Monday, June 8, 2015

Deluge

The blades on the 20 meter tall wind turbine spun faster and faster, cutting into the air as the southern winds raced towards Lake Michigan just down the road. Volunteers at the race expo doubled their efforts to keep their sponsored tents pegged to the ground. Anxious age-group athletes huddled under the amphitheater's overhang watching the first drip drops from the dark clouds fall on their bikes already racked in the transition area. American flags lining the running paths in all directions flew straight and stiff as the first place finisher of the Armed Forces Championship sailed toward the finish line...


I first applied for the All Army Triathlon team at the beginning of last year. With little more than a decent cycling resume and outdated race results from my Auburn Triathlon days, my creds weren't up to the standard. After a year of getting coached, refocusing on tri, and several solid finishes within the state, they brought me on board for this year's Championship.


For the first time I think ever, our race was done in conjunction with a civilian race. Leon's Triathlon in Hammond, Indiana, just southeast of Chicago, has been running for something like 30 years and the man behind it is something of a local legend among the sport. As it so happened, my coach knows him as well and was able to feed me and the team a lot of information about the race.


It was my first draft legal multisport event, and a lot like my first (and second and third...) road race, I learned a lot about this style of racing very quickly. From the time my plane landed in Midway Airport to the morning of the race, I had all sorts of knots and anxious excitement in my stomach keeping me awake at night and twitchy during the day. All the athletes stayed in the same hotel so as I watched all these other competitors walking in with their fancy gear and matching jackets, I was starting to realize the quality of my competition.


There were five teams in total: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and this year, the Canadian military team came down and competed with us as well. I wasn't totally sure just how fast the field was, but I felt like a house cat in a field of lions at times. Never before a race did I have to employ proactive positive self-talk to calm myself down. I can only imagine what it's like for Olympians the days leading up to the games.


I had the privilege to swim, bike, and run with some of the people I identify most with on the days leading up to the race. My teammates were from all over the place in all sorts of specialties, as you would expect for an event like this; we had Apache pilots, med students, SF, National Guardsmen, and deep water divers to mention a few. There's only one event in the world that would bring us together like this and to compete at this field was really something special; this race will go down as a huge highlight of my career.


On Saturday, we took one last trip to the race venue to get in an open water swim along the course. The sun was shining, the breeze was pleasant, and the temperature agreeable. After working out some nerves splashing around in the open water, we headed back to the hotel and discussed race strategy. There are so many different ways a race like this could go down and your swim time is crucial so you can get in a bike pack you can draft with.


The night before the race, we had a dinner at the country club just across the road for the race venue. All the teams were there along with Leon himself and a few other race officials. My coach was nice enough to make the drive down and meet with me and the team. Without spending more time there than we needed, we got back to the hotel for one last bit of rest before dawn.


...The forecast was looking rough even five days out. I watched it like a hawk and was mentally preparing for contingencies. Would the swim get cancelled? Would we have to postpone? I did my best not to worry, not to think too much about it, but that proved difficult. After less than seven hours of sleep, race morning came early. We rolled out at 0540. The roads were dry, so far.


The transition area was about as close to the water exit as you could possibly get. This was going to be a fast race. Body makings, fresh air in the tires, helmet here, shoes there, rubber bands on the bike shoes, race belt, all the usual procedures. There's something calming, centering about going through the process to set up transition. After an hour, all the military athletes walked over to the stage for one of the most patriotic prerace ceremonies I've ever seen. The Canadian and American national anthems were sung, huge American flags were planted all around the venue, veterans of all sorts of America's wars were in attendance and every last Harley-Davidson flew the stars and strips and POW/MIA flags from their saddle bags. God Bless America.


Wetsuits on, we walked down to the pier. I got many reassurances from my coach and got in the water.


The gun went off then chaos ensued. Bubbles, murky water, splashing everywhere, feet on my face, face on my feet, the first buoy passed. So far, so good. I was feeling smooth. The nerves were gone and I felt calm. I've done this before, so many times before. I have nothing to worry about; the race is on. I relentlessly prepare for the race itself but spend no time preparing for the anticipation beforehand.


I zig-zagged a time or two but made it out of the water in time to join the second bike pack. My favorite bike was under my hands and feet and a group of five or six quickly formed up as we made our way through some roundabouts then out to the closed highway. After just a few kilometers, were formed a pack of eight as we caught a handful of loners. One fellow Army teammate joined me along with three Air Force, two Navy, and a Maple Leaf. The course was four loops of a 10k route, headwind one way, speedy tailwind the other. Whether unwilling, unable or a combination of both, the Navy team members refused to pull and when they were out front, killed our speed. We started out within a minute of the lead group. Nick Chase (AF), Nate Dressel (ARMY), myself and the Canadian took turns pulling hard. We had to make decisions: pull hard and catch up with those guys, maintain speed, saving a little energy, and try and catch them on the run, or force all eight members of our group to pull and risk losing time.  We could see that lead group on the turns and we gained on them at first but as we got tired and our wheel suckers proved to be dead weight,we just fought to maintain speed. I could tell they were struggling to keep up with some of our pulls and at the very least, I took pleasure in knowing that even in my draft they were suffering.


39k passed and we turned back into the access road. The sky grew dark and the wind whipped now this way and that. "It's gonna be a wet run, boys!"


Dismount, bike here, helmet off"STOP!" I was a bit dazed but kept going for my helmet strap. "STOP!" I froze. "You left your wetsuit outside the box." 15 second penalty. The thought went through my mind to place my wetsuit back inside our boxes but that thought never took action in the heat of the race. 15 seconds felt like 10 minutes. "OK." And I was outta there, my transition time still respectable even with the penalty. After looking at the results later, I would have had the fastest transition time of the day had I not been penalized.


It was like my very first footfall outside T2 matched the very first drip from the sky. As I exited, Graham was right there. "Time for the 10k of your life!" I passed a few guys quickly and my first mile was going well. 5:54. Then my quads reminded me what happens when you put out 400 watts at a time on the bike when you pull like that. I started to fade and the rain only got worse. It wasn't long before we were splashing through small puddles, then big puddles. Nick Chase past me around mile 1.5. I didn't feel too bad about it, though. He races in the pro field and it took him until just now to pass me. I could be doing worse.


I hit the mile two aid station and grabbed a cup of water to splash on my throat. Unnecessary, really, because now it was pouring. I could have just looked up with gaping maw. Then the suffering set in, that part of the race you try to forget about later. I wasn't gaining much time and at one point I just stopped looking at my splits on my Garmin. I knew I was running slow but I was hurting. I was pulling out every motivational mantra I could recite. What counts in battle is what you do when the pain sets in. Oh, yes, it had set it. Embrace the peaks, endure the troughs for both shall pass. I was certainly deep in a trough. Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Remember all those stories about Navy Seals and Green Berets! It hurts so much.


Within a mile of the finish, a Navy runner passed me. He wasn't that far ahead but my afterburners were all burnt out. He had me. Between waving flags, I could see the line at long last. I crossed in an hour, 58:58, enough to place 17th out of 58 servicemen and women finishers and third on my team.


After the line, I stood in the rain, reeling from the effort. Good ol' Graham was there, smile on his face shaking my hand.


If you want to be the best you have to beat the best and at this year's Championship, I was happy with my race but far from completely satisfied. I'm not sure how much faster I could have been if I hadn't hammered as much on the bike or maybe did a few more intervals in the pool or whatever, but, for now, I can rest knowing I had just competed among the very best of the military and came out in the top 50%.


I think it's going to be a good season. 


To Victoria!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I might be fast

Glacial dust was all I could see. The ATV's ahead of me ran across a particularly dusty portion of riverbed and kicked up remains from what used to be rock long ago and since ground to powder by the centuries-old frozen monoliths. I eased my quad a little to the right to avoid it, no doubt causing the same problem for the guy behind me. Eventually, the dust settled and our way ahead widened, yielding views of the magnificent valley hewed from the earth ages ago by the Kink Glacier. On our left, we spotted a few mountain goats on the side of a rocky slope. To our right, the Kink River.

After some 25 miles of riding, our engines came to a halt and the only thing we could hear was the occasional crrrracking of a massive piece of ice somewhere in the distance. The Kink Glacier is a vast piece of nature, spanning your entire field of vision, almost other worldly looking.

At one point, a Black Hawk flew by fast and low, a red cross on its side, making its way back to the airfield some 50 miles away. We mounted up and headed back, stopping on occasion to snap some pictures of  a beaver dam and our mountain goat friends that had made their way down to our level to say hello. By day's end, my fellow Engineer officers and I had huge smiles across our dust-coated faces and our three day professional development had finished up.

The weekend prior, Kinsey and I drove down to Anchorage so she could meet up with her parents and race in Alaska's biggest triathlon. On Saturday before the race, I had arranged a group ride with a couple other members of USMES and we spun for an hour, getting to know new teammates and scheming about future races and rides.

The Gold Nugget Tri was on Sunday and Kinsey tore the race apart. Seeing how much she trains and the effort she puts into each training session, it wasn't too big a surprise, though I'm very biased. Spectating the race was kinda nice, but it sure got my own adrenaline going. I had to go ride some big hills later that day to, uh, relieve myself.

My race season this year is strikingly different from other seasons. During my training camp in Tucson last year, I made the decision that I was going to get fast, or, at least, faster than I currently was. Not just generally fast, but fast for one particular distance. I wanted to get as close to professional racing as my body could handle. I hired a coach, got a TT bike, and entered as many races as I could, leading up to age group nationals in Milwaukee last August. As it so happened, that was just the start of my advancement in tri. I qualified for ITU Worlds and decided I wanted to try and get on the All Army Sports team as well. I applied for that team last year but didn't quite have the creds. This year, I guess not as many people sent in their applications but I somehow made it.

The season opener was a local sprint distance. Though going through the motions was beneficial, I wasn't on top of my game that day. My numbers were low and splits inconsistent. The run wasn't bad but I knew I had more. I spent too much energy the day before on an "easy" ride, that's for sure. I've done a few other tune up races as well that went reasonably well including a 5k, a short Time Trial and a very hilly 10k trial race but I really haven't pitted myself against my real competition, all either in Anchorage or the lower 48. In training, my power numbers are steadily getting higher and I'm figuring out a few more things in the water that have really helped with a few of my test intervals. To be honest, I'm swimming faster than I think I ever have, but Fairbanks, being what it is, doesn't afford me many opportunities to go head to head with the best. There are some strong guys up here that I chase in bike races and runs, but the tri field is sparse. In just two weeks, though, the gates will fly open to kick off the season in earnest when I go against the military's best at the "World's Fastest Triathlon" a.k.a. Leon's Triathlon in Chicago. It will be my first ever draft legal tri. While I'm quite excited to use my criterium skills in a race, I'm a little anxious doing that alongside triathletes that, by and large, do not have that experience. I guess that means I'll just have to swim fast to get out ahead.

Next week, I'm throwing my name in the hat for the Army 10 miler team. This Friday I'll be racing the qualifier race on post locally. The top 12 or so runners are selected to be on the US Army Alaska (USARAK) team and get a four day Temporary Duty in D.C. to participate against every other Army team at one huge event. I'm very curious to see what kind of pace I can hold since I've never done that distance for time before but I think my odds are pretty good. Thank the Lord, I've been running healthy without injury ever since I recovered from that broken leg. I still can't believe that happened. Most days, I forgot it did. 

The week after Leon's, I'll be down in Victoria, BC doing my first ever Ironman brand event at the Victoria 70.3. This one might qualify as my first major racecation. Kinsey will head down there while I'm playing with the Military boys in Chicago and I'll join her later the next Friday. It's been 10 months since I got to explore a new city and I've never actually been to America's Hat before so between the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, a spectacular Ironman venue, and time with my parents and brother and sister-in-law, this might rank up there as one of the best racecations ever. Also, the day after Victoria, Kinsey and I have another fun event, I guess, but that's another blog post.

The schedule hardly slows down after we get back from Canada. We're planning on doing the biggest Fondo type race in the state, the Fireweed 400, the Sourdough 70.3 and others. There's always the chance that Kinsey and I could qualify for the half-iron world championships in Austria later in August but I'm not counting chickens.

Next stop, the Windy City!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Shift

It is said patience is a virtue but it is rarely said how difficult a virtue it is to attain and what one must go through in order to really understand and appreciate it.

The Army is undergoing a huge reorganization once again; my job has been in a weird limbo state for some time. With the love of my life 350 miles north, I've been trying to find a way to take advantage of this reorganization so I might get to be with her. It seemed like a long shot but after less than two months after we met, I did my best to get myself up there, somehow.

On 24 July, I started my inquiries about a job in Fairbanks. I figured my odds would be at least greater than zero; not many souls willfully move to one of North America's coldest cities. E-mails flew back and forth; the deliberation was ongoing for months after months. Anticipating a new answer every day, I waited and waited. It seemed like I found out a new piece of information each week but still wasn't making much process. I reached out to the District Deputy Commander of the Corps of Engineers and eventually got to interview with him in November. Turns out, they had a slot for me to fill. My then current chain of command was reluctant to let me go until later in February. Getting orders was about as easy as getting a grizzly to let go of his salmon. Things really did come down to the wire. To frustrate things even further, I was about to leave for the USMES training camp in Tucson and still didn't have orders by then.

* * *

I was homeless for five weeks this year. Planning on an imminent Permanent Change of Station from Ft Richardson to Ft Wainwright, I packed my things and gave my 30 day notice as soon as I felt comfortable. The Skinners, a family from my small group, was kind enough to host me for something like two and a half weeks while I waited on orders to come through. The extra time to sleep and train wasn't so bad but most days were more frustrating that not. When the time finally came, I cleared out of Anchorage in record time and headed north. My plane to USMES training camp would leave from Fairbanks two days after my departure from Anchorage.

For 2015, the hard working staff on our growing endurance sports team put together three different camps into one week of training and I elected to participate with the triathlon folk this time around. Every day brought a new challenge and my skin soaked up as much sun as it could take in. We ran along desert trails, rode all day and ate all afternoon, swam in a surprisingly cold desert lake not far from the Mexico boarder, and had to opportunity to attend several great lectures on training and racing. In the middle of the week, we had the chance to swim in the  University of Arizona pool. Lined with palm trees under the bright blue sky, swimming there felt downright magical. I hadn't swam in an outdoor pool since camp last year.

I learned a lot at camp and enjoyed taking time to get to know other team members I would have never had the chance to living in Alaska. I'm very optimistic about this season. While I only have a handful of races on the calendar, the level of competition is higher than I've ever competed at before. I recently found out that the All Army Sports Triathlon team found it reasonable to take me to the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship in Chicago this June to compete among the best in the US Military. It will be the first draft legal race I've ever done but I'm really looking forward to putting my road riding skills up against all the tri geeks there. If, somehow, I place well enough at that event, there's a small chance I could also get selected to go to the international military games in Korea this October. These games only happen once ever four years so it would be quite the opportunity, but I'm not holding my breath just yet.

My other big race the year is the ITU World championships that, as it turns out, is also in Chicago. Between those races, I'm going to do as many tris in Alaska that I can. There is a series of races in the summer here in Fairbanks that I was very competitive at last year and I plan on doing those again. Also on the calendar is my first ever IRONMAN brand event in Victoria. It's a week after the Armed Forces Championships so June is going to be a very full month of racing. There will be a bunch of Alaska friends meeting me and Kinsey down there so it could very well be the most fun I've had at a race.

Now that I'm somewhat settled in to the Golden Heart of Alaska, I'm excited to get in some good training here over our very short summer. The riding here, as far as I'm concerned, is a step above anything Anchorage had to offer. Less traffic and more roads are always a good combination in my book. Now if it could just stop snowing in the middle of April, that'd be great...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Acceleration

December came quickly this year. The paradox of slow days and fast months continued since last I wrote. Days in the office come and go, each week seeming to blend in to the next while I do basic tasks occasionally punctuated by a three or four day weekend. The Soldiers are generally on good behavior, I've had a decent amount of free time, and I'm never asked to accomplish a task too large to handle so I have a lot to be appreciative of on that front. Now that the Holidays have arrived, I can finally gather my thoughts while I prepare for yet another year of change and adaptation.

Sitting here the night before Christmas, I foresee several options for my road ahead. The only thing that I'm sure of is that something is about to change.

I've been a rear detachment commander ever since I got back from Age Group Nationals in August. I got a phone call while I sat in the San Fransisco Airport, en route to Anchorage, from my then Commander. "I have a new mission for you." See, just a week ago (early August), I was promoted to First Lieutenant in the United States Army and around the same time, I made it known that I wanted to move to Fairbanks, AK to be stationed at Ft. Wainwright. As it so happened, I had met the most stunning, attractive, kind [insert every other adjective someone in love would say about their loved one] person back in June at the Eagle River Triathlon. She lives up there now in her newly built home. Turns out, this option worked in my favor as my job opportunities weren't looking good in Anchorage. That is, the demand for Engineer Officers on JBER were becoming more and more limited. My new "mission" would basically put me in a position that set me up for a potential move toward the beginning of the year. Well, the beginning of the year is one week away...

By February, my job will end; if I had done nothing to pursue a job elsewhere, the Army would almost certainly curtail me to who-knows-where lower 48 and that would be a bummer. I had an interview with a Lieutenant Colonel about seven weeks ago about a job as a project manager with the United States Army Corps of Engineers in Fairbanks. The interview went as well as I could have hoped and ever since then, he's been patiently waiting to hear from the military Human Resource Command, the ultimate authority on moves, about a transfer. This has taken a long time.

By now, 24 December 2014 at 1910, I see three roads ahead, listed as most desirable to least:

1) After the first business day of the year, the civilians at HRC decide they want to get some work done on my behalf and approve a move for me and my orders are cut thereafter. I would report to Ft. Wainwright as soon as 15 January.

2) Deliberation continues but I eventually get approved and I PCS around mid February when my current job would expire anyway.

3)  Despite all my efforts and common sense, the Army disapproves a move and I get curtailed sometime around mid February to late March.

Whatever the case, I'm gonna have to start packing soon.

***

My racing portfolio today looks entirely different from this time last year. Before 1 June, it had been something like a year and a half since my last tri. I took great pleasure in bike racing and pursued that outlet wholeheartedly as my body quickly made powerful adaptations to the new sport. During my training camp, though, I had a few conversations that led me to change my focus. I've been pouring my heart and soul into triathlon since then and even went as far as hiring a coach to help me reach my lofty goals. I even got to meet him face to face after my solid performance in Milwaukee.

I competed in five USAT events and placed well enough to land a spot in the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Championships in Chicago next fall. It sounds way cooler and elite than it is; I'm not racing at a professional level or getting sponsored to go or anything, but it is the highest level I could ever hope to compete at considering my situation. Until then, at the very least, I have an ultimate goal for each and every training session I endure.

As the new year quickly approaches, my future shroud in a veil of uncertainty, I can at least take the next few days to reflect, unwind, and go on some epic fat biking adventures. I just hope this time next year I can do these things with a special someone by my side.

See y'all in 2015.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dark Horse

Wispy, white clouds fingered through the Chugach mountain range, making their last ditch, frozen deposits onto the hilltops before spring finally gave way to summer this 31st of May. Despite the previous three weeks of fantastic, clear blue skies, the precipitation was having its way this weekend.

It had been over a year and a half since last I competed in any sort of multi-sport event. For whatever reason, I decided to focus on cycling for a while and got terribly distracted from the type of racing I somehow seem to do very well in.

The Anchorage community makes the most of its summers and racing is certainly not least of those activities so many people dive into.

When I pulled up at 0605, I was expecting to be fighting for a good parking spot; surely every other racer has that mindset of arriving at the transition area asap and setting everything up just right. Turns out, all of 3 people think that way up here. When I noticed the transition area void of racks, I asked my fellow early riser if they hadn't put them up yet. "Well, this is a...BYOR event." I stared at him, incredulous. He nodded, "yup." To my great fortune, one of the volunteers had an extra one, bless her. Crisis averted, I got my brand new TT bike all set up and ready to go, going through motions long removed, but well remembered.

With a forecast of rain and sadness, the pool swim got underway around 0800. With only six lanes and a field of at least 350 racers, there was a lot of standing around waiting for a lane. Those seeded in the first wave, my competition for the day, had finished the race by the time I even got wet. I was later told those individuals watched the chip-timing screens eagerly watching my splits.

 3, 2, 1...the race I had spent the last five months or so preparing for was underway. I tried not to think of it like that but here I was, testing my mettle against some of the best Triathletes in the state. 500 yards later, I ripped off my goggles and swim cap and made for the doorway to the 45 degree drizzle to T1. I couldn't have chosen a better spot for my bike in the transition area. It allowed me quick access to both the bike start and finish so I would have minimal time pushing around my newly acquired steed. Two days removed from a fresh fitting and only about 90 minutes of training time on my new TT bike, I mounted and rode away whilst old, well worn memories of transitioning flashed back.

 With no fewer than 22 ninety-degree turns, the ride course today was very technical by any race standards, not to mention 850 feet of climbing and moist roads. Still, with my new speed machine and amazing Zipp 808's, I flew through the ride averaging over 23 mph. The run, ironically, was the one screw ball in the race. With a nagging pain in my left achilles, my run training has gone by the wayside a bit over the last several months. I determined I would fall back on my running background and focus on swimming and riding while it healed up.

The run was easily the hardest part of the race. In the past, I savored the run, couldn't wait to get back to my forte, passing, passing, crushing the competition with my running...shall we say, prowess; alas, I was beset with wretched abdominal cramps (no doubt due to all that core work I did last week during four days of army combatives) and was just barely able to hold on to a 6-minute pace for the most part. Hilly though it was, I managed to navigate the 5k course in a good enough time to knock off the previous third place finisher. But wait, a podium finish? My first race back in so long!? I was STOKED! In the last few months, I was getting worried that my training and racing regime was slowly loosing that spark that burned so fiercely in my college days. Today, though, there wasn't nearly enough rain to put it out.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tanning Bed

Kincaid Park was full of the usual crowd. It was a warm, 25 degree March day under the unveiled Alaska sun. The top layer of snow was slowing yielding to the rising ambient temperatures making my ski session a little dicey at times. Most of the trail was still well-groomed, though, and 12k went by pretty quickly. As I unclipped and made my way back to my car, a 737 flew just overhead, taking off from Ted Stevens a few miles away, just like I'd be doing the next evening.


As soon as I saw that first Joshua tree and the warm, Arizona breeze hugged my body with a happy welcome, I couldn't wait to get my bike back out and enjoy some long, long overdue time in the saddle on roads far away from the likes of ice and snow.


The US Military Endurance Sports team has been growing quickly over the last 12 months and this year's training camp brought us to the southwest, to the land of cactus and sand. After a meeting Sunday evening, the 60 or so riders hailing from all over the country made their way to the DoubleTree's spacious hotel rooms in an attempt to adjust to the new time zone. I'd only ever known one other team member since joining over a year ago so I was very happy to have the chance to finally mingle in a medium other than facebook.


There would be four groups riding the loop today and after some deliberation, I opted for the A group. If for no other reason, the B group was leaving at 9:30 instead of 10 and I didn't feel like waiting an extra half hour, so...


Once we navigated over some sun-baked neighborhood roads, we made our way out of town and headed west. The day's route was flat and fast, a chance to make sure our steeds were ready and able to roll after all that travel before heading to the hills later this week. Knowing I'd have some adjustments to make in my nutrition compared with riding on snow, I had to make a concerted effort to drink plenty and often. The follow car was a huge help, replete with water and Honey Stinger products.


After some mildly rolling terrain, we passed over I-17 and cruised on long flat roads, taking turns defying headwinds, desert mountains far off to the front and sides. We refueled once more at a gas station before crossing I-10 and heading north for home. Miles passed quickly by and we were back at the hotel in a quick 3.5 hours.


My pale, arctic skin, white as the snow I left behind, ended up not faring too well under this sun. After a cool splash in the pool, I noticed I had definitely missed some spots with my spf 50, but maybe the burn was a long time coming anyway.


Bring on the hills.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Training in a Box

Ripples of rosy red light reflect off the low hanging clouds announcing the late arrival of the winter sun, still hiding behind the Chugach mountains, reluctant as ever to let its beams fall fully on the valley beyond. Despite this, the temperatures have been consistently warm for the past several days for the first time this season. The full clouds, untouched by below freezing temperatures, had the audacity to drop rain on our arctic city in the middle of January. Our nicely packed snowy trails got dampened by unwelcome, unfrozen precipitation. Many were ruined for the time being, at least until the weather starts to act a little more like it's supposed to this time of year. Still, the coldest month is yet ahead and I imagine it won't be long before another whiteout takes care of those slick trails.

It's been a little over two months since the last time I enjoyed a ride on my skinny wheels upon unfrozen roads. Though it seems like a lot longer, there are many nights I dream of spending a day in the open sunlight on two wheels, deciding my route at each intersection. My big ol' gnarly snow bike has been a fun distraction a few times a week and I'm quickly learning that my local fat bike friends live for this season and would like nothing more than to play in the snow year 'round. As fortunate as I've been to be sent here, this is one of the reasons I don't think I could ever settle down in the Far North.

Today, though, riding outdoors wasn't an option at all, seeing as how practically everything was covered in icy death. I needed to get outside, though. As much as I enjoy my four day weekends, I often find myself spending most of them alone in this long, dark dark winter. Friday night small group was cancelled due to weather, no one was going out to watch football and I didn't want to watch NFL by myself. I've had my training to keep me sane and my two wheeled steads to keep me company (which I think sums up why I'm single). I've found ways to make myself hurt, sweat, and suffer in my little pain cave on my turbo trainer, but today, I wanted out. It was time for another long run, a thing not too often marked down in my training log these days. With a good pair of YakTraks on my trail shoes, I should be fine. At 33 degrees, it wasn't exactly a day to bundle; two layers on top and my shortest, short shorts I have. Maybe I could get a little vitamin D out of the ordeal.

I hadn't been out on my normal fat biking routes since the freezing rain and I wanted to see if they would be ridable. To confirm my suspicions, they were still pretty slick and didn't seem worth riding on, at least if I wanted to get an actual workout in. With spikes on my shoes, I actually fared decently, though I later realized it took a toll on my right knee. cop pok, cop pok. Footprints from countless dog walkers made days ago were frozen solid along the Chester Creek Trail, and considering how it was all the same hue of grayish white, texture was often difficult to determine until after each foot strike.

The trails continued to wind through neighborhoods and by the time I started back toward home, the sun finally produced some rays, spearing through the snow-covered evergreens as I progressed along the shore of a white pond. The plight of the rainforest shrubbery came to mind; with a canopy above, little beams of photons were cherished and hard to come by, yet they make due, they thrive. I can only imagine how my complexion looks against my Southern counterparts.

My run completed, I was quite satisfied with the pace I was able to maintain given the conditions. Having said that, it's very difficult at this juncture to really tell how I'm doing, relative to my competition, anyway. I have my data, I have my training plans but I haven't really raced in months. I just like to think that this is like the time where young Leonidas ventures up into the mountains to undergo his final testings, left alone in the cold, before he makes his kill and returns a king...

 After a soothing, warm shower, I opened my inbox to find an update from the local cycling club. The race calendar for the summer has been posted. With hill climb series, centuries, stage races, and Wednesday night classics, it's quite a line up. I open up a live stream of UCI's first event of the year, the Tour Down Under, and picture all the races I'll get to crush...er, get to participate in over the coming months. With as long a break as Alaska requires me to take, the racing season is gonna be that much the sweater, and with my new, beautiful Italian dream bike sitting in my living room, it's gonna be the fastest year yet.