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Friday, June 29, 2007

It's good to have a hill to climb and to be able to get to ski to the top and turn and look back down into the inlet. (Even better when there's a van waiting at the top to drive you back down to the bottom.)

They're a motley group of miscreants, but they're good people to train with!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Trying new things

One of the things about APU that I was really excited about was that there were several other APU training groups in addition to the elite team. There's a couple of junior groups and a couple of masters groups. I thought that it would be nice to get to do some workouts with a different group every so often. So today I joined the APU Noon group (coached by the fabulous Miss Holly Brooks) at Kincaid for some mountain biking! I don't actually mountain bike nor do I have a mountain bike but SallyB said that I could borrow hers. So I did. Even better, the noon group is a women's training group which means that my mountain biking skills vastly improved because I had the benefit of the collective knowledge of the group. I received some great advice on mountain biking technique from the other ladies and got much more comfortable with going over huge obstacles. Okay, not huge, but to a road biker even the tiniest root sticking up looks huge! I feel like I'm pushing my comfort zone more up here. I like it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back in College... maybe not.

Today was going to be a busy day. And if you look at when this blog was published you might notice that I'm up past my bedtime (10... I don't care if the sun hasn't set). It was an up at 7, drive to practice at 7:30, uphill bounding intervals, drive to work (work has a shower-- don't worry), work from 10:30-4, drive to practice again, home at 7, dinner, dance 9-10. As I packed a bag for the day I thought, "wow, this is just like being back at college-- training half the time, going to class, eating on the run, spending any spare half hour studying, NEVER being at home..." I also realized that I wasn't actually that interested in being back in college. College was sweet but having a more laid back lifestyle is sweeter. So I left work around 2 and went home and slept for an hour before practice. Naps are an important part of training and training's my top priority. Living in a city and having lots of things to do means I have to remember to prioritize my time again.

DANCE... I found a dance studio near my house and I took my first dance class tonight. It's a hiphop studio and, um, I've never done hiphop before so it was quite challenging but fun. And very much a different demographic than the ski community. There's only one class a week for me but that's probably good because otherwise I might start skipping afternoon strength workouts to go to dance class. And that probably wouldn't make me a better skier.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


The plan was to do a road ride this morning. When I woke up it was 52° and RAINING. So I called Bart, who I was planning on riding with, and cancelled, deciding to run instead. Bart seemed a little surprised and I realized that 52° and raining around here probably wasn't anything to scare people away from a bike ride (plus, Bart's been living in Fairbancks recently). It's certainly enough to keep me off my road bike unless I have a good motivation to go for a ride. But when a two hour run is just as viable as a two hour bike, I'll run in the rain and bike in the sun. Then, to make me feel even more wussy, there was a 24hr mountain bike race finishing up this morning at Kincaid. So there I was running because I thought it was too cold to bike and there were all these mountain bikers who'd been riding all night long.

I think I might have to toughen up if I'm going to make it in Alaska.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pesky kids...

Exercising on the road will eventually bring with it some form of harassment. Usually from motorists. Today I got my first heckling while out rollerskiing through some recently developed (and immaculately paved) suburbs. There were two kids leaning out of an open window throwing water balloons onto the road. I looked at them as I approached and said "Don't even think about it." But what did I expect? They looked bored (I could see their mom(?) in the living room talking to the real estate agent(?)) and here I was making an irresistible target with my bright orange shorts and looking goofy with skis/poles/helmet. So of course they threw water balloons at me. I'm pretty sure that it was all in good fun because they missed and they would have had to have really bad aim to miss me from where their window was if they were in fact trying to hit me. I thought about stopping to talk to their mom and get them in trouble just to be malicious but that felt too immature so I just laughed at them and kept skiing. What I should have done, had I been clever enough to think of it at the time instead of five minutes later, would have been to catch one of the water balloons and throw it back at them. It was a downhill though, and I had a 90° turn to make, and I'm not that skilled on rollerskis anyway, so I missed my opportunity. Next time I'll be ready. I don't even have any compunctions about throwing a water balloon back into the house (even if it was brand new and probably selling for around $750). I think that getting hit with a water balloon is an occupational hazard of throwing them in the first place.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Smoke/ Dust/ Smog/ Cold/ Heat/ Humidity

Today broke the spell of perfect weather for Anchorage. I woke up to murky brown light and a smoky odor from the forest fires in the Caribou hills. I didn't really think too much of it until I looked outside and realized that I couldn't see very far and that looking East toward the city made me feel like I was in L.A. Shortly after breakfast I got a call saying that the morning's intervals were going to be pushed back to the afternoon and moved to a clean-air location. The smoke ended up blowing away by the afternoon so we were able to do the workout in town where we had originally planned to.

I felt strangely relieved to know that Anchorage people had to deal with environmental factors that prevented them from training too. It makes me feel better about the training sessions I've missed in other places because of the weather-- Dust storms in Walla Walla, serious heat in Wenatchee, muggy hot in Wisconsin, burning cold in Minneapolis. It seems that no matter where you are there's always going to be obstacles to training. A lot of those obstacles are things you can't control so you have to find creative solutions. If you're lucky (and I am) you have coaches to figure out solutions for some of the obstacles for you (Erik finding out and deciding and communicating this morning, "the smoke is supposed to clear throughout the day and Girdwood is up out of the smoke so we'll train inside strength in the am and rollerski in the afternoon.") So what I was thinking today was that it's okay to skip, alter, or move a workout if that's your best option based on the circumstances as long as it truly is your best option and you're not just looking for an excuse to give up or slack off.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy Solstice!

I don't think that I am in a good position to appreciate the alaskan solstice. In fact I feel a little guilty, like I'm one of the animals in the little red hen story who didn't help cut the grain but wants to eat the bread. (Um, maybe I know my children's stories too well.) I haven't suffered through an alaskan winter to really be able to appreciate the solstice. It's been sunny since I showed up so I've kind of started taking it for granted. Solstice is a good opportunity for everyone to be a little pagan and dance around a bonfire. Not being much of a reveler this time of year, I will be asleep by the time the sun actually sets tonight. Merriam-Webster reminded me today of the word "estival." (And when I say "reminded" I actually mean "taught" since I hadn't met estival until this morning.) Estival is an adjective meaning "of or relating to summer" which I think means that you can use it in place of summer whenever you want to sound fancy as in "What a beautiful, estival dusk!" Or maybe, "I hope you enjoy the estival solstice!" I don't know about the use of estival, but I do hope you enjoy the solstice!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

new chain

yes, I have put a new chain on my road bike. This is a very exciting development in my bike maintenance practices. usually my practice is ignore-ignore-ignore and hope the problem fixes itself. I also even straightened the right hood on my handlebars which had been drastically knocked inwards in a crash earlier this spring and wasn't exactly comfortable to ride with my hand twisted in that way. While cleaning, I tried my best not to but I couldn't help but notice that I needed a new big chain ring. It's starting to wear too much. My small ring is still fine. No, I don't need to replace only the big ring because I'm a beast and only ride in my big chain ring-- I already replaced my small ring and the big ring is still the original. So now all that my bike really needs is a new chain ring and new handlebar tape (I'm looking for lime green; haven't found it yet). I also apparently need a mountain bike because there's tons more mountain biking around Anchorage than road biking. All this reminds me that bike parts are expensive and maybe I should have gotten on an elite CYCLING team so that I wouldn't have to pay for my own bike parts. Sigh. The sacrifices one has to make in order to be a good skier.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Coach

I met Erik Flora, my new coach at APU this morning. Now, you may be thinking, she moved all the way up to Alaska without even meeting the coach first!? It does seem a little backward, but I had (and still have) good faith that Erik and I will work well together. And even though I only officially met him for the first time today, I have seen him around at races and heard about him, don't forget that the ski community doesn't have too many complete unknowns.

Yesterday I talked to Erik on the phone and we decided to meet at 8am at the APUNSC office. A couple of hours later Erik called me back and said, "let's meet at Potter Marsh and go for a classic rollerski instead of meeting at the office." Excellent, now THAT's my kind of meeting! I was quite pleased with my first impression of Erik, he exuded positive energy, which is great because, like most other simple mammals, I respond much better to positive reinforcements than negative. So I am looking forward to working more with him and hearing more of his thoughts on technique. He restrained himself to only making one comment on my striding this morning-- about starting the impulse of the kick with the hamstring. I was happy to attempt it. My hamstrings are mostly just big and muscular and stuck onto the backs of my legs so it was nice to think about them being useful for something. Maybe even redeem themselves for making so difficult to find jeans that are big enough through the thigh.

Tomorrow morning I'll train with the APU team... 8AM ski walking/bounding, 4PM strength! I'm re-entering the world of structured team training after two months of dawdling around on my own!
Moose cow and calf


Some of the animals I've met in Kincaid park!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bird Ridge Run

I have never claimed to be much of a runner and I have even claimed to be much less of an uphill runner. Nevertheless, as the new kid in town I decided that I should get out into the Anchorage community a little bit and not just wait around for new friends to come find me down the Burkholders' secluded, gravel driveway so I headed down to do the Bob Spurr Memorial Hill Climb up Bird Ridge this morning. Three miles up with about 3500' of elevation gain makes it a rather challenging race. As people keep telling me, Anchorage has a thriving population of Mountain Runners-- people who train for mountain running as their primary sport and do everything else as cross training. An interesting idea. I, however, will never be esteemed among the mountain runners ranks because I, well, I walked.

Regardless of the realization that I am maybe not cut out for mountain running, I was psyched to get in my first hike up an Alaskan mountain (um, or ridge-- details-schmetails) and hopefully will get out onto the trails some more. I also confirmed that there are lots of crazy people in Alaska but the ones I met were all very nice.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bear, Moose, Moose

After work today (eek! I actually have some form of normal employment. but I think I'm the only one who would consider work a novelty, so I'll move on quickly) I wanted to spin around the neighborhood and check out my surrounding area so I rode up the Coastal trail. On my way back a cyclist coming in the opposite direction said, "bear, bear" as he road past. It was said in the same manner that the leader of a paceline might announce, "racoon!" if there was a roadkill racoon in path of the paceline-- a little bit excited because it's an unusual obstacle, but it's still a hazard of the road to be avoided. I was more excited than the other cyclist sounded. I pulled around the corner and there was a gangly black bear lumbering down the paved trail. (I admit that I was pleased to find it was a black bear and not a grizzly.) I got to follow it for awhile (at a healthy distance) down the trail until it returned to the underbrush off the trail.

While still marvelling at my bear encounter during only my second day in Alaska I approached a small hill. Looking up to the top of the hill I saw a lifesize moose statue on the side of the trail with huge antlers that looked like I could use them for a hammock. "Oh, what a quaint Alaskan thing to do, put a Moose statue in the park," I thought. Then I got a little closer and started to wonder, "I don't remember noticing that statue on the ride out." Then I pulled abreast of it (standing about three feet off of the pavement) and looked at it. And the moose statue looked back at me. Yes.... I was not so smart about that one. I will be paying more attention to non-moving animals in the future! Then around the next corner was another bull moose. This one further off the trail and making more noise eating so I was plenty aware of him. Next time I go out into Kincaid park I will put my camera in my pocket!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I arrived in Whittier this morning to blue skies and beautiful views on the drive up from Whittier to Anchorage. The apartment at the Burkholders' is perfect. The ocean is only a 10min jog to my West. There are gorgeous mountains to the East. I only have to take four steps on pavement to get onto the extensive Kincaid trail system.

I might not leave for awhile.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Juneau, AK

Beautiful Mendenhall glacier in Juneau-- the best place in Juneau.

I love ice. I wanted to go swim in the lake and play with the floating ice, but it was, um, cold and rainy.

The view from above Nugget Falls.

Today I spent hanging out in Juneau. Juneau is beautiful with great steep mountains rising up behind it. If the fog lifts you can see some dramatic waterfalls coming down. I ran up Mt. Roberts this morning (not to the top, just to where there was a big snowfield) and then wandered around town. I think I maybe should have gone back up to the glacier because town is very touristy and the many stores don't interest me much. All the Alaska cruises stop in Juneau so there's a horde of cruise goers surging through the town and back again that can knock you over if you're not careful. To avoid this I hid out in the state museum (at a very cheap $5 I didn't even have to pretend to be a student still) and the public library (free wireless-- I love libraries) until it was time to go back out to the ferry dock.

A recreation of an Eagle nesting tree in the Museum. They claimed that Eagles' nests, since they mate for life and add sticks to their nest every year, can get as big as a Toyota Tacoma. That I would like to see. They'd have to start out in a pretty sturdy tree to support that kind of mass.

Russian Orthodox Church built in 1894 and a popular tourist sight to visit in Juneau. There were even people selling tours to it. I don't know how there could be a market for that since the tourists could get off the cruise ship, walk up 4 blocks, and be there.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mendenhall Glacier

So I find myself in Juneau early Monday morning and not leaving until I have to be back at the ferry dock at 2pm on Tuesday to catch my ferry into Whittier. So I go up to view the Mendenhall Glacier. This will mostly be a picture blog. And clicking on an image will open it full-size.

Since the Mendenhall Glacier is so close to Juneau it's been closely monitered for a long time. I don't know the exact number but my guess (after having walked out to this marker) is that it's about 2 miles away from the end of the glacier now.

I spent the morning hiking around in the rainforest. It is nice to have a little more room to roam than when I was on the ferry!

A small and quickly melting iceberg that a park ranger fished out of the lack. This Ice is really old, probably the oldest piece of ice that I've ever picked up (no, I did not lick it, yuck).

Pretty Flowers.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier with Nugget falls off to the right.

There were very nice trails and signs at the Visitor Center. I could imagine hordes and hordes of tourists here. Today there weren't too many and they were mostly staying close to the visitor center and not venturing out onto the trails.

Yes, it's been raining all day and you can tell that this is typical by looking at the vegetation around here.

I hiked up, up, up to look down on the glacier and lake. One of the large icebergs that had calved off from the seracs (to bust out some glacier terms) had a large rock on top of it. This rock was on its way to becoming an... Erratic! It was probably the most exciting thing I saw all day. I always have marveled at the large erratics dotting the Pacific Northwest, but this was actually seeing the process of how they had gotten there!

Pretty flowers over near the Mendenhall Lake campground.

I love these ice chunks. I could be an ice-chunk-ologist. Um, maybe there's a better word for that.

Laura Valaas at the classic, unavoidable tourist photo op at Mendenhall Glacier.

Ferry- Bellingham to Juneau

the M/V Columbia

After a long wait and being the fifth to last car onto the ferry, we pulled away from Bellingham and it was sunny and nice out on the upper deck. I had my little tent set up and even convinced the crew to let me take my bike up on deck and use my trainer (they were a little skeptical but I'm good at convincing). I set up my bike and spun away from Bellingham for an hour enjoying the views.

Cycling (photo courtesy of David-from-Olympia-previously-from-Australia)

I think that the first day people were quite enticed by the novelty of riding a bike on a ferry boat. But on the second day when it was drizzling I think they thought I was maybe a little crazy. Sadly, it was mostly rainy on the trip to Juneau. In fact, Alaska has a ton of rainforest. So at least the vegetation seems happy with all of the rain. I would not recommend trying to ride rollers on this ferry trip. In addition to the rain which would have made it treacherous, there were also high winds to blow you sideways and whenever the boat would turn it would tip sideways which is very unnerving on a bike. On Sunday we made two U-turns while I was riding and I had to stop and put a foot down both times. I know it's mind over matter and the trainer would almost certainly not actually tip over, but I still got too freaked out by the feeling of having my bike at an angle to horizontal when I wasn't turning a corner and didn't have any of the normal forces associated with having my bike tipped over.

Wrangler Narrows

Sunday was also the day that we went through the Wrangler Narrows-- a narrow channel that the boat has to manuever very very carefully through. At low tide the water gets as low as 19' deep. Our boat was huge too, there were places where I could have thrown something from the deck and hit the shore. And I can't throw very far. I was certainly impressed with the steering abilities of our captain.

At 4:45am we docked in Juneau (we also stopped in Ketchikan, Wrangler, Petersburg on the way up) and I packed up and drove my subaru off and then went back onto the boat to make my breakfast.

Riding the ferry was a pretty sweet experience. I would recommend it. I would also try to get a stateroom, but they are in high demand and you have to reserve one way early. The ferry had a small theater with nice reclining chairs where they showed movies almost continuously all day. Most of the movies were kids movies. There were also short presentations on the surrounding area by a forest service person. We were on the inside passage so there was always coastline to look at. There was a cafeteria where I did not buy any food but where I did use the microwave to cook my food and did also use their condiments and spices. And lots of people hanging out and being friendly. The next leg of the journey might be a little rougher because we will be out in the open sea going from Juneau to Whittier.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

So you shave your legs

Based completely on limited personal observation and complete fabrication, here's my analysis of what different leg shaving practices by male cyclists signifies. (I will try to withhold judgment)

Behavior: What? I don't shave my legs.
Analysis: Obviously not a bike RACER, must just be a recreational rider. Or he's just starting to race but doesn't have any other friends yet who bike race so the peer pressure is all on the side of leaving the legs hairy. yuck. oops, yuck would probably qualify as a normative statement, sorry.

Behavior: Shaves from top of sock line to lower band of shorts.
Analysis: This is the guy that, while still very new to cycling, has noticed that everyone has freshly shaven legs. In fact, he's probably noticed that men's field seems to keep up better on their leg shaving than the women's field. Why is that? So, this guy's figured out that it's the norm for everyone to have shaved legs but he obviously hasn't crashed yet otherwise he would have shaved all the way up the outsides of his legs! Also this cyclist shaves due to peer pressure and not vanity, hence the furry cuff around the ankles.

Behavior: Shaves ankles, legs and outside of hips.
Analysis: Kudos for tackling the tricky ankle area-- that's sure to cause a lot of painful nicks to suffer through before you figure out how to maneuver the razor around the little ankle bones. As the most standard male shaving practice, this covers both vanity and practicality, removing hair from visible areas (even when wearing short socks or sandals) as well as removing hair from any area likely to get road rashed.

Behavior: Shaves feet, ankles, legs up to...?
Analysis: I agree that having shaved legs with hairy feet does look a little, well, odd in the flip-flop days of summertime so really shaving any foot hair off makes sense. And if you're going to shave the hair of the top of your foot, better make sure you get any hair on your big toe too. This cyclist probably doesn't have a job or he would be too busy to contemplate whether or not to shave his feet. He also probably doesn't live or even interact very much with non cyclists otherwise he'd be teased out of such excessive shaving. This cyclists shaves more for the look and feel of freshly shaven legs than for any practical purposes.

Now I am leaving on the ferryboat for AK and there certainly won't be any leg shaving until I get there. Probably no more blogs until Thursday either. I will, therefore, leave you with a challenge. If you can exactly guess how many sit-ups, push-ups, OR minutes on my trainer that I complete on the ferry, I'll... I'll make and send you some cookies. (I was going to say that I'd send you an autographed picture of myself but I didn't think that I could tempt anyone into guessing with such a paltry prize!)
sit-ups: ?
push-ups: ?
trainer time: ?

Hot or Not?

I've always heard my (cyclist) guy friends talk about having veins popping out of their legs like it's a good thing. I've always thought that having veins popping out anywhere was disgusting and in no way desirable or attractive. I don't look at the back of my knees very often, but I looked the other day and noticed a much-too-noticeable vein running up the back of my left knee. Yuck. While it's not actually, tangibly popping out yet, it is visibly BLUE and I'm not a smurf- I don't want blue skin. Momentarily reassured by the memory of a bunch of cycling dudes standing around flexing their legs and trying to get their veins to pop out, I thought that there might be hope and, despite what I personally think, blue veins pumping visibly under the skin might generally be regarded as desirable.

So I asked.

It was clarified: scrawny, tough, fast cyclists typically have popped-out veins so it's associated with being fast. Therefore desirable in bike racers. So far, so good. Then came the blow- my friend was shocked that I even asked about GIRLS having vein-y legs and seemed utterly repulsed by the mere thought. I was too chagrined to push the subject further than his initial repugnance.

So what do you think? If you see a male athlete with surface veins is it intimidating? If you see a female athlete with surface veins is it repulsive?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Farewell, Wenatchee

Okay, I'm outta here. I am slightly worried about my lemon tree. I hope someone waters it while I'm gone and brings it inside when it starts to get cold in the fall. I'm also sad that I'm missing all of the harvests this summer and fall. The cherries are starting to look like they're getting ready to ripen and there's nothing like Wenatchee Valley cherries. Or our pears. Or our apples. Sad I won't be here for all of the picked-ripe-from-the-tree fruit.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


It's getting about time to get out of here. Wednesday I'll go to Seattle for a couple days before hoping on the ferry Saturday morning. Wednesday is tomorrow, which means that today would be a good day to get most of my packing done! I feel like I'm about to head off on an extended backpacking adventure. This feeling makes no sense at all because Anchorage is at least ten times more populated than any place I've ever lived before. But who said feelings had to make sense?

Monday, June 04, 2007


I spent the weekend in Seattle with my family. That wasn't the nightmare. And we weren't actually in Seattle, but over there it's a different city every square mile so us East-siders clump them into only three cities: Bellingham, Seattle, and Portland, OR. The nightmare was going for a run on Sunday from my Grandparents house and thinking that I could run my way out of the city since I was going for two hours. Nope, it wasn't to be. There were roads and cars and houses and more roads and more cars and more houses. I'd cross one huge road and it would look like it might start to turn forest-y on the other side and then after half a mile there would be an even bigger road. It was like a bad dream where I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of suburbs and couldn't untangle myself from the mesh net of roads.

Another, less agonizing, bad dream-esque experience was this afternoon rollerskiing on The Loop Trail. I'm coming down a long gradual hill and there's a woman walking a small dog on the right side of the trail. I'm always wary of dogs, mostly because of the leash and because they are even more unpredictable than people. At first this encounter looked like it would be fine. Then the women veered across the path to walk on the far left side, leaving her dog on the far right, each of them almost off of the pavement on their opposite sides. I almost laughed because, if I hadn't been so very worldly and known about fancy retractable leashes, it looked like something from a dream where objects can magically change size at will because neither the dog nor the woman acknowledged that the space between them had changed or that they had moved apart. (Don't worry, thanks to the brilliance of verbal communication, I made it around woman and dog without having to jump the leash.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Time to move on

Life at home has gotten officially boring. At first the miracle of writing down whatever you want on the shopping list and then having it appear in the kitchen a few days later amazed me. Now I've come to accept it as standard procedure. And having a mom and/or dad to cook dinner at least and sometimes lunch and sometimes even breakfast for me has ceased to be a fantastic event. I've even started to take the dishwasher for granted. All this unexitement about things that were super exciting a month ago mean that it's time for my posh little vacation at home to be over and for me to move on to something else. Another week and I'll be headed up to AK!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Alternative Workout

I didn't go for the 1hr run on my training plan this morning. The training plan doesn't work out to be so much of a set of laws as a series of recommendations. Especially when I am at home and it makes sense to alter the training plan a little to get to do more activities with my family.

Today's alternative workout was stacking wood with my dad. My dad was into using a wheel barrow to most efficiently transport the rounds. I was into hucking them as far as I could towards the piling site. My way was more fun but also harder (actually, maybe that's because it was harder). I got tired. So then I agreed to wheelbarrow the rounds that I did not want to lift and throw five feet only to lift and throw five feet five more times. Don't worry, I made sure to alternate which side I threw from to get an even workout! And in the end we had a full woodshed and a nice wall of rounds 10' wide and 8' tall (for the last few rows the stacking mechanism is I throw the rounds to my dad and he places them since I can't reach anymore).

I forgot my camera otherwise I would provide you a picture of the beautifully stacked wood. To mitigate that here is a photo outside of where I will be living in Anchorage courtesy of Sally Burkholder!

"This week the apartment comes with a baby moose out the window..." -Sally Burkholder

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