning and my legs weighing me down and just figured I was not an endurance athlete. So that's that. Back to packing.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My new new commute

I found out last week that my commute was about to change. Since July, I've been riding my bike to work about 3.8 miles, mostly on a paved trail in the woods. It has been great. I spend the morning spinning on the trail at a steady pace, finding myself not having to think or be aware very much. That allows me to clear my head and not have any distraction.

I am now working at a client site on the other side of town. I rode in today 6 miles on Lake Otis Parkway. Lake Otis is one of the busiest streets in Anchorage. Yes, unfortunately since half of the population of the State of Alaska lives in this town, we do have traffic. It was raining lightly, and the traffic was heavy. The client's office is on the worst intersection in town. I despise it. There is a big mall with a Best Buy on one corner. A Burger King next to it. A Starbucks catty corner from that, and a New Jersey type strip mall on the other.

About two blocks from the office it started pouring and the rain started heavily building up on the side of the road. I don't mind riding in the rain at all. Even when it means showing up at work soaked. But, when I got to Dimond Ave I got splashed by a huge wave that got kicked up by a car speeding by. One of those bad movie type waves, where cheesy music is playing, as the scenes of my bad day start to unfold. Then there was another wave, and another. I finally got to the final intersection and made eye contact with a car turning right, started to cross the street and realized there were two turning lanes and almost got hit by a school bus. Cheesy music continues.

I got to the office to the surprise of my new coworkers and one of them said, "Woah, that was you riding on Lake Otis. You're nuts." I brought my bike into the office because that's what I do at PangoMedia, where half of the staff commutes by bike, and 10 minutes later the owner comes in and comments about the fact that there is a bike in the office, and that I might soil his new carpet. Ugh. So that was my day.

I have recently been talking to Brian about what the commute this winter will be like. Now that I know be going to South Anchorage every day until the end of February he thinks it will be difficult for me to do in the snow. I know it will, but I still want to try. I definitely need to revise my route, and maybe I will just have to chalk up my commute as training for the Little SU 50K in February. Despite the bitterness, I'm going to try and make the best of it. And too all of you who live in Anchorage and drive a big truck without ever putting anything in the back of it and who don't slow down for big puddles on the side of the road...boooooo.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fall is here

All of the signs of fall revealed themselves to me today. It's been raining all weekend and Brian and I took the day off yesterday to lie around the house and watch movies. (That had nothing to do with the fact that we were out till 2am the night before, I swear.) I finally noticed a significant amount of leaves changing on the trees today. It was 55 degrees out when I left the house to go for a run on the Powerline Trial. The sun did not rise until after 7am and it's about to set at 8:30 pm.

Autumn doesn't last long in Anchorage, about a month. Which is why most people who live here would tell you we have two seasons. Winter and Summer. We actually do have fall, but it happens so fast that if you blink you might miss it. Fall is a time when the excitement of winter builds. Stories about summer trips gradually fade and talk around town turns to winter. I've already had conversations about Friday night 5 dollar skiing at Alyeska, nordic skiing around town, going to Valdez (and Ouray, wohoo!) to ice climb, and (new for me this year) winter biking in the Frigid Bits races around Anchorage.

Despite the heavy rain, I drove up to the Glen Alps trailhead today and ran 5 miles out and back on the Powerline trail. I love to run in the rain. I have a problem of overheating when I run, so the rain is a welcome coolant. The fall colors were out in abundance and the tourists have all gone home for the summer, so it was quiet and peaceful.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Soggy Bottom, Indeed.

Saturday marked the 5th annual Soggy Bottom 100 race on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. The course is 109 miles starting and ending at the Seaview bar in Hope, AK, with 100 miles of singletrack. The ride climbs 2000 ft out of Hope up to Resurrection Pass, then winds down the other side of the pass to Cooper Landing. The riders then climb back up to the Devil's Pass junction and down the Devil's Pass trail to the second checkpoint. Having already ridden 70 miles they then get back on their bikes and ride back up to Devil's Pass, up to Res Pass and back down the other side to Hope. It's insane. And looks like a lot of fun.

The riders took off at 9am from the Seaview. Still a little sleepy-eyed, Brian took his place at the start. I snapped some shots and headed out to do the 45 minute drive to the Cooper Landing checkpoint. I thought about Brian up there starting his ascent up to the pass. I wondered what goes through your mind when you start a race of this distance. The longest race I have competed is a 13.1 mile running race. This seems like a small feat compared to the Soggy. Do you break the race up into chunks? If I can just go the next 40 miles, 20 miles, 10, to the next tree? Or do you let your mind wander and just accept the fact that you will be sitting on this saddle, for the most part of the next 12 hours? I'm more of a mind wanderer, but to mountain bike on singletrack you need to maintain a certain amount of focus.

I had agreed to take some pictures for the event and was supporting Brian in the race, so had to stick relatively close to the trail heads. I rode in about 2-3 miles up towards the pass at Cooper Landing and set up shop. It's kinda peaceful, yet a bit creepy, sitting out in the woods by yourself. Everything is quiet, which is nice, but in the beginning every little noise you hear you think may be something that is coming around the corner to eat you.

I waited for about an hour till around 12:30 when I heard the first rider coming. I heard his bear bell, set up the shot, set my camera to rapid fire and waited. Ding, ding, ding, thump, thump, thump and he was gone. The first five or six riders came through like tornadoes. After that, I decided I better get back down to meet Brian at the checkpoint.

I love this section of the trail. I've only ridden the Devil's pass section and now I'm wishing I got out and did all of Resurrection Pass this year. Riding down to Cooper Landing is a twisting, turning, gradual grade, that is a ton of fun to just bomb down. Although my idea of bombing something is nothing like the guys (and girl) in this race.

Brian came down about 45 minutes later and looked good for having just ridden 40 miles over a mountain. We got some food in him, cleaned up his bike, lubed the chain, and sent him on his way. See you at Devil's. This being his first time in any race of this magnitude, his goal was to finish. It looked like he was well on his way to that goal. I cleaned up the aftermath and headed out to the Devil's trail head.

At Devil's I had a bit more time, so I rode in a little farther and set up my camera by a bridge and camped out. It was an only about a half hour before the first four racers came through. They must have been hauling ass, because after that no one came through for another hour. It gave me a chance to take a short nap on the side of the trail. By this time I had been spending so much time waiting by myself in the woods, that I was over the whole bear thing. In fact it would have been nice to see a bear to keep me company.

When I figured Brian was about an hour out I started back down to meet him. The lone woman in the race came through in high spirits, she was laughing and talking about how much she loved the trail. She flew up from Boulder, Colorado to do the race and ended up being the third woman to finish the course and set the record for women at 12 hours and 5 minutes. Brian came in and was still looking good. He said, "This is the hardest thing I've ever done. But I'm going to finish." I fed him, cleaned him up, got his set up with his headlamp and sent him on his way to the last stretch of 20 something miles back to Hope. Once you start this, barring no major mechanical issues or spectacular crashes you are most likely going to finish. But at the Devil's Trail head is where many people drop out of the race. They just cannot bear to get back on their bikes to ride back up Devil's Pass.'

The wait in Hope was long. After about 9:30 it was dark and one of the guys who finished earlier told me not to worry. I thought about it and I really wasn't worried. Brian knows how to take care of himself out there. He's ridden in the dark many times, he knows how to fix his bike, feed and hydrate himself, get up and keep going after crashing (a lot) and generally get himself to wherever he needs to be on his own. He showed up at 10:16, covered in mud, soggy bottom and all, a little out of it, and desperately wanting a beer and a bed. He finished in 13 hours and 16 minutes. Woohoo!

After my long day of lying around the woods and taking pictures, this was the best I could muster up with my camera at 10:16 that night. Saying it's a bit blurry would be an understatement. Sorry Brian.

Click here to see the pictures.