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.