This time of year is a small scsle version of the bipolar craziness that comes with living in Alaska. Daylight is now darkness that gets worse with daylight savings time. We get cold then we get warm. Then we get warmer, then we get freezing rain. That turns to snow then rain and suddenly we have two inches of fluff on the ground.
You saw it in the last vid. I swore it was here. But now its not.
The ground was still frozen, so Java and I headed out to Tanana Lakes for a ride on the island trail. In the winter this trail is buried under snow and only accessible by canoe or paddleboard in summer. There are only a few short weeks in the spring and fall when the ground is hard and dry enough to walk, run, or bike to it.
Today we biked. Here’s Java’s tour of the island trail:
We have gotten 5 or 6 inches of snow since this ride. And it’s staying. Most likely our next video will highlight our new riding spot now that we’ve moved to Ester– Standard Creek.
November 1 is the opening of The White Mountains 100 lottery. Not sure if I’ll sign up. After 3 consecutive years racing the course, and last year’s craziness with the Susitna 100 and it’s 10 inch snowfall, I’m not so motivated. It sounds nice just to ride without a goal though goals frequently make me ride more.
Of course it snowed today just as I finished the video of our neighborhood ride where you can clearly see how much the snow has melted. The last couple weeks have been totally whacked as the power steering went out on the Ford Fusion. We hustled to get a replacement 4WD used Jeep Compass only to find out it didn’t have a hitch. So Java and I haven’t ridden outside much while we waited for it to arrive. But we did manage to get in one ride around the neighborhood. Java loves it out here. I’m still struggling to adjust, and considering all the other stuff that has happened like the Jeep locking me out of the vehicle after I turned on the car and shut the door, it’s gonna be awhile before I’m as happy to be up here as she is.
So enough of my moping and enjoy this video of my happy dog running around our new neighborhood.
The hitch arrived yesterday and is now on the Jeep with a bike rack. I swam a 3,000-yard ePostal last night after running with Java and her crew at Tanana Lakes. A bit tired today. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to ride by tomorrow.
There’s a benefit of living in ‘The Hillz’– we get winter first.
And while most people are all ‘Eww, winter‘. Java and I are ‘Amen, it’s winter.’
Done are the 90 degree days. Done are the mandatory 5am runs as we try to outpace the rising thermometer. Done are the sleepless nights brought on from around the clock daylight. Welcome the lower temperatures that are more comfortable to ride in. Welcome the soften ground that hurts a lot less when you fall off your bike. Welcome are the full nights sleep because it is dark almost all day and night.
Okay, so yeah. Seasonal Affective Disorder sucks. And the closer we get the Christmas, the worse it gets because I know we are winding down to a mere 3hrs,45mins of daylight. I usually end up on the floor in a pool of tears babbling about how much I hate eating chicken or some nonsense like that. And yeah, so I have to wear/pack more gear when I ride, but it is better than feeling like there is nothing you can do except pass out from heat exhaustion. Winter Riding is my thing.
Java and I only rode a few times last month since the rainy season makes for a rut gutted slog. Down in the City of Fairbanks there are patches of snow and some wet stuff that might freeze at night. I remember having to delay my fat biking season when I lived in town because the snow was too thin to set up the winter trail system that doesn’t exist in the summer. But living 11 miles out of town in Ester. We have snow. Rideable snow. It is awesome.
This morning we headed back down Standard Creek Road. The road is good minus a rut gutted portion early on. I don’t know if the road is maintained during the winter, but we just bought a used snowmachine so Felipe can break trails for Java and I to ride. My husband is actually pretty jazzed about this because it makes him feel involved in my training. For now, the roads are good and we will ride them until they aren’t. By then the winter trail system in The Hillz should be put in.
Snapped a quick pic of Java and the bike post-ride. I don’t carry my phone when I ride and I haven’t set up the GoPro yet on the fat bike. But since I haven’t posted much to Instagram lately, I got Java to hold a quick pose before she ran off to sniff more in the woods.
A few hours after posting, @banpaws asked us to DM them about Java modeling their products. Banpaws is a dog bandana, clothes, and accessories line, and they offered discount on their product and some profile promotion if we featured their stuff in our Instagram posts, etc. Java stays pretty warm down to 35 Below and doesn’t wear bandanas or dog clothes, so I thanked them for their offer. It cracked me up that someone wanted my dog to model. If Java were a human girl, I could just imagine what kind of ego boost that would bring on.
I have the HooDoo Half to “race” on Saturday, so we still won’t ride as much as I want. After that, run miles will decrease and the ride miles will rise. Hopefully, I will have the GoPro on the bike by then.
Well, this city girl did waaaaay more than walk a country mile, and it sure the hell ain’t summer anymore in Fairbanks, Alaska. Sunday morning, Java and I dropped down from our hillside home to Ester Gas only to be blasted by frickin’ cold as we started our run to Geist Road. Unfortunately, I was already grouchy and still tired from my race in Canada the weekend before. Java had also chewed one of my shoelaces to protest my decision to sleep in an hour. That didn’t do much to improve my mood either.
The late start to our morning run also put Java in rare form. With breakfast being delayed by hours, she suddenly lost her ability to hear commands. Given that we were running on the bike path, I had her leashed. That didn’t keep her from trying to pull me off the path into the woods or across the highway to chase whatever it was she smelled. When she didn’t get her way she decided to make frequent stops to sniff EVERYTHING. This irritated me since I was freezing! I knew I should have worn a coat.
Then there was the miscalculation.
Yeah, see I just intended on running 8 miles, maybe 9. I also intended to run to Geist Road. Little did I know that Geist Road is 5.12 miles away from Ester Gas. So yeah, I could have turned around at mile 4, which is at Sheep Creek Ext. Or 4.5 which is in sight of Geist Road. But once you’re invested in a goal, it seems such a shame to stop a measly 0.6 miles away.
And so, I turned around in a high wind zone where Java really, really wanted to stop every few feet to sniff grass, climbed uphill over a mile before I could descend into Ester and make my way back to Ester Gas. As soon as we hit the 10 mile mark I stopped and walked the rest of the way. I had surpassed my original goal and after having several conflicts with Java needed to take my own attitude down a notch, so she and I could enjoy the rest of the day.
So after piling on many “treats of gratitude” in her little green plastic bowl, she and I went to Gold Hill Express where they give dogs bacon instead of biscuits. I picked up coffee for Phil and I and then returned home for a huge breakfast all around. We spent the rest of the day packing the old house on College Road and getting it cleaned up for the new tenants to move in next month.
Are we allowed to say “Winter in Coming” without a bunch of weird Game of Thrones memes littering the comments area? Maybe it’s just better to end with some poppy tune that really says goodbye to the season:
I like girls that Wear Abercrombie and Fitch I’d take her if I had one wish But she’s been gone Since that summer Since that summer
Run the course of the Musk Ox Trail Run without actually racing. This course is hilly, slightly technical, and easy to get lost on if you aren’t paying attention. Plus the race insurance doesn’t allow dogs, and…
I needed to take Java somewhere for the afternoon so the guys could move the beds and couch to the new house.
The easiest way to accomplish all this was to pick up pin flags after the race was over. And what should have been a straightforward training run had some adventurous moments thrown in there.
First, was the iffy trail conditions. It had rained heavily the day before and so I expected the trail to be sloppy. On my own this wouldn’t be a problem; however, Java is a powerful 16 month old dog that we affectionately call “the huskador” because she likes to pull on her leash. And though she used to be so much worse, it is something she does when we run to get me to go faster, and not give up when I face something challenging like a really big hill. Unfortunately, when we are facing a really steep downhill with wet roots and mud, things can get dangerous. Only once did I lose footing on a root during the very steepest part of this race. And when Java heard me come to a halt in a crouched position she completely stopped. That didn’t stop her from trying to pull me, especially in the last two miles when I was completely tired.
Second, we had to deal with an aggressive dog with an owner that couldn’t control him, nor gave a real inclination that I should worry. Let me breakdown the conversation:
Her: Is your dog friendly?
Me: Yeah. She’s just a puppy.
Her: Well, my dog has the tendency to bring out the worse in other dogs.
Me: My dog just likes to play.
Her: Yeah. She won’t want to play after meeting my dog.
I barely think What? when her dog lunges at us, drags his owner across the trail to attack Java. Java yelps and I fall down the hill behind me as Java is trying to escape this dog. I have no idea if the owner even has a hold of the leash anymore and am fully ready to be bitten.
Eventually, we get out of reach of this crazy dog and the owner, who is sitting on the ground pulling her dog back to the trail. Java is sitting at my heels no blood and no sign of anxiety at this point. She is quiet and stoic as this lady apologizes. She then asks her dog why he is such a jerk. I don’t know how I managed to stay calm when I really wanted to ream her for not admonishing her dog’s behavior more.
She then told me that she was just going to sit there until we climbed out of the thorny brush ahead of her. I looked at all the stumps we had to climb over and told her that was not possible. We waited until she got up and got a down the trail. We climbed out and saw this dog trying to pull his owner back towards us.
From here on out Java is leery of every dog we meet on the trail. She does eventually warm up to another chocolate lab that we meet about a mile after the attack. I warn the owner about this crazy dog. He decides to go to the Secret Trail. Java and I make it to the turnaround point and begin to collect pin flags. We drop piles in several roadside areas and pick them up later.
If I were racing, I would probably finished the Musk Ox Trail Run in 2:45:00 or just a bit more. But picking up pin flags requires a lot of pausing, and we stopped a bit because of the dog attack and to let her play with the other Labrador. It was 3:39:00 before we made it back to the Musk Ox Farm where I finally got a photo of said beautiful animal. I thought Java might bark at it, but she was too preoccupied with food to care.
For the next couple of days I struggled to walk without grimacing. Java was running around the new house by 6pm that night. Oh to be young again…
Born in South Central Los Angeles, I am very comfortable with small yards, sidewalks, and views of my neighbor’s peeling sea green siding. I’ve grown up in all kinds of environments–from the undeveloped wilderness of Wasilla, Alaska in to the compact neighborhood of Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. I don’t believe good fences makes good neighbors, but an invitation to thieves who want to know what you’re hiding. Sure we had one minor break-in, and two thefts from our yard– a mere 3 incidents in 22 years.
So I hold my tongue when outer city people lament the difficulties of inner city living. Usually, they list crime, lack of privacy, and noise as the reason they would never live in the city. But I’ve lived on both sides of that inner-and-outer city coin. My neighbors knew more about my business despite an acre of surrounding land; I had stuff stolen by people invited into my home; and, once a large dog yard sounds off, they most likely won’t stop for a while.
Off my pulpit. I’m about to move 12 miles out of town to the community of Ester, Alaska, affectionately referred to as the Republic of Ester. The house is big. The dog yard is big. We have an acre and a half of undeveloped land where I want to build a dirt running track. It’s a dream come true considering that my parents used to collect cans to buy my diapers. And believe me, I am grateful. It’s still had for a city girl to move so far away from all her activities. To learn a new set of trails. To develop new routines.
I envy Java. The moment I unlocked the door. She bum rushed her way through the garage and up the stairs. She investigated every level and hidden passageway. Then she went to the unfinished dog yard and hunted down old toys left by its previous occupants. She had such a good time investigating her new home that I almost feel bad for not being more excited about the move.
It will be a few more weeks before we have everything out of our old house. My parents are coming up next week to help me fix the dog yard and unpack the house. The kids will move into our College Road house. When I asked my son how he felt about moving back to the house that he grew up in, he responded, “Weird. But I’m accepting of it.”
In a lot of these posts, we feature pics from our favorite riding spot Tanana Lakes Recreation Area. It’s a fairly new park that is flat with a number of trails, a swim beach, and gun range. Before Java joined our family, I practiced my open water swims down at the beach. Later I joined my husband at the gun range. Now I mostly ride with Java . Funny how our use of an area evolves.
Recently, I started capturing video of places that Java and I ride and run. There are a lot of beautiful areas we go all year around with old friends and meet new people. Before I started hanging out with Java, I would run and ride well-known areas since I’m prone to getting lost. Now I am open to explore areas because the only thing worse than an unexercised dog, is a bored one.
Below is a minute long video from my ride with Java a week ago. It was a sunny morning between the smokey days, and there were so many people. This is just a clip from our 30 minute ride. Enjoy! And see you on the trails!!