Posted in Bikes, Fairbanks Cycle Club, Running

A Deeper Community Involvement

I am into my sixth year as the president of the Fairbanks Cycle Club (FCC). I didn’t anticipate continuing in this position after year 5, but no one else wanted to step into the position. This isn’t a problem unique to the cycle club. Almost everyone I know who are involved with nonprofit work are facing the same issue. So, here I am trying to stabilize the club, get it reorganized under a new section code, and try to recruit new board members and develop new programs.

It’s the last of my great volunteer efforts. I left the Fairbanks Arts Association last year after reaching the limit of my time available for nonprofit work. I decided that the board had grown enough that my exit would not affect it much. So far I have been right in this assumption.

Other than working on restructuring FCC’s non-profit section code from a 501c(4) to a 501c(3), I have decided I should be involved in the development city infrastructure. I have limited political involvement and no kind of influence. I’m not one of the elite cyclists. I’m just a cyclist. But I want to FCC to be more involved, which means someone on the board needs to be more involved. And since my treasurer is working on getting a long-term accounting system built while developing promotional gear, and my trail people are gearing up for trail clearing season. That leaves me and another member, and she is more interested in the race development side.

To start my journey, I returned to attending Fairbanks Area Surface Transportation (FAST) Planning Meetings. When they were still FMATS (Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System), I would go when there was an issue that affected the biking and running community. However, I am long from completely understanding the process, what is at stake in the big picture, or how we can help. A lot of our membership rides outside the city limits and so some of the issues may not affect them. However, we would like to start recruiting commuters more, and the only way to encourage them to join is to support their daily efforts.

Today was a technical meeting with a roomful of professionals from the state, transportation companies, and city employees. I completely felt out of place, but stayed so I could learn how they were ranking projects for their 10-year plan. There are a few pathways and new pavement projects that will affect cyclist and a lot of air quality projects that may or may not interest our membership. These meetings are monthly and so I will probably continue to attend even if I don’t have anything to say. I have no doubt there will come a time when I will.

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

The No Race Run on Moving Day

This is not a biking story.

Instead this is a story of Java and I running the Musk Ox Trail Run not for a race time, but for the sheer enjoyment of each others company…

…and to pick up pin flags from the course because I’m not sure I’m capable of doing anything for “fun”. I’m mission driven like my dog.

This race included several objectives:

  • Run a half marathon distance as part of training for the Klondike Road Relay.
  • 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.

Two weeks until my “B” race: a half marathon leg of the Klondike Road Relay. Java and I hit the trails for a training run last weekend while the guys moved all the heavy furniture to our new house.

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…

Posted in Dog Life, Running

New House, New Adventures

Let’s make one thing clear. I am a city girl.

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.

After checking out the new house, she headed to the dog yard to hunt out old toys left by its previous occupants.

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.”

Posted in Bikes, Dog Life, Mountain Biking, Running, Summer Training

The Paw Recovery Ride

Java is back! After a week on the doggie injury list, Java is back to running with the bike. We had an intense ride on Gilmore Trail picking up race signs on Sunday, and it was the first time she ever ran with a skilled mountain biker. Forrest is about 3Xs as fast as I am even with a backpack of stakes and signs and so Java went full out for 13 miles trying to keep up with him. Prior to that ride, the most miles she ever ran was a 6.2 miles and that was at my jog speed.

No surprise that she was sore and stiff on Monday and Tuesday. Unfortunately, she also wore down her paw pads. No bleeding. Thank goodness. So a lot of gentle walking for most of the week. Yesterday, we slogged through a 5 mile rainy run on campus. She seemed fine afterwards. So today we tried an easy trail on the bike.

After a week on the doggie injury list, Java is back to running.

She was slow. Maybe she was tired though she sure seemed able to sprint after stuff she really wanted. My guess is that she was being gentle on her paws since they bother her worse when she pushes her full power.

Honestly, I was in worse shape. I started weightlifting again after a year off. Though I posted faster race times this year, I haven’t had the strength or the power to train all three disciplines needed for another Ironman. Weightlifting has always been the answer, and I know this. Unfortunately, it leaves me extremely sore and my brain has a hard time accepting that I am benefiting from a half hour session. Even when the proof shows in the stats.

Java will spend one more week on light duty before we head up Gilmore Trail again. This time we will either have someone drop us off at top and ride down (8 miles), or do an out and back that’s about the same distance. I need to get back into winter riding shape, which includes way more hills than I’ve been riding this summer.