Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bad dog!

I bent down to pick up the frisbee. Niko had run off into a neighbor's yard and I could see him sprinting back towards me out of the corner of my eye. I put my head down and grasped the frisbee with my hand when the impact happened.

Crunch! Niko had run full speed with his head into the side of my nose. It gushed for a moment and then stopped bleeding abruptly. I thought it was broken, because there was so much pain with the initial hit. But then it just felt big and numb.

I ran home preparing myself to look in the mirror and see my nose pushed off the side of my face. But it wasn't that bad. Just a bit swollen. And I don't think it's broken.

Swollen nose and all, I got out and rode for about an hour and half tonight with Tim. I'm quickly beginning to realize how much work I have to do on a the bike. I'm not worried about endurance. I have confidence that I'll be able to build the endurance I need to ride all day. Building endurance has never been a problem for me.

I'm just so damn slow. I cannot go this slow and finish the Soggy Bottom in a reasonable time. Tim was on a singlespeed and worried that he would be slow. But when he was out in front, I could only see his light in the distance. I was pedaling as fast as I could, but could not catch up.

My race pace is everyone else's casual pace. And it hurts like hell. Hopefully once I start putting in the miles every week this will get easier so that I can go faster. We shall see. Now I have to go ice my face.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Frosty Bottom

It's really sort of funny how the events of the day unraveled on Saturday morning. Maybe I had my most recent post in my mind. Maybe my good, disciplined subconscious self willed this all to happen just to teach my stubborn, careless self a lesson. The race turned out to be exactly what I needed it to be. As annoying as it was at the time, it needed to happen.

I started off in the morning feeling unprepared, but hopeful. The tools I had packed were my standard set: my small pump (that I have heard many say is pretty useless and it would take forever to pump a tire on the side of the trail with), a chain tool, extra chain links, a tube, and a multi-tool. I realized at the start that I forgot my tire levers. I also had forgotten to check the my tire pressure before leaving, despite Brian's repeated reminders.

Despite the apprehension that the race directors created about the icy downhill section we would encounter as we left Kincaid Park, the start of the race was uneventful. My studded tires gripped the glare ice even on the curves heading down on the coastal trail. I even managed to stop in time when a guy who had just passed me wiped out on his Pugsley three feet in front of me, avoiding riding over his head by inches.

I felt really good in the 9 miles from Kincaid to Westchester Lagoon. The trail was made of hard bumpy ice, but my front suspension helped to minimize the beating on my upper body. This section of the trail was really tranquil. I was by myself most of the time, except for the runner who kept catching up on hills and reminding me of how slow I was riding. The inlet is always beautiful at this time of year, littered with ice boulders and Mt. Susitna in the background.

Approaching Westchester Lagoon, I noticed that my back tire had little air in it. Then I remembered the last time I rode my bike. It was before Christmas out in Houston, AK when I attempted to ride with Brian and the guys on the soft ATV trail near Hatcher's Pass. I had let air out of the tire in an attempt to float on top of the snow.

Maybe if I add a little air, I could go faster. I pulled over and reluctantly pulled out my shitty pump, knowing that this was not going to go well.

I could already feel the windchill coming across the lagoon and freezing my now exposed fingers. I unscrewed the cap and the valve and jammed the pump on, turning it to lock it. I could hear the air spilling out of my tires. shhhhhhhhhhhh Panicking I pulled the pump back off. I waited a bit and tried it again. Letting even more air out I got frustrated and plopped down on the ice pouting, but realizing this was my own fault, it was bound to happen, and it was time for me to learn my lesson.

At this time the runner who had been lurking behind me ran past me. And then the masses came. All of the fatbikes without studs that had been sliding around behind me passed. One girl stopped to help. I told her my pump wasn't working and she kindly handed me her pump. Frustrated but relieved, I pulled my pump off of the tube ripping out the entire Presta valve. "F!$%$%!$%K!" I blurted out.

Looking startled the girl said, "Just keep it. You can give it to me when you catch up." "Thank you." I said. And she continued on. I took off my wheel and opened my pack just as I remembered that I didn't have tire levers. At this time my fingers were starting to lose feeling, but I knew that people get tires off of the rims all the time without levers, so I tried. I failed.

All of my unpreparedness was coming back to haunt me in one gush and I felt overwhelmed. And stubborn. And stupid. I have always felt the need to rebel in my life and I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm the youngest of three and was always being told what to do and how to do it. If someone says I am supposed to do something one way, I do the opposite. Yes, I know it is quite immature and shocking that as a 32 year old woman I still have retained this attitude, but it is the truth.

Now the runners were starting to pass me, elevating my feelings of defeat and guilt. And just as I was about to give up and walk home, two little angels road up on their bikes. Thank you Ted and Greg for kindly removing my tire, and helping me get the tube pumped and reattached. You saved my race.

Although now it was no longer a race and I was back to my usual routine of just trying to finish. With my new tire pumped to the brim with lovely air, I rolled over bump after bump of ice and snow the final 15 miles to the finish. Coming in as the last person on a bike, and 40 minutes after the first runner, I felt surprisingly good.

And so it's time brush my attitude aside and become self sufficient with my bike out on the trail. As much as I'd like the experience of riding to be pure and simple and to not have to fiddle with gear all the time, I know that it is necessary if I want to ride on my own. This race was my kickoff to Soggy Bottom training. I planned to start building my miles in February, and now I plan to learn more about how to fix my bike and generally take care of myself on the trail, because I know there won't always be a Ted or a Greg out on the trail to come to my rescue, and frankly I don't want to ever be "rescued" again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Packing for the Frosty Bottom

I am so disorganized when it comes to winter bike riding. I have no idea what really works when it comes to winter riding gear. I haven't really done that many long rides in the winter. It's totally different than standing around and climbing. And I'm not the kind of person who thinks about these things ahead of time. You know, planning for what might happen and what not. I definitely do not buy a bunch of gear that I don't know if I'm going to use, before I really need it.

For this very reason I frost nipped my toes ice climbing a few months ago. I got out of the car at Caribou Creek and Kari, one of the girls I was climbing with, took one look at my boots and said, "You're not wearing any super gaiters? Or overboots? It's minus 5 out!" "Yeah well, my feet don't really get cold. I just haven't needed any of those things yet." I say. That day I came home with two big frost nipped toes. I immediately went online and purchased a pair of supergaiters.

When I pack for Ice climbing it's like a science. Actually, my ice climbing bag is always packed. When I bring it home from a day out, I lay everything out on two towels across the living room to dry it out. This acts as a playground for my cats for 24 hours. (I have no idea why a cat would want to lay on a pair of upside down crampons, but my kitten is a bit sadistic) Then the next day I pack everything up in my ice climbing pack until I climb again. All of my layers are the same every time. I tweak gloves and socks a bit, but mostly I know what I'm doing when it comes to ice climbing gear.

Winter bike riding is a different story. I tend to sweat a lot when I ride a bike. So I have to be really careful with my layers. As far as tools go, I always pack the same tools for every ride. Even in the summer. And guess what? Not once have I had to make a repair on the trail. (Well except for last month when I accidentally let all of the air out of Brian's giant snow bike tire and could not get it back in.) But other than that I have never had a problem with my bike. Knock on wood.

Really. Never a flat tire. Ever. I have practiced changing tires and fixing chains and other various easy repairs, but never needed any of these tools out on the trail. My point is that I don't really know if any of the tools actually work well out there. Except for what people have told me, but to be honest I don't really trust that what other people tell me to use will necessarily work for me.

So it's a challenge when packing and dressing for a winter race. I've really only done winter races that have been up to 2 hours, so this one should be a good test of what works and what doesn't. I'm guessing it will take me over 3 hours.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pineapple Express

Every year in mid January after a beautiful blanket of snow falls on the city of Anchorage, the temperatures have been cold enough for two months now to create some big fat frozen waterfalls, and it seems as if the snow will never stop falling, a nasty Pineapple Express comes rushing through Alaska. Dumping rain, crushing the snow, and melting all the icy goodness, it never seems to fail.

It's been in the mid 40s and raining. If you live in Alaska and like to play outside in winter, you never want to hear the words "mid 40s" uttered across the radio waves. After this summer I have been trying to alter my attitude about weather. As much of a control freak that I am, I have surrendered to the fact that no matter how hard I try, I cannot control the weather. And so, I have to roll with it.

If it snows, I ski. If the ice in in, I climb. If it's warm and sunny, I head out into the mountains for a hike. If it's freezing rain and the streets and trails are slick sheets of ice covered in inches of water, well, I go to the Beer and Barleywine Festival and drink beer.

The bike race on Saturday was postponed until next week, so maybe I can get my ass on a bike again before that. Today I have off and it is a good thing because I spent yesterday on the couch with a nasty bug that tore out the inside of my stomach and made me feel as if my brain was selling two times the size of my skull. At first I thought it was a hangover, but I really didn't drink THAT much at the festival. No hangover could ever be that bad. Now I'm recovering at home and have had some time to think about some goals that I have for this year.

From now until the end of the winter I'm going to ice climb as much as possible. That is for sure. I have stopped trying to set grade goals for ice climbing because I need to just move forward at a pace that I am comfortable with. I'd like to lead Grade 4 ice sometime in the next few years, but I'm not going to put pressure on myself to get there in a certain time frame.

As far as running goes I want to run a marathon this year. I have mulled over this decision for awhile, going back and forth between doing a super easy race as my first marathon and doing a trail marathon. When I really think about what makes me happy it is trail running. I do not want to run 26 miles on pavement. It may be more flat and easier to complete, but it would be torture. Soooo, I have decided to do the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks in September.

There are tons of mountain runs throughout the summer that I will use as training runs, including Mount Marathon, which I just signed up for last week. I also got Brian to enter the lottery for this race. Hopefully, if he can get in, we can train together.

Since the Equinox is not until September, I needed a mid summer goal to look forward to. A few weeks ago I found out that the Soggy Bottom will be held on August 1st this year. This is good for two reasons. One, it will fit into my schedule perfectly. I won't be doing my really long runs of 18-20 miles until August, so I'll have time to do long bike rides in June and July. Also, on August 1st we would have a few more hours of daylight to work with that day, thus avoiding the terrifying ride in the dark down to Hope that I experienced last year. (Although some of it will probably still be in the dark.)

So that's it. I picked two main races for this year so that I can focus. For now I am just going to be climbing on the weekends and building up base miles in running and biking during the week. Let's hope this crappy weather eases up soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top six things to consider when entering a race

When selecting a race to participate in here are some of my general guidelines:

1. It should be in a sport that I haven't really trained for in a few months.
2. It should be at a distance that is way over my head for my current fitness level.
3. I should be currently eating very little food as part of a detox diet to rid myself of holiday food and alcohol demons.
4. I should not have a vehicle for which to use in this race.
5. I should put no thought into what it will take to complete the race.
6. It should be THIS SATURDAY.

I just signed up for the Frosty Bottom, which is a 50 or 25 mile Bike/Ski/Run race in Anchorage this Saturday. I randomly chose the 25 mile bike option. Probably because it will be the fastest way to get me to a finish line. It's a very mellow course, but considering that I have ridden once a week for the past two months concerns me a bit. Whatever, I'll figure it out.

I'll be doing the 25 mile version as I cannot stomach an out-and-back course of this distance. Traverse, loop, even lollipop, but not out and back.

Wish me luck! By the way, anyone have a Pugsley I can borrow?

Update: I now have a borrowed Pugsley for the race. Thanks H!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Back in Alaska

After two weeks on the East Coast I am back in Alaska and am glad that I missed the "coldest two weeks in Anchorage ever" according to some of my friends here. I hear some days there was a high of minus ten. Yes that was the high. It was not uncommon for it to be minus 25 in the morning.

Not much playing outside has been done here while I've been gone. It's nice to know I have not missed anything, although I feel for the people who remained here during the holidays. I'm just hoping that Laura, who I convinced to move here in September, is not hating me right now.

I spent two relaxing weeks at the home that I grew up in where my mom lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It's always nice to spend time there because I have so many friends and family members that I never see. They all live within a few mile radius of my childhood home.

I spent my days eating good homemade food as well as pizza, italian hoagies, pierogies, and all the other delicious food that I cannot find in Anchorage. I also finished three books while I was there. I even got to do some skiing. But most days I relaxed. It's nice to wake up knowing that I have no responsibility or agenda for the day.

I got to see all of my friends kids (there are so many of them now) and played like I have never played before. From dance party with Megan's three girls, to "tickle bug" with my nephew Tony, to a game of "knock you over" with my best friends 2 year old Brady (in which he rams into me with his head and tries to knock me over repeatedly). I am quite convinced that raising kids is a lot harder than ice climbing or any of the stuff I do here. Exhausting really.

After a day of traveling by plane with a bad cold, I'm back in Alaska and sniffling, sneezing, coughing, but getting ready to get back into the game. It's warm today. Nearly 20 degrees. There is a thick layer of frost on everything. The snow is packed down on the trails. I hear the ice is thicker than ever. It's good to be back.