Posted in Bikes, Dog Life, Fairbanks Cycle Club, Mountain Biking, Road Biking, Running, Summer Training, Trail Riding

A Pandemic Can’t Stop National Bike Month

The hardest part about training in 2020 is maintaining motivation. Group rides in Fairbanks are cancelled until June. Races are cancelled or have gone virtual like the Tour of Fairbanks, which is cool though I miss the competitive rush at the start line with the pack. A normal routine doesn’t exist no matter how hard I try to create one. Some days I want to abandon training all together.

Deep down I know the real struggle. I don’t do anything unless there’s a reason. I bike to get somewhere. I run to socialize. And I swim to escape the world.

There is no swimming since the pandemic. Sure our pools are open to a limited capacity, but you have to pre-register online, come already dressed to swim and leave wet because you can’t use the locker rooms. I haven’t run with my friends since my last major injury because I simply can’t keep up, and I can’t expect them to sacrifice the quality of their training. And the trails are still soft, so Java and I stick to our neighborhood dirt road. I have added road biking in the mix. Biking the Old Nenana Hwy that runs by our house is a 1,300-foot killer out and back.

I hate to admit the truth. I am not a competitive athlete. I’m not even an enthusiast. I’m a commuter who feels lost because there is nowhere to commute. Since I hate uselessly burning gas, I tie all my errands into the workday, mostly after I take Java to the dog park. I occasionally workout in the evenings, but not like I used to when I lived 2 minutes from the office and right next to a bird refuge with trails. Now I drive twenty minutes, which is mentally exhausting when half the people can’t at least drive the speed limit.

Most of my National Bike Month Miles come from morning rides with Java. However, I’ve started taking the road bike out for a couple climbs on a highway near our house.

Thankfully, 1 annual event in my life is not cancelled! I don’t even know how I first heard of National Bike Month. Maybe working at Goldstream Sports? Or when I took over as Fairbanks Cycle Club president? Either way, it is a reminder to get out and ride simply because I love biking.

National Bike Month simply celebrates cycling. The League of American Bicyclists established the event in 1956 to showcase the benefits of biking while encouraging new people to give it a try. The month usually includes Bike To Work Week, but that event has been moved to September when hopefully the pandemic eases and less people are working from home. National Bike Month is part of the National Bike Challenge that runs from May 1 to September 31, and includes several other events including Cycle September and National Bike to Work Day. Participation is free and cyclists can sign up on the Love to Ride USA website and start to log their miles, set goals, form groups and invite their friends to join. This year, the site is focused on using the event to create solidarity among cyclists during the pandemic. This include posting safe riding recommendations and encouraging people to post photos of their rides using the hashtag #BikesUnite. As we know I hate to stop when I ride, and so pictures don’t exist in my profile.

As of today, I’ve ridden 58 miles in the 8 rides I’ve done this month, mostly mountain biking with Java. If the weather holds, I will go out tonight on the road bike to bump that closer to the 75 mile mark. If this were an Ironman training year, my mileage would have been in the hundreds by now.

Last year we created a group for Fairbanks Cycle Club. Five people joined the first year. This year we got 6 more. Maybe someday we can get our entire membership and even our community to take part. As far as my personal rides, it’s just me and Java and the mountain bike, or me on the road bike for now. Hopefully, I do a better job with biking than last year when I quit road riding after June. Yeah, I could blame a heavy fire season, or the emergency dog watching gig, or our move to a new house. Yet, none of those things stopped me from finding time to ride with Java because those rides have a purpose.

Maybe this year I’ll learn that my personal enjoyment is reason enough to Love to Ride USA.

Posted in Dog Life, Ester Alaska, Spring Training

Happy Earth Day from Me and Java!

It’s been one hell of a spring in Interior Alaska. COVID-19 aside, we had the most intense snowfall EVER for April. We got 20 inches of fresh snow by the first weekend! That is way more than we get for the ENTIRE month normally. And though I grumbled about sketchy rides in fresh snow, I was just grateful that I live in a state where there is plenty of open space to get out during quarantine.

How Quickly Things Change

When I lived Fairbanks, I knew I should be doing more curb waste, educate myself on the climate crisis, and make better environmentally friendly choices. I would commute some since I lived within a 2 mile radius of work, the market, the dog groomers, the dentist, and most essentials services. However, my move to Ester has created a heightened awareness of these issues since it is no longer easy to commute. I now have to drive 40 minutes or more per day, which really increased the guilt factor. Gas is expensive, not just financially, but in what it costs the earth. And though my friend who lives a mile up the road, commutes daily in summer and frequently in the winter, he does not have to transport children and pets. I no longer have children in the house either, but I regularly take Java to work with me. This year I will test out leaving her in the large dog pen and commuting a few times a week.

New Shopping Habits

For years I swore I would bring reusable bags
at grocery stores; however, when I moved out of town
and started using more gas to commute,
I followed through to help offset my carbon footprint.

That said, I changed a number of other behaviors since moving to Ester. I increased the use of sustainable shopping bags. Of course, during the outbreak they are discouraging the use of reusable shopping bags. I do reuse plastic bags as vapor barriers in my winter riding boots and to pick up Java’s poop during our outings in parks, but there was a time when the plastic bag collection was getting out of control. With the outbreak, I have taken advantage of store pickup at our favorite store, and will most likely continue once the pandemic is under control. The downside is that I can’t use sustainable bags, so it will definitely be a limited use.


New Dining Habits

In the past year, we have developed different dining habits
including using less bags, disposable cups, and take out packaging.

The other change is a reduction in eating out. This mostly changed because I got a larger kitchen that is triangulated properly making it a joy to cook in. However, I did still eat out once a week before the outbreak, but one day I realized just how much waste I collected just trying to get a salad, sandwich, and soup from 2 miles down the street back to my office. Even if I opted for fast food, there were bags, paper wraps, or Styrofoam containers. I don’t drink a lot of soda or cold coffee drinks, so the number of straws per month is limited, but then added on are the cups and lids. Since moving out here, we have limited our coffee stand purchases to twice a week per family member now that our favorite coffee shop is a 10 mile round trip drive. So in that way, living far from town has led to change, but after cooking all the meals for quarantine, I am even more aware of the waste in my normal workday.


No Fast Fashion

Until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to textile waste, but after reestablishing my sewing room, it became clear this was another way I could reduce my impact on the environment.

I first heard the term “Fast Fashion” a few years after inventing my own term “disposable fashion” that referred to clothes that lasted only one season before blowing out because the fabric was so cheap– basically the Old Navy/ Target type clothing. Believe me my husband cringes when I talk about purchasing $100 jeans that last 5+ years, but quality is not just about appearance. Textile waste is a big drain on the environment. According to a February 2020 article by CNBC on sustainable fashion the $2.5 trillion fashion industry comprises roughly 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions  the second-biggest consumer of water globally, enough to meet the needs of 5 million people every year.

Moving to Ester has allowed me to reestablish a sewing room that just didn’t fit in our Fairbanks residence. Though I had quit buying fast fashion items a long time ago, opting instead for second hand stores and vintage shops. Now I can make my own, which means selectively adding to my wardrobe. Of course, I have to be careful to select quality fabrics that will make long-lasting garments. Unfortunately, Interior Alaska has limited options for this, so I often have to have them shipped up here. Likewise, I have to be care to cut my patterns efficiently or else I am just wasting fabrics. I’m grateful that I’m not big into prints because matching designs is a huge waste of fabric, but not matching them results in odd looking outfits.

There are many changes in Alaska that are way out of my control. Ester is a mining community. They are building new roads in other parts of Alaska to additional mining sites. Oil has always run this state. And even though the pandemic has caused oil companies to reduce production, things will eventually resume. And then there is always a focus on forestry. The best I can do is stay aware of the issues, write my representatives, and vote in elections. Because I can’t imagine any other state I would want to hunker down during a pandemic, or live in on a regular day.

Posted in Bikes, Birthdays, Coronavirus, Dog Life, Ester Alaska, Fall Training, Fat Biking, Mountain Biking, Road Biking, Spring Training, Summer Training, Winter Training

Happy 2nd Birthday, Java!

We have a trend in my family. A majority of people are either born on the 2nd or the 28th.

  • My dad: May 2nd
  • Me: October 28th
  • Ivan (son): March 28th
  • Alex (brother): April 2nd
  • Java (pup pup): April 2nd

You read right. Java fell in line and was born on the 2nd, not like my rebel husband, mother, and son’s fiance who were born on some other day we can’t remember.

Two years has past really fast! Year 1 had a lot of stressful moment when Java visited the emergency vet for all sorts of reasons. This year was better even though we still had to stop into the vets twice for potential emergencies. Otherwise, we shared a lot of good bike rides, runs, and recovery walks. She adapted to the new house, even though she is very aware when we drive up to the old one where my son now lives. And we have teamed up to survive the COVID-19 scare. I told my husband as much as I love him, I’m really glad we have Java. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would be so sane through this period of isolation.

On that note, here is a small video highlighting the last two years. We hope you are staying safe during this time of crisis.

Posted in Bikes, Coronavirus, Dog Life, Ester Alaska, Fat Biking, Trail Riding, Winter Training

Social Distancing Alaska Style

I had a rather bitchy post about Daylight Saving Time set to go when the Coronavirus Crisis broke out. At first, we were only concerned since Alaska hadn’t yet reported a case. So I continued to get prepare for swim camp in Hawaii. Yet, as travel bans started and cases grew in New York, I started preparing for home isolation. I am highly asthmatic and this virus is deadly for me.

I cancelled my trip after the first reported case in Fairbanks. Ten minutes later I got an email that swim camp had been cancelled. I wasn’t too bummed because the endless cold snap had ended and the trails were shaping up nice for riding. Plus, it’s easy to social distance on the trails if you go at the right time. Most of the people in the surrounding neighborhoods don’t get moving until mid-morning, so if Java and I get up early enough we can often go for hours without seeing a soul.

Hopefully, the trails will be groomed after our recent snowstorm that accumulated around 19-inches of fresh snow. Last year, pavements were nearly dry and it was really warm outside. This weekend I will venture into town to gather work from my studio and office and grab necessities and come home for another week on our semi-isolated hillside. I am realistic that I may live life with just Java and my husband for the next two to three months. Honestly, I’m okay with that.

Posted in Ester Alaska, Moose, Wildlife

Remember Those Moose I Mentioned in My Last Post?

I forget that not everyone has seen a moose.

Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but I actually have had people mistaken them for really large horses, or simply not known what one looks like outside of a picture book.

Java and I have spent the winter with these two fairly active ones on the ridgeline of our house. We really have only had two encounters that have given me real pause, the most recent forcing us to wait 10 minutes on the roadside while a cow ate because well, she’s big and dangerous and hates dogs and was blocking the only road to my house.

They are beautiful to look at from a distance, as you can see in this video my husband took from his workshop beside the house. I was upstairs sewing and took a few photos from my window, but they don’t do the same justice as this video. To give you an idea of the height of this bluff, it is even with my 3rd story window of my house. It is just really covered with a lot of snow right now.

Remember moose are dangerous and best viewed at a distance. If they are threatened they will charge you, as I have experienced twice now. They see dogs as wolves and will try to stomp them. So for your safety and your pets safety do not engage and only pass when they have truly cleared from the scene!

Posted in Bikes, Dog Life, Ester Alaska, Fat Biking, Running, White Mountains 100, Winter Training

There’s Nothing to See Here… No Really It’s Just Dark

The Alaska Darkness is 23-7

Well, it was that way on Solstice, which is about a month in the past and we have rounded the corner into the new year. Sure the we have gained about 2.5 hours of daylight, but guess what? None of it is when I ride or run with Java.

Nope, this 5am girl is still going out when its dark with all the unseen moose somewhere on the nearby ridge and the dogs running at us from their driveways because their owners think, “Who the hell is crazy enough it be out this early in the dark when it’s 20 Below?” This girl and her dog.

And so yes, I am terrible about updating my blog in the winter because I don’t go out much in the daylight because I’m either shooting videos, managing clients, or other media related things. Not that I haven’t tried to capture what it’s like to ride/run in the darkness. But as you can see in the video below, there really isn’t all that much to see.

There was one odd factor that came about either because we moved, or I’m not racing the White Mountains 100 this year: I kinda took a training break. I mean Java and I are running and biking regularly, plus I’ve joined and aerial sling class and still swim twice a week. However, we aren’t pushing the miles like I had in the past few years. I suffered from pretty extreme exhaustion until recently coupled with Achilles tendinitis in my left foot. So I reduced the intensity of my activity for the months of December and January focusing on the Strava 50K walking challenge until I could really start running again. It doesn’t help that it has continuously ranged from -20 to -32 below on a regular basis. Sure, I have biked lots in this crap to train for the White Mountains, but this year I am just not as motivated to suffer that way.

It’s supposed to warm up into the negative teens and negative single digits in the next two weeks. That will be a big boost to ride some trails in the valley during the day. But the real countdown is for swim camp in Hawaii in March. No, Java isn’t coming. Instead my mom will spoil her with many long springtime walks here in Alaska while I’m gone. But until then Java and I ride/run on!

Posted in Bikes, Dog Life, Ester Alaska, Fat Biking, Mountain Biking, Susitna 100, White Mountains 100, Winter Training

And Then The Snow Was Gone

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.

Posted in Bikes, Dog Life, Ester Alaska, Fat Biking, Mountain Biking, Winter Training

A Tour Around the New Neighborhood

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.

Java loves our new neighborhood and is anxious to start running on snowy trails again!

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.

Posted in Bikes, Dog Life, Mountain Biking, road running, Running, Winter Training

#DogsofInstagram or The Ride Where Java Gets an Offer to Model Dog Bandanas

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.

My posted pic of Java on Instagram led to a request for her to model dog gear.

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.

Posted in Dog Life, Fall Training, road running, Running

The Girls of Summer are Preparing for Winter

My favorite thing that drives me wild
Is when a city girl walks a country mile
For a boy she loves
God bless the child inside the girls of summer

Girls of Summer by Aerosmith

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

Summer Girls by LFO