Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What is that?

I woke up this morning to a strange light coming in my window. It was yellow in color and really bright. "What is that?" I asked Brian, but he was still asleep. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. More of that same yellow light. It made me feel.. happy. It made me want to go outside and play. What could it be?

The @#$%ing sun! That's what it was... Right there, out in the open. In the sky. The BLUE sky. Wow. I never thought I'd see it again. Really. I wasn't sure how much time we had with it so I ran upstairs and pulled some pants over my pale white legs, threw my backpack on and got on my bike. Unfortunately I had to ride to work, but I wanted to get there as fast as I could so that I could get out early before the sun went away.

This is what this summer has come to. It has rained every day for the past 17 days. And I'm not talking that misty Anchorage rain that can only add up to 2 inches for the month. Real rain. It has made me realize how much I take the sun for granted. I mean, in the winter you expect to not see it, so you are prepared for it. But it's July, the "hottest" and "sunniest" month of the year.

I got out of work at 4 and played for as long as I could in the sun... I've decided to start combining my sports as much as I can. I wanted to go up to the top of the Wedge today, but also get a bike ride in, so Brian and I biked out the Powerline trail and then veered off onto a side trail that heads across the valley towards Hidden Lake. It was a perfect day. No wind, no rain, only a few clouds to keep it from getting too hot.

It was good to get back on a rocky trail. I've been practicing riding over rocks. I usually end up just cursing at them, a lot, but today I did better. Sunday I rode the Gold Mint Trail up in Hatcher's Pass in the pouring rain. Rocks. Rain. Bikes. Usually not a great combination for me, but I suppose it's getting easier.

Anyway, we stashed our bikes when the trail got too steep and rocky, and hiked steadily a few more miles and about 3000 more feet of elevation to the top of the Wedge. It was so clear and calm at the top that we could see mountains for miles in every direction. And the sun hung out in the sky just long enough for us to run back to the bikes and ride back to the car. I think we covered about 13 miles total.

It was like we were let out of jail to enjoy our few hours of exercise for the month. We knew it wasn't going to last so we tried to enjoy it while it did. And forget about the fact that soon we would probably be locked back in by the clouds. It's midnight now and not raining yet. I can't remember the last time I fell asleep without the sound of rain outside the window.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Goodbye Downhill Demons

(I wrote a few days after the 24 Hour race and never posted it)

I have decided to retire the story of broken bones on Hillside. Ya know that feeling you get when you hear yourself telling a story for the 100th time? Like man, I've got other interesting stories but this one keeps coming back. Well no more!

For the past three years I have been struggling to go fast on a mountain bike. Especially downhill. I could not get spontaneous high speed crashing out of my mind even when there were no obstacles. Lately I have been working on easing up on the brakes little by little. Every time I go out, I give myself a little bit more freedom to go fast.

In my second lap of the 24 hour race this weekend, I could feel my confidence building. I had ridden the course once and knew that once I topped out off of the cut-off from the Llama trail, that it was downhill the whole way. I looked at my clock and it was 12 minutes to the hour. Could I get back to the start in 12 minutes. I found out I could come pretty close.

So I started out in control at the top of Spencer's Loop, but gradually released the brakes more and more. Around the turns I used a new trick Carlos (of AEA and Frigid Bits) taught me to balance, so that I didn't have to slow down much. Coming out of the turns I accelerated. I was off of my seat and to the back, squeezing the seat between my thighs, keeping my pedals level and my arms loose and absorbing the bumps. It felt like I was floating down the trail. I kept my speed up through Rover's and Moose Meadow alternating between hovering over the seat and sitting briefly to pedal. Finally I came down the long stretch of smooth gradual downhill that took me back to the finish. You can really get going fast here. By this time my fingers had completely released from the brakes. I think I even let out a little "Woohoo!" on this final stretch. I never had so much fun on a bike in my life. (And I think I said that at the finish line)

And so with the retirement of the latest broken leg story, I say goodbye to my downhill demons. Will I ever ride down Spencer's Loop and Rover's Run that fast again? I don't know. But for one lap of the 24 hour race I had sweet downhill success. And I learned something.

Having the fear and conquering it is better than never having the fear at all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I have been tagged

Ya wanna know how I found out that I have been tagged by Jill from Juneau? Because I looked at my site meter this morning and wondered why my hits were about 3 times the normal volume for an entire day at 9 am. I only get these kinds of spikes when someone links to my blog. So I'm spending my lunch break answering these questions, because I really don't want to add Leprosy to my list of ailments...

If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be? This is hard, because I really only have one bike. Well, unless you count my beater winter commuter bike. I'm not really into the whole having ten bikes thing. My bike does everything I need it to. I think biking should be more about the riding than the bikes. Everyone gets so wrapped up in the gear. The only bike I am considering buying in the future is a winter bike. My bike doesn't do winter well. Or maybe if Brian would by a Pugsley or a Fatback, I could have the "Snow Ho".

If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why? Oh man, if you read my blog at all you know that I like variety. Routine drives me crazy. And even when I take the same route to work everyday three miles, I start to go insane. I can't stand when people park their cars or their bikes in the same spot every day. So I'm going to have to say that I would make the ride straight to hell because that is what it would feel like for me to ride the same route every day and I might as well just get it over with. Um, my second choice would be the Crescent Lake Trail.

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride to to do for the rest of her / his life? Someone who wants to torture me on a Wednesday morning.

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrowminded? No I do not ride both. In the summer that I was 10 years old, and it was time to move up to Junior High the following Septemeber, I was faced with a decision that I will never forget. All of my friends were trading in their "dirt bikes" for 10 speeds. No, not the motorized kind of dirt bike, but the little mountain like bikes that we road before their were mountain bikes. I remember my parents told me it was time to get a new bike, because I was outgrowing my old one. And frankly the Strawberry Shortcake basket was getting in the way. The question was "Do you want to upgrade to a 10 speed?" Upgrade? I didn't consider that an upgrade. On a dirt bike I could go anywhere. I could ride on the road to my friends house or to get ice cream. I could cut through a side trail in the woods to get to school. I could go into the trees behind the JCC and take my bike off some sweet jumps. I watched my friends on their 10 speeds deal with the restrictions of the road. Even a tall curb had become a challenge for them. So the answer was no. I didn't want an upgrade. And so my parents bought me "The Predator". I remember riding it to the playground for the first time. All the boys were OOOing and Ahhing while the girls turned their noses up at my new beautiful-baby-blue-with-white-wheels-go-anywhere-dirt-bike. The best decision I ever made. I'm not narrow-minded, just haven't felt the need for one yet.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent. If I wanted to lay down, I would take a nap on the couch. It seems very awkward to me, but hey, to each is own.

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss? No, I haven't. I have definitely thought about it, but I'm not a swimmer. Don't get me wrong, I love to swim, but I like to swim underwater and in the ocean and going off diving boards and playing Marco Polo. Doing laps back and forth in a pool is not for me. In Alaska their are also no outdoor pools. So that would be doing laps in an indoor pool, ick! I never did get that breathing thing down either. Maybe that is because I don't have the discipline. :) Jill described a triathlon that involved skiing instead of swimming. If I could find one of those I would do it. Or even paddling.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why? Ice Cream is my first love. That's all I have to say.

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it. My question is... If you could ride your bike on any planet in the Solar System, which would it be and why? Well I guess I would say Mars. Doesn't Mars have the highest mountain in the Solar System? Yeah, I would ride on Mars and climb that mountain on my bike. It's like three times the size of Everest.

You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do? I agree with Jill, there is no shortage of these encounters in Alaska, and luckily the bear is either far away up on a hill watching me in which case I do nothing, or already running away because he heard me coming. Now if the bear was coming at me, the first thing I would need to do is change my chamois.

Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.

Here goes...

Sock Monkey
Alaska Bike Girl

Monday, July 21, 2008

Meet "The Sloppy Top Tubes"

Given the amount of pain I feel right now, I have determined for sure that my body is not ready to ride 100 miles of singletrack on a mountain bike in one day.

And so I present... my relay team for the Soggy Bottom 100.

Tim, "The Critic"

Ken, "The Descender"

Julie, "The Intimidator" (or at least I'd like to think this is how I got my team together, just go along with it guys)

It's not set in stone, but I'm pretty sure this is also the order we will ride in, giving me the last leg from Devil's Pass back to Hope, which is about 32 miles.

Sunday morning, Brian and I woke up not quite feeling our best. But we had agreed to do a key swap down on the Resurrection Pass Trail, so had no choice but to get up and drive down to the Devil's Pass Trailhead for a long ride. Arriving at the parking lot to the first sunshine we had seen in a week, we felt much better about our choice.

After a series of ups and downs and moans and groans as we settled onto our bikes, the real ascent up Devil's Pass started. I knew that my legs were not going to be very fresh because I did a hard ride on Friday and ran up and down Wolverine Peak on Saturday, but I was not expecting the burning I felt and the general feeling of not being able to breathe. I dropped all the way down to my lowest gear. Even granny gear felt like hell, so I grit my teeth and growled my way up to Devil's Pass.

We climbed and climbed and climbed and as soon as it started to let up, I gathered myself, shoved some Teddy Grahams into my mouth (yeah that's right), and looked down at my shifters. The left one said 2. I was not in Granny gear after all. I was in the middle chain ring the whole time.

My mood changed from a feeling of defeat to a feeling of empowerment. I was proud that I did half the climb in the second chain ring and it gave me the courage to tackle the rocks that were to come. To most mountain bikers the rocks on Devil's Pass are not even obstacles. Brian even noted that he wished there were more rocks. But I haven't had much chance to practice on rocks, so I get bounced around a lot. A few tosses into the bushes and there was much cursing.

Just past Devil's Pass we swapped keys with the group coming the other way. They were covered in mud, and were surprised at how clean we were. And so for something like 17-ish miles we sloshed and thrashed through the mud on the descent down to Cooper's Landing and I felt like I did riding my dirt bike around the woods of Pennsylvania when I was 9.

But towards the end the pain set in. I started to think about the people that do this for over 12 hours in the Soggy Bottom race and I knew at that point that my body wasn't ready for it. Next year. Definitely next year. So for now I will tackle approximately one third of the Soggy Bottom 100 on August 30th as a part of a relay team that is now being called "The Sloppy Top Tubes".

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Exploring Valdez on foot

Bridalveil in summer

After the bike ride Sunday I met up with Brian, who was busy catching salmon, and we headed up to Keystone canyon for a hike. The trail winded up through the forest and eventually topped out on some cliffs that overlooked Bridal Veil falls and Keystone Greensteps.

Bridalveil in winter

We camped at blueberry lake and I was excited to relax in a tent where we weren't surrounded by RVs and teenagers. Just as we were getting ready to go to bed a man that was staying at the campsite next to us said a brown bear just ran through his site. Ahhh, yes, time to relax. Not so much.

Sleep was challenging that night, but I eventually got over it and got a few hours rest. Monday was time to head home, but we stopped at the Worthington glacier for a quick hike with about 500 feet of elevation gain, to get a better view of the glacier. This is a fun trail that has been stomped into the ridge of a giant pile of scree.

And so ended my summer vacation...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Exploring Valdez by bike

Sunday I woke up in a tent in the middle of Valdez surrounded by bikes. Since all I did the day before was watch people ride bikes and drive a car, I really wanted to get out for a ride. I got a tip from one of the team members that there was a dirt road that meandered back into the mountains out of Valdez, so I took off around 10:30 to check it out.

The Mineral Creek Trail turned out to be one of the most scenic bike rides I have ever done. The dirt and gravel road rolls up and down alongside Mineral Creek in a valley that is green and filled with enormous waterfalls. The waterfalls come rushing down right to the road, sometimes rolling right over the road. Anyone who reads this blog in the winter may know what I am thinking when I see this.

Having only spent two days in Valdez this winter for the Ice Pixies Festival, I didn't get a chance to go out exploring on my own. Looks like we'll have to take an extended trip back there this winter. Besides Mineral Creek there are other valleys and canyons that I need to explore.

I didn't even realize as I was riding out the road that I was climbing. When I turned around to ride out I had a fun mostly downhill roller coaster ride back through the terrain I had just come through. Since I got out so fast I decided to check out the Shoup Bay Trail. I actually found out later that this trail is closed to bikes, but I road in about two miles on flat singletrack that was so brushy, I could never see more than 10 feet in front of my bike. Then it opened up to the water and I could no longer go any farther on the bike.

I'd like to go back and explore Mineral Creek further when I have more time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fireweed Relay Fun

Sometime last month Brian agreed to be a part of a 4 person relay team in the Fireweed 200 Relay Road Bike Race that was held last weekend. Hmmm... Brian in a road bike race? Not something I expected to see ever, so I agreed to drive a support car to witness this ridiculousness. About two days before the race, Brian borrowed a friend's road bike and did his one and only training ride. This was his first time on a road bike ever.

Team Uranus Titans consisted of Heather, Ken, Tim and Brian, with me and Ken Sr. driving support vehicles. The race starts at Sheep Mountain Lodge near Caribou Creek and ends in Valdez. I had never witnessed a road race before so I had no idea what to expect. The relay was fast paced. The sequence went like this: Drop someone off with their bike, figure out the next stopping point, drive there, get the next person ready, wait, stuff down some food and drink, watch the transition, move on. Since the team was only riding about 5 miles at a time, I think the longest we ever waited was about 10 minutes.

Here are some things that I learned along the way. 1.) Road racers are serious athletes, especially teenage girls that wear tight shiny pants. 2.) Boys get distracted by girls that ride bikes wearing shiny pants. 3.) Brian is actually pretty fast on a road bike. 4.) Road bikers descend at speeds over 50 mph, yikes. (When I go over 25 on my mountain bike I start to freak out.) 5.) Brian does NOT enjoy descending at 50 mph when being passed by a semi truck and a rogue RV driver. (He was actually heard screaming "I WANT OUT!!" while descending). 6.) Valdez is awesome in the summer. 7.) Squirrels in Valdez must inbreed, because they have mutant heads. 8.) Grown men feel peer pressure too. 9.) I am not a road biker, riding a bike amongst cars on a highway actually terrifies me, but I will drive a support vehicle for the Fireweed again, because I had a blast.

The team finished 8th in the 4 person mixed relay. Nice work for a non-competitive team!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vacation is over...

I've been traveling all over the place for the past two weeks, so haven't posted much. Here is a summary in pictures of my sister's second visit to Alaska.

They arrived on the 2nd to our 24 hour team BBQing and attempting to finish the keg that was left from the race the week before. Having been freshly watered with Moose's Tooth IPA we decided the best thing to do was go for a midnight bike ride.

The next day it was off to Seward for the big race. Angie and her boyfriend hung around Seward to greet me at the finish line when the race was over.

For two nights we stayed in Sourdough Sue's yurt. This is a luxury yurt as it has electricity, running water, and a bathroom with a shower. We played a modified version of the ever famous "Mystery Shot" game, and discussed the differences of the showering habits of Alaskans versus those of people of the East Coast.

That Saturday we took a boat ride out to Fox Island in Resurrection Bay and did some kayaking. After raining all morning, the sun finally came out again. We feasted on Salmon for lunch and dinner and then headed back to the yurt.

We started calling Angie and her boyfriend wildlife magnets because we saw every animal you could possibly see in Alaska during their trip, including this Brown Bear sow and her cubs munching on salmon on the side of the road near the yurt. This one was a bit too close for comfort for me.

Back in Anchorage for a few days, we hiked Little OMalley peak, road the coastal trail, went to REI, ate at Humpy's and visited the Anchorage Farmer's Market. Here is a picture of Angie's boyfriend glissading down Little O'Malley. I think this was the highlight of his trip. I also think I found my Mt. Marathon snow chute training grounds for next year.

Later in the week we backpacked up to Reed Lakes and camped out at the lower lake. I slept in a one person tent with Niko and stayed up most of the night listening for bears. Yes, my bear paranoia has returned.

Friday Angie and Eric left on a plane back to PA. :(

Friday afternoon, Brian and I took off for the Sheep Mountain and the start of the Fireweed. More on that and the end of my vacation to come...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mount Marathon Year II

I'm back from Seward and resting up from the race. Mt. Marathon was a ton of fun again this year, despite the fact that I didn't meet my time goals. Once I got on the mountain and realized how different the conditions were from last year, I stopped thinking about time and thought about just going as fast as I could without getting hurt.

The temperature was only about 50 in the morning and cloudy which was exactly what I had hoped for. The gun went off and we started up the 1/2 mile road section. I heard many of the women reassuring their rookie friends that this was the hardest part of the race and I agree. It's a gradual uphill and for some reason it is tortuous.

I did manage to get myself in the middle of the pack when arriving at the mountain. Unless you are out front, once you get to the base of the mountain, you actually have to stand in line to wait to go up. This year I was happy to be amongst a group that was going the same speed as me, so their was no pressure to pass on the cliffs, which is virtually impossible.

At the "quarter of the way up" point, I saw Brian cheering me on and Kim who was singing the theme to Rocky. "De neh nehhhhh, De neh nehhhhh" Later it was decided that I looked more like Ralph Macchio in the Karate kid than Rocky, thanks guys. Anyway, the trees seemed to take forever this year. I was definitely going faster, but I wasn't as happy to be there at this time.

The "halfway up the mountain" point came and I felt nauseous and light headed. I seemed to be sweating more than usual, maybe I was pushing harder, but something was not right. I had to get something in me. I took out a Gu and forced it down. I immediately felt better. I charged up the top half of the mountain feeling unusually good. I lost all sense of pacing and just started passing people. I was actually running for a few steps on some parts. I heard some girl say, "We are doing this in 1:30!" and I thought, "Oh good, I am with the 1:30 crowd."

The top of the mountain is so much fun with stretches of trail, mixed with bits of fun scrambling. It is steep!

Rounding the top felt great, and I think I let out a "Yippee!". There was a woman standing at the top that said, "Snow Chute to your right, trail to your left." I had decided earlier on that I would stick with the trail because I had never done the very top section of snow and it was very steep. But for some reason I saw Deedee Jonrowe go down the snow and I followed her. Bad idea.

I freaked on the snow and lost control. The previous racers had cut a three foot deep chute into the snow and I dug my arms and legs into the sides and stopped myself. I tried to control myself with one foot under my body and one out in front, but my charge to the top had drained me of all leg strength. I struggled in the chute going slow, losing control and stopping. I looked to my left on the trail and saw all of the women I had passed, passing me.

I lost at least 10 minutes trying to get down this snow chute safely. I knew the 1:30 crew had come and gone and I was now just trying to survive again. I finally got down to the scree, oh the beautiful scree, and started running down.

My hands were numb and my arms were bleeding from scraping in the snow. The rest of the way down my legs felt like jelly, but I can't help but have fun down the waterfall section. This year the water was rushing like crazy and you just had to run through the stream all the way down. I was sweating so bad that when I would tip my head forward water would pour out.(This is not normal)

When I got to the pavement I realized how many rocks were in my shoes. There was a thick lining of rocks under my feet and also along the front of my shoes where my toes touched the front.

I was tempted to walk at this point because my feet were screaming and my legs were non-existent. But when you hear the cheering of the crowd along Jefferson Street there is no way that you can walk. I turned the corner to 3rd Ave and saw the finish line. At this point I just wanted to be there, it seemed so far away.

The announcer said, "Julie Perilla from Anchorage, AK" and I had a moment of clarity. I thought about how far I have come in the past few years. I live in Alaska. I am Julie Perilla of Anchorage, AK. I'm an ice climber, a mountain biker, a mountain runner and I am about to finish one of the hardest 3 mile races there is. I let go all of my regrets about decisions I made on the mountain and just enjoyed the roar of thousands of people and the beauty of downtown Seward and floated to the finish.

Note the gimpy foot

Ralph Macchio in full effect

I can't say I don't have any regrets about the decisions I made in the race, but I'm trying to see them as a lessons learned. There is so much strategy when it comes to this race and it is not just about fitness. It's about picking a route and practicing it, sticking to it, and having the guts to go fast on the the downhill. I think that's why I love it so much. After the race we spent some time strategizing over beers for next years race. I think I may have even talked Brian into entering. Yippee! Your going down Garcia!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My sista is coming!

My sister and her boyfriend are on a plane from Philadelphia as we speak, she is expected to land around 1pm. Yippee!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Here's to the Anchorage biking community

I find myself wanting to ride my bike more and more these days. Partly because I can see myself improving and partly because the people of the mountain biking community in Anchorage are drawing me in.

Before the attack at the 24 hour race I was having the time of my life. I was riding better than ever and the atmosphere at the starting line was fantastic. Even though I was the slowest one on the team, everyone was super supportive and we were just having an all around good time. Even when I fell off of my bike in the transition area, everyone cheered. Their were even many bikers there that just came to volunteer or hang out. To cheer on their peers who have cheered them on before.

After the attack I was amazed to hear how the people who found the girl and the race directors handled it. They were calm and did exactly what it took to save the girl's life, all the while risking their own lives in an area where a bear attack had just occurred. I am truly impressed by the quick action they took and am honored to be a part of this community. It makes me feel safe to know that the people around me can handle a situation so smoothly.

Naturally there has been an outpouring of support for the girl and her family. She is in the hospital and is doing better. It is great to hear that she is going to be okay. I continue to think about her all the time.

I am surprised at how many people have contacted me, to see how I am doing. Nothing actually happened to me, but people are worried and supportive and everyone is a little freaked out by this. I have found myself checking akspokes.com a lot to maybe find someone who is feeling the same way I am. It feels good to be a part of a community of caring people. Last week they were just a bunch of knuckleheads that we ride bikes and drink beer with. This week that has changed a bit. Well, some of them are still knuckleheads.

From the Frigid Bits winter races to the Alaska Endurance Series and the Hillside and Kincaid races, this is turning out to be a fantastic year for mountain biking in Anchorage. I look forward to riding with all of you again soon.