Monday, April 27, 2009

The Champagne Brunch - The end of winter

Last weekend was the 25th Annual Champagne Brunch held by the Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol up in Hatcher's Pass. I have been to this ski party before but have never fully dressed up in "formal wear", so this year Laura and I decided to go all out.

We found the two most perfectly awful dresses at Value Village...

Ya just gotta love her taffeta puffs shining in the sunshine.

We had a mix of clouds, snow, and wind, but all of this eventually gave way to an intense Alaskan spring sun. I think I actually got a little bit of a tan!

It's that time of year that we are all amazed at the length of the days. Despite the fact that we go through this every year, it never ceases to amaze me the amounts of sunlight we get here even in April. I heard one women exclaim, "It's 6 o'clock at night?!!!!" Surprised to look up at the sun hanging out above us in the sky.

On the ski down it felt like my dress was getting heavier and heavier. I finally stopped to check it out and after pulling up my skirt, I realized that about 10 pounds of snow was balling up in my taffeta dress liner. These are the hazards of skiing in a ball gown. (Did you ever think I would use the word taffeta twice in one post on this blog?)

It's been a good winter, but I am so ready for summer. No matter how much you love winter, an Alaskan winter can wear you down with darkness and cold and the longevity of it all. And just when you think it's over you still have to wait for melting and then cleanup and then finally, finally the trees will start to bud and the grass will start to grow green sometime in May. Then within a week the city of Anchorage will be socked in with green everywhere. It's amazing how fast it happens.

Here is what the city looks like right now...

I'll post another picture in two weeks to compare.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring Riding

I've been doing a lot of riding around town lately, mostly on my mountain bike, but I did do my very first ride on a semi road bike on Friday. Actually it was Brian's cross bike, which is basically a road bike with knobby but skinny tires.

I kept forgetting that I was riding an almost road bike and got stuck in some mud and almost launched myself off the bike when I hit a curb really hard on the Coastal Trail.

I really like riding this bike, despite the fact that I couldn't figure out how to shift and essentially did a 35 mile ride in one gear. But this bike goes fast!

Here are some photos I took last week of the many surfaces of spring riding in Anchorage.

Dry pavement!

Volcanic Ash...

Frozen mud flats...


Ice gravel...



Dried leaves...

And yay! I even found a dry patch of dirt trail...

Friday, April 17, 2009

I've got a lot of climbing to do...

Yesterday I did my first "Force" workout. That is where you put your bike into a high gear and mash on the pedals up a series of hills. Sounds awful right? Actually, it felt amazing.

Once I was able to think about climbing a hill as part of a workout, it didn't seem to hurt as much. I knew that my goal was to work really hard for 4-5 minutes and then I would get a break. This worked out really well. It made me push harder on the hills, and really recover during my rest.

And this has put a whole new outlook on climbing hills for me. If I see each hill as a chance to get stronger, and not as a force of gravity that is trying to push me down, down, down into the shadows of self doubt, shouting at me to quit and saying things like, "What? You think you're a mountain biker? Ha! I laugh at you.", then I stand a chance of actually getting through this training and finishing this race.

So I'm taking on hills on my bike, like I take on hills in my boots when I'm training for Mount Marathon. Which by the way, the lottery results came out yesterday and of the three people I recruited to do the race with me, none of them got in. But that is another story for another day. Right now I'm really enjoying climbing on my bike. I never thought I would be able to say that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"I feel like I've seen this get up before..."

"... do you ride near APU a lot?" I saw my friend Zac on a trail near Campbell Tract and stopped to talk him. He said this after looking me up and down and pointing to my boots. And then for the very first time, I realized how ridiculous I look when I bike in the winter.

Anytime someone calls your outfit a "get up" it's usually not a good thing. I had to laugh. So I took this picture for my own benefit and so that I could capture the full view. After a lot of tweaking this is what I have come up with for the most comfortable and functional outfit for winter biking and commuting.

I just can't believe I walk into the Atwood building like this every morning. I have a problem of thinking about fashion last these days. Comfort and being warm is key. But not too warm, hence the tights tucked into the oversized boots.

So when Zac said he's seen this get up before, and after looking at myself in the full length mirror, I knew that it had to be me that he saw. Because well, who else would wear this in public.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What a difference

I have never been a huge proponent of spending a lot of money on bike gear. Like I have said many times, I want biking to be a simple part of my life. The act of riding a bike is pretty simple and I think that's why many people are drawn to it. Maybe we have so many complicated projects, relationships, and schedules in our lives that sometimes we just want to get on a bike, pedal and forget about everything else.

That being said, this week I have come to appreciate the value of having a decent bike. In the world of mountain bikes, mine was relatively cheap at $600. I did get it for half price, because it was an older model, but even at $1200 that is still on the low end of bike prices. But compared to the $50 bike that I used as my snow bike last winter, the bike I ride now is awesome.

I sold my old bike (pictured at the top) to my friend Laura, who moved to Alaska in September, for 25 dollars. So Wednesday we went out for an easy ride with the dogs and she kept falling way behind. This is a recovery week for me, so I was already riding realy slow. She complained of sliding tires and just generally feeling uncomfortable. I decided to switch with her to find out what the problem was.

Woah. This bike sucks. It just feels bad to sit on. You have to work really hard to pedal and you still feel like your going nowhere. I tried ALL OF THE GEARS. They all suck. I asked her how she felt on my bike and she said, "Great!" Then I felt bad and didn't make her switch back for the rest of the ride. My recovery ride turned into a real workout. I'm starting to understand why I was so slow last winter.

I guess I was wrong. I used to say that you don't need to spend a lot of money on bikes to have fun, and that is still true. But if you ride a lot and you don't want to cripple yourself by the time you are 40, you should probably spend the money and get a decent bike.