Friday, August 29, 2008

Off to Hope

We are leaving for Hope in an hour but thought I'd post pictures of my pimped out ride with a few new additions for the Soggy.

Ergonomic bike handles...

Easy reach bear spray...

And my favorite, my feeding trough...

It's just a rock climbing chalk bag, minus the chalk, add the jelly beans.

Go Sloppy Top Tubes!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wow, Wow, Wow and Ouch

I contemplated using that title as my full race report from the Lost Lake Breath of Life Run this Saturday, because it sums up my experience in four words.

I had not run the whole trail before the day of the race. I had never even been up above the tree line before Saturday. And I'm glad I didn't because this was the best run I have EVER done. The first 5 miles is in the trees and seemed to take forever, because we just kept going up. I actually did very little real running in this section because of the hills. It was more like a shuffle, run, power hike.

My plan was to take it easy on the first 5 miles so that I could get to the top of the climb fresh and be ready to run. Being 16 miles from start to finish, this is the longest race I have run, so I wanted to be sure not to push too hard at the start even though I felt great.

Finally around mile 6 I rose above the trees and this is where I started to hear the word "wow" come out of my mouth over and over. Rolling green hills, dotted with purple flowers, pristine blue lakes and waterfalls trickling down the hills as far as I could see. And a line of hundreds of runners spaced out and winding along the trail in front of me.

I ran across the top 5 miles with a huge smile on my face happy to be running at an even pace. I wanted to yell out something, anything but I didn't want to scare the other runners or look like a big dork. I briefly contemplated spinning around and singing with my best Sound of Music impression, but it's really hard to sing, spin and make forward progress on a rocky trail with out falling on your face. Julie Andrews is truly talented. So I kept it to myself and I thought about how lucky I am to be able to run in a place like this.

Around mile 9 there was a long slow gradual hill with a small crowd of people at the top. They were holding signs and cheering. As I got closer I realized their purpose. Their signs said, "You are at the top", and "All downhill from here". I flashed them a huge smile and said, "Thank you!" as if they had created this trail and made the rest of it downhill just for me.

Coming up over the hill, I could see all the way down to Seward and Resurrection Bay. In my excitement I just let my momentum take me downhill. I still felt really good and worried that maybe I could have pushed a little harder on the way up. I took off downhill passing many people along the way. I thought it was only 6.5 miles to the finish, it would take less than an hour and I should be able to endure any pain for less than hour.

I think I went too fast. With 4 miles to go I got an excruciating cramp in my side. I tried to fend it off with breathing techniques but it just wouldn't budge. My race inexperience was showing itself now. I slowed a little, but it was hard to do because my legs felt great, aerobically I felt like I could run another 20 miles, and I had no pain in my hips or back. It was just this tiny side stitch that I felt growing with every bounce.

I stopped to walk a few times and put my arms over my head. It went away. As soon as I started running again, it came back in full force. I knew there was nothing I could do at this point (or at least nothing I knew about at the time) and I had to just run through it.

Brian has been talking about his mantra lately that is to abandon all conventional wisdom and to "Train through Pain". He goes as far as to say you should not eat or drink when training in the mountains to get your body used to not having food and water. I thought of this as I was running down and started repeating it in my head, "Train through pain", "train through pain", "train through pain". It actually helped! Although I think his methods are bogus!

Once again the pain subsided and I began to pass. I recognized how cautious most people are on the downhill rocky sections and took advantage of that. I ran strong across the finish line and finish in around 3:15. I actually was so preoccupied with my cramp that I forgot to look at the clock.

After a race, I like to think about what I did well, and what I could have done better. A few things I did well:

1) Downhill running. I feel super comfortable running fast downhill over all kinds of terrain, even really steep downhill.

2) I kept myself hydrated and fed with Hammer Gel throughout the race, so I never bonked. In fact, if I wouldn't have cramped I think I could have done a full marathon yesterday. It would have hurt, but I feel confident I could have finished it.

3) I had fun, didn't get too wrapped up in my pace, and got to take in the scenery as much as possible.

What I did not do well:

1) The whole cramp thing. There are a few things that could have caused this but most likely it was that my body wasn't used to running that fast for that long. I think I can prevent this by doing more tempo runs. Another cause could have been that I was chasing Hammer Gel with a sports drink instead of water causing an electrolyte imbalance. I still don't have my nutrition dialed in. Need to work on that.

2) Hills. I lose a lot of momentum when I walk and it becomes harder and harder to start running again the more I walk. I have officially declared 2009 the year of the hill. Hills of Anchorage beware. I'm coming for you.

Other than that it felt great and am ready to move on to longer races next year. Marathon? Definitely. On the road? No way. Crow Pass? They say I'm not fast enough. The Equinox? Tempting. Too hard for a first marathon you say? Whatever.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Feeling sluggish

I have been feeling sluggish all week. I cut down my mileage drastically this week to rest up for Lost Lake (which is tomorrow, yay!), but instad of feeling strong I feel worse. They say some people need less of a taper than others and I guess I just need to experiment with that. My body has gotten used to running and biking a certain mileage every week for the past two months and taking that away seems to have screwed everything up. Or maybe my body is just working hard to repair itself from all of the training.

I went out for a three mile run on Wednesday night and despite the fact that I had eaten well that day and had a snack an hour before I ran, I felt like my blood sugar dropped low after just 20 minutes of running. I felt weak, and just wanted to lay down. I have been fighting off a cold this week that started with sneezing and headaches, so I think that is part of my problem. The good news is, I have not had any pain in my hips and lower back for about a week.

It's nice to be able to stop thinking about training and just focus on the race now. I am not too worried about my time, I'm just excited to be able to get to run in the mountains for a few hours tomorrow on the Lost Lake trail. Lately my favorite days have been when I park at a trailhead in the Chugach with no set plan and just run and hike around in the mountains for a few hours. No schedule, no agenda, no to do list. So I'm hoping tomorrow will be something like that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A sad week in Anchorage

I cried in the middle of the coffee shop this morning when I read this article. I knew that on Tuesday they had shot and killed the mama bear that has been suspected of multiple maulings and charges in Far North Bicentennial Park. I knew that she had two cubs. I even knew that the cubs were out there on their own since Tuesday and were probably starving. But to find out that this is not the same bear that mauled the teenager in the bike race in June, just pushed me over the edge with this issue.

Did they kill the wrong bear? Or did they just kill one of the many bears that are in the park, confirming that this is not a "rogue" bear, and just a bear acting like a bear trying to protect her cubs. I have never supported the decision to hunt down and kill the sow. I'm sure a lot of people in Anchorage would disagree with me and they have, but I just didn't think this was the right answer to our problem. People just seem to want the problem to go away, and Americans think hey, "Let's get out our guns and shoot something, that'll solve it!" I have even heard one person say that human life is more valuable than any animals life. That animals don't mourn the loss of their family members like humans. Therefore, we should just shoot a couple of them and get our park back. Well tell that to the two cubs that have been left behind in this mess.

The thing is, I don't have any other ideas. I haven't been back to Rover's Run since the mauling at the bike race that night. Not because I'm particularly scared, but because it just doesn't seem like the best idea right now. There are plenty of other places for me to ride and run in Alaska.

I believe Fish and Game thought that they were doing the right thing, or were getting so much pressure from the people of Anchorage to do something about it that they had to make a decision. It's just sad that a mama brown bear had to die, and her cubs were left behind to fend for themselves or to go live out the rest of their lives in a cage. Don't even get me started on that subject.

Well, hey, now we can head back into the park and run and bike and never have to think about these bears again, right? I don't know about you but I haven't stopped thinking about them.

pictures downloaded from

Sunday, August 17, 2008


The end of summer is nearing and so are two big races. Last week I started cutting down my running and biking mileage in hopes to be strong for Lost Lake on August 23rd and then the Soggy Bottom the week after that.

Tapering is hard. Especially when we are finally getting sunny summer-ish days. I started to get some recurring back pain last week so I really took it easy, but Friday when I woke up with no pain I decided to go out for an easy run.

I ran out the Powerline Pass trail, and headed north towards Hidden Lake on a side trail. Niko ran off to chase some bird, and suddenly I found myself running across the tundra towards O'Malley Peak. I purposely only brought one liter of water and one gu, so that I wouldn't be tempted to overdo it. But the O'Malley ridge was hanging over me and so tempting. I pictured myself bounding up the grassy southern slope of O'Malley that rises over Hidden Lake.

I saw the season's first blueberries and briefly considered picking a hundred blueberries in order to fuel and hydrate my climb to the top. But I had to stop myself and turn around. As tempting as it was, and as beautiful a day as it was, it's more important for me to stay on track and not push to hard this week.

Saturday a group of us drove down to Hope to do an out back ride on the Resurrection Trail. Brian and company were there to do a hard ride, so I told them not to wait for me as I stayed back and took it easy. This is a long, long climb and the scenery doesn't change much in the first 17 miles, but I wanted to climb as far as could without pushing too hard, so that I could do the downhill section, which I will ride in my leg of the Soggy relay.

Because I was trying not to get my heart rate up, I was climbing really slowly. It made this part of the ride somewhat mentally painful. I felt like I had made a wrong turn into the twilight zone. I seemed to be cycling in a circle, but somehow always going up. I pictured myself going up some repeating spiral of brushy tall grass down to a creek bed and long straight stretches of sparse trees followed by another brushy section down to a creek bed, repeat. It was these long stretches of straight, barely climbing, sparse trees that were the most tortuous.

After climbing for what seemed like forever, I arrived above the tree line and decided to have lunch and wait for the guys to come back down. I saw a black bear on the slopes across from me. I watched him for awhile and took some pictures. I decided to keep riding to find the guys when i saw another black bear, but this one was a bit closer. I kept riding slowly and quietly so that the bear didn't see me. I kept riding another half mile and saw yet another black bear. I suddenly felt a bit vulnerable out there above the tree line and felt myself longing to be back in the never-ending tree spiral.

I carefully scratched the word "BEARS" in the dirt with three arrows pointing them out and started pushing my bike back towards the trees while eating my lunch and carrying bear spray in my hand.

The guys soon caught up with me not at all startled by the bears. My paranoia vanished in the company of four other people. The ride down was fast and I finished out the day having ridden 37 miles. Not much of a taper, but since I didn't push it too hard, I feel like I have already recovered fully and it is only Sunday night. I'm looking outside at 10:30 right now and it is almost completely dark, just about the time I should be rolling into Hope at the end of the Soggy in two weeks.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rabbit Lake and Beyond

Yesterday I ran to Rabbit Lake. It was crowded on the near side of the lake so I ran around the lake to the other side. I am always amazed at how you can go from an irritatingly populated area of the Chugach, to a deserted area in just a few minutes. There was no one on the other side of the lake and the people I had passed just 15 minutes before looked like little dots of color across the lake.

The trail disappears on the other side of the Lake so I looked up into the bowl between North and South Suicide Peaks. Very intriguing. And somewhat terrifying. I couldn't figure out where in the world you could climb up this bowl, but I figured it was something that would become apparent as I got closer.

So I hike over a series of boulder fields interlaced with tundra and as I got closer the route up to Windy Gap between the Suicide Peaks was still not apparent. So I kept hiking and came up over a small bump to arrive at the base of the gullies. I saw a very steep scree gully go up to the right and around the corner up to South Suicide and thought that must be it.

With no intention of climbing either of the peaks that day, I decided to just start up the boulders towards North Suicide on the left of the bowl so that I could get a better look of the scree field on the right (which turns out is Hauser's Gully and the route that most people take from Rabbit Lake). The boulders were loose and shifting and you could tell some of the large ones down below me were settling in to new homes. But I kept going being careful to try to stay on the most solid ground.

I reached a point high enough to be able to see Hauser's Gully all the way to the top and at the same time heard a strange noise. It sounded like someone running down the scree gully, but I couldn't see anyone and it seemed way too steep for someone to be running down. I couldn't really tell where the noise was coming from because I was in a giant bowl and the sounds seemed to be bouncing off the walls. I looked above me and saw nothing coming down, but as I turned around a few very large rocks came tumbling down Hauser's Gully across the bowl from me.

I took that as a sign to turn around for the day, and was satisfied because I had gone about 6 miles with about 2000 feet of elevation gain, so it would be a nice round 12 miles for the day.

I'm not sure if I will be climbing the Suicide Peaks from Rabbit Lakes anytime soon. I'm pretty sure there is a less treacherous route coming up to the peaks from Falls Creek. It's a longer route, but that is just a bonus, and I kinda want to keep my head intact, at least for a little while.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Devil's Pass training

Went down to the Kenai for another training ride yesterday. This time we decided to only do Devil's up to the cabin and back down. That way I could practice the ascent part of my leg and Ken could get a taste of the downhill section of his leg.

Although we got poured on (and hailed on) at the beginning and end of the day, the sun did make an appearance in between.

After having endured the never ending rocks on the Rabbit Lake trail last week, Heather and I found the rocks on Devil's to be a piece of cake. Two weeks ago I was falling and cursing at these rocks and yesterday I did not have to step down once on the way back down. @#$%%, I told you!

Heather noted that Ken and I seemed to be ready for the Soggy Bottom and insisted that we document it...

It's Sunday and I'm off to do my last long run in preparation for Lost Lake. I'm setting out to do about 12 to 13 hard miles in the mountains to simulate the conditions of the race in two weeks. And then, we taper.. ahh. Although if this weather keeps up, tapering will be difficult.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rabbit Lake

Hooked up with my other relay team members today for a ride out to Rabbit Lake. It's a short ride but the rocks never end and the climb does not let up the entire way. The clouds lifted and the sun beat down on us as we huffed and puffed our way up to the lake.

Climbing on a bike never seems to get easier for me. Maybe it's because a year ago I would have climbed myself to exhaustion and then walked the rest of the way. This time I climbed myself to exhaustion, which happens to be a lot farther, but I still feel just as bad as I did a year ago. I can just get a little farther and go a little faster than I could before.

At the lake, North and South Suicide Peaks looked even more ominous than they do from town. Hopefully we will be back soon to climb them...

The reward for a long climb like that is that you always get to ride back down. One added challenge today was that the sun was shining straight into my eyes and I could only see about 10 feet in front of my bike. It proved to be an advantage for me, because I had to just go fast and absorb the rocks as they arrived. There was no time for hesitation or getting off my bike.

I had an almost disastrous crash at the end. We were getting close to the road where we parked and was hitting my top downhill speed. I hit a sea of rocks and maybe pulled on the front brake just a bit too hard as I slammed into a big one. My front tire dug in while my back end came up off the ground. I was sliding on my front tire, body hanging over the handlebars, for about a five count. My heart was up in my throat as I scanned the rocks that were about to meet my face up close and personal. But somehow I shifted my weight back and the back end bumped back down and I kept riding. Close one!

So the clouds are gone and as I write this I can actually see the mountains from my window. Maybe we can squeeze in a few more summer days... If not it was fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Flattop Time Trials

I decided to test my fitness today to see how fast I could run up Flattop mountain. The last time I timed myself was well over a year ago and I did it in 45 minutes. The trail is only a mile and half, but gains about 1250 feet of elevation. Still 45 minutes seemed slow.

I ran the flat parts and some of the stairs and hiked the steep uphills as fast as I could. I was basically redlining the entire way. My lungs were burning and I got that bloody taste in my mouth that I used to get when I was younger and I would run. I'm pretty sure my lungs were bleeding. Yup.

When I got to the short scramble at the top I had to stop for a few seconds to catch my breath. I had pushed so hard to this point that my legs and arms felt wobbly for the last steep scramble. I got to the top in 35 minutes. Not bad. I wonder how fast I could go? I bet some people could do it in 15 minutes.

I'm always amazed at the random people you see on Flattop. These people are nowhere else in Chugach State Park except on Flattop Mountain. As I was running down one guy who was wearing a sideways flat brimmed hat and a cotton jogging suit said to me, "Did you make it all the way to the top?" "Yep." And then he said, "Is that real sweat on you?" "Uh... yeah???" Then he yelled to his friend, "This girls got real sweat on her!" Another woman wearing jeans and flip flops saw me running down and said, "You're so brave!" I wasn't sure how to respond to that so I yelled back "Thanks!" and laughed the rest of the way down.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Preparing for Lost Lake

In three weeks is the Lost Lake Run. It's a 16 mile trail run with about 2100 feet of elevation gain. I've been trying to up my mountain mileage lately in preparation. I had an ankle injury in June that caused me to stop running for a bit, but slowly throughout July I have been getting back out.

I've decided to limit the amount of time I spend running on pavement, for a few reasons. I have gotten bored with running on roads. I am intrigued by all of the mountain runs in Alaska. I want to start upping my mileage by a lot and pounding the pavement has proven to be bad for my body (I'm working on my 4th injury this year). I want to be able to move fast and cover a lot of ground in the mountains and running on flat roads just doesn't prepare your body for that.

So I've been spending a lot of time on my feet in the mountains. Running, jogging, hiking, exploring and loving it. This Friday I got out with my friend Kathy and we did an 10-ish mile loop from the Powerline trail. We crossed the valley, went up over the ridge to O'malley, across the ballpark and Deep Lake (which was still covered in ice?) down the scree field on the other side, dove in Black Lake as a side trip (brrr), down to the Williwaw Lakes and ran the trail around the front side of Little O'Malley. We power hiked the steeps and ran the downs.

I had never been on the other side of this ridge and was amazed how different the scenery was just one valley over. I forgot my camera so I took this picture from This is a view of the valley from Black Lake where we swam. Next time I'd like to run back past the lakes and explore this valley more. Maybe climb Williwaw Peak.

And I'm wondering why I ever wanted to run here?